Daily Archives: November 11, 2015

November 11, 2015 Christian Briefing Report

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Are All Religions Just Equally Valid (but Partial) Glimpses of the Truth?

If Christians claimed that Christianity was the only true religion on the basis of their own personal investigations and personal knowledge, then such a claim might indeed count as arrogant.  But, that is not the grounds for Christianity’s claim to exclusivity.  Rather, it is grounded in the teachings of Jesus himself, the incarnate son of God (John 14:6). And there is nothing arrogant about depending on divine revelation.

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A Jonathan Edwards Warning Label

I wholeheartedly agree – and I appreciate Newton’s pastoral tone (go back and notice his illustrations about the house/building, sheep, wheat/tares, and physician).  I’ve tried to read Edwards’ Religious Affections but could not bear it because it didn’t lead me to assurance at the foot of the cross.  Rather, it led me to question the work of grace God has begun in me.  For this and other reasons, and for the reasons Newton well noted above, the writings of Edwards are not typically on my short list of recommended reading.

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The Celebrity Pastor Factory

In summary, the rise and fall of any celebrity pastor is merely a symptom of an underlying malady within American evangelicalism. Why are there now so many celebrity pastors? Because they generate a lot of revenue for the Evangelical Industrial Complex. Why do these pastors fall with such regularity? Because the Evangelical Industrial Complex uses a business standard rather than a biblical standard when deciding which leaders to promote. What should we do about it? Here are three suggestions:

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10 Kingdom Priorities

There’s a wonderful promise attached to this command: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What are these things? The context tells us — food, drink, and clothing. The necessities of life, in other words. It’s not a promise of health, wealth, and prosperity, but of basics, enough, and sufficient.

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Trusting God with Our Money Troubles

A major financial reversal can be every bit as sanctifying as other kinds of trials because it’s humbling and forces us to depend on God. I know it’s not easy keeping calm when the bills are stacking up, but learning to trust the Lord in times of uncertainty is one of the things that sets Christians apart from world. “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”  Matthew 6:32

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Despite Wrong Doomsday Stats, Pastors Holding Up Just Fine

I said it in that post, and I’ll say it here again: the people perpetuating these bad stats aren’t bad people—they’re truly trying to help pastors and do what is right. Sometimes, we just need to be more careful about how we do research and how we present data. Facts are our friends, but if we treat them poorly, they can become our enemies quickly.

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What Are the Expectations of Women’s Ministry?

The go-to verses about women’s ministry are Titus 2:3-5, older women teaching younger women what is good. There is no question of the need to train those who will carry on after we are gone. But is this the sum total of what women’s ministry should be? Namely, is the focus only on the younger generation? If so, could this lead to the possibility of older saints falling through the cracks? What is the balance between Titus 2 and the many ‘one another’ verses that encompass all believers?

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‘War on Christmas’ turns into hashtag wars: now #ItsJustACup

‘War on Christmas’ turns into hashtag wars: now #ItsJustACup

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Religion News

People on social media are responding to criticism that Starbucks is waging a war on Christmas with this year’s plain red holiday cup. The latest hot hashtag: #ItsJustACup.

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This Veterans Day, Meet the Soldiers of Church History

This Veterans Day, Meet the Soldiers of Church History

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Christianity Today

Did you know the holiday was originally named after a French bishop?

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Why You Should Not Despair When God is Silent

Why You Should Not Despair When God is Silent

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Crosswalk

If you are experiencing the silence of God, do not believe the lie that you are a second-tier, second-rate Christian.

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Christian Community Doesn’t Require Our Blind Trust

Christian Community Doesn’t Require Our Blind Trust

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Christianity Today

Discernment and judgment must come first.

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Overcoming the Discipleship Deficit

Overcoming the Discipleship Deficit

Posted on November 11, 2015 by Christianity Today

The church must be more vigilant about making disciples and leading people to become more like Jesus.

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The Secret That Diamonds Tell

by Bethany Baird

We’re like diamonds in the rough. Unless we’re willing to endure the hard stuff, we’ll never fully develop into the gems God created us to be.

An Unexpected Prescription for Panic

by Erin Davis

I wish I was always cool as a cucumber, but the reality is that sometimes life makes me anxious. What should we do when anxiety hits? The Bible offers a surprising prescription.

Freebie Friday! Choosing Gratitude

by Erin Davis

We’re thankful for you. Here’s proof. (Hint: It’s free stuff!)

When It’s Hard to Be a Christian at School

by Erin Davis

If you’ve ever wondered how to stand for Christ in the halls of your school, you’re gonna love what we’re launching next. (PS: We need your input!)


The Story behind the Navy Hymn

On this Veterans Day, I want to tell you the back story to one of the great hymns — one that resonates particularly for many of our veterans. Listen Now | Download

10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling

10 Serious Problems with Jesus CallingSarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down. According to publisher Thomas Nelson, it “continues to grow in units sold each year since it was released [and] has surpassed 15 million copies sold.” Nelson is involved in an expansive new marketing campaign that involves a new web site and daily radio devotionals. ECPA reports that “Thomas Nelson began its partnership with the Salem Media group to provide 60-second daily messages on Eric Metaxas’ show, which is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide and worldwide on SiriusXM Radio. The Jesus Calling radio devotional reaches more than 500,000 people each day through these segments.” With 15 million copies sold, it has marched its way into rare company.

Yet it is a deeply troubling book. I am going to point out 10 serious problems with Jesus Calling in the hope that you will consider and heed these warnings.

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the BibleJesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so far as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way she modeled her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this information. God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling. It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson says, “She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no substantial difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia describes as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which point they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the thoughts, personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphases of the Bible. For example, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. Michael Horton says, “In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.” While this is not necessarily an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Horton adds, “The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history.”

8. Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, middle-aged woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) speaking like this: “When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.” Or again, “Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe.” And, “Bring me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My Peace.” Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about the disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians. Michael Horton addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from God to us) and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction between God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both confusing and unhelpful.

10. Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that Jesus Calling has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed references to God Calling, but also in the words she claims to have received from Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of the revelation she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here, other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive. This comparison from CARM highlights one significant correction to the text:

Jesus Calling Comparison

The point is clear: Jesus Calling is a book built upon a faulty premise and in that way a book that is dangerous and unworthy of our attention or affirmation. The great tragedy is that it is leading people away from God’s means of grace that are so sweet and so satisfying, if only we will accept and embrace them.


When Affliction is Stacked

stacked afflictionYou’ve probably been there. Unprecedented affliction enters your life. Along with it, all the new experiences. The anxiousness. The sleeplessness. The darkness, loneliness, anger, sorrow. Things compound.

By God’s grace, you seem to make it through. The storm seems to end. There is that huge relief with the breaking sun. Tears of joy come in humble rejoicing at the storm’s passing.

But then it happens. Another life-storm moves inland to your life. And another behind it. And another. Maybe it’s a reoccurrence of a previous trial. Or a compounding of differing trials; a financial on top of a spiritual. Or a physical trial consequent of a previous physical trial. Or all of the above.

The questions: “Ok, Lord, did I not meet my suffering quota for the year? Is there not some sort of trials-tap that can run dry from time to time?”

The frustration: “This just cannot be happening, again.”

The despair: “How in the world will I be able to keep going and be faithful to all the other stuff in my life with these constant storms?”

These are all normal. Perhaps not all excusable, but normal nevertheless. And there are not pixie-dust solutions to these problems, of course. We’re talking about a crux par excellence of life, after all.

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some possible explanations for the multiple afflictions God allows in our lives:

  1. Affliction may reoccur when our hope and refuge are misplaced.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

Having made it through previous affliction, we, perhaps, are too glad that it is over. Our comfort could be too much in exiting the valley of the shadow of death rather than the accompanying Shepherd.

But we have not learned to trust God until we trust him both with the type and duration of the trials. Perhaps nothing in the Christian life is more strenuous than that.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because Satan does not give up easy.

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason’” (Job 2:2-3).

Satan’s response never ceases to strike me: “From going to and fro on the earth, and…walking up and down on it.” He is not saying, “Yep, God, just been strolling around the planet, enjoying the majesty of your creation!” It’s an ominous prowling; an unsolicited, sinister stake-out; an ill-willed invasion on the people of God.

Combine that with the fact that Satan is not weighed down with physical infirmity like we are, and you get stacked affliction in the lives of God’s cherished children.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because we are often slow to learn from God’s loving discipline.

“Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’” (Heb. 12:5-6).

Suffering may repeat if we have not sufficiently embraced God’s discipline. We may have to run another few laps around the track of affliction if we have not learned the first time. We may need to stay longer in the school of suffering. But it’s not an expression of God’s condemnation of us any more than it is when a loving father allows his toddler son to be admitted for an additional, life-saving surgery. God’s discipline is never about condemnation, but sanctification.

  1. sanctification through affliction

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    Affliction may reoccur because one chisel of the hammer does not complete the sculpture.

“He who began a good work in you will perfect until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phi. 1:6).

Renown sculptor, Michelangelo, spent several painstaking years with tools like hammers, chisels, and mallets to create his famous marble statue of Moses. More than one blow of the hammer and cut of the chisel was needed to carve out that masterpiece. So it is with our good Master Sculptor. He loves us so much, that he will settle for nothing less than the spiritual Christ chiseled out in us all. But that’s going to mean reoccurring affliction.

  1. Affliction may reoccur to prepare us for greater usefulness.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

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Cutting and chopping only a few of the branches now and then will be insufficient for the most fruitful of trees. The fruitfulness of greater usefulness blooms out of continued pruning. That means frequent, repeated striking away of dulled and useless branches. And the Pruner knows exactly what he is doing; pruning us for the exalted, sacred privilege of greater usefulness in redemptive purposes.

Spurgeon said similarly, “While the wheat sleeps comfortably in the husk, it is useless to man. It must be threshed out of its resting place before its value can be known.”

  1. Affliction may reoccur to teach us to walk by faith, not sight.

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

We may be taken deeper into dark valleys to do us good by weaning us off of our own eyesight.  Perhaps we trust our sheepish footing more than the Shepherd’s guiding. Trust is more important than comprehension.

  1. Affliction may reoccur to shed spiritual laziness.

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).

Sloth in the means of grace is a far greater hazard than any trial a Christian will face. Trials keep us awake at the helm, instead of asleep in the hull. Our prayer lives get traction. Scripture meditation becomes more of an absolute necessity than a ritualistic duty. Repentance becomes a gentle bump rather than a hard tug. We progress from liking our local church to absolutely needing her. Repeating affliction could be a gift to shed layers of spiritual sloth.

  1. Affliction may reoccur because our Lord desires prolonged intimacy with us.
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“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

Sunny days do not always motivate us to intimacy with our Lord. Things are less urgent and more relaxed. Repeated journeys through the dark valley pull away the trinkets and props to which we cling. We find that they do little for soul-care. Thus, we’re driven again to the sweetness of brokenness, clinging to our Shepherd. Perhaps the dark valley will be prolonged for that fellowship Christ desires with us.

  1. Affliction may reoccur to help us value the valuable.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

After a few trials, it’s possible that we value them mostly for their termination. We may have learned some lessons of faith. But perhaps we yet cling to the world in ways. Our claws may not be de-clinged from the world upon the first tug. They may need to be pried more and even more until we let go.

  1. Affliction may reoccur to demonstrate the indestructibility of saving faith.
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“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 5:6-7).

Though fire incinerates things like wood, hay, and stubble, it merely refines and purifies gold. God burns at the gold-like saving faith of his people to encourage them with the indestructability of salvation.

Winds and waves pounding on the rocking shore display something fascinating: the rock is unshakable in comparison to the pounding waves.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Our Lord places so high a value on His people’s faith that, in His infinite wisdom and abounding love, He will not screen them from the trials by which faith is strengthened.”

  1. Affliction may reoccur for reasons that we just do not know.

While the above explanations may be true in some trials, there may be some where it is not clear. Notwithstanding the humility he learned, Job did not know that chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job existed until he got to heaven. This did not mean that there was no explanation, but that God in his wisdom had not revealed one.

But, when we find ourselves in any deep, dark valley, we can yet pray one of the greatest prayers a human being can pray. “O our God…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12). Our crucified Lord and Shepherd will see us through safe passage to a time and place when stacked afflictions will be a distant memory.


Patience is Not Optional for the Christian

Most of us recognize that patience is one of the cardinal Christian virtues—we’re just in no hurry to obtain it. Others just define patience as a delay in getting what we want. As Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” In today’s fast-paced society and self-centered culture, patience is quickly disappearing, even among Christians.

Patience is not optional for the Christian. The apostle Paul repeatedly commanded Christians to demonstrate patience to each other. In fact, this is a critical test of Christian authenticity. True Christian character, the very evidence of regeneration, is seen in authentic patience.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3).

Patience is not optional for the Christian.

In a similar context, the apostle called the Christians in Colosse to “put on” the virtues of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Again, Paul illustrates the necessity of patience by pointing to conflict in the Christian community. According to Paul, if one Christian has a complaint against another, he is to respond with patience, willing to suffer loss rather than to injure the reputation of the church.

To the Thessalonian Christians, Paul’s instruction was absolutely clear: “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13). In order to achieve this peace, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). That is no small challenge.

Most importantly, patience must mark the Christian leader. Writing to Timothy, his young protégé in ministry, Paul set the example: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24–25).

The Bible’s understanding of patience as a Christian virtue is rooted in the totality of Christian truth. Patience begins with the affirmation that God is sovereign and in control of human history, working in human lives. With eternity on the horizon, time takes on an entirely new significance. The Christian understands that full satisfaction will never be achieved in this life, but he looks to the consummation of all things in the age to come. Furthermore, we know that our sanctification will be incomplete in this life, and thus Christians must look to each other as fellow sinners saved by grace, in whom the Holy Spirit is at work calling us unto Christlikeness.

When we consider the scriptural command to be patient with one another, we should be reminded of several aspects of patience revealed in God’s Word that are vital for Christian understanding. First, we must understand that patience is both a command and a gift of God. As with all Christian virtues, we are obligated under the command of God to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, of which patience is a vital part. The biblical portrait of patience is not that of mere acquiescence or of facile biding the time, much less is patience seen in inexcusable action. To the contrary, patience is a vibrant and virile Christian virtue, which is deeply rooted in the Christian’s absolute confidence in the sovereignty of God and in God’s promise to bring all things to completion in a way that most fully demonstrates His glory.

As a command, patience arrives at the Christian conscience as a matter of accountability. At the same time, patience is a divine gift. Christians are not able, in and of themselves, to demonstrate true patience as a fruit of the Spirit. Augustine, the great bishop of the fourth century, warned that Christians must avoid the “false patience of the proud.” Augustine castigated those who attribute patience merely “to the strength of the human will.” We must indeed will to be patient, but patience as a genuine virtue comes only to those who have been redeemed by Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit is calling forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Second, the Christian virtue of patience is rooted in our knowledge of ourselves as redeemed sinners. Knowing our own frailty, and all too aware of our own faults, we must deal with other Christians out of humility rather than pride. The Christian has no excuse for responding to fellow believers in a spirit of arrogance, haughtiness, or superiority. Instead, we are to be instructed by the example of Christ, and respond in true humility both to God and to fellow Christians.

Patience presents the Christian with a critical test of character, rooted in the simple acknowledgement that we might be wrong. Our error may be in character rather than in conviction. When Christians engage in disputes, it is possible to be wrong while being right. That is a good reminder, even as we must contend for the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints.

Third, the Christian understanding of patience is grounded in our understanding of others as those in whom God is potentially at work. As Paul instructed Timothy, the Lord’s servant is to be kind to everyone, demonstrating patience even in correcting opponents, because “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25–26).

This remarkably strong language indicates that Paul is talking about serious matters of Christian disagreement. When he speaks of correcting those who have been captured by the devil to do his will, we can be assured that Paul is speaking of very serious matters indeed.

Paul grounds the virtue of patience in the clear affirmation that God may be at work in those with whom we are experiencing disagreement and conflict. Here again, the biblical doctrine of sanctification helps us to understand that growth into Christian maturity. This comes as a process, through which God forms a redeemed sinner into the image of Christ.

With this in mind, we must respond to fellow believers as those who, like ourselves, are sinners saved by grace. Thus, we must show grace to one another, and the integrity of our Christian professions must be demonstrated by true patience. Even as we seek to convince, to instruct, and even to correct, we must remember that only God can reach the human heart, and we must maintain the confidence that God is at work in those who are fellow partakers of His grace.

Fourth, the Christian virtue of patience is rooted in our understanding of time and eternity. We do not expect to achieve our greatest satisfactions in this life. Relating to our fellow believers, we know that they, like ourselves, will experience full sanctification and glorification only in the age to come. As John Calvin remarked, immortality is “the mother of patience.” This is a good and healthy reminder, for even as Christians are called to a common embrace of all truth, we understand that we will achieve full unity only when Christ claims His Church and we are gathered before the throne of God throughout eternity.

Patience must be one of the hallmarks of the Christian home, as each member of the family shows patience in dealing with others. Husbands and wives must be patient with each other, even as parents must be patient with children. In the household of faith, patience, often that rarest of virtues, becomes a test of authenticity and a necessity for the right ordering of the home, the church, and Christian fellowship.

That said, the church must obey the command of God and seek to demonstrate authentic Christian patience—and fast.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.


Check out

Blogs

Pray For Your Church: 31 Day Challenge | Mike Leake, Borrowed Light

The Internal Witness of Scripture | Nick Batzig, The Christward Collective
On the inerrancy and authority of scripture.

Why ‘Pastor-Scholar’ Is a False Dichotomy | Peter Beck, The Gospel Coalition
The third installment in TGC’s series on the “Pastor-Scholar.”

Catechizing Belief and Duty | Dustyn Eudaly, Place for Truth

10 Reasons Why You Should Underprogram Your Church | Jared Wilson, For The Church
A lot worth reading in the article. Consider reason #2: “Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busyness.”

The Gospel Remedy for Homosexuality by John Freeman | John Freeman, Ligonier.org
“On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing.” Freeman debunks this thinking and offers a Gospel-centered approach in this important article.

Welcoming Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas as Our Newest Teaching Fellows | Ligonier
Ligonier get another two first-round draft picks.

New Books

Practical Shepherding Series Complete Set edited by Brian Croft. This is quite the collection of pastoral theology.

Kindle Books

$20 off a few Kindle models today.

Christianity and Liberalism by Gresham Machen $0.99. Though old, it never seems to age. As relevant today as it ever was.

The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story by Don Carson $2.99.

The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code by Dennis Prager $1.49. Jewish academic and popular broadcaster Dennis Prager’s take on the 10 commandments.

Video

Bevin’s Story
Matt Bevin was elected as Governor of Kentucky last week. He has a beautiful Christian testimony.


A La Carte (November 11)

Thomas Nelson has a series of biographies called The Generals and the Kindle versions are on sale at $1.99 each. The series covers Patton, Sherman, Pershing, Washington, Jackson, and Lee.

Also, I wanted to make another mention of my campaign over at Patreon. I am very encouraged by the early results, I thank all who have chosen to participate, and I invite you to consider it. And now, without any further ado, enjoy some interesting articles, videos and music:

Why Your Body Is AMAZING!

You will enjoy this little video that simply describes some amazing facts about the human body.

Debunking Stupid Statements about the Bible

Greg Gilbert takes on ignorant statements like this: “No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

One of the Strangest Commands in the Bible

“Why in the world would God tell Israel to hamstring captured horses? Does he have something against horses?”

Sex Offenders in the Pews

“One of the many horrors about child sexual abuse is the inability to definitively assess who poses a danger to our children.” We need to understand the danger and properly equip our churches.

Rain for RootsNew Album. Today marks the release of Waiting Songs, a new album by Rain for Roots. It is a collection of 10 songs for children exploring the themes of Advent. You can listen to the whole thing at Bandcamp (maybe begin with Isaiah 11) and purchase it right here.

Why a Friend Is Suing Me

Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, explains why she felt she could not sell flower arrangements for a gay friend’s wedding.

Christian Mingle Inspector

This is a pretty good bit of parody.


The Daily Discovery (November 11, 2015)

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)

Smilingly Leading You to Hell – “One of these is unlike the others: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, niceness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. According to Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, all but one of these is what he refers to as the fruit of the Spirit, which is to say, visible evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. If you are a Christian, your life will necessarily be marked by this kind of character. But which one is foreign to the list? Niceness.”

Shaming the American Bride – “By now, every Christian in America has read David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream—an honest call for believers to re-examine themselves and their church’s practices. We have taken stock of the fact that many large churches in this country have simply wandered off the missional path and allowed themselves to become too inwardly focused.”

Starbucks, Christmas, and Christians – “Facebook has been abuzz lately with angry reactions to Starbuck’s holiday cup design. In case you’ve missed the controversy, in years past, Starbuck’s festive cups have featured vibrant images of reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and the like. But this year, the cup is just plain red. Some concerned folks, particularly in Christian circles, have insisted the lack of Christmas-themed doodles represents a war on Christmas. So is Starbucks playing Scrooge? Or are the naysayers overreacting?”

You Want Christian Outrage?! (An Alternative to Josh Feuerstein’s Starbucks Cup Rage) – “Supposedly there is a large amount of Christian outrage over Starbucks removing all Christmas-y symbols from their cups this year. In reality, we found out it was one guy, Joshua Feuerstein, who makes his living as a “Christian” shock jock of sorts and published this video that has since gone viral. Anyway, our very own Pastor Nate Pickowicz realized he too was feeling some outrage coming on and decided to share it with the social media world in true Joshua Feuerstein style.”

Want to alienate pro-life voters? Attack a candidate for being “too extreme” in his views on abortion. – “The Bush Super PAC is considering running ads criticizing Rubio for not supporting legal abortions in cases of rape and incest. I’m sitting in the cheap seats, and nobody’s is paying me for my political advice. So take this for what it is worth. But I can think of no quicker way to alienate pro-life voters than to attack Rubio for being consistently pro-life. If this report is accurate and the Super PAC goes through with this ad, it will galvanize pro-life supporters in defense of Rubio. And even though the Super PAC isn’t connected to the Bush campaign, it will likely turn pro-life primary voters against Bush.”


SERMON:

John MacArthur – The Benefit of Christ’s Departure


VIDEOS:

What would Jesus say to the Pope?

Christians Never Graduate From the Gospel


“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus.  It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur


Featured Blogs

Top Christian Headlines

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Opinion

 Are most religious kids really ‘jerks’? Depends on how you read a survey
 Starbucks’ Red Cups, and the Internet Outrage Machine
 Even Feminists are Fair Game: Challenging Politically Correct Delusions
 Why an Iranian Muslim Now Follows Jesus
 China’s Two-child Policy: New Number, Same Disaster

Our Time is Short

Read: Recommitting Your Life To God and Jesus Christ – Restoration and Forgiveness With God and Jesus Christ (Updated Version)


What is The Gospel?

God made everything out of nothing, including you and me. His main purpose in creation was to bring him pleasure.

The chief way in which we as humanity do this is through loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.

Instead of this, we have sinned against our loving Creator and acted in high-handed rebellion.

God has vowed that he will righteously and lovingly judge sinners with eternal death.

But God, being merciful, loving, gracious, and just, sent his own son, Jesus Christ, in the likeness of man to live as a man; fulfilling his perfect requirements in the place of sinners; loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.

And further, his son bore the eternal judgment of God upon the cross of Calvary, as he satisfied the eternal anger of God, standing in the place of sinners. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though he was perfectly sinless, that he might declare sinners as perfect.

This glorious transaction occurs as the sinner puts their faith (dependence, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as their substitute. God then charges Christ’s perfection to the sinner, and no longer views him as an enemy but instead an adopted son covered in the perfect righteousness of his son.

God furnished proof that this sacrifice was accepted by raising Jesus from the dead.

God will judge the world in righteousness and all of those who are not covered in the righteousness of Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, will be forced to stand on their own to bear the eternal anger of God.

Therefore, all must turn from sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.


What Is the Gospel?

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the gospel.

The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it –or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.


The Gospel on 5 Fingers

If you picked up a hitchhiker (not that I recommend doing that) and he saw a Bible on your car seat and said, “I’ve heard about this thing called the Gospel – can you explain it to me before you drop me off in one minute up the street?” What would you say?

Can you explain the gospel in 30 seconds? In one minute? In five minutes?

Here’s one way I have found helpful. The five main components of the gospel can be remembered on 5 fingers of one hand. Here they are:

1) Jesus’ birth
2) Jesus’ life
3) Jesus’ death
4) Jesus’ resurrection
5) Jesus’ ascension

Obviously each point can be elaborated on depending on how much time you have. Here’s the short version:

1) Jesus’ birth – Jesus, God himself, the creator of the universe, the Messiah, became a human being – took on flesh, and was born of a virgin.

2) Jesus’ life – Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father. Though he was tempted in every way as we are, he never once sinned.

3) Jesus’ death – on the cross, Jesus himself took all our sins and paid for them. God the father counted all our sins to Jesus as if he himself had personally committed them. Then Jesus bore God’s wrath towards sin – the punishment we deserved – as a substitute for us.

4) Jesus’ resurrection – within 3 days, Jesus rose physically from the dead, proving that his sacrifice for sins have been accepted by God, since the punishment for sin was death. Jesus was seen by numerous people after he rose including 500 at one time (1 Corinthians 15).

5) Jesus’ ascension – Jesus ascended physically into heaven where he reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. And someday he will return to the earth.

That’s the gospel, the good news, and if we believe in Jesus Christ and this good news and call upon him he will save us from our sins and give us eternal life.

That’s a simple way to remember the gospel – five fingers. Even a child can do it. So ask God to give you opportunities to share his good news today.


Ready to start your new life with God?

Who do you think that I am?

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more


Resource Links

CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.

Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!

30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.

New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.

Jesus Booklet
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.

About Christianity
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed


Truth2Freedom Blog Disclaimer

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https://truth4freedom.wordpress.com

(Alternative News, Apologetics, Current Events, Commentary, Opinion, Theology, Discernment Blog, Devotionals, Christian Internet Evangelism & Missions Activist).

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it…” – Martin Luther

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

— Augustine

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A headline link on this blog post doesn’t necessarily mean that there is agreement or approval with all the views and opinions expressed within the headline linked article. Caution is also warranted with regards to the advertisements and links that are embedded within the headline linked article.


TMS: Starbucks, Christmas, and Christians

Facebook has been abuzz lately about angry reactions (particularly from a self-proclaimed evangelical named Joshua Feuerstein) to the new Starbucks holiday cup design. In case you’ve missed the controversy, in years past, Starbucks’ festive cups have featured vibrant images of reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, and the like. But this year, the cup is just plain red.

Some concerned folks (though perhaps fewer than originally reported by the news media) have insisted the lack of Christmas-themed doodles represents a war on Christmas. So is Starbucks playing Scrooge? Or are the naysayers overreacting?

Yesterday, I was asked to give my opinion on the issue. While I generally try to steer clear of seemingly trivial issues (like the design of a disposable coffee cup), I think the hubbub created over this current controversy warrants a response.

Here are three thoughts in response to hullaballoo over the red Starbucks holiday coffee cup.

1. The true meaning of Christmas is not found in pictures of reindeer, snowflakes, Christmas trees, etc. Consequently, to remove those kinds of pictures does not constitute a war on Christmas.

To accuse Starbucks of starting a war on Christmas implies that, in years past, their cups have actually promoted the true meaning of Christmas. But such is hardly the case. A Google Images search of previous cups reveals doodles of snowmen, ice skaters, toy nutcrackers, and the like.

Some former designs featured words like “wish” and “gifts,” and even ambiguous references to “hope” and “love”. But there was nothing that pointed to the true, biblical meaning of Christmas—namely, that God the Son became a man so that He might save the world from sin. Hence, it seems inconsistent for people to be outraged about the design this year, when they had no qualms about this issue before.

For those who are upset about the word “Christmas” not being on a Starbucks cup, the reality is that most of the previous designs did not include that word either. Moreover, Starbucks still sells their “Christmas Blend”—which prominently displays the word Christmas on its packaging. And even if it did not, why should evangelicals be offended when a Roman Catholic term gets dropped in the product packaging of a secular coffee company?

But I digress…

The point (which I will phrase in the form of a question) is this: How can the removal of winter-themed doodles constitute a war on Christmas, when none of those doodles represented the true meaning of Christmas in the first place? For my part, I don’t think it does, especially when the company provides an explanation for its motivation that seems entirely believable.

It is also important to add that Starbucks is not a Christian company. Whether or not believers want to boycott Starbucks or any other business is a matter of their own Christian liberty. But it seems unreasonable to expect Starbucks (or any other secular business) to promote a consistently Christian worldview in the secular marketplace.

2. This supposed “war on Christmas” should not be classified as persecution against Christians.

I am not blind to the fact that American society, in the name of tolerance, is growing increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. The Lord Jesus promised that His followers would be hated by the world, and so it should not surprise us when society seeks to silence or harass those who desire to honor Him.

But thinking the design of a Starbucks holiday cup constitutes persecution against Christians is simply unreasonable. When we consider what believers have suffered in the name of Christ, both throughout church history and in certain parts of the world today, it would be inappropriate to think that this situation approximates true suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Real persecution may soon be coming to the American church. But this is not that. When individuals like Joshua Feuerstein create a firestorm of controversy over something like this, they unnecessarily escalate feelings of antagonism and ill will in the eyes of the watching world. Rather than defending Christmas, these kinds of sensational outbursts do more to harm than help the church’s testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. A Christian response to the unbelieving world at Christmastime should focus on the gospel, not on a Starbucks cup design.

The true meaning of Christmas, as noted above, is the reality of the Incarnation—that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:18). As the most famous verse in the Bible rightly declares, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Born in a manger in Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for sin, so that those who embrace Him in saving faith might be forgiven and reconciled to God. That is the true message of Christmas: that God became man so that as a perfect man He might reconcile sinful men and women to God.

When believers allow themselves to get distracted by silly controversies about cup designs, they can easily lose sight of what this holiday season is actually all about. To reiterate our point from earlier: it is not about snowflakes, reindeer, and evergreen trees. Rather, it is about the reality that sinners can be saved eternally by believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

It should be our joy to share that message with the unbelieving world around us. Needless to say, if we are faithful to that end, the design on our coffee cup doesn’t really matter.

The post Starbucks, Christmas, and Christians appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

GTY: The Ancient Fundamentalists

Psalm 19:7; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Code: B151111

by Cameron Buettel

Following the Dark Ages, the early Reformers took up the mantle of fighting for the Christian fundamentals. The five solas of the Reformation represented the fundamental doctrines that they saw as non-negotiable. Sola gratia declares that salvation is by God’s grace alone in defiance of the Catholic belief in grace plus works. Sola fide and sola Christus assert that salvation is appropriated by faith alone in Christ alone and apart from any human works (rejecting Mary as a co-redemptrix). Soli deo gloria reminds us that everything we do should be done to the glory of God alone. Those four solas roar with exclusivity and are pillars that uphold the structure of sound doctrine. But the fifth sola is the foundation of them all.

Sola Scriptura affirms that Scripture is the exclusive authoritative source of truth. It was the Reformers’ chief battle cry against the presumptuous and artificial authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Scripture is the only revelation from God to man. It does not share its authority with the church, nor is it subject to the authority of the church.

God’s Word is the inerrant revelation of all fundamental Christian truth. But does the Bible itself identify which doctrines are fundamental? In his book Reckless Faith, John MacArthur answers with an emphatic yes: “The strongest words of condemnation in all the New Testament are aimed at false teachers who corrupt the gospel.”[1] John MacArthur, Reckless Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994) 108. Paul pronounced damnation on anyone who rewrote the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so say I again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:8–9).

According to John MacArthur, the implication of Paul’s condemnation is clear: “Therefore the gospel message itself must be acknowledged as a primary point of fundamental doctrine.”[2] Reckless Faith, 108. That, in turn, helps us understand a key characteristic of all fundamental doctrines. As John explains:

If a doctrine is truly fundamental, it must have its origin in Scripture, not tradition, papal decrees, or some other source of authority. Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15, KJV). In other words, if a doctrine is essential for salvation, we can learn it from the Bible. The written Word of God therefore must contain all doctrine that is truly fundamental. It is able to make us “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). If there were necessary doctrines not revealed in Scripture, those promises would ring empty.

The psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7). That means Scripture is sufficient. Apart from the truths revealed to us in Scripture, there is no essential spiritual truth, no fundamental doctrine, nothing essential to soul-restoration. We do not need to look beyond the written Word of God for any essential doctrines. There is nothing necessary beyond what is recorded in God’s Word.[3] Reckless Faith, 109.

That encapsulates sola Scriptura. Any doctrine that is antithetical or supplementary to Scripture violates the exclusivity of God’s Word. And that is the realm in which the Roman Catholic Church has operated for centuries:

The Roman Catholic Church . . . commonly threatens eternal damnation for anyone who questions the decrees of the Pope or the dogma of Church Councils. For example, Canon 1 of the seventh session of the Council of Trent pronounces anathema on anyone who says that there are more or less than the seven Sacraments established by the Council. That means if any Catholic questions the sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, or Extreme Unction—mentioned nowhere in Scripture—that person is subject to excommunication and in the Church’s eyes is worthy of eternal damnation. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent are larded with similar anathemas—in effect making all the Council’s dictums fundamental doctrines. In Francis Turretin’s words, they “are impudent enough often to declare as fundamental their own hay and stubble and whatever the Romish church teaches.”

But according to the Bible itself, no supposed spiritual authority outside “the sacred writings” of Scripture can give us wisdom that leads to salvation. No papal decrees, no oral tradition, no latter-day prophecy can contain truth apart from Scripture that is genuinely fundamental.[4] Reckless Faith, 109–110.

In a world full of subjective opinions and claims of truth, the Bible objectively declares God’s truth. Why build our lives on false religions when God has provided a foundation of fundamental doctrine? Sola Scriptura establishes the source of all fundamental Christian truth.

Now that we know the exclusive source of truth, it raises a critical question: Is the extraction of fundamental biblical truth the exclusive domain of Bible scholars? Or has God spoken with enough clarity for the layman as well? That’s the issue we’ll address next time.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B151111
COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You

HeadHeartHand Blog: Christ in the Old Testament Infographics

Source

Here are some infographics that Cameron Morgan produced for me a while ago in connection with Jesus on Every Page. You probably need the book to make the most of them, but I’m sure you all have that anyway

Feel free to download, distribute, and use as you see fit.

1. Welcome to Jesus on the Old Testament

2. Christ in Creation

3. Christ in the Law

4. Christ as the Angel of the Lord

5. Christ in the Covenants

6. Christ the True Prophet

7. Christ in the Types

8. Christ in History

Some samples of the low-res graphics below.

Christ in the Creation

Christ in the Law

Christ the Angel of the Lord

Jesus in the Covenants

Jesus in the Types

Jesus in History

TMS: Soldiers of Christ

On June 12, 1944, just six days after D-Day in World War II, a young lieutenant named Richard Winters led his men to the outskirts of Carentan. As the officer in charge of Easy Company, of the 101st Airborne, he was tasked to clear the large French town of its German defenders. It would be a small battle, but it played a significant role in the massive effort to rid the world of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

As Winters led his company up the road toward town, the company started taking machine gun fire from a German MG42. The men instinctively dived for cover into ditches on either side of the road, and stayed there—they froze. Not only was the success of the mission in jeopardy, but the men were easy targets for enemy machine gun and sniper fire.

What happened next proved to be the turning point in the battle for Carentan—it’s the stuff legends are made of. Lt. Winters went into the middle of the road and, with bullets hissing past him, started yelling at his troops to get up out of the ditches and engage the enemy. His words, coupled with his heroic action, motivated the men to get up, get in the fight, and gain a decisive victory over the Germans.

Winters’ disregard for personal safety in his effort to save his men from certain death didn’t just earn him a medal; his actions earned him the love, respect, and admiration of his men. They followed him faithfully from Carentan, through the nightmarish Battle of the Bulge, and on to triumph at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

Soldiers willingly follow men like that, men who demonstrate acts of self-sacrifice in the most harrowing of circumstances. How much more should we, as Christians, follow the One who endured suffering and death to rescue us from the most terrifying fate of all, an eternity in hell?

That was the idea that entered Paul’s mind when, at the end of his own ministry, having been imprisoned by the emperor Nero, he wrote to encourage the young pastor Timothy. Timothy was facing severe conflict in his ministry at Ephesus, and the relentless opposition from heretics, apostates, and persecutors was weakening him. And just like any Christian who experiences difficulty because of following Christ, he needed to be reminded again of his task—to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” A good soldier is one who does not simply do minimum duty for his Lord, but rather is one who serves Him with everything he is and has. As a Christian, that’s what you are called to. Paul’s words to Timothy are your marching orders, too, as you strive to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

The first mark of a good soldier is the willingness to suffer hardship with the rest of the soldiers. “Suffer hardship” literally means to suffer evil or pain along with someone else. By adding “with me,” Paul assures Timothy that he hasn’t asked anything of him that he wasn’t willing to do. In fact, Paul was writing from a prison cell.

As a Christian in the Western world, I’d bet it is sometimes difficult for you to understand what serious spiritual warfare and suffering for Christ mean. Even though the secular environment in our society is increasingly hostile to Christianity, you are not faced with loss of job, imprisonment, or execution because of your faith. With few exceptions, being a Christian won’t keep you out of college or from getting a good job. But the more faithful you are as a Christian, the more Satan will put roadblocks, hardships, and rejection in the way, the more evident the spiritual warfare will become, and the more frequent and obvious the hardship will become.

You have been called to endure hardship, and every Christian who has gone before you has had his share. And although you haven’t yet shed blood for your faith (Hebrews 12:4), you will experience hardship as a Christian for your faithfulness—count on it. Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). But be encouraged for He also said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus is the perfect Commander who leads by example and will bring you to certain victory in the end.

Secondly, a good soldier is marked by his separation from the “normal” life. A “soldier in active service” does not have a 9 to 5 job, or even a long 60-70 hour work week. He is a soldier 24 hours a day, every day of the year. His body, his health, his skills, his time—all that he is—belongs to the military. Even when on leave, he is subject to recall at any time, without notice and for any reason. And whenever ordered into dangerous duty, he is expected to put his very life on the line without question or hesitation.

Consequently, he is separated from his normal environment, so that he will not “entangle himself in the affairs of everyday life.” Paul is not speaking about things that necessarily are wrong in themselves. It is not that you, as a Christian, should have no contact at all with your former friends and surroundings, but that you should never be caught up and enmeshed in them. Those things are irrelevant to your soldiering and are always subject to being relinquished.

You should never allow earthly matters to interfere with the fulfillment of your duty to the Lord. Temporal concerns and activities, innocent in themselves, have neutralized the effectiveness of many pastors, special ministries, and doctrinally sound churches. Though they once labored faithfully in the primary purpose of serving Jesus Christ to advance His kingdom against the forces of darkness, they have unwittingly taken themselves out of the battle.

Just as the dutiful soldier places his life willingly on the line in the service of his commander, so also will you, as a faithful Christian, willingly deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). And you will find yourself echoing Paul’s words: “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

The final mark of a good soldier is a genuine desire to “please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” The men who followed Lt. Winters through terrible conditions and battles in Europe did so willingly—he had earned their respect and affections. In an even greater way, the Lord deserves your honor, your affection, and your obedience for all He has done for you. His own courage on the battlefield is unparalleled. He stayed the course and went before you to win your freedom and eternal life. And now He seeks your loyal service in His army.

The Christian’s greatest desire is to please Christ, and his fondest hope is to be rewarded for faithful service, to hear his Master say, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

With that hope in the forefront of your mind, let your life be animated and driven forward by your love for Jesus Christ. And make it your ambition, “whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9)—He is your spiritual Commander-in-Chief.

The post Soldiers of Christ appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.