Category Archives: Biblical Lesson/Teaching

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Pride is universal—something we all deal with, as ancient as Adam and as relevant as the morning news. Yet we don’t always see our own pride, which weaves like weeds around our lives.

Oh, we see it in the obvious ways, but we can be blind to its deceptive, subversive way in our hearts. We know the disease, but we don’t recognize the symptoms. And that’s why we need the insight of our spiritual Great Physician to reveal symptoms of pride and rescue us from it.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Here are seven symptoms of pride I’ve been seeing in God’s Word as his Spirit works in my own life:

1. Fear

Pride is at the root of fear and anxiety, when we refuse to humbly rest in God’s sovereign care. Fear simultaneously reveals our lack of trust and our poisonous self-reliance. We fear because we don’t have faith in the Lord, we are enormously preoccupied with ourselves, and we don’t have control.

When Peter stepped out on the stormy sea to come to Jesus, he was walking in humble faith. But when his gaze shifted to his circumstances and self-preservation, he trusted in himself, became afraid, and began to sink. It was Jesus who saved him, while admonishing him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

2. Entitlement

Self-sacrifice stems from a humble heart. Entitlement is rooted in a prideful heart. The core of the gospel is that we are not entitled to anything, except just punishment for our sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Yet we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re better than we are, so we deserve better than we have. We think we deserve God’s mercy. We think we deserve people’s praise. We think we deserve love, success, comfort, accolades. We certainly don’t think we deserve suffering, heartbreak, or discipline.

But when we do experience these things, we grow bitter, frustrated, and disturbed because we believe we’re entitled to more. We forget that apart from Jesus Christ we are sinners who deserve condemnation.

The disciples wrestled with entitlement many times. On one occasion, they were arguing about who was the greatest. They selfishly thought they deserved honor and glory. But Jesus’ response to them was a rebuke: “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26).

3. Ingratitude

Our proud hearts say we are good, that we should get what we want, and if we don’t, we’re justified in our ingratitude. If we’re uncomfortable or inconvenienced in any way, we can complain. It’s our right. Humility recognizes that God is good, that he gives us what he knows we need, so we have no reason to be ungrateful. There is nothing we lack (Deuteronomy 2:7; Psalm 34:9).

The Israelites’ grumbled in the wilderness, though God fed, clothed, and led them through it (Exodus 16:2; Deuteronomy 8:2). Their stubborn hearts rejected God’s daily mercies out of a foundation of self-idolization. But God’s Word rebukes our proud grumbling with this command: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15).

4. People-Pleasing

Pride is self-worship and self-preservation at all costs—and people-pleasing is the direct result of pride. Some think people-pleasing is a positive trait because they’re so clearly concerned with serving others. But that belief is nothing more than a sneaky sheepskin we put over a wolfish habit. People-pleasing is all about self-satisfaction—fearing man more than God—and seeking the fleeting happiness that comes from man’s approval.

Jesus’ humility means forgiveness of our pride. That’s the sting and joy of the gospel.
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The apostle Paul knew human approval was a pointless and prideful pursuit. Because of that, he could say, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

5. Prayerlessness

Pride deceives us into thinking we can “do life” on our own—that we’re capable, independent, unstoppable, and self-reliant. We think we don’t need God every hour, that we don’t need his help, grace, mercy, courage, and hope. So, surely, we don’t need to pray.

But a humble heart submits itself to God in prayer because it knows it can do nothing without him.

When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah’s response was not to go to God in prayer. Instead, he fled, his heart furiously and arrogantly silent (Jonah 1:3). When God humbled him in the belly of a great fish, Jonah finally cried out in prayer (2:1).

6. Hypocrisy

When you’re proud, you elevate your status, forgetting the mercy God has shown you. You think you’re better and holier than everyone else, and you easily find fault with others. Pride produces a hypocritical spirit.

The Pharisees’ hypocritical pride blinded them to their sin and to God’s mercy—which made them cold-hearted and cruel toward others. Jesus had harsh words for them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

7. Rebellion

Rebellion against God manifests itself in resistance toward the Word and the spiritual leaders he has placed in our lives. It is the reflex of a prideful heart. It also shows itself in a lack of submission—wives, to your husbands; children, to your parents; employees, to your bosses; citizens, to your government. Rebellion says, “I know better than you, God,” when you don’t.

We see rebellion in the first people God created: Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Even though they had all they needed for life and joy, out of pride they rebelled against God’s good decree, thinking they knew better than him. And this rebellion brought pain, suffering, and death—for them and for us.

The Humble Servant

Yet there is hope for the proud heart in the incarnation of humility, Jesus Christ. Immanuel—God with us—condescended to live among us, die for us, and raise us to new life. He never owned a shred of sinful pride—no fear, entitlement, ingratitude, people-pleasing, prayerlessness, hypocrisy, or rebellion.

Philippians 2:4-6 says,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Jesus is God, his equal, and yet emptied himself of all he deserved to save us from our pride. He who was entitled to the highest honor forfeited it for our redemption.

It’s because of Jesus’ humility that we can be forgiven of our pride. That’s both the sting and joy of the gospel. It deals with our pride by destroying it, reminding us that life is not about us, and that we deserve only the wrath of God for our sin. Jesus Christ also deals with our pride by taking the just punishment for it upon himself at the cross, that we might be renewed in the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10) and made humble like our Savior.

Being humbled is not smooth or painless, but it’s our rescue.

Jesus is our rescue from pride.

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]


The post Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.


Is It Really God Speaking to You?

This is why that voice in your head needs to be submitted to God’s Word and not just assumed it is God. God could very well be using your conscience. It is not wise to go against your conscience. But our conscience must be recalibrated to the word of God. It is also possible that your conscience could be way off and causing you to submit to laws which are opposed to the gospel or giving you permission to do things that God never said is appropriate.

“I’ve prayed about this and I really feel like God told me that it would be okay.”

Those were the words that I heard when a young lady informed me that she was leaving her husband in order to live with another dude. She was happier with the other guy. She knew that God didn’t want her to be unhappy and so as she prayed that voice in her head confirmed that she had permission from the Almighty.

Don’t write me off as crazy, but I think she probably did hear a sort of “voice” in her mind that she attributed to God. And I don’t believe it was necessarily demonic. In fact I believe it is a voice that many of us hear on a daily basis. I believe many well-meaning believers attribute this voice to God.

That voice is your conscience.

I was with a guy who told me that as he was praying “God told him” that he was being inconsistent in a particular behavior. As he played out the conversation with “God” it was interesting how much the Lord sounded like the man who was telling me the story. Your conscience is “your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong.” (Naselli, 41) It is that internal voice that you hear that tells you whether things are right or wrong.

But here is the problem with equating the voice of your conscience to the voice of God. Your conscience can be wrong. In fact it can be seared (1 Timothy 4:2) and guilty (Hebrews 10:22). Your conscience can make you think that right is wrong and that wrong is right.

This is why that voice in your head needs to be submitted to God’s Word and not just assumed it is God. God could very well be using your conscience. It is not wise to go against your conscience. But our conscience must be recalibrated to the word of God. It is also possible that your conscience could be way off and causing you to submit to laws which are opposed to the gospel or giving you permission to do things that God never said is appropriate.

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The post Is It Really God Speaking to You? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Four Hindrances to Prayer

God can seem far away when I pray.

It can feel like I’m beating my head against a wall. My prayers feel repetitive, self-indulgent, short, and they seemingly go unanswered.

When things are good, or when I have plenty, or even when I’m distracted, God gets too little of my time. When I do pray, my prayers are often filled with a wish list of things I want. Instead of being a time of communion with my Savior, prayer becomes a means to an end, and that end is self.

Four Hindrances to Prayer

I’m sure these are common problems for many believers: that praying is difficult and self-centered, and that our prayers seem hindered. Let’s look at the latter difficulty: What does Scripture say about what can hinder our prayers?

1. Ignoring God’s Word

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)

If someone, even a professed believer, refuses to hear and heed God’s discipline and guidance, their prayers become detestable to the Lord.

This includes a rejection of the Bible’s authority as God’s revealed Word. If you reject God’s primary communication about Jesus and his work, how can you know him? You don’t love the real Jesus; you love a made-up Jesus. This fabricated Jesus doesn’t even exist, so he obviously can’t answer prayers.

2. Loving Sin

Psalm 66 points out another issue that restricts the reception of our prayers: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18).

Our prayers won’t be heard if we “cherish iniquity,” holding unrepentantly to some sin. This does not include a believer struggling with a recurring sin who regularly and humbly repents, but this is anyone who willfully harbors sin and refuses to repent.

3. Desiring Wrongly

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:2-3)

James makes two points here.

The first is that we don’t ask God for his help. I’ve fallen into this many times, either when I think my prayers are insignificant or selfish, or when I try to do things in my own power.

James’ second point speaks to our motivations. He writes this after saying that we’re too often ruled by our desires, and just as our unchecked passions may lead to quarreling and sin, they can inhibit our relationship with God, including his response to our prayers.

4. Doubting God

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7)

God wants to give his children good things. Since he gave us his Son, the greatest gift of love and goodness and mercy, can we then believe he would withhold any of his love and goodness from us (Romans 8:32)?

Knowing and loving Jesus will change how, why, and what we ask of him.
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It may seem that evil in the world and the unending worries of life are too overwhelming to address in prayer. We would be constantly asking for help, and God would get sick of us, we think—

Or we get overwhelmed by our sin. We know the things we’ve done, we know how unlovable we are. God may have given us his Son, but we certainly don’t deserve any more than that, we think…

Both of these are examples of how doubt can creep into our prayer life. Doubt lies to us that God’s love, patience, and power have limits. James states clearly that actively doubting God’s graciousness and providence can impede our prayers.

Prayer That Delights God

In order to avoid blockades to prayer, it helps to know prayer’s purpose. Wonderfully, Jesus explains:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:7-10)

To abide in Christ’s love, we follow his commands, which means knowing Scripture, “the word of Christ” (Colossians 3:16). As we increase in the knowledge of Jesus, we will also increase in love for him, which drives us to our knees in repentance. When you know Jesus and what he has done for you, it becomes progressively easier to turn from the ugliness of sin to the beauty of the Savior.

As we come to know and love Jesus, our prayers will be increasingly transformed. This will change how, why, and what we ask of him. We will love what he loves, hate what he hates, and desire what he desires. We will learn to submit to his timing in answering because we are learning to trust him more.

A Praying Faith

As our Father, God delights to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:5-13). Knowing we ask according to his will, we can have faith that he will answer us, even when his answer doesn’t align with our understanding or timetable. When doubt still comes, we reject it and turn to our forgiving and compassionate God who will bolster our faith. We come to God humbly in prayer through Jesus, who opened the way for us to do so by removing all blockades to communion with God when he defeated sin and death.

Yes, we will still struggle with the flesh and the world; therefore our requests may be tainted, and our ability to notice God’s answers may be clouded. So we cling to Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus has changed those who love him, delighting us in himself. Even when we don’t know how to ask or receive, he sees what we truly want—to know him, love him, and bear fruit for him—and knows how and when to provide and answer.

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The post Four Hindrances to Prayer appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

Weekly Watchman for 10/20/2017

Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels to Retire; Names Successor

Founding and Senior Pastor Bill Hybels has announced his retirement effective October, 2018. He will remain as “founding pastor” and oversee the expansion of Willow Creek’s Association that provides services and resources to churches and also the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.

Hybels and Willow Creek are no strangers to controversy. The WC Leadership Summit has elevated people like Bill Clinton, Rob Bell and several corporation executives as “leaders to emulate” even though many of them are not even Christians and support homosexual marriage and abortion. Some people believe this is incorporating the ways of the world into the church.

His wife Lynne openly opposes the nation of Israel through “Christ at the Checkpoint,” criticizing Israel while giving a pass to the terrorist organizations who kill in the name of Allah. In typical controversial fashion, Hybels is going out with a bang: he has named Heather Larsen his successor to the lead pastor position having the title of Executive Pastor.

Many of you have weighed in on this so we discuss it in the first segment today and then get to more listener questions and comments.

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The Real Inconvenient Truth

The liberal, utopian mindset is an interesting thing. No matter the facts that might get in the way of their arguments, they charge forward convinced that they are the enlightened geniuses who have everything figured out. If for some reason stupid, backwards thinking conservatives would just get with the program and blindly follow them; then we could unite, solve the world’s problems and achieve the utopian dream.

The basis of this is not necessarily liberalism; it is the belief in humanism: man’s nature is good and if we just collectively become one, we can solve any problem and accomplish anything. (Does the Tower of Babel ring a bell?) Sadly, this same humanism is actually infecting the professing Christian Church–but we’ll discuss that another day.

A cornerstone of the progressive movement toward a one world government is the alarmism and desperation we hear from the Left over climate change. Al Gore and others have made millions stirring up panic by claiming we are on the verge of world wide catastrophe if we don’t stop using fossil fuels as energy. But is their theory based on scientific fact? Or is it just a scare tactic meant to manipulate and control people – and make them big money?

This morning we are joined by Dr. Roy Spencer who was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA. His latest book is titled An Inconvenient Deception: how Al Gore Distorts Climate Science and Energy Policy. Dr. Spencer is a preeminent expert on the field of Climate Science and he joins us to separate fact from fiction and manipulation over the topic of climate change.

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Trafficking and Profiting from Hate

We have reached a time in America where speaking the truth, no matter how gently done, is called hateful. If you speak out against the facts in the Quran, you hate Muslims. Speak about God’s definition of marriage, and you hate homosexuals. Share what the Bible says about gender being assigned at birth and permanent – even though secular science confirms this truth – and you hate transgenders. Speak up and defend life, and you hate women.

There is big money and power in screaming “hate speech” every time the progressive agenda is challenged or the Bible is referenced out loud. Today, we look at a thought provoking commentary on how the business of hate is consuming our nation.

In our first segment, we check in with Pastor Randy White and continue our discussion on how the Old Testament of the Bible is increasingly overlooked or discarded, even by many professing Christians. Is our growing ignorance of God’s wisdom and proclamations of the Old Testament causing problems in our spiritual growth as Christians and effectiveness as a church?

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Fearing God. Exactly What Does that Mean?

Proverbs 9:10 states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” But what exactly does the Bible mean when it says we are to fear God? Does it mean that even as His adopted children we expect Him to punish us every time we disobey Him? Or that the moment we disobey Him, He will rescind His promise to those who confess, repent and place our complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ?

Dave Wager of Silver Birch Ranch and Nicolet Bible Institute joins us to discuss what a healthy and accurate fear of God looks like, and why “the fear of the Lord” is seen as an antiquated belief even among professing Christians.

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Gospel Opportunities, Halloween, and Good News in the NFL?

The first century Christian Church was well aware of what God wanted them to do and why they were still in this world. They knew for a fact Jesus was alive and they believed the return of Christ was imminent. They also knew it was their responsibility to share the gospel with as many people as possible in the hope they would repent and accept forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ. And while many were wrong about the timing of His return, their passion for the gospel led many into the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

Here’s a heart check for us: how is our level of passion and commitment for the gospel? Do we understand the true purpose God has us in this world? Or is it more about finding God’s “special purpose” for our lives these days? If we truly believe what the Bible teaches, that people who do not surrender to God and submit themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ will spend eternity separated from Him in hell, then why are we so timid about sharing the good news with our family, friends and neighbors?

Jay Seegert of The Starting Point Project joins us to discuss why Christians seem afraid or are hesitant to share the Gospel. We also look at #GreenBayPacker’s quarterback, #AaronRodger’s broken collarbone from a spiritual perspective, knowing God allows things to happen in our lives to bring us back to Him.

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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Strange Fire Revisited”

Code: B171020

“The charismatic movement is not faith. It is doubt looking for proof.” Those potent words come from John MacArthur in a new interview titled “Strange Fire Revisited.”

It has been four years since the Strange Fire conference, and the publication of John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire. He and Phil Johnson recently sat down for a frank discussion about the history of the charismatic movement, its current state, and the ongoing impact of Strange Fire. This is a candid and eye-opening conversation, as John delves into what first motivated him to scrutinize the charismatic movement decades ago, and discusses the important distinction between charismatics and Reformed non-cessationists.

Here are a few quotes to illustrate the wide-ranging nature of the interview, and the various topics they tackle.

On why this is still a pressing and pertinent issue, John said:

I’m confident that will continue to be an issue; it does not go away. In fact, it seems that it morphs into an even more extreme version as time goes on. The thing that is so sad to me, Phil, is the people who proclaim themselves as teachers and representatives of God are unwilling to do even what the Bereans did, and that is to compare the things they say with Scripture in an honest way. And that, to me, is evidence that there is no righteous intent behind this. This is part of the adversary’s strategy.

On whether the movement is home to genuine believers:

I think Christians will find their way out, sooner rather than later. It’s a great place for non-Christians to belong. I think a true believer, with a real hunger for the Word of God, and a genuine love for God, and a believer that is under the influence of the Holy Spirit has to be led out of the aberrant aspects of that movement. You can’t be a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led true believer, and be at home with the outrageous misrepresentations of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit that exist in that movement.

On the enduring allure of the charismatic movement:

The charismatic movement is not faith. It is doubt looking for proof. They’re people living in doubt. I think they’re deeply fearful in many cases—deeply worried and deeply traumatized by their spiritual condition. And they don’t know what it is to have the love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control that comes as the fruit of the Spirit. And they’re reaching out for something external to validate themselves spiritually, so they know they’re okay. And then you have now, of course, a whole generation who just want an experience.

“Strange Fire Revisited” is a powerful, thought-provoking conversation that you don’t want to miss. It’s a unique look at the heart of a godly shepherd who has been faithfully fending off spiritual wolves for several decades. And it’s a call to God’s people to carry on the fight for the purity of the church and the authority of Scripture.

Click here to listen to “Strange Fire Revisited.”


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October 20, 2017 – This ‘n’ That

  • Are you a gospel hoarder? I loved this article, and it went well with this sermon on Jonah 4.
  • Let’s take some time to consider our daily gifts.
  • I bet you had no idea the danger bananas were in.
  • If you are a woman, I can’t commend this article to you enough. I also heartily second the book recommendation in the article. I’m currently reading the same book and it’s marvelous.
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • Bethel Church is an abomination.
  • Continuing John MacArthur’s teaching through Philemon:

Source: This ‘n’ That

Five Keys to Biblical Worship

Code: B171011

The apostle James wrote these hopeful, encouraging words in his epistle: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). That’s a tremendous promise that many believers sadly forfeit, as the distractions of life cloud our focus on the Lord.

Nowhere does that show up more frequently or vividly than in our worship. Our devotion to the Lord is often the first thing to go when life gets busy and difficult—which is tragically ironic, since that’s when our commitment to God and His Word is most helpful.

Instead, we need to fight against those distractions and keep worship as a perpetual priority in our lives. We need to be willing to sacrifice anything that hinders or impedes our praise to God and our devotion to His truth. As we’ve already seen in this series, God is not interested in halfhearted lip service or ignorant emotionalism. He takes our worship seriously, and we ought to as well.

And when the inevitable struggles come—when our focus drifts and our commitment wavers—we need to pause and take stock of our spiritual lives. When you struggle to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, you can likely trace the source of the problem back to one of five principles of biblical worship.

Yield to the Spirit

The first key to biblical worship is obvious, but often overlooked: True worshipers must be saved. That vital component is largely forgotten in churches that emphasize emotional experiences over biblical content. It’s baffling that many of the churches who most effectively cultivate an exciting “worship experience” are also the ones that direct their services to unbelievers.

As we’ve already seen, it’s not enough to “feel close to God”—true worship isn’t grounded in our feelings, but in the truth. And the soul that has not submitted and surrendered to God’s truth cannot possibly worship Him. In 1 Corinthians Paul makes that very point “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Regarding the necessity of a spirit yielded to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in biblical worship, John MacArthur writes,

This confirms once more that the foundation of true worship is salvation. One who is not saved cannot truly worship. And one who is truly saved will be motivated by the indwelling Holy Spirit to worship. It is fair, then, to examine ourselves on the basis of our worship. If you have trouble worshiping, maybe you’re not saved. If you get bored in church, or if you don’t mind missing church altogether, it may be because the Holy Spirit isn’t in you prompting your heart. If He is there, we must yield our will to His power. [1]

Too many people overlook this vital aspect of biblical worship, assuming that emotional conviction is enough for God. But momentary responses to sensory stimuli cannot substitute for true worship of God from a heart devoted to Him.

Focus Your Thoughts on God

It’s hard to think carefully or deeply about several things at once. You wouldn’t intentionally give your spouse, your kids, or your career only a fraction of your time and attention. But many believers routinely make that very mistake when it comes to worship—we presume He will be satisfied with a sliver of our day and a corner of our mind.

But as John MacArthur explains, the Lord is not interested in the worship of a distracted heart.

Worship is the overflow of a mind renewed by God’s truth. We call the process meditation. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what meditation is. Meditation is just focusing the whole mind on one subject, concentrating reason, imagination, and emotion on one reality.

If you find that hard, you are fairly normal. Because of our exposure to television, radio, the Internet, and other mass media, we have more to think about than any previous civilization. Consequently, our attention span on one theme can be very limited, and we have difficulty focusing long on one subject. Meditation is a discipline we have to train ourselves for. [2]

In Psalm 19:14, David reminds us that it’s not just what comes out of our mouths that God is interested in; worship begins with a mind devoted to the Lord and His truth. We need to echo his prayerful request, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Cultivate an Undivided Heart

Along those same lines, we must love the Lord with an undivided heart. We can’t faithfully serve Him if our attention and affections are divided. Doing so invites temptations to deviate from our service to God and the work of His kingdom.

Without a united heart, worship is impossible. A person with a divided heart may have good intentions, but he finds that when he sits down to pray and spend time with the Lord, a million other things flood his mind. Most of us know that experience. [3]

To some degree, this will be a struggle throughout the believer’s life. It’s the discipline of faithfully keeping biblical priorities and avoiding the cares of the world that so frequently invade and compete for our attention. Even David pleaded for God’s help to maintain an undivided heart: “Unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).

Elsewhere he illustrates for us the great benefit of sole devotion to the Lord: “My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul” (Psalm 108:1). The same steadfast (that is, undivided and undistracted) heart ought to inform and invigorate our worship as well.

Deal With Your Sin

In Worship: The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur highlights one vital aspect of worship that goes largely unmentioned in most circles today:

When we talk about worship we must talk about cleansing, purging, purifying, confessing, repenting—because no one can enter into communion with an utterly holy God if that person’s sin is not dealt with. . . . We cannot go rushing into God’s presence in our impurity, thinking that all is well. We, like Isaiah, must confess before God our sin and allow God to touch that living, burning coal to our lips to purge us. [4]

Scripture is clear that sin will impede our ability to praise and glorify the Lord. Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” If we’re going to worship God biblically, we must not be living lives in direct defiance of His Word.

This is where it helps to remember that worship is not merely relegated to the few hours we spend in church on Sundays; that we are responsible to praise and glorify the Lord with every aspect of our lives. There are no off days and no breaks—the entirety of our lives must be devoted to the worship of our heavenly Father.

And as such, we need to be diligent in dealing with our own sin—even the sin we might not yet be aware of. We need to echo the words of David, when he cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). John MacArthur reckons that such undiscovered and unaddressed sins are costly to believers today.

Maybe the reason we have difficulty really abandoning ourselves in worship to God, the reason we do not experience the nearness of God, is that we have areas of our lives that are not pure in the sight of God. We all have blind spots and deficiencies only God knows. We must be open, willing to ask God to turn on the searchlight and expose whatever is in the shadows. We must yield our spirits to the Holy Spirit who fills us with His presence and power. We ask Him to cleanse out every corner of our lives—and then the flow of worship can occur. [5]

Die to Self

Ultimately, the thing that most frequently impedes our worship is ourselves. We will never give proper attention and praise to the Lord if we can’t get our eyes off of ourselves and our selfish desires. Biblical worship requires us to shed the cares of this world and the innate selfishness we all naturally possess, and surrender our hearts, minds, and affections to the Lord.

As John MacArthur explains, there is no end to the ways our self-interest can steal our focus away from God and inhibit our usefulness in the work of His kingdom.

It can come in all kinds of packages, but the result is the same: when we set ourselves in front of God, we cannot worship Him properly. We can blame it on a lack of time, or too many distractions—but we find the time to do the projects and activities we genuinely want to do. The real problem with the one who uses those excuses is that he is too selfish—too lazy and too self-indulgent—to align his priorities properly. [6]

In Matthew 16:24, Christ Himself described the cost of following Him: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” We must deny ourselves the self-indulgent pleasures and pastimes of this world if we want to truly, faithfully worship the Lord.

For the sake of our usefulness to His kingdom and the glory of His holy name, may God grant us the steadfast conviction to do just that.


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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Six Attributes of the Nature of Scripture”

Psalm 19

Code: B171013

The great Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said, “The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light, but could never blow it out; a clear sign it was lighted from heaven.” [1]

You don’t have to look hard for evidence of Satan’s attempts to snuff out the light of God’s Word. In his sermon “Six Attributes of the Nature of Scripture,” John MacArthur describes the pivotal battles he has engaged in to defend Scripture’s nature and character. Battles for the inerrancy, completeness, relevance, sufficiency, and clarity of God’s Word have dominated the last fifty years of church history, and there is no end in sight to Satan’s repeated assaults.

In response to those demonic attacks, John examines three verses from Psalm 19 that exalt the character and nature of Scripture.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9)

As John notes, “God, with an astounding and supernatural economy of words, sums up everything that needs to be said about the power and sufficiency, the comprehensiveness and completeness, of Scripture.”

In other words, this short passage contains everything you need to combat Satan’s major assaults on the Word of God. It holds all the encouragement and incentive you could want to fix your heart on Scripture and hold fast to the testimony of God’s truth.

In “Six Attributes of the Nature of Scripture,” John MacArthur walks you through the key characteristics of God’s Word that David highlights in his Psalm: that it is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, and true. John also examines the biblical effects of those characteristics: that the Word restores the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and produces comprehensive righteousness.

“Six Attributes of the Nature of Scripture” gives listeners a full-orbed perspective on the greatness and power of God’s Word. It confronts us with the inadequacies and shortcomings of our own thoughts about Scripture, and prompts us to delve deeper into its powerful riches. No matter where you are in your spiritual life—from new believer to seasoned saint—this message will energize your love for and understanding of God’s Word.

Click here to listen to “Six Attributes of the Nature of Scripture.”


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John MacArthur on Worshiping in Spirit and Truth

Code: B171002

Many churches today put significant energy and emphasis into creating a “worship experience.” It’s not simply enough to choose appropriate songs that reinforce the point of the sermon. The lighting, staging, decoration, visuals, and even smoke machines all come together to create an elaborate aura for the worship experience. In that regard, cutting-edge church services are indistinguishable from concerts and stage plays.

But is that where the focus should be in the first place? Is true worship a function of all the stirring music, staging, and visual effects? Is the point of our praise to stimulate our senses and emotions? On the other hand, is it a purely mental exercise—is it rote and robotic? Or is its intended purpose somewhere in the middle?

We recently put those questions to John MacArthur. Here’s what he had to say:

“Worship is where the mind—understanding the truth—activates the emotions in praise, and adoration, and love towards God.” That’s a far cry from the raucous emotional explosions that pass for worship in many churches today. However, it’s also not the somber, staid affair some in the church would prefer.

True worship is not a battle between our minds and our emotions—it’s the two working together to the praise and glory of the Lord. As Christ Himself told the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). You don’t have to look hard to find churches that fail to worship God in spirit, or plenty of others that overlook the vital aspect of the truth.

In his book Worship: The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur contrasts the spiritual dangers of both extremes.

Sincerity, enthusiasm, and aggressiveness are important, but they must be based on truth. And truth is foundational, but if it doesn’t result in an eager, excited, enthusiastic heart, it is deficient. Enthusiastic heresy is heat without light. Barren orthodoxy is light without heat.

The same two extremes are still with us today. On the one hand there are groups who get together and hold hands and sway back and forth and sing songs and speak in ecstatic language. You can’t fault their enthusiasm, but far too often it is merely zeal without knowledge.

Worshiping with enthusiasm is not enough. No group of worshipers is more spirited than the fanatic Shiite Muslims who once a year slit their scalps with razors and then beat themselves in the head with the flat side of their swords to stimulate bleeding. Men, boys, and even infants have their shaved heads lacerated with swift chopping strokes of a straight razor and then march around in the square before the mosque, bleeding profusely while thousands watch and chant. They do it to celebrate the death of a Muslim leader more than a dozen centuries ago, and they see their hideous display as worship. It stands as an extreme example of what attempting to worship apart from the truth can become.

On the other hand, there are those who hold firmly to sound doctrine but have lost all the fervor of true faith. They know the truth, but they can’t get excited about it. Maybe some of them go to your church.

The Father seeks both enthusiasm and orthodoxy, spirit and truth. [1]

In the days ahead, we’re going to look at how the truth must undergird our worship for the Lord; we’ll also expose the dangers of lifeless, emotionless praise.


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Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Is Jesus the Only Way?”

Romans 10:17

Code: B170929

Postmodernism is no longer an external threat, sequestered to the ivory towers of academia. Today it has infiltrated the local church. How often do we hear sentences that begin with the words, “To me God is like . . .”? And how many Bible studies posit the question, “What does this verse mean to you?” In the postmodern mindset, the only One who doesn’t have a say in how God is defined is God Himself.

But the subjectivity doesn’t end with who God is. It extends to how He relates to us and vice versa. Christ’s commands are now optional, His message ambiguous, and His salvation a path of our own choosing.

Over the last few weeks on the blog, John MacArthur has explored the nature of truth and its prospects of survival in a postmodern world. In his sermon “Is Jesus the Only Way?” he examines postmodernism’s assault on the gospel itself.

There is a widespread ambiguity about the gospel, and there are some very popular prominent evangelical leaders who are apostles of this ambiguity, who are content to leave the precision out and have a kind of gospel that is like soft clay and can be shaped into any form that satisfies you.

Now we can get some things wrong without severe eternal consequences, but we can’t get this wrong without severe eternal consequences. The heart of our faith, of course, is the gospel of salvation, and we must understand the gospel as the gospel truly is in its saving reality and its saving power. True Christians have always believed and taught that you can’t be saved from eternal hell unless you hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and believe that gospel.

There’s no way to overstate the importance of Christ’s exclusive role as the Savior of sinners. Every other option leads to eternal damnation. That’s why the true church needs to be continually reminded of the clear dichotomy between the truth of the Christian gospel and the utter falsehood of every other religious system.

We must not be deceived by false gospels that redefine truth, nor by compromised gospels that dilute it. We are armed with the true gospel—the only means by which sinners can be reconciled to God. To that end, “Is Jesus the Only Way?” does a great service to the ultimate cause of every Christian.

John MacArthur’s sermon is a timely and necessary reminder that when we come to Christ, we have found the very personification of “the truth” (John 14:6).

Click here to listen to “Is Jesus the Only Way?”.


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Rightly Understanding The Crucified King

Was Jesus the true Messiah or was Jesus a failed Messiah? In other words, did his death confirm his failure? Or, to the contrary, did his death confirm his triumph?

This question is relevant to every person alive today. If we confess Jesus as the true Messiah, then we will serve Him as our King forever. If we consider Jesus to be a failed Messiah, then we will be separated from him forever. This is the difference between salvation and damnation. This is the difference between heaven and hell.

The Disciples’ Initial Confidence

This also is a question that the followers of Jesus asked. Initially, they were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Consider, for example, the great confession of Peter in Matthew 16:13-16. Jesus asked His disciples, “‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ [i.e., the Messiah], the Son of the living God’” (see e.g., Mark 8:27–30; 10:35–45; John 1:43–51). This was the conviction of the disciples and other followers of Jesus prior to Jesus’ death.

The Disciples’ Confidence Shaken

However, when Jesus was arrested and then crucified, their confidence faltered. They began to think that they had misjudged Jesus, and that he had failed. When Jesus was arrested, Peter disassociated himself from Jesus and asserted: “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72). Later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was different from any other person who dies, and declared: “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas is making a rhetorical statement here and essentially stating: “We had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, but He died.” In short, when Jesus died, the hopes of his followers were crushed.

Three Reasons for the Disciples’ Shaken Confidence

Why then did Jesus’ followers think that Jesus failed when He died? Of course, each disciple may have had his or her own particular reaction to Jesus’ death. But the following are three flawed perspectives—evident within different followers of Jesus—that contributed to the sentiment that Jesus failed.

Erroneous Human Perspective

The followers of Jesus evidently believed that death meant human failure. This is the very assumption that the two men traveling to Emmaus betray about their thinking. When Jesus asked the two men what they were talking about, they said: “19 Concerning Jesus of Nazareth…. 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:19–21). They had initially thought that he was the Messiah, but then he was killed; therefore, the reasoning goes, he failed to fulfill the role of the Messiah.

We also see in Acts 5:35-39 that this notion—that death means failure—was accepted at that time more broadly. After Jesus had already risen from the dead, his disciples began to preach that He is the Messiah. Opposing this message, the Jewish leadership deliberated how to stop the disciples. At one such deliberation, a prominent Pharisee named Gamaliel offered a suggestion, which exhibits a belief that death means failure.

Gamaliel said, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

Gamaliel is essentially saying: “We have seen this before. A charismatic personality rises up, gains a following, dies, and then the movement falls apart.” Despite his qualification that God’s potential involvement changes the significance of the situation, Gamaliel’s general point is that under normal human circumstances, death marks the end of every leader.

This is how the disciples evidently saw it too. Jesus died, therefore, Jesus failed. Their human perspective that death means failure clouded their understanding of Scriptures and the very things that they heard from Jesus Himself.

Faulty Theological Perspective

Jesus’ followers also believed that death was divine punishment—a tenet that is true at its core—but this theological point produced an irreconcilable conundrum for them concerning Jesus’ death. If Jesus is the Messiah, the unique servant of God, then how is it that He suffers divine punishment?

That death is divine punishment is an accurate theological truth. We know this from Ezekiel 18:4: “The soul who sins shall die”; or Roman 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.” But the culture of that time took it to an unbiblical level and associated every experience of suffering and death directly with the person’s presumable sin. In John 9:2, Jesus and the disciples encountered a blind man, and the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” The disciples assumed that the man’s suffering was directly linked to his or to his parents’ sins.

In Luke 13, Jesus comments on an incident in which a tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 people, and in his remarks Jesus states: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Why did Jesus say this? Because that’s what the people were thinking—that those who died were worse sinners and that God was punishing them.

With this mindset, the disciples viewed Jesus’ death and were puzzled. What made this even more unfathomable was that Jesus was crucified on a cross—that is, Jesus’ form of death was reserved for those who were cursed by God (Deut 21:22–23). When Jesus died, his followers and the rest of the Jewish community thought that He was being punished by God. But if he was being punished, then how could he be the Messiah?

This response, however, is the very response that Isaiah predicted would be expressed by the people of Israel about the Messiah’s death: “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (53:4). Isaiah wrote that the Jewish people would in fact misinterpret the Messiah’s suffering and death as divine punishment for his sins. However, the very point of this prophecy is that this was a faulty theological perspective. Isaiah proceeds to say in 53:5: “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for ouriniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” The apostle Paul articulated this principle and applied it to Jesus as follows: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yes, the Messiah was punished by God, but not for his own sins. The Messiah was punished for the sins of the sinners. Because the followers of Jesus failed to understand this role of the Messiah, they misinterpreted the nature of Jesus’ death and they wrongly concluded that he had failed.

Outright Unbelieving Perspective

Additionally, the death of the Messiah was an inconceivable and an unacceptable notion for the followers of Jesus.

The refusal to believe that the Messiah must suffer and die is clearly evident within Peter immediately following his confession that Jesus is the Messiah. As Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter rebuked Jesus, and said: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).

This lack of belief is also what Jesus confronts the two men about on the road to Emmaus. After the men expressed their disappointment that Jesus failed as Messiah because He died, Jesus replied: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)

In other words, the followers of Jesus failed to see and to believe the revelation concerning the Messiah’s death in the Scriptures. They refused the fact that the death of the Messiah was the plan of God and they missed that the death of the Messiah served a specific purpose. Isaiah 53:6 states: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” This was the purpose—redemption. And Jesus made this very point about Himself in Mark 10:45, when He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The ultimate purpose of Jesus’ life was His death, but the disciples and the followers of Jesus missed this because they refused to believe.

Because of their unbelieving hearts, the followers of Jesus thought that Jesus was a failed Messiah because he died. The fact is that if Jesus had not died, then He would have been a failed Messiah, because then He would not have fulfilled the Scriptures.

However, inasmuch as Jesus did fulfill this key messianic prophecy—to die and to bring redemption in his resurrection from death—Jesus must necessarily be the true Messiah.

Jesus and the Scriptures Today

Today, people refuse to confess Jesus as the Messiah for the very same reasons. The question is: How should we respond? Well, how did Jesus respond when he was on the road to Emmaus with the two men who thought that he had failed? Beginning with Moses and the prophets, He interpreted to them the Scriptures concerning Himself (Luke 24:27). Just like Jesus, we must also always go back to the Scriptures, because it is the Scriptures that demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah.


The post Rightly Understanding The Crucified King appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

Who will go into the ‘furnace of fire’ Jesus warned about?

Following is part 1 of a series entitled “Hell Interrupted” by Tim Barnett and Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. Barnett and Koukl go to the scriptures to answer the burning question: Is the future punishment of the wicked a place of eternal fire?

You may not have noticed, but Hell is not as popular as it used to be. Simply put, the doctrine of Hell has fallen on hard times.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have long denied Hell, at least the everlasting punishment part at the heart of the classical view, along with Seventh Day Adventists, each teaching that, in the final judgment, the unrepentant wicked will be snuffed from existence—annihilated.

Currently, however, it’s not just those on the theological fringes who are rejecting the idea of Hell as eternal conscious torment, but also respected evangelicals like theologian John Stackhouse and the late Anglican, John Stott, venerable rector emeritus of All Souls Church in London.

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