Category Archives: Christian Living

GTY Blog: The Christian’s Job Description

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Code: B180507

Years ago, a mundane event turned into one of the more interesting and memorable moments of my life. I was flying from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, to speak at a men’s conference. I was seated in the dreaded middle seat, slowly progressing toward El Paso. The man in the window seat next to me was a Muslim from the Middle East. His presence was distinguished and palpable—he was in traditional dress and had a quiet demeanor. About thirty minutes into the flight, he looked over at me. I had my Bible out and was writing a few notes. He said, “Excuse me, sir. May I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said, and he asked, “Is that a Bible?”

“Yes, it is a Bible.”

“Oh,” he replied, “Sir, can I ask you then another question?”

“Of course,” I said.

He said, “Can you tell me the difference between a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Baptist?”

That was not at all what I was expecting him to ask, but I was happy to oblige. And after I explained the difference between Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists, I said to him, “Now may I ask you a question?”

“Of course, of course,” he said.

We were already talking about the nature of the gospel, but I wanted to bring the issue to his spiritual doorstep. I asked him, “Do Muslims sin?”

“Oh, yes. We have many, many sins.”

Testing his self-awareness, I asked, “Well, do you commit them all the time?”

The honesty of his answer still stuns me. He said, “Yes. In fact, I am flying to El Paso to commit some sins.”

“Really?” I said, somewhat surprised.

“Yes. I have just immigrated into the U.S. I came through the El Paso immigration center, and I met a girl there. We have arranged to meet this weekend to commit some sins.”

Since he was comfortable with blunt honesty, I said, “May I ask you another question? How does Allah feel about your sins?”

I had clearly found a sore spot. “Ah,” he groaned, “it’s very bad. I could go to hell forever.”

“Really? Why don’t you stop doing those sins?”

“I can’t stop,” he said.

I prodded a little further. “Do you have any hope that in spite of your sins, you might escape hell?”

I’ll never forget what he said next. “I pray Allah will forgive me.”

“Well, why would he do that?”

Somewhat hopelessly, he said, “I don’t know. I just pray he will.”

Here was the opportunity I had been pressing for. I said, “Well, let me tell you something. I know God personally, and I can promise you, He won’t.”

He looked at me like I was crazy, as if to say, You know God personally, and you’re in the middle seat on Southwest? You’ve got to be kidding me. I was determined to push past his visible incredulity. “I know the one true God personally, and He cannot overlook your sin.”

“But,” I said, “I have some good news for you. There is forgiveness available. There is a way to be reconciled with God.” And I went on to present the gospel to him.

That’s what I do—I tell people how to be reconciled to God. It’s my job; it’s my life. And it’s yours, too, if you’ve been reconciled to God through Christ. That’s what Christians do—it’s our primary function. We preach the forgiveness of sins and redemption by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Paul speaks about the responsibility that we have as believers to proclaim the message of forgiveness—the message of reconciliation. And that’s the pivotal word we’ll carefully examine in the days ahead.

 

(Adapted from Good News)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180507
COPYRIGHT ©2018 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).

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KJV Only Movement? Is the King James Version the Only Bible We Should Use?

Many people have strong and serious objections to the translation methods and textual basis for the new translations and therefore take a strong stance in favor of the King James Version. Others are equally convinced that the newer translations are an improvement over the KJV in their textual basis and translation methodology. GotQuestions.org does not want to limit its ministry to those of the “KJV Only” persuasion. Nor do we want to limit ourselves to those who prefer the NIV, NAS, NKJV, etc. Note—the purpose of this article is not to argue against the use of the King James Version. Rather, the focus of this article is to contend with the idea that the King James Version is the only Bible English speakers should use.

The KJV Only movement claims its loyalty to be to the Textus Receptus, a Greek New Testament manuscript compilation completed in the 1500s. To varying degrees, KJV Only advocates argue that God guided Erasmus (the compiler of the Textus Receptus) to come up with a Greek text that is perfectly identical to what was originally written by the biblical authors. However, upon further examination, it can be seen that KJV Only advocates are not loyal to the Textus Receptus, but rather only to the KJV itself. The New Testament of the New King James Version is based on the Textus Receptus, just as the KJV is. Yet, KJV Only advocates label the NKJV just as heretical as they do the NIV, NAS, etc.

Beyond the NKJV, other attempts have been made to make minimal updates to the KJV, only “modernizing” the archaic language, while using the exact same Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. These attempts are rejected nearly as strongly as the NKJV and the other newer Bible translations. This proves that KJV Only advocates are loyal to the King James Version itself, not to the Textus Receptus. KJV Only advocates have no desire or plan to update the KJV in any way. The KJV certainly contains English that is outdated, archaic, and sometimes confusing to modern English speakers and readers. It would be fairly simple to publish an updated KJV with the archaic words and phrases updated into modern 21st century English. However, any attempt to edit the KJV in any way results in accusations from KJV Only advocates of heresy and perversion of the Word of God.

When the Bible is translated for the first time into a new language today, it is translated into the language that culture speaks and writes today, not the way they spoke and wrote 400 years ago. The same should be true in English. The Bible was written in the common, ordinary language of the people at that time. Bible translations today should be the same. That is why Bible translations must be updated and revised as languages develop and change. The KJV Only movement is very English-focused in its thinking. Why should people who read English be forced to read the Bible in outdated/archaic English, while people of all other languages can read the Bible in modern/current forms of their languages?

Our loyalties are to the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Only the original languages are the Word of God as He inspired it. A translation is only an attempt to take what is said in one language and communicate it in another. The modern translations are superb in taking the meaning of the original languages and communicating it in a way that we can understand in English. However, none of the modern translations are perfect. Every one contains verses that are at least somewhat mistranslated. By comparing and contrasting several different translations, it is often easier to get a good grasp on what the verse is saying than by only using one translation. Our loyalty should not be to any one English translation, but to the inspired, inerrant Word of God that is communicated by the Holy Spirit through the translations (2 Timothy 3:16–17).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Lessons About Worship and Faith – GTY Blog

Luke 10:38-42

Code: B180502

We don’t often consider the lessons we might learn from the strife between siblings—even when it is recorded in Scripture. But through a brief episode in Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit has much to teach us about the nature of faith and worship.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

The Priority of Worship over Service

It’s interesting to read this narrative and try to imagine how the average woman might respond if placed in a situation like Martha’s. My strong suspicion is that manywomen would be inclined to sympathize with Martha, not Mary. After all, it would normally be considered rude to let your sister do all the hard work in the kitchen while you sit chatting with guests.

So in a real sense, Martha’s feelings were natural and somewhat understandable. That may be one reason Jesus’ rebuke was so mild. In normal circumstances, any older sister would think it obligatory for the younger sister to help in serving a meal to guests. In other words, what Martha expected Mary to do was, in itself, perfectly fine and good.

Nevertheless, what Mary was doing was better still. She had “chosen the good part” (Luke 10:42). She had discovered the one thing needful: true worship and devotion of one’s heart and full attention to Christ. That was a higher priority even than service, and the good part she had chosen would not be taken away from her, even for the sake of something as gracious and beneficial as helping Martha prepare Jesus a meal. Mary’s humble, obedient heart was a far greater gift to Christ than Martha’s well-set table.

This establishes worship as the highest of all priorities for every Christian. Nothing, including even service rendered to Christ, is more important than listening to Him and honoring Him with our hearts. Remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: God is seeking true worshipers (John 4:23). Christ had found one in Mary. He would not affirm Martha’s reprimand of her, because it was Mary, not Martha, who properly understood that worship is a higher duty to Christ than service rendered on His behalf.

It is a danger, even for people who love Christ, that we not become so concerned with doing things for Him that we begin to neglect hearing Him and remembering what He has done for us. We must never allow our service for Christ to crowd out our worship of Him. The moment our works become more important to us than our worship, we have turned the true spiritual priorities on their heads.

In fact, that tendency is the very thing that is so poisonous about all forms of pietism and theological liberalism. Whenever you elevate good deeds over sound doctrine and true worship, you ruin the works too. Doing good works for the works’ sake has a tendency to exalt self and depreciate the work of Christ. Good deeds, human charity, and acts of kindness are crucial expressions of real faith, but they must flow from a true reliance on God’s redemption and His righteousness. After all, our own good works can never be a means of earning God’s favor; that’s why in Scripture the focus of faith is always on what God has done for us, and never on what we do for Him (Romans 10:2–4). Observe any form of religion where good works are ranked as more important than authentic faith or sound doctrine, and you’ll discover a system that denigrates Christ while unduly magnifying self.

Not that Martha was guilty of gross self-righteousness. We shouldn’t be any more harsh in our assessment of her than Christ was. She loved the Lord. Her faith was real, but by neglecting the needful thing and busying herself with mere activity, she became spiritually unbalanced. Her behavior reminds us that a damaging spirit of self-righteousness can slip in and contaminate even the hearts of those who have sincerely embraced Christ as their true righteousness. Martha’s harshness toward Mary exposed precisely that kind of imbalance in her own heart.

Jesus’ gentle words of correction to Martha (as well as His commendation of Mary) set the priorities once more in their proper order. Worship (which is epitomized here by listening intently to Jesus’ teachings) is the one thing most needed. Service to Christ must always be subordinate to that.

The Primacy of Faith over Works

Another vital spiritual principle goes hand in hand with the priority of worship over service and is so closely related to it that the two actually overlap. This principle is the truth (taught from the beginning to the end of Scripture) that what we believe is ultimately more crucial than what we do.

Martha’s “preparations” were a distraction (Luke 10:40) from the “one thing” (v. 42) that was really needed—listening to and learning from Jesus. Religious works often have a sinister tendency to eclipse faith itself. Proper good works always flow from faith and are the fruit of it. What we do is vital, because that is the evidence that our faith is living and real (James 2:14–26). But faith must come first, and it is the only viable foundation for true and lasting good works. All of that is wrapped up in the truth that works are not the instrument of justification; faith is (Romans 4:4–5).

Martha seems to have forgotten these things momentarily. She was acting as if Christ needed her work for Him more than she needed His work on her behalf. Rather than humbly fixing her faith on the vital importance of Christ’s work for sinners, she was thinking too much in terms of what she could do for Him.

Again, this seems to be the natural drift of the human heart. We wrongly imagine that what we do for Christ is more important than what He has done for us. Every major spiritual decline in the history of Christianity has come when the church has lost sight of the primacy of faith and begun to stress works instead. Virtually every serious doctrinal deviation throughout church history has had this same tendency at its core—beginning with the error of the Judaizers, who insisted that an Old Covenant ritual (circumcision) was essential for justification. They denied that faith alone could be instrumental in justification, and that undermined the very foundation of the gospel.

Human instinct seems to tell us that what we do is more important than what we believe. But that is a false instinct, the product of our fallen self-righteousness. It is a totally wrong way of thinking—sinfully wrong. We must never think more highly of our works for Christ than we do of His works on our behalf.

Of course, such a thought would never consciously enter Martha’s mind. She loved Christ. She genuinely trusted Him, although her faith had moments of weakness. Still, on this occasion, she allowed her anxiety about what she must do for Christ to overwhelm her gratitude over what He would do for her.

I’m very grateful that Christ’s rebuke of Martha was a gentle one. I must confess that it is very easy for me to identify with her. I love the privilege of serving the Lord, and He has blessed me with more than enough to stay busy. It is tempting at times to become swept up in the activity of ministry and forget that faith and worship must always have priority over work. In these hectic times, we all need to cultivate more of Mary’s worshipful, listening spirit and less of Martha’s scrambling commotion.

Martha and Mary also remind us that God uses all kinds of people. He has gifted us differently for a reason, and we’re not to despise one another or look at others with contempt, just because we have differing temperaments or contrasting personalities.

Martha was a noble and godly woman with a servant’s heart and a rare capacity for work. Mary was nobler still, with an unusual predisposition for worship and wisdom. Both were remarkable in their own ways. If we weigh their gifts and their instincts together, they give us a wonderful example to follow. May we diligently cultivate the best instincts of both of these extraordinary women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180502
COPYRIGHT ©2018 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).

False Teaching Out There and In Here – Ligonier Ministries

by Nathan W. Bingham

Here’s an excerpt from False Teaching Out There and In Here, Sean Michael Lucas’ contribution to the April issue of Tabletalk:

The recognition that heresies often start from a biblical platform and basis should humble and warn us. It should humble us, even chasten us, to recognize that we might unwittingly propagate error even as we teach God’s inerrant Word. Though we labor over our sermons and lessons, wrestling with the text, trying to get it right, there is always the possibility that we might teach error in ways that lead God’s little ones astray.

Continue reading False Teaching Out There and In Here

Loving the Word in a Distracted World – enCourage

Loving the Word in a Distracted World:

How do we get excited about God’s Word? Technology can be a constant distraction that can keep us from loving God’s Word in a meaningful way, so how do we disengage from the distraction to focus on tasting and seeing that God is good? Today, Mary Haberkorn joins Karen Hodge to share about her research on technology and Bible study.

— Read on encourage.pcacdm.org/2018/04/24/loving-the-word-in-a-distracted-world-2/

Profiles of Godliness: Martha and Mary – GTY.org Blog

Friends of Christ

Code: B180423

When we think about the life of our Lord, we generally focus on His preaching, His confrontations with religious hypocrites, and His relationships with His disciples. But we can easily overlook the friendships He enjoyed with everyday people—those with whom He found hospitality, fellowship, and refreshment.

Throughout the course of the four gospels, we repeatedly encounter two friends of Christ—Martha and Mary. Scripture consistently presents these extraordinary women together, and displays a distinct and instructive contrast in the character of these two sisters.

Scripture doesn’t give us many personal details about Martha and Mary. They lived with their brother, Lazarus, in the small village of Bethany. That was within easy walking distance of Jerusalem, about two miles southeast of the Temple’s eastern gate (John 11:18)—just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem’s city center. Both Luke and John recorded that Jesus enjoyed hospitality in the home of this family. He went there on at least three crucial occasions in the gospels. Bethany was apparently a regular stop for Him in His travels, and this family’s home seems to have become a welcome hub for Jesus during His visits to Judea.

One Key Similarity

Martha and Mary make a fascinating pair—very different in many ways, but alike in one vital respect: both of them loved Christ. They became cherished personal friends of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Moreover, He had a profound love for their family. The apostle John, who was a keen observer of whom and what Jesus loved, made it a point to record that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5).

We’re not told how this particular household became so intimate with Jesus. Since no family ties are ever mentioned between Jesus’ relatives and the Bethany clan, it seems likely that Martha and Mary were simply two of the many people who heard Jesus teach early in His ministry, extended Him hospitality, and built a relationship with Him that way. In whatever way this relationship began, it obviously developed into a warm and deeply personal fellowship. It is clear from Luke’s description that Jesus made Himself at home in their house.

The fact that Jesus actively cultivated such friendships sheds light on the kind of man He was. It also helps explain how He managed to have an itinerant ministry in Judea without ever becoming a homeless indigent, even though He maintained no permanent dwelling of His own (Matthew 8:20). Apparently, people like Martha and Mary regularly welcomed Him into their homes and families, and He was clearly at home among His many friends.

Certainly hospitality was a special hallmark of this family. Martha in particular is portrayed everywhere as a meticulous hostess. Even her name is the feminine form of the Aramaic word for “Lord.” It was a perfect name for her because she was clearly the one who presided over her house. Luke 10:38 speaks of the family home as Martha’s house. That, together with the fact that her name was usually listed first whenever she was named with her siblings, implies strongly that she was the elder sister. Lazarus appears to be the youngest of the three, because he was named last in John’s list of family members (John 11:5), and Lazarus rarely comes to the foreground of any narrative—including John’s description of how Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Some believe Martha’s position as owner of the house and dominant one in the household indicates that she must have been a widow. That’s possible, of course, but all we know from Scripture is that these three siblings lived together, and there is no mention that any of them had ever been married. Nor is any hint given about how old they were. But since Mary was literally at Jesus’ feet each time she appeared, it would be hard to imagine them as very old. Furthermore, the starkly contrasting temperaments of Martha and Mary seem unmellowed by much age. I’m inclined to think they were all three still very young and inexperienced. Indeed, in their interaction with Christ, He always treated them much the same way an elder brother would, and many of the principles He taught them were profoundly practical lessons for young people coming of age. A few of those lessons rise to particular prominence as we consider their recorded encounters with Christ.

Snapshots of the Sisters

Scripture gives three significant accounts of Jesus’ interaction with this family. First, Luke 10:38–42 describes a minor conflict between Martha and Mary over how best to show their devotion to Christ. That is where we initially meet Martha and Mary in the New Testament. The way Luke described their clashing temperaments was perfectly consistent with everything we see in two later incidents recorded by John. (We’ll return to focus mostly on the end of Luke 10 next time, because that’s where the contrasting personalities of these two are seen most clearly.)

A second close-up glimpse at the lives of these two women comes in John 11. Virtually the entire chapter is devoted to a description of how their brother Lazarus died and was brought back to life by Christ. Jesus’ personal dealings with Martha and Mary in this scene highlighted their individual characteristics. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus affected both Martha and Mary profoundly, but differently, according to their contrasting personalities. John gave very detailed and poignant descriptions of how deeply the sisters were distressed over their loss, how Jesus ministered to them in their grief, how He mourned with them in a profound and personal way, and how He gloriously raised Lazarus from the dead at the very climax of the funeral.

More than any other act of Jesus, that one dramatic and very public miracle was what finally sealed the Jewish leaders’ determination to put Him to death because they knew that if He could raise the dead, people would follow Him, and the leaders would lose their power base (John 11:45–57). They obstinately refused to consider that His power to give life was proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be: God the Son.

Martha and Mary seemed to understand that Jesus had put Himself in jeopardy in order to give them back the life of their brother. In fact, the full depth of Mary’s gratitude and understanding was revealed in a third and final account where both of these women appeared together one more time. John 12 (with parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9) records how Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with costly ointment and wiped His feet with her hair. Although both Matthew and Mark described the event, neither of them mentioned Mary’s name in this context. It was nonetheless clear that they were describing the same incident we read about in John 12.

Both Matthew 26:12 and John 12:7 indicated that Mary, in some sense, understood that she was anointing Jesus for burial. She must have strongly suspected that her brother’s resurrection would drive Jesus’ enemies to a white-hot hatred, and they would be determined to put Him to death (John 11:53–54). Jesus Himself had gone to the relative safety of Ephraim right after the raising of Lazarus, but Passover brought Him back to Jerusalem (vv. 55–56). Mary (and probably Martha as well) seemed to grasp more clearly than anyone how imminent the threat to Jesus was. That surely intensified their sense of debt and gratitude toward Him, as reflected in Mary’s act of worship.

That’s where we’ll pick it up next time, as we consider the godly—but contrasting—character of these two women.

 

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women.)

 


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180423
COPYRIGHT ©2018 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).

Godly Discernment vs Hypocritical Judging

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12 (NASB) 

Christian apologetics and discernment are very serious things. It is very easy to incorporate the ways of the world into method and focus in this. When this happens then attacks on professing Christians come from an impure motive. This then causes the ones making the accusations to use slander, speaking evil against their target falsely. They revile the Christian, persecuting him and his ministry using innuendo. They have no real evidence that their accusations are true. Guilt by association is their bludgeon and their usage is meant to deceive many into believing their false report. How are…

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Lies Young Women Believe for April 20, 2018

How to Speak up About Someone Else’s Sin

by Sarah Garrett | 4/20/18

In Wednesday’s post, I tackled why it’s okay to keep other Christians accountable when it comes to sin.

Since I said we should do it, I wanted to also share how to do it. The following verses explain how to effectively hold someone accountable.

Speak the Truth in Love

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:15–16).

Before I experienced someone lovingly calling out my own sin (read more about that here), my approach to accountability would not have been loving. Instead, it would have been rooted in superiority.

If you are close with someone who claims to be a Christian and you see them in open sin, ask yourself why you want to point it out to them. Is it to help them grow in their walk and keep them out of sin, or is it to make you feel superior because you think you’re better?

If love is not your motivator, you will fail and the Body of Christ will suffer.

Follow the Steps

Matthew 18:15–17 provides clear steps for accountability.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Here’s the breakdown:

Step 1: Start by telling the person with just the two of you there. In an attitude of love, explain what you see happening and ask if they see it, too.

Step 2: If they refuse to see, then ask a few people to join you who care for the person and have also seen the behavior. This way the person will know you’re not just making it up.

Step 3: Many times it will not get to the third step, which is to tell the church. If the person doesn’t listen after the first two steps, enlist the help of a pastor or youth pastor.

Step 4: If all of these measures fail, God allows us to no longer carry the burden of making the person see the truth. He can find another way to reach the person even if it isn’t through you.

As a final step, never stop praying that the person’s eyes will be opened even if they don’t listen to you. (For more on how to pray, check out this post from our archives, “How to Pray When Someone You Love is Stuck in Sin.”)

I am passionate about Christians keeping each other accountable, because it truly changed my life and I am forever grateful. Because someone else was brave enough to call out sin in my life, it has helped me to grow in my faith and approach people in a more loving way. I am more effective in ministry because of the gift of accountability, and I think we could be more effective as the Body of Christ if we were not afraid to hold one another accountable.


The Gift of Accountability

by Sarah Garrett

Has anyone ever called you out on your sin? If so, here’s why that’s a gif


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by Bethany Baird

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4 Ways to Fight the Ooze

by Beecher Proch

The world is fighting for your attention. Here are four ways to fight back.


You Can Live in Victory!

by Sarah Garrett

Even if you’re a victim of abuse, divorce, or rejection, you can live as a victor in Christ.

Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians

What if your church’s elders passed down a fiat that members could not take more than 1,999 steps on the Lord’s Day without facing church discipline? One more step would be too closely akin to taking a long trip and that is a no-no on the day God set aside for worship.

What if they forbid you to carry your Bibles to church because such heavy lifting would too closely resemble work? Anything heavier than a dried fig is strictly taboo on this day, they say.

Or, what if they added a clause in the constitution and bylaws that members must not leave a radish in salt because that vegetable might become a pickle and pickle-making is work, which is, of course, forbidden on this day.

And, they added sub-paragraphs to the constitution that prescribed disciplinary action for those found guilty of other activities on the Lord’s Day such as carrying a pen (lest you be tempted to write with it), carrying a needle (lest you be tempted to sew with it), helping those who are sick but with non life-threatening maladies (it can wait till Monday), looking in the mirror, spitting, removing dirt from clothes. You get the picture.

Real-life legalism

Such boorish legalism would make both a congregation and its elders miserable and would likely lead to an elder election. Yet, these were merely a few among the dozens of Sabbath laws added to the Torah by the Pharisees who lived in the Roman Empire during New Testament times. Ironically, the Pharisees and their scribes were the theological giants of the day, yet in Mark 2:25-26 and in other passages in the four Gospels, Jesus asks them, “Have you not read?” In other words, don’t you understand the Scriptures? Jesus tweaks the Pharisees in John 5:39 with similar words, telling them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

In the Mark passage, the Pharisees are watching Jesus—who is a rabbi—to see if he breaks their rabbinic laws related to the Sabbath. In the final verses of Mark 2, they charge Jesus with spiritual criminality because his disciples pick the heads of grain while walking through a field and eat the kernels to satiate their hunger. Jesus points out that David and his band of brothers ate the showbread in the tabernacle with divine impunity while on the run from Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-6). At the outset of Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a lame hand in direct violation of the Sabbath laws of the Pharisees.

Of course, the Pharisees are infamous for encrusting the moral law of God with hundreds of their own manmade laws and traditions. And we get the idea from the New Testament that trying to obey the laws as a means of salvation made them a miserable people. 

Small wonder.

Alive and well today

While few of us today seek to follow the Pharisaical model, this level of misery is alive and well among those who misunderstand the complementarity of law and gospel and seek to earn favor with God through both keeping the law and misappropriating it to extrapolate a set of personal convictions—often related to modes of dress, music, movies, etc.—that become a system of expected ethical norms to which they hold both themselves an other Christians. As Spurgeon once said of the legalist, “His slogan is, ‘You cannot be spiritual unless you are uncomfortable.’” 

Indeed. 

The law of God as a ground for salvation, as a means of accruing merit, leaves the worker exhausted, miserable—and lost. The law as a guide to salvation is a terrible taskmaster.

For this reason, discussions of law and gospel remain vital and deeply practical. After all, in 1 Timothy 1:8, Paul wrote, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully.” But how can Paul say the law is good? Elsewhere, in Romans 7:11, Paul says sin came alive through the law and killed him. In Galatians 3, Paul says the Law once held us captive and he calls it a “guardian.” If the law kills, holds us captive and leads the Pharisees to lead such shriveled up lives of pure misery, then how is it good?

Rightly divided

I think Paul gets at it earlier in Romans 7:7, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have know what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” The law exposes our sin. The law shows us the holy, spotless character of God. The law produces despair in us—not a despair the leads us to forego attempting to merit any favor with God and drives us to the only place it can be found—in union with Jesus Christ, in his person and work.

Rightly appropriated, the moral law of God unmasks our self-righteousness and exposes us for who we really are: sinners devoid of the righteousness necessary to salvation, sinners hurtling headlong toward a just destruction at the hands of a holy God, sinners in desperate need of a mediator before God.

It shows us that we have indeed sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It points up our desperate need for the gospel. As the Puritans so well put it, the law breaks sinners, the gospel heals them. Calvin saw three good functions for the law: it serves as a mirror, clearly showing our sin, it reveals the will of God (as a guide to sanctification), and it works to restrain evil—protecting God’s people from the machinations of unbelievers.

The law left the Pharisees (and their disciples) miserable because they viewed it as a vehicle to glory, a means of salvation. They used it unlawfully and the result was a shrunken, joyless, bitter existence. This is the result when we misinterpret Scripture and replace the grace of God with legalism. But rightly understood, the law of God is good, unmasking our self-righteousness and exposing our depravity. It sends us running for cover in the righteousness of Christ won at Calvary through his selfless love. It liberates us to rest from our labors at keeping the law, and leads us to green pastures of deep and overflowing joy in Christ alone.

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

The post Why legalism destroys churches and kills Christians appeared first on Southern Equip.

Albert Mohler Blog: “Keeping the Evangel in Evangelism: Why Evangelicalism Can’t Abandon the Old, Old Story”

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on the centrality and urgency of evangelism in a post-Christian world. Mohler writes:

“Historical evangelicalism has always valued both theological principle and vigorous evangelism. Indeed, we cannot be authentically and faithfully evangelical without holding both of these features in tandem. The unity between evangelical theology and evangelism is not forced or fabricated. Our theological convictions should irrevocably give birth to our evangelistic fervor.”

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The Professor: Why Are You a Christian? – When Challenged, Can You Defend Your Faith in Christ

by Ray Bolin

Over the last ten years, I have used a very effective technique to help teens realize their unpreparedness for the step toward college. It seems our young people are heading into public and even Christian colleges thinking they are ready for the challenge to their faith that higher learning can be.

Probe Ministries has sponsored a college prep conference since 1991 that was designed to help young people gain some insights and even some knowledge on how to address the intellectual challenges that college will provide.

If you remember the thousands of college radicals who protested and picketed in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they found their push for change was not very effective. Instead, many of them stayed in college, obtained Masters Degrees and PhDs. After all, it was easier than getting a real job! As a result, they are now your children’s professors!

The college campus was an anti-Christian breeding ground several decades ago and now it is even worse. Christianity is not so much openly mocked as it is marginalized and deemed a false and mischievous mythology.

If you haven’t already heard some of these statistics, you need to hold onto your hat.

In 2007, LifeWay surveyed 23- to 30-year-olds and found that seventy percent had taken at least a one year break from church during their college years.{1} Now, almost two-thirds of these return to some level of church attendance, but mainly to please family or friends who encouraged them to return. That means that most of our churched youth are making many of their life decisions, including marriage and career, apart from a church context. Even many who return carry numerous scars from bad choices during those years.{2}

With this statistical background, it’s plain our young people need some preparation before going on to college or the military. But as most parents of teens know, just telling them they need this is less than likely to be convincing.

Enter the Professor. The technique I mentioned at the beginning is to impersonate an atheistic college professor doing research on the religious beliefs of young people. Sometimes the students know I am playing a role with them, but occasionally I play the professor and the students are none the wiser…

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The Professor: Why Are You a Christian? – When Challenged, Can You Defend Your Faith in Christ

What Does It Mean to be Part of God’s Kingdom?

by Bryan Murphy / 16 hours ago

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He dealt with many people who believed they were part of the kingdom. In response, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and showed those who are in the kingdom of heaven recognize their sin, see God’s perfection, have a pure heart, and conduct themselves with a proper fear of God.

The post What Does It Mean to be Part of God’s Kingdom? appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.