Category Archives: Biblical Lesson/Teaching

Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Marks of a Faithful Church”

Code: B170623

Without a doubt, the question we receive most frequently at Grace to You is, “How do I find a good church in my area?”

Locating a faithful, biblically sound church is a struggle most believers face at one time or another in their lives. Sometimes it’s difficult to even know what to look for in the first place.

Compounding the problem significantly, too many Christians put their own tastes, interests, and preferences first in the search for a church. They draw all sorts of unnecessary and unbiblical lines regarding issues of secondary importance, if that. But the measure of the church has nothing to do with style—it’s a question of substance.

In his sermon, “Marks of a Faithful Church,” John MacArthur highlights several attributes and qualities that signify a faithful church. Reflecting on his shared history with the congregation, John considers the foundational convictions that have guided his ministry and grounded the life of the church. In that regard, these ecclesiastical attributes make up the criteria for gauging the health and faithfulness of a church.

Without spoiling his full list, here are some excerpts. With regard to the value of doctrinal clarity, John says:

I remember years ago doing a series on Ephesians 6 on the sword of the Spirit. . . . “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” [Ephesians 6:17]. And you say, “Well boy I’ve got the sword. I own a Bible.” You can own a million Bibles and not have the sword. It’s not having a Bible that equips you to fight the spiritual war. You can’t fight it with the Bible. You have to fight it with the theology that’s in it. Do you understand that? Having the sword is not a matter of owning a Bible. It’s a matter of knowing the content of it so that whatever comes your way, whatever temptation, whatever attack, whatever issue comes your way you can go directly to the Word of God and you can say, “This is the mind of Christ, this is the truth,” and with that you are armed.

Another criterion John highlights is the importance of personal holiness within the congregation. On the need for discipline in the church, he says:

Judgment begins with the household of God. Listen, the Lord is disciplining His church. Revelation 1 says He’s moving in His church, and the image there—His eyes are like lasers penetrating to see the reality of what’s going on in His church. And His feet are like blazing, burnished bronzed or brass as He goes through His church inflicting whatever chastening He needs on those that sin. Personal holiness is critical.

I’m not talking about false piety. Nothing is more noxious to God than false spirituality, superficiality. I’m not talking about legalism. I’m not talking about external kind of things. I’m talking about the heart. Isaiah 66, to whom does the Lord look and whom does He seek? He who has a contrite spirit and “trembles at My Word.” He wants humility; He wants virtue in His church.

If you’re looking for a new church, or if you simply want to biblically evaluate the one you’re currently attending, “Marks of a Faithful Church” is an excellent place to start.

To listen to “Marks of a Faithful Church,” click here.

 


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15 Marks of a Disciple of Jesus

Christianity is not a club.

Jesus does not want cheerleaders or groupies. Following Christ is not about T-shirts, slogans, or hashtags. Jesus calls us to be children of his Father. He calls us to be his disciples.

Because Jesus has a unique role in God’s plan of salvation, he is more than an example. The best mirror we find in the Gospel accounts is not Jesus, but his disciples.

15 Marks of a Disciple of Jesus

Here are fifteen things we learn about being a disciple of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.

1. A disciple is called (Luke 5:1–11).

Jesus didn’t need a recruiter. He called and his disciples “left everything and followed him.” Likewise, God calls us as disciples, not because we are worthy, but because of his grace (2 Timothy 1:9).

2. A disciple is taught (Luke 6:20–49).

Jesus spent a lot of time teaching his disciples about reality. Who did the Messiah come for? Who is worthy of salvation? What is the kingdom of God? We are just as ignorant and resistant to the truth; we need instruction.

3. A disciple is a follower (Luke 7:11).

Inherent in the definition of a disciple is one who does not choose his own direction, causes, or values. Disciples follow Jesus.

4. A disciple is aware of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:9–10).

Jesus reveals truth to his disciples that is obscured to others. Because God’s kingdom is not worldly or political, we must be taught the values and requirements of the King.

5. A disciple is a servant (Luke 9:14–17).

Jesus’ disciples got their hands dirty, distributing multiplied food to the hungry people. Sometimes walking with Jesus means picking up bread crusts and fish bones.

6. A disciple is sent to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9:1–6; 10:1–12).

Jesus sent his twelve apostles and then seventy-two others as laborers in a plentiful harvest (Luke 10:2). As those sent with a message to proclaim, his disciples were in danger as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3) because they were announcing a different king. The heavenly kingdom they announced valued peace (Luke 10:5) and healing (Luke 10:9), not riches and power. Challenging existing authority structures is often unpopular.

7. A disciple confesses Jesus as the Christ (Luke 9:18–20).

Peter famously confessed Jesus as “the Christ of God.” This is the most important question we face as well: Who do you say Jesus is? We must answer this daily, reorienting our priorities, passions, and purpose around the Messiah.

8. A disciple is a witness (Luke 10:23–24).

The apostles walked with Jesus. Many longed to see what they saw. This is part of God’s “gracious will” (Luke 10:21). We also witness the love and power of Jesus through his Word and his work in the world. The arena is much bigger now, but his disciples still sit court-side.

9. A disciple denies himself and takes up his cross (Luke 9:23–27).

A disciple’s life was not glamorous or lucrative. It was full of hardship and danger. Make no mistake—if your highest values are comfort, peace, and safety, you will lose your life. But if you lose your life for Jesus’ sake, you will save it.

10. A disciple is committed (Luke 9:57–62).

Jesus teaches that following him is not easy; it requires everything. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

11. A disciple is a cross-bearer and a cost-counter (Luke 14:26–33).

Following Jesus is serious and costly. It may cost family and friends; it may cost time and comfort; it may even cost your life. Jesus says, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

12. A disciple is rebuked by Jesus (Luke 18:15–17).

When we submit to Jesus as Lord, we acknowledge his perfection, wisdom, and authority to correct us—and we need a lot of correction! The disciples were rebuked by Jesus, and if we do not know the same, we’re probably not encountering the Lord. This ongoing process happens as we read his Word and interact with his people. God’s rebuke is evidence of his love for his children.

13. A disciple praises God (Luke 19:33–40).

When disciples see Jesus clearly, the “King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they rejoice and praise the Father who sent his Son. Following Jesus is not primarily about doing, but worshiping.

14. A disciple spends time with his Master (Luke 22:11, 39, 45).

In the hours before his arrest, Jesus yearned for time with his disciples. They ate with him, talked with him, and sang with him. As God changes our hearts and gives us new desires, chief among them will be love for him. We seek and spend time with those we love.

15. A disciple is redeemed, comforted, and dispatched to the world (Luke 24:36–53).

Jesus seeks out his disciples after his resurrection, though they were absent at his crucifixion and burial. He speaks peace and comfort to them. He died for their sins and rose from the grave so they also could have new life. As he sent his disciples into the world with the promise of the Spirit (v. 49), so he also sends us.

Disciple, Will You Take Up Your Cross?

There is no place for pride among those who follow Jesus (Luke 22:24–27). We are called, taught, directed, equipped, and corrected by our Master. We cannot meet our greatest need—reconciliation with God—and we often bristle at this reality.

But Jesus is a loving Savior. When we confess our pride, he graciously restores us. Our sin-debt has already been paid, so he doesn’t hold it against us. He is also the Risen King, who replaces our pride with humility, through the work of his Spirit within us.

Jesus continues to call us today. Will you take up your cross as a disciple and follow the One who was taken up on the cross for you?

The post 15 Marks of a Disciple of Jesus appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

Subjectivity and the Will of God

Code: B170619

If you rely on internal, subjective messages and promptings from the Lord, what prevents you from imagining the input you want from Him? Moreover, what reliable, objective mechanism exists to keep you from misinterpreting your own imagination as divine instruction?

As we saw last time, many good souls and even some heroes of our faith fall into that same error, mistaking imagination for revelation. Many—perhaps most—Christians believe God uses subjective promptings to guide believers in making major decisions. A thorough search of church history would undoubtedly confirm that most believers who lean heavily on immediate “revelations” or subjective impressions ostensibly from God end up embarrassed, confused, disappointed, and frustrated.

Nothing in Scripture even suggests that we should seek either the will of God or the Word of God (personal guidance or fresh prophecy) by listening to subjective impressions. So how are we supposed to determine the divine will?

Virtually every Christian grapples with the question of how to know God’s will in any individual instance. We particularly struggle when faced with the major decisions of adolescence—what occupation or profession we will pursue, whom we will marry, whether and where we will go to college, and so on. Most of us fear that wrong decisions at these points will result in a lifetime of disaster.

Unfortunately, many of the books and pamphlets on discerning God’s will are filled with mystical mumbo-jumbo about seeking a sense of peace, listening for a divine “call,” putting out a “fleece,” and other subjective signposts pointing the way to God’s will.

That kind of “discernment” is not at all what Scripture calls for. If we examine everything the Bible has to say about knowing God’s will, what we discover is that everywhere Scripture expressly mentions the subject, it sets forth objective guidelines. If we put those guidelines together, we get a fairly comprehensive picture of the will of God for every Christian. We can summarize them like this:

  • It is God’s will that we be saved. “The Lord is . . . not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “God our Savior . . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3–4).
  • It is God’s will that we be Spirit-filled. “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. . . . Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:17–18).
  • It is God’s will that we be sanctified. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  • It is God’s will that we be submissive. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13–15).
  • It is God’s will that we suffer. “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

If all those objective aspects of God’s will are realities in your life, you needn’t fret over the other decisions you must make. As long as the options you face do not involve issues directly forbidden or commanded in Scripture, you are free to do whatever you choose.

Whatever you choose? Yes, within the limits expressly set forth in God’s Word. If those five objective principles are consistently true in your life—if you are saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering for righteousness’ sake—you are completely free to choose whatever you desire.

In fact, God providentially governs your choice by molding your desires. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That doesn’t mean merely that He grants the desires of your heart; it suggests that He puts the desires there. So even when we choose freely, His sovereign providence guides the free choices we make! What confidence that should give us as we live our lives before God!

This is not to suggest that we should attempt to try to decipher God’s will through what we can observe of His providence. That would thrust us right back into the realm of determining truth subjectively. But we can be confident as we make choices that God will providentially work all things together in accord with His perfect will (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11). We needn’t be paralyzed with fear that a wrong decision might ruin our lives forever.

There are some caveats that need to be stressed here: Obviously if your desires are sinful, selfish, or wrongly motivated, then you are not really Spirit-filled, or else you are not pursuing sanctification the way you should. Your first responsibility is to set those areas of your life in order. In other words, if you are pursuing self-will and fleshly desire, you have stepped out of God’s will with regard to one or more of the major objective principles. You need to come into line with the objective, revealed will of God before you can make whatever decision you may be contemplating.

And again, our freedom to choose extends only to issues not specifically addressed in Scripture. Obviously, no one who is truly saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering for Christ would willfully disobey the Word of God. No Christian has the freedom, for example, to violate 2 Corinthians 6:14 by marrying an unbeliever.

Above all, we must use biblical wisdom in the choices we make. We are to apply wisdom to all our decisions. Look again at the beginning of Ephesians 5:17: “Do not be foolish.” To be Spirit-filled is to be wise—to be discerning (see Exodus 35:31; Deuteronomy 34:9; also see Ephesians 5:18 with Colossians 3:16). The biblical wisdom that is the hallmark of the Spirit-filled person is the platform on which all right decision making must be based. We are to consider our options in this light and pursue the choices that seem most wise—not merely what feels best (Proverbs 2:1–6).

This means that if we contemplate God’s will biblically, we will remain in the realm of objective truth. The Bible never encourages us to try to determine God’s will by subjective impressions, “promptings” from the Holy Spirit, the “still, small voice” of God, or miraculous signs like Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36–40). If we seek to be led in subjective ways like those—especially if we neglect objective truth and biblical wisdom—we will surely run into trouble. Making decisions based on subjective criteria is a subtle form of reckless faith.

One of the significant contributions of Garry Friesen’s landmark book, Decision Making and the Will of God, is a chapter that explores the pitfalls of attempting to discern the will of God through subjective impressions. “Impressions Are Impressions” is the title of the chapter. [1] “If the source of one’s knowledge is subjective,” Friesen writes, “then the knowledge will also be subjective—and hence, uncertain.” [2]

At one point Friesen raises the question, “how can I tell whether these impressions are from God or from some other source?” He writes,

This is a critical question. For impressions could be produced by any number of sources: God, Satan, an angel, a demon, human emotions (such as fear or ecstasy), hormonal imbalance, insomnia, medication, or an upset stomach. Sinful impressions (temptations) may be exposed for what they are by the Spirit-sensitized conscience and the Word of God. But beyond that, one encounters a subjective quagmire of uncertainty. For in nonmoral areas, Scripture gives no guidelines for distinguishing the voice of the Spirit from the voice of the self—or any other potential “voice.” And experience offers no reliable means of identification either (which is why the question comes up in the first place). . . . Tremendous frustration has been experienced by sincere Christians who have earnestly but fruitlessly sought to decipher the code of the inward witness. [3]

Even more significant than that is the fact that Scripture never commands us to tune into any inner voice. We’re commanded to study and meditate on Scripture (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1–2). We’re instructed to cultivate wisdom and discernment (Proverbs 4:5–8). We’re told to walk wisely and make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:15–16). We’re ordered to be obedient to God’s commands (Deuteronomy 28:1–2; John 15:14). But we are never encouraged to listen for inner promptings.

On the contrary, we are warned that our hearts are so deceitful and desperately wicked that we cannot understand them (Jeremiah 17:9). Surely this should make us very reluctant to heed promptings and messages that arise from within ourselves.

This, by the way, is one of the critical deficiencies of Wayne Grudem’s position on prophecy. While defining revelation as “something God brings to mind,” Grudem never explores the critical issue of how to determine whether an impression in the mind really comes from God. Yet this would seem to be the most pressing question of all for someone who is about to declare a mental impression a prophecy from the Lord.

By contrast, Friesen writes, “Inner impressions are not a form of revelation. So the Bible does not invest inner impressions with authority to function as indicators of divine guidance. . . . Impressions are not authoritative. Impressions are impressions.” [4] Surely this is the true path of biblical wisdom.

Haddon Robinson goes one step further: “When we lift our inner impressions to the level of divine revelation, we are flirting with divination.” [5] In other words, those who treat subjective impressions as revelatory prophecy are actually practicing a form of fortune-telling. Those willing to heed inner voices and mental impressions may be listening to the lies of a deceitful heart, the fantasies of an overactive imagination, or even the voice of a demon. Once objective criteria are cast aside, there is no way to know the difference between truth and falsehood. Those who follow subjective impressions are by definition undiscerning. Mysticism and discernment simply do not mix.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170619
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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Spiritually Living, Yet Still Stinking”

Code: B170616

The terminology we use to describe God’s work in salvation is almost exclusively positive. We talk about the new birth, the new life, transformation and regeneration. But we also have to recognize that salvation requires death—specifically, the death of our old, sinful selves. We have to die if we’re going to be saved.

And throughout the rest of our earthly lives, we will carry around the remnants of that spiritual death. Like Lazarus, we still bear the grave clothes of our former selves, unable to fully discard the unredeemed flesh. On this side of heaven, we will never be free of that dead, old self.

In his sermon, “Spiritually Living, Yet Still Stinking,” John MacArthur explains why believers can’t stop sinning altogether—why claims of “entire sanctification” are empty lies. Dealing with the biblical facts about the nature of sin and salvation, John paints an encouraging portrait of the believer’s struggle against the flesh. He exposes the battle every Christian must face. And he helps listeners consider the glorious truths of their new birth in Christ.

You want to know something very interesting? The greatest transformation in your life has already taken place if you’re a Christian. It will be far greater than at your death. Your death will be a subtraction experience. You will just lose your unredeemed humanness. Your salvation was a transformation. You have already been created fit for heaven. And God did not do this miraculous work of regeneration, new birth, and creation, and have in it some components of sin because God can’t create sin. Therefore Paul understands that the new I is not sinning, it is sin that is still there. This new life is pure and ready for heaven and has holy aspirations and holy longings and loves the Law of God. So this new life is the full expression of that life which will fit heaven.

So why do we go on sinning? Because we still possess the corpse. Paul says it again, verse 18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me;” that is in my flesh. He puts it, he calls this old man, the remnants of this dead corpse, flesh. . . . Verse 20, “If I’m doing the very thing I do not wish, I’m no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” . . . It’s like a holy seed in an unholy shell, incarcerated and infected with the flesh. Or even a better illustration, the dead corpse is still attached to him.

Moreover, John encourages listeners to break the sinful habits of our old self and stifle the influence of our flesh.

So what do we do? We kill every expression of that corpse, put it to death. How do you do that? Oh, that’s another study, but you do that by applying the means of grace, abstaining from sin, avoiding temptation, making no provision for the flesh, fixing on Jesus, walking in the Spirit, meditating on Scripture, praying fervently, all the means of grace. It’s a lifelong battle. But you’ve got to take it seriously. If you want victory, if you want growth and progress, don’t wait for some epiphany experience, don’t expect some second work of grace, don’t expect to have some euphoric response to the teaching of the Bible that will catapult you to another level. It’s a slow, steady climb and all the way you’re gazing at the glory of Christ, being caught up in the wonder of who He is, walking in the Spirit, obeying Scripture and being changed into His image and killing the remaining sin every time it shows itself, using all the means of grace to do that.

“Spiritually Living, Yet Still Stinking” is a tremendous help when it comes to understanding the believer’s position in Christ, and the constant struggle against sin. It’s a great encouragement for the battle all Christians must daily wage against sin and temptation. And it provides powerful theological insight against the false teaching that promises an easier path to sanctification.

To watch or listen to “Spiritually Living, Yet Still Stinking,” click here.

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170616
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You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

When Fancy Is Mistaken for Faith

Code: B170614

If God is still speaking to us today—even if only through mental impressions and still, small voices—shouldn’t we consider those messages to as relevant as anything written in Scripture, if not more so?

That very issue was hotly debated during the Great Awakening. It was one area where Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield did not (in the beginning) see eye to eye. Clearly on this question Edwards would not have been the least bit sympathetic with modern charismatics. Edwards believed prophecy had ceased along with the rest of the charismatic gifts. (Edwards’s cessationist views are spelled out in his book Charity and Its Fruits [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969 reprint], 38, 44-47; and in even greater detail in his “Distinguishing Marks” in Jonathan Edwards: On Revival [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1984], 137ff.)

Whitefield was far more willing than Edwards to treat subjective impulses as if they could reliably reveal the Holy Spirit’s leading. In 1740 Edwards confronted Whitefield on the issue. He later wrote to a friend,

I indeed have told several persons that I once purposely took an opportunity to talk with Mr. Whitefield alone about [subjective] impulses: and have mentioned many particulars of our conference together on that [matter]: That I told him some reasons I had to think he gave too great heed to such things: and have told what manner of replies he made; and what reasons I offered against such things. And I also said that Mr. Whitefield did not seem to be offended with me: but yet did not seem to be inclined to have a great deal of discourse about it: And that in the time of it he did not appear to be convinced by any thing I said. [1]

At the height of the Great Awakening, this issue became, in Iain Murray’s words, “the talking-point of the whole country.” [2] Edwards clearly warned his congregation not to place much stock in subjective impressions. He saw this as a particular danger in a time of revival, when religious affections are heightened and the imagination more active than usual. Murray writes,

The “impressions” or “impulses” which [Edwards] criticized were varied in character. Sometimes they involved an element of the visionary. Sometimes they appeared to provide foreknowledge of future events. And sometimes they were accompanied and supported by random texts of Scripture. . . .

Against this belief Edwards argued that a Christian might indeed have a “holy frame and sense from the Spirit of God” but the “imaginations that attend it are but accidental” and not directly attributable to the Spirit. [3]

Edwards had carefully studied this issue. He was convinced that the tendency to follow subjective impulses was a dangerous path down which to travel: “[An] erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days to guide His saints . . . by inspiration, or immediate revelation.” [4] He saw several dangers in the practice, not the least of which was its hardening effect on the person supposedly receiving the revelation. “As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his misconduct.” [5]

Edwards also knew from both church history and personal experience that

Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do. [6]

Edwards’s advice was straightforward:

I would therefore entreat the people of God to be very cautious how they give heed to such things. I have seen them fail in very many instances, and know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true, yea eminent, saints . . . are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven. I have known such impressions fail, in some instances, attended with all these circumstances. [7]

A generation before Edwards, the illustrious Boston pastor Cotton Mather had experimented with this very tendency, believing that God would grant him “particular faiths” for specific prayers to be answered. Convinced God had promised to grant certain prayer requests, Mather prophesied that his wife would recover from a serious illness, that his father would return to England to serve the Lord, and that his wayward son would return to the Lord. Only after those and several other expectations went unfulfilled did Mather begin to question his doctrine of “particular faiths.” [8] (Mather’s proneness to trust subjective phenomena—a fallacy shared by many of his colleagues—may have also kept him from acting sooner than he did to halt the Salem witch trials.)

George Whitefield also learned the hard way that subjective impulses can be tragically fallible. When Whitefield’s wife was expecting her first child, he prophesied that she would have a son who would become a preacher of the gospel. The child was indeed a boy, but he died at the age of four months. He was Whitefield’s only child. Murray writes,

Whitefield at once recognized his mistake saying: “I misapplied several texts of Scripture. Upon these grounds, I made no scruple of declaring ‘that I should have a son, and that his name was to be John.’” When back in New England, in 1745, he could say feelingly of what had happened there, “Many good souls, both among clergy and laity, for a while, mistook fancy for faith, and imagination for revelation.” [9]

As God’s people we must not set ourselves up to commit the same mistakes. We must not confuse our imaginations with divine inspiration. More on that next time.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170614
COPYRIGHT ©2017 Grace to You

You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You’s Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/about#copyright).

Are Mental impressions Divine Revelation?

Code: B170612

You have undoubtedly heard people say things like, “God is calling me to the mission field,” or “God led me to attend this college,” or “We feel God wants us to get married.” Perhaps you have even said such things yourself.

Christians who use expressions like those often mean they have had an impression or a strong feeling that they interpret as a disclosure of the divine will. Even people who believe prophecy and divine revelation have ceased sometimes fall into the trap of thinking God speaks directly to us through subjective means.

Normally people who make such claims have no intention of equating their mental impressions with divine revelation. They regard the subjective “leading of the Lord” as something far less than prophetic. Yet they believe God somehow communicates His will personally to individuals through inner promptings, signs, feelings of peace or uneasiness, strong impressions on the mind, or other similar means.

For reasons we shall examine, it is not wise to seek divine guidance through subjective impressions like these. Nowhere does Scripture encourage us to attempt to discern God’s will through such means. As we shall see, that sort of decision making can lead to confusion, disappointment, and sometimes spiritual tragedy.

And the truth is that treating subjective impressions as messages from the Holy Spirit is not really much different from claiming to receive divine revelation. Though most Christians who follow subjective impressions would not dream of listening to extrabiblical “prophecies,” in effect they are doing the same thing.

In fact, some advocates of modern prophetic revelation want to erase any distinction between subjective impressions and the gift of prophecy mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12–14. Professor Wayne Grudem, for example, who has produced the most thorough theological defense of the modern prophecy movement, believes God is giving revelation today chiefly through mental impressions. He even defines revelation as “something God brings to mind.” [1] He suggests that when God providentially brings a thought to a believer’s mind, that is the New Testament gift of prophecy in operation. Thus he has elevated mental impressions to the level of prophetic revelation.

Grudem’s work has had widespread influence. And it is in many respects a fine study. He shows biblically why important distinctions must be made between Old Testament prophecy, apostolic prophecy, and the New Testament gift of prophecy. In places (but not everywhere) his exegesis of the pertinent texts is very helpful. He includes a crucial appendix on the sufficiency of Scripture which, if heeded by his friends in the modern prophecy movement, would provide a remedy against the serious abuses that have so plagued the movement. And he offers another important appendix showing that the canon of Scripture is closed.

But it is at this very point that Grudem’s position seems most inconsistent. If the canon of Scripture is really closed; if (as Grudem rightly suggests) “it is in Scripture alone that we are to search for God’s words to us”; [2] and if, in his words, “the Bible is sufficient to equip us for living the Christian life” [3] —then what point is there in seeking additional “revelations” like the prophetic messages Grudem advocates? It is unfortunate that Grudem relegated his thoughts on the canon of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture to the book’s final appendixes. If this had been the starting point for his study of prophecy, perhaps he would have reached very different conclusions.

Grudem’s defense of prophetic revelation has opened the door to a host of bizarre and misleading “prophecies” that have plagued evangelical Christianity over the past several years. Scores of churches worldwide have implemented Grudem’s theology and are encouraging people to share mere mental impressions as if they were prophetic messages from God. Ironically, Grudem’s work is frequently summoned to defend even the most outlandish aspects of a movement that has utterly ignored his many clear warnings against abuse of the prophetic gifts.

To his credit, Grudem appeals for a view of prophecy that “would still include a strong affirmation of the closing of the New Testament canon (so that no new words of equal authority are given today), of the sufficiency of Scripture, and of the supremacy and unique authority of the Bible in guidance.”[4] He writes, “I am asking that charismatics . . . stop calling [prophecy] ‘a word from the Lord’—simply because that label makes it sound exactly like the Bible in authority.” [5] Elsewhere he writes, “Remember that what is spoken in any prophecy today is not the word of God, but is simply a human being reporting in merely human words something which God has brought to mind.” [6] He also warns that modern prophecy

should not be thought of as “God’s very words,” nor should the speaker preface his or her remarks with words which would give that impression, such as, “Thus says the Lord,” or, “Hear the words of God,” etc.—those statements should be reserved for Scripture alone. Something like, “I think the Lord is showing me that . . .” or, “I think the Lord is indicating that . . .” or, “It seems that the Lord is putting on my heart a concern that . . .” would all be much more appropriate, and far less misleading. [7]

If those warnings were consistently heeded, charismatic “prophets” could save their churches much grief and confusion.

But even in the denomination Grudem himself once identified with—the Association of Vineyard Churches—his words of caution are frequently ignored in the prophets’ actual practice.

James Ryle is himself a Vineyard pastor [Ryle passed away in 2015, Ed.]. He does give lip service to Grudem’s caution. He writes,

How often have you heard someone say casually, “The Lord spoke to me,” or “The Lord told me” to do this or that?

. . . Many within the church use these terms to justify their own desires and opinions. Possibly they feel that this puts what they are saying beyond challenge. After all, how does one argue with a “word from the Lord”?

In light of this problem I have found it a good policy to avoid such expressions and simply say, “It occurred to me” when I am sharing some insight which I’ve received in prayer or devotions. This removes unnecessary stumbling blocks and allows more people to hear the message without being distracted with the way the word is being presented. [8]

But note the significant difference between Grudem’s position and Ryle’s. Grudem believes prophecy is merely “something God brought to mind”—not “God’s very words.” He seems eager to avoid confusion on this point. Ryle’s perspective is markedly different. He says he employs terminology like “It occurred to me” to avoid “unnecessary stumbling blocks.” But he clearly does think of prophecy as God’s very words. After analyzing the dangers of saying things like “God spoke to me,” he states, “Nonetheless, the Lord does speak to us today.” In practice he cannot avoid placing modern words of prophecy on the same level with the written Word of God.

Ryle does this perhaps without even realizing it. He repeatedly cites Matthew 4:4 in defense of modern prophecy: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God[9]—taking a verse that clearly speaks of Scripture and applying it to modern words of prophecy.

Furthermore, despite his stated preference for expressions like, “It occurred to me,” Ryle never once uses that expression or any like it in his book. Instead, the book is filled with statements like, “I heard the voice of the Lord,” “The voice of the Lord spoke to me,” “God was speaking to me again,” “The Lord Himself was standing before me . . . speaking directly to me,” “Again I heard the voice of the Lord. . . . The Lord continued [speaking]. . . . The Lord seemed to pause. . . . Then He delivered the knockout blow,” “The Lord was saying to me,” “The Lord spoke to him, telling him to call [me],” “He speaks to me,” “I received a word from the Lord,” “I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me,” “I treasure these words from the Lord, holding them in my heart with the deepest regard,” “These were the exact words I was given,” “The prophetic word from the heart of the Lord was spoken,” “This is what the Holy Spirit showed me,” and similar expressions. [10] All Ryle’s interpretations of his own dreams and visions are stated with dogmatic conviction.

Ryle continually uses terminology that suggests he has canonized modern prophecy—at least in his own mind. “The Holy Spirit inspires us to speak through any number of means,” he says, referring to his prophecies as “inspired utterance.” [11]] At the end of the book, Ryle suggests that when the hippo of modern prophecy comes into the garden of mainstream evangelicalism, “the church will be found in the midst of the world, speaking forth the words of God to a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we will shine as light, holding forth the word of life.” [12]

So in practice, Ryle finds it impossible not to equate his own prophecies with the words of Scripture, even though he appears to be trying to avoid this error. (In one place, Ryle says, “We must stop putting our own words in the Lord’s mouth. . . . Scripture alone is our sure foundation.” [13] To that I add a hearty amen.)

He is not alone in this failing. Anyone who is truly convinced that God is speaking fresh words of revelation will inevitably view the later prophecies as somehow more relevant and more personal than the message of Scripture, which is more than two thousand years old. Inevitably, wherever personal prophecy has been stressed, Scripture has been deemphasized. Two thousand years of church history confirms that this is true.

(Adapted from Reckless Faith.)

 


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Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.

God has created us as emotional people. There is a time to weep and laugh, to mourn and dance, to hate and love (Eccl. 3:1–8). Neither stoicism nor emotionalism are marks of healthy faith. What is needed is robust, biblical theology that informs and transforms our emotions.

Human beings are emotional creatures. We love or hate, feel happy or sad, angry or joyful. And yet Christians sometimes struggle with integrating emotion into their spiritual lives and end up falling victim to dangerous tendencies when it comes to their emotions. These tendencies occupy two ends of a spectrum, and they have led many into a superficial kind of Christianity. We see these tendencies at both the personal level and at the corporate level.

One danger is emotionalism, in which we allow our feelings to interpret our circumstances and form our thoughts about God. This is putting feelings before faith. The other danger is a kind of stoicism, where faith is rooted in theology but void of affection. This tendency removes feelings from faith altogether. While it is true that our emotions should not lead our theology, it is vital to our faith that theology lead to a deep experience of our triune God.

Good doctrine is critically important to the health of the Christian and the church. But the church doesn’t need men and women who can merely define repentance. Rather, the church needs people who hate sin and love righteousness. Memorizing our catechisms is important, but it is useless if it isn’t also producing in us awe, humility, love, and worship. The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is not only something to affirm and defend, but it should also be something in which we rejoice. Yes, “zeal without knowledge is dead,” but knowledge without deep affection is just as lifeless.

It should be obvious that Scripture calls us to be a people who feel what we believe, who not only know truth but experience it. There is an order to this. Our feelings and emotions must be governed and guided by truth. We are to fear the Lord, hate evil, love the truth, mourn over sin and injustice, and rejoice in our sufferings. These are not naked commands but precepts given by God in light of who He is and what He has done. We are supposed to feel the weight and the power of the truth revealed in Scripture. Theology should do more than inform us—it should warm and stir our hearts. And if it doesn’t, then we have missed the connection that God’s revelation is designed to make between head and heart.

The key is not to pursue feelings themselves but to pursue the Lord Jesus Christ by looking to Him, knowing His ways, pondering His promises, and obeying His commands. Faith is what gives birth to feeling. The emotional component of the Christian life isn’t always as present as we would like. It often lags behind. As the English Reformer John Bradford said, “Faith must first go before, and then feeling will follow.”

Consider how often we find ourselves afraid when we face the unknown or the dangerous. When we run up against the fragility of life or the potential of loss, anxiety and fear are right beside us, working their way into our hearts. This is precisely when God calls us to “fear not.” yet the hope for relief from fear is not found in ignoring what lies ahead, but in looking to the God whose sovereignty is certain and whose promises are sure. It is when we seek the Lord and ground our faith in Him that our fears are overcome (Ps. 34:4). The trouble itself may not disappear, but the knowledge of God conquers what makes us afraid. His love for us, demonstrated in His adoption of us in Jesus Christ, is just one of the truths that replaces fear with comfort and confidence (Rom. 8:15).

Pain and suffering are not only common to all, but for the Christian, they are to be expected as a consequence of following Jesus. We know the feeling of dread that can accompany severe trials. But the lifting of our heads and the courage of faith is tied to God’s character and promise. We know that He is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We can cast all our anxieties on Him because we are assured that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

When we struggle with assurance and long for a confident hope in Jesus, we must learn to trust Him more. The assurance of our salvation is first and foremost based on the mercy and merits of Jesus Christ. We fix our eyes on Him by faith and find in His life, death, and resurrection all the hope necessary to stand before the face of God without the threat of judgment. Christ alone is our surety. This transforms us from a people who despair over our sin into a people who sing the praises of the Savior who has delivered us from our transgressions.

God has created us as emotional people. There is a time to weep and laugh, to mourn and dance, to hate and love (Eccl. 3:1–8). Neither stoicism nor emotionalism are marks of healthy faith. What is needed is robust, biblical theology that informs and transforms our emotions.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. This article is used with permission.

The post Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ. appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Special Revelation and the Work of the Spirit

Code: B170605

God told me.

The Holy Spirit laid it on my heart.

The Spirit is compelling me.

Those phrases and others like them are frequently thrown around the church today without giving many people pause. In fact, it seems the Holy Spirit’s primary role is laying burdens on believers and compelling them to deliver specific, timely messages to the church.

But how do we know when it’s actually the Holy Spirit, and not just a heavy conscience, a strong personal desire, or emotion-driven enthusiasm? For that matter, what’s to say it wasn’t simply some bad pizza? For all the talk about the Holy Spirit directing us, speaking to us and through us, and compelling us this way and that, how do we know when God is truly leading us?

We recently asked John MacArthur about how we can discern the Spirit’s ongoing work in the lives of believers. Here’s what he said:

We ought to look for the Holy Spirit’s leadership, but we must be cautious about assigning to Him responsibility for our words and actions. Our feelings are not necessarily a trustworthy source of information, nor are they an accurate indication that God has a special message to deliver to us or through us.

God’s people need to be circumspect when it comes to His leadership, particularly through subjective impressions and inclinations. Moreover, we need to be wary of those who highjack the prophetic seat and presume to speak for God.

In the days ahead, we’re going to look at some landmark teaching from John MacArthur regarding the propensity of many believers to look for eternal truth in all the wrong places. You won’t want to miss this engaging, insightful series that deals with the pitfalls of subjectivity and postmodernity, and the sufficiency of Scripture.

 


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5 Warnings to Those Who Merely Pretend To Be Godly

“God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites (as I’ve written here) because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement ... The hypocrite wants religion — even the Christian faith — only for the advantages he gains from it.”

There is in each of us a dangerous temptation toward hypocrisy, to be one thing but to pretend to be another. There are many within the church who are hypocrites, people who claim to be Christians but who are, in fact, unbelievers attempting to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They are people who do not practice true virtue but who instead offer counterfeit versions of it. Jude compares them to clouds without water in that they seem to be full of the Spirit but are actually devoid of true goodness.

Here are five solemn warnings to those who only pretend to be godly:

Hypocrisy angers God. God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites (as I’ve written here) because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it. He fails to truly turn his heart to God and do good to God’s people. He carries Christ in his Bible, but not in his heart. He serves the devil while wearing the uniform of Christ. He will be condemned by God.

Hypocrisy is self-delusion. Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor. The person who collects counterfeit money harms no one more than himself. The person who piles up counterfeit godliness does the greatest damage to his own soul. “The hypocrite deceives others while he lives, but deceives himself when he dies.”

Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man. Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly. Unbelievers are deceived by his veneer of godliness and hate him for it; God sees through that veneer and hates him for having no more than that. The hypocrite loses on all accounts because he becomes the enemy of unbelievers and of God. “The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost.”

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Six Marks of Regeneration

It is very unfashionable these days—not only in the world, but also within the church—to engage in anything resembling judgment. It is particularly unpopular to form opinions of the spiritual state of others. Doubting the profession of anyone who claims to be a Christian is simply not kosher. Yet we are given instructions such as “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), which we can hardly obey without—[gasp!]—judging.

Far more importantly, we must judge ourselves (2 Corinthians 6:5). To that end, J. C. Ryle offers “six great marks of regeneration,” laid down in Scripture

(1) First of all, St John says, ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin’, and again, ‘Whosoever is born of God sinneth not’ (1 John 3:9; 5:18).

A regenerate man does not commit sin as a habit. He no longer sins with his heart and will, and whole inclination, as an unregenerate man does. There was probably a time when he did not think whether his actions were sinful or not, and never felt grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin;—they were friends. Now he hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, counts it his greatest plague, groans under the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be delivered from it altogether. . . .

(2) Secondly, St John says, ‘whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God’ (1 John 5:1).

A regenerate man believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour by whom his soul can be pardoned and justified, that He is the Divine Person appointed and anointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and that beside him there is No Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness, but in Christ he sees ground for the fullest confidence, and trusting in him he believes that his sins are all forgiven, and his iniquities all put away. He believes that for the sake of Christ’s finished work and death upon the cross he is reckoned righteous in God’s sight, and may look forward to death and judgment without alarm. He may have his fears and doubts. . . . [But] he would say he found a preciousness in Christ, a suitableness to his own soul in Christ, that he found nowhere else, and that he must cling to Him.

(3) Thirdly, St John says, ‘Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of [God]’ (1 John 2:29).

The regenerate man is a holy man. He endeavours to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God, to avoid the things that God hates. His aim and desire is to love God with heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to love his neighbour as himself. . . . No doubt he is not perfect. None will tell you that sooner than himself. He groans under the burden of indwelling corruption cleaving to him. He finds an evil principle within him constantly warring against grace, and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence. In spite of all short-comings, the average bent and bias of his way is holy,—his doings holy,—his tastes holy,—and his habits holy. . . .

(4) Fourthly, St John says, ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren’ (1 John 3:14).

A regenerate man has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for them who are of one mind with himself. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners, and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. . . . They are Jesus Christ’s people: they are His Father’s sons and daughters. Then he cannot help loving them.

(5) Fifthly, St John says, ‘Whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world.’ (1 John 5:4).

A regenerate man does not make the world’s opinion his rule, of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the stream of the world’s ways, notions, and customs. ‘What will men say?’ is no longer a turning point with him. He overcomes the love of the world. . . . He overcomes the fear of the world. He is content to do many things which all around him think unnecessary, to say the least. They blame him: it does not move him. They ridicule him: he does not give way. He loves the praise of God more than the praise of man. . . .

(6) Sixthly, St John says, ‘He that is begotten of God keepeth himself’ (1 John 5:18).

A regenerate man is very careful of his own soul. He endeavours not only to keep clear of sin, but also to keep clear of everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He feels that evil communications corrupt the heart, and that evil is far more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. . . . He finds by experience that his soul is ever among enemies, and he studies to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man.

. . .

I know there is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks among those who are ‘regenerate’. In some people they are faint, dim, feeble, and hardly to be discerned. Yon almost need a microscope to make them out. In others they are bold, sharp, clear, plain, and unmistakable, so that he who runs may read them. Some of these marks are more visible in some people, and others are more visible in others. It seldom happens that all are equally manifest in one and the same soul. All this I am quite ready to allow.

But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted the six marks of being born of God. . . .

Now what shall we say to these things? What they can say who hold that Regeneration is only an admission to outward Church privileges, I am sure I do not know. For myself, I say boldly, I can only come to one conclusion. That conclusion is, that those persons only are ‘regenerate’ who have these six marks about them, and that all men and women who have not these marks are not ‘regenerate’, are not born again. And I firmly believe that this is the conclusion to which the Apostle wished us to come.

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 138–144.

Source: Six Marks of Regeneration

Where Grieving People Can Find Hope Today

Video Notes:

What in the world could a person call to mind – when their soul has no peace, when they have forgotten what happiness is, when their endurance has perished, and their hope is gone – that would make it possible to say, “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope”?

Here it is: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).



One member of our grief group said that the early days of her grief after her son was killed in a terrible accident were like being in a pit. She felt that she was sinking. She could feel herself going down. How could she get out?

She said, “I learned to thank God for the smallest things. I thanked him that the sky was blue and that the sun was shining. If I heard a bird sing, I would say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ Every time I thanked God for something, it was as if I was taking another tiny step toward climbing out of the pit.”

The focus of hope for the person in the depth of sorrow, trying to put life together in the ruins and rubble of loss, is not the hope of God’s ultimate purpose, wonderful and glorious though that is.

The focus of that hope is God’s immediate presence. God’s mercies are new every morning. Your Redeemer is faithful. He is true. He is with you. He is for you and he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). 

Taken from Pastor Colin’s sermon “Hope and Healing.”

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Feasting on the Word of God

Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:13-17

Code: B170531

Christians should earnestly desire to grow. If we aren’t becoming more like Christ, we’re defying what Scripture plainly teaches about the Christian walk: “For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

Christian growth involves transformation from our old way of life into a new and upward Christlike trajectory of change—increasing strength and effectiveness as servants of Christ. That’s exactly what Paul describes in Romans 12:2 when he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

And yet, as every Christian well knows, the old mind is still there with its habits of self-preoccupation, cravings for sensation, vain imaginations, and its appetite for what is cheap and gross. The old mind is the culprit that keeps us going back to the spiritual junk food. The old mind is the subtle enemy that keeps us feeding only on milk when we should be going on to meat. The old mind is what keeps us from being transformed and more committed to Christ and His Word. Many believers find themselves in a seeming holding pattern as they struggle with the besetting sins of their former lives. That’s because the key to breaking the cycle is often hidden right under our noses.

Lifting the Veil

Paul gives a beautiful explanation in 2 Corinthians 3:13–18. As he describes the glories of the new covenant that Christians have with God, he goes back to the time of Moses and the Israelites. At one point, after being in God’s presence, Moses’ face shone with such brilliant glory that he had to put a veil over it in order not to blind his people. But as glorious as Moses’ ministry of the law to the Israelites was, Paul says that it does not compare with the surpassing glory of the gospel of Christ and the new covenant that He installed with His death and resurrection (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:7–11).

And Paul adds that since we have such a wonderful hope in Christ, we can be very bold.

[We] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted. (2 Corinthians 3:13–14)

What Paul is simply saying here is that the Jews of his day who didn’t know Christ remained with their minds veiled. They could not see the Lord because the veil of the old covenant—the Law—stood in the way. Paul says that the veil,

Remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:14–17)

And then Paul comes to the thought that I am most concerned with: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). So Paul tells us that we can be changed into the image and glory of the Lord. It is very simple, he says. We don’t change ourselves. We just stand staring into the face of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God does the transforming for us!

The Solitary Source

But you may feel there is just one hitch. You may be saying, “If I’m supposed to look on the glory of the Lord, where do I find it to look upon?” And, of course, the answer to that is in God’s Word.

If you keep learning and beholding the glory of God in His Word, the Spirit of God will transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. It is just that simple (and just that difficult). So many Christians are seeking some shortcut to growth—naming and claiming their victory; watching Christian television; having the hands of “anointed prophets” laid on them. But the shortcut simply doesn’t exist.

The greatest thing that ever happened in my life, next to my salvation, was the day I learned to study and feed on God’s Word. I find that the longer, the more intensely, and the more devotedly I look into the glory of Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture, the more the Spirit of God changes my life into the image of Christ. There are no shortcuts. If I am to grow, to mature, and to finally be transformed, I must feed on the Word of God!

The Growing Christian

Lack of growth is a sad thing to see in anyone or anything. It is especially tragic in Christians. And unfortunately too many believers don’t seem to be growing in their faith. The major cause is always a failure to be feeding on God’s Word.

In 1 Peter 1:23–2:3, the great apostle compares God’s Word to two things that are vital for life and growth: an imperishable seed and the milk of the Word. As Christ taught in His parable of the sower, God’s Word is like a seed that brings about the new birth. Just as a seed contains the power and energy of life, so too does God’s Word.

Before the Christian can get the most from feeding on God’s Word, he needs to get rid of the toxins that are still present in his life because of the lingering old nature. Peter describes these poisons as the evils of worldly malice, the guile of deceitfulness, the phoniness of hypocrisy, the self-centeredness of envy, and the slander of gossip. If we want to watch our diet, we should start with the sincere milk of the Word of God, and we are guaranteed to grow.

Our goal is to become fully mature and Christlike through feeding on the more solid food to be found in Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah described that process beautifully in Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”

 

(Adapted from Why Believe the Bible.)


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