The Radiance of the Glory of God

Jared Wilson reflects on Hebrews 1:3.

"He is the radiance of the glory of God… " —Hebrews 1:3a

All that God is—the measureless sum of his eternal and eternally rich attributes—shines forth in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. Jesus is supremely radiant.

What does this mean? It means that this Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16) will be the sun of the new heavens and the new earth. We won't need this old sun, we will have the Lamb as our Lamp (Rev. 21:23). And it means that even now, the sun of righteousness who has risen with healing in his wings (Mal. 4:2) must be the center of our spiritual solar system or everything else goes out of whack. Indeed, if we were to kick our sun out from the center of our system, we wouldn't just have chaos, but death. Life would be unsustainable. So it is with Jesus. If he is not the center, we die.

Also like the sun's beams, the radiating lines of the Son's glory are too numerous to count. Ever tried counting sunbeams? You can't do it. It's like counting airwaves in the wind. Jonathan Edwards says that in Christ we find an "admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies." These diverse excellencies are the sunbeams of his magnificence, finding their unity in him, as they—though disparate—converge and emanate back out to reflect the imprinting of the nature of God.

Read the rest here.

Self-Worth, Identity and Awe

In an article over at the Desiring God blog, Jen Wilkin, gives an incredibly helpful reminder when it comes to self-reflection and what we spend our time looking at. It's directed towards women but applicable for us all. Here are a couple of excerpts: 

Research shows that when humans experience awe — wonderment at redwoods or rainbows, Rembrandt or Rachmaninoff — we become less individualistic, less self-focused, less materialistic, more connected to those around us. In marveling at something greater than ourselves, we become more able to reach out to others. 

At first, this seems counterintuitive, but on closer examination, it begins to sound a lot like the greatest commandments: Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (marvel at Someone greater than yourself), and love your neighbor (reach out to others). 

Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. But just like a child on an iPad at the foot of an 800-year-old redwood, we can miss majesty when it is right in front of us.

Later she writes: 

Awe yields self-forgetfulness. When we emphasize self-awareness to the omission of self-forgetfulness, we have missed the mark. You can tell me that I am a royal daughter of the King. You can assure me that I am God’s poem or his masterpiece. You can tell me that I stir the heart of God, that I am sung over and delighted in, that I am beautiful in his eyes, that I am set apart for a sacred purpose. You can tell me these things, and you should. But I beg you: Don’t tell me who I am until you have caused me to gaze in awe at “I Am.” Though all of these statements are precious truths, their preciousness cannot be properly perceived until framed in the brilliance of his utter holiness. There can be no true self-awareness apart from right, reverent awe of God.

Read the rest here.

Responding to the Pain of Last Week

I appreciated Kevin DeYoung's points on how to respond to the racially charged events of this last week: 

Last week was a hard week. Very hard. And sadly, there could be harder weeks to come.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a mix of sadness, exhaustion, fear, and confusion. There is so much hurt, so much grief, so many layers, so many story lines, and so many different voices clamoring for our attention. How can we possibly process everything that’s going on in our world?

The short answer is: we can’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to think and respond wisely and Christianly. Here are a number of suggestions.

1. Pray. 

2. Keep reading your Bibles. 

3. Admit no one is a completely neutral interpreter. 

4. Listen to African Americans. 

5. Listen to police officers. 

6. Don’t rush to judgment. 

7. Don’t catastrophize every catastrophe. 

8. Don’t politicize every tragedy. 

9. Avoid Manicheaen interpretations of the past (or the present). 

10. Consider that there might be more common ground than we think.

11. Read a book

12. Lament. 

13. Repent.

14. Hope. 

15. Remember God is sovereign. 

Read how he fills out each point here.

Moms Who Love Jesus More

Emily Jensen over at the For the Church blog writes about the goodness and freedom of loving Jesus more than her children: 

The most wonderful thing about heaven will be seeing, knowing, and treasuring Jesus face-to-face; worshipping him and glorifying God forever. Jesus is the ultimate treasure. He is also the ultimate rescuer, and the person who mommy loves more than anything else...To my child, it might even seem offensive to hear I love someone else more, but ultimately, it’s the greatest gift I can give.

If my son could understand, I would tell him this is such a good gift because...

When mommy loves Jesus more than her own peace and quiet, she can graciously endure the loud whines of tired children, putting their need for firm, compassionate training above her desires for them to leave her alone.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her dreams and achievements, she can invest deeply in the discipleship of her children, trusting God with the limitations he brings in each season.

When mommy loves Jesus more than approval, she can seek long-term good for the souls of her children instead of gaining the short-term relief that comes from satisfying their cravings.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her own domestic kingdom, she can discipline with calm justice, knowing that her and her children’s offenses are equally egregious and equally atoned for.

When mommy loves Jesus more than the title of “mom”, she can entrust the souls of her children to their faithful creator while continuing to serve mightily for their good.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her children’s good behavior, she can patiently exposit the loveliness of the gospel over many months and years, instead of finding temporal satisfaction in immediate external changes.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her personal rights, she can sweep crumbs off the floor for the 1000th time without grumbling or complaining, because she remembers her Savior who humbled himself to the lowest position.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her comfort, she can get out of bed repeatedly; sacrificing years of sleep to nurture, support, pray for, and minister to her children.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her entertainment, she can use her precious personal moments to invest in the eternal knowledge of God’s word instead of automatically binge-watching her favorite show.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her social media following, she can appropriately protect and celebrate the lives of her husband and children instead of exploiting them for her personal gain.

When mommy loves Jesus more than her ability to control her circumstances, she can trust God, not fearing anything that is frightening in this world, because she knows the God who overcame the grave.

Read the rest here.

Russel Moore on Police Shootings and Racial Justice

These excerpts from an article by Russell Moore are worth taking time to read and reflect on. 

Many white evangelicals will point to specific cases, and argue the particulars are more complex in those situations than initial news reports might show. But how can anyone deny, after seeing the sheer number of cases and after seeing those in which the situation is all too clear, that there is a problem in terms of the safety of African Americans before the law? That’s especially true when one considers the history of a country in which African Americans have lived with trauma from the very beginning, the initial trauma being the kidnapping and forced enslavement of an entire people with no standing whatsoever before the law. For the black community, these present situations often reverberate with a history of state-sanctioned violence, in a way that many white Americans—including white evangelicals—often don’t understand. 

 

These situations ought to cause us, as Christians, to understand our own doctrine of sin. The Bible speaks of sin both in terms of how we relate to others personally and how we relate to one another corporately. Sometimes we speak of issues that are “political” as though they have no bearing on issues of gospel and discipleship. It’s telling that we tend to be quite selective in what issues we deem too “political” to speak about with a word from God. It’s also telling that we often don’t consider what it even means to be “political.” The “political” is not merely the partisan. “Politics” describes what we act together to do corporately in the public arena. Joseph’s brothers are acting “politically” when they throw him into the pit and sell him into Egyptian slavery. The fact that they are acting corporately doesn’t absolve each of them for responsibility personally. Scripture speaks of sin in strikingly personal terms. The one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18). Scripture also speaks of sin in terms of the way we organize structures—whether that’s unjust courts or the oppression of laborers in fields (James 5:4–6).

 

The situation is complex precisely because such injustices are so longstanding and are often hidden from majority populations, who don’t pay attention to such questions, since they rarely have to think about them. My oldest two sons are learning to drive. I have many fears, but I’ve never worried about one of my sons being shot after being pulled over. My perspective is thus radically different from my African-American neighbor or colleague or fellow church member. Notice the differences even on social media over the past couple of days. An African-American colleague of mine noted that the divide is glaring, with black evangelicals interacting with this set of news while many white evangelicals continue discussing the presidential race or the upcoming Olympics, with no reference to these shootings. That divide ought to cause us to reflect on how we’re experiencing the culture differently, and what implications that has for our unity and our witness.

 

It’s true these issues are more than just personal, but they are not less than personal. We can only address these questions if we care about them in the first place. That means these questions cannot only be addressed by those in fear of unjust systems and thereby not addressed by those who benefit from them. We must bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), which means those in majority cultures listening to our brothers and sisters who are directly in harm’s way. 

 

The path ahead will be difficult, but it will require the body of Christ—the whole body of Christ—to call one another to moral awareness and action. That starts with acknowledging we have a problem.

 

Read the whole article here.

Video Friday: How God is Moving at Redemption

We originally published this back in March but I thought I'd put it up again for readers who might be interested in a little peak at our church family. Here's a five minute video that will give you a glimpse into how God has been at work at Redemption. Thanks to Jacob Kindberg for putting this together last minute.

[youtube id="0jXBUiMdJmw"]

Telling Our Kids the Bad News

Mike McGarry pens a helpful article for parents on how we respond to our children's sin. 

I needed to make a decision. I could tell him that he could try harder and do better next time. Or I could believe he really couldn’t help himself.

As Christians, we believe in original sin. Our sinful nature has corrupted (though not eradicated) the image of God within us. We desire self-glory more than God’s glory. We want to control more than to serve. We prefer pleasure to sacrifice. We listen to ourselves more than we listen to God.

In that moment, and in moments like it, I reminded my son that he’s a sinner. He sinned against his sister by knocking her over. He sinned against his parents by ignoring their admonition to slow down. He sinned against the Lord by putting himself first.

This incident was no great tragedy. He knocked his sister over and she was fine. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s the nature of sin to demand, “Me first!” And that’s exactly what he did.

As we talked about his sin, I reminded him of the gospel. God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross so we could be forgiven of our sin. Because we’re forgiven, we should live differently—not for his acceptance, but from his acceptance. We say no to ourselves and yes to God because he loves us and is making us more like himself. And when we look like Christ, the world sees a glimpse of the greatness of God.

If I refuse to tell my kids they’re sinners, I’m forfeiting a chance to communicate gospel grace. 

Inoculated Against Grace

As a youth pastor, one of my greatest concerns is the salvation of “church kids.” Many seem to have been “inoculated” against the gospel by two things: their righteousness and their familiarity with Scripture. When there is no personal need for confession and repentance—because I don’t see myself as a sinner—the gospel loses its goodness and becomes a message merely for others.

As parents, we cannot build on a foundation we have not already built. When we confess our sin to our kids, we’re acknowledging what they already know: Mom and Dad are sinners who desperately need Jesus. If we aren’t willing to model confession, then we will be modeling self-righteousness. We’ll be subtly pointing to our own goodness without giving credit to the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

When we don’t teach our kids about sin, we are actually making it difficult for them to become Christians. Without knowledge of their guilt, there can be no confession of sin or profession of faith. But when we teach our kids about their sinful nature, they’re more prepared to prayerfully turn to God for strength and help to resist temptation.

Give Them Good News

If we want our kids to know Christ and love him, then we must tell them the truth about themselves. They are human beings created in the image of God but captive to sin. Remember, the gospel is good news. Proclaim the power of God for salvation. Demonstrate the hope that comes through repentance and faith, in both salvation and sanctification.

When I discuss this issue with parents—even those fairly mature in their faith—I often get the impression I’m saying something radical. I pray this is not true, for this should be a basic cornerstone of gospel-centered parenting.

Does this mean we should start pointing out every sin our kids commit and shouting “sinner!” at them? Of course not. Instead, we must prayerfully seek the courage and wisdom to speak gospel truth into their lives as God opens opportunities. This will involve telling them they are sinners. It will involve telling them how God loves sinners. It will involve telling them how God saves sinners.

If there is no bad news, we won’t need the good news. We must tell our kids both. 

Read the whole article here.

If You Need Help...

Christina Hoover's post over at the For the Church blog is a good reminder of our struggle to admit our need and yet the great benefit of doing so. 

When my son was much younger, he came home one day with instructions from his teacher to review his double-digit addition skills. When we sat together at the kitchen table to work practice problems, he slouched over the page with his pencil hovering over the first problem for several minutes before he looked up at me with uncertainty. 

“Do you need help?” I asked. 

Clearly he did, but he shook his head and continued pondering the problem through the blur of tears filling his eyes. It seemed he thought that the answers would come flooding out if he sat there long enough. I imagined him sitting at his desk at school doing much the same thing, with the hope that his silence and eager pencil would fool his teacher into believing he knew what he was doing.

I gently prodded: “It seems like you don’t know how to answer these problems. Have you asked your teacher for help with this?” He shook his head and burst into tears, telling me he was afraid to ask for help.

I thought later about the reassurance I gave him: “Everyone has to ask for help sometimes.” Initially, it had seemed silly to me that Will chose to sit through an entire class period of confusion and panic rather than simply raising his hand to ask for help. 

But then I considered how much I am like my son. 

When life is emotionally difficult or I am struggling with sin, I’m afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. I’m afraid to draw attention to myself, admit my weaknesses, or confess my need for fear of inconveniencing others or being rejected. I tell myself just to push through it, that I'll figure it out somehow. So often I sit with tears in my eyes and a pencil poised over a problem I don’t know how to solve while the Lord patiently questions why I haven’t asked for help. “You have asked Me for help, but have you asked the loving, wise people I’ve purposefully put in your life? They are my answer to you.”

We all, at some point, are overwhelmed with burdens that are too heavy for us each to carry alone. Sometimes God acts in our lives without using others to meet our needs, but His normal mode of operation is to use wise believers in the Body of Christ—His church— to help us understand, grow, and grieve. The catch is that we cannot receive their ministry unless we raise our hands and ask for help.

Later in the article she writes:

What keeps us from raising our hands? We’ve misunderstood the church to be a group of put-together people, rather than a gathering of broken, needy people collecting together to touch the grace-hem of God's. Sometimes we feel the pressure to have everything under control. Or perhaps we’ve experienced rejection and condemnation from those in the church who appear religious, but lack an understanding of their true brokenness and need. Mostly, I don't think we know that healing comes from naming out loud and from reaching out for help. We might rather drown in our self-sufficiency than admit we need something outside of ourselves.

But the help and healing are available when we raise our hands.

Read the rest here.

6 Tips for Helping Your Child Transition to the Main Service

This coming Sunday is the first week for our incoming middle schoolers to sit in service for the sermon. This is a big step that comes with significant challenges and the potential for rich rewards. 
While this is an opportunity for the entire church family to help our young people transition, it is especially an opportunity for their parents. 
Here are 6 tips for parents in helping their children transition to the main service:
  1. Be Positive- both in your own perspective and in your words. This is a great opportunity for your young person to continue learning what it means to be a part of the church. Emphasize the privilege that it is to worship with God’s people and communicate how much you enjoy these times. Your young person will be stretched and challenged and over time they will learn to feed on the nourishment of God’s word preached!
  2. Prepare- it is difficult to overestimate the importance of preparation. Part of this preparation will simply be making sure they get a enough sleep on Saturday night. In addition, you may find it helpful to talk through expectations before you leave for the Sunday gathering. Perhaps the most strategic way you can prepare your young person for the sermon is by reading the passage over and talking through it with them ahead of time. Help them become familiar with the basic ideas in the passage and encourage them to listen for how the preacher explains different parts of the passage. 
  3. Provide Tools- while note taking isn’t necessarily for everyone, it can be especially useful when someone is learning to listen to sermons. You may find it helpful to provide direction for your young person’s note taking. Encourage them to listen for repeated words or to illustrate a particular truth with a drawing. If you are a note taker allow them to copy your notes as they transition towards taking their own.
  4. Pursue Follow Up- take time to talk through the sermon with your child sometime later in the day on Sunday. Ask them questions both about content and about how God used the message to work in their hearts, convict them of sin or bring them to worship. Share with them how the message impacted you and how you want to respond to it.
  5. Be Patient- at first your young person may not seem to get a whole lot out of the sermon. They may have trouble sitting still or end up finding reasons to get up and down multiple times during the sermon. Like anything, listening to a 45 minute sermon is a learned skill. Set clear expectations but remember that it will take time. If we’re honest, we have to admit that even as adults we find it challenging at times to sit and listen attentively at times. 
  6. Pray- pray that God would give spiritual life to your child and save them. Pray that they would learn to find joy in worshiping with God’s people. Pray that they would learn to drink up the word as it’s preached and that the Spirit would use it to shape their hearts. Pray that they would love the church and above all that they would love Christ.

Have You Ever Said, "Imitate Me"?

In this post, Justin Taylor quotes from D.A. Carson and John Piper on the crucial role of modeling and imitation in Christian discipleship: 

D.A. Carson, in his little book From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (Christian Focus), asks:

Do you ever say to a young Christian, 

“Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!”

If you never do, you are unbiblical.

The Apostle Paul hit this theme a number of times in his letters. For example:

1 Cor. 4:15-17: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

Phil 4:9: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thess. 3:7-9: “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

2 Tim. 3:10-11: “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra. . . .”

John Piper comments on two additional verses:

1 Cor. 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Phil. 3:17: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and fix your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”

...Notice the sequence:

Jesus lives the perfect life for imitation.

Paul imitates Jesus.

Others “walk according to the example they have in us.”

Finally, we fix our eyes on those who follow Paul’s example.

What makes this so remarkable is that Paul says it is spiritually wise to consider not just Jesus’ life, and not just the lives of those who follow him, but also the lives of those who follow those who follow him.

This seems to imply that the line of inspiration and imitation goes on and on.

Indeed it does. And the centuries are laden with the lives of saved sinners whose failures and triumphs of grace are meant to inspire and strengthen and guide the rest of us.

So among all the other things you do to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), follow Paul’s summons to “fix your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”

Read the rest here.

A Marriage Must

Owen Strachan with a reminder of an ingredient that every marriage needs. 

Every marriage is under attack. Marriage is given to humanity by God as, ultimately, an expression and picture of his love for his people. Satan, the anti-aesthete and anti-tutor, wants to tear this living image down.

There is much to work on in marriage, but it strikes me that there is a single key that unlocks the door to health: humble repentance. As sinners living together under the same roof, husband and wife will annoy one another, hurt one another, and fail to edify one another as they should. Sin and its baggage are not only possible, but inevitable for even the godliest couple. If we pretend otherwise, if we act as if we can bat 1.000 all the time, if we plaster smiles on our faces and project the image of perfection, then we lie to ourselves and to others.

Most significantly, we lie to God, who knows the depth of our fallenness, and who is justly offended by our sin.

The single most important key to a strong marriage, it seems to me, is humble repentance. Sin is the fundamental problem of our marriages; humble repentance is the fundamental solution. What does this mean? It means that husbands and wives must train themselves to be experts in the art of saying “I was wrong. I hurt you. I get that. I am so sorry.” What a simple collection of words, but what a punch they pack.

It is surprisingly easy for even loving couples to get out of this habit. You hurt your spouse, and she lets you know as she should, but you don’t apologize. You skate over it. We all come to a moment on a regular basis when we arrive at a fork in the road: we can take one path and evade meaningful confession, or we can swallow our pride and take the route of humility. Whether you’re married or not, you know what I’m talking about. Taking the first path guarantees that things will get harder, that sin will calcify. Taking the second brings light into the marriage; the pressure releases, and it’s as if someone opened the blinds in a gloomy house. The light of the gospel shines again.

Christians are called to be experts in repentance. We may not always feel that way; some of us, relatively young in our marriages, are working on establishing good rhythms, and training ourselves to take the good path. But this is a crucial part of what distinguishes us as a people. We have seen by God’s grace that we are wrong and that God is right. The cross of Christ is a summons to this confession, and the means by which we are made right. But being cleansed by the blood of Jesus does not free us to to live as super-people deluded by our infallibility. Instead, the confession of repentance that marks our conversion is the initiation into a lifetime of the same.

So believers are not first and foremost practitioners of ritual. We are not primarily people who merely enjoy gathering together. We are students in the school of repentance. This is not theoretical, though; it is by nature intensely practical.

Later, to husbands, he writes:

Husbands are to lead in this discipline. Being the head of the home doesn’t mean that men are untouchable potentates. It means that men are lead repenters. This is part of what opponents of manly headship don’t understand. Being the “head” or the leader in biblical Christianity doesn’t mean getting off the hook and doing whatever you want in the most lordly and officious way possible. It means leading in all the hard stuff: sacrifice, humility, change, growth, confession, and yes, repentance.

Read the whole thing here.

Killing Sin

Most of us are aware that there are certain sins that we consistently struggle with. Gavin Ortlund calls us to stop tolerating these sins and to intentionally fight against them.

The Bible portrays sin as a powerful, ever-vigilant enemy. Sin deceives (Genesis 3:13), desires (Genesis 4:7), destroys (Genesis 6:7). Even forgiven sin within the Christian is powerfully active, waging war (Romans 7:23), lusting (Galatians 5:17), enticing (James 1:14), entangling (Hebrews 12:1). 

Many Christians struggle with “nagging sins” — those entrenched, persistent, difficult-to-dislodge sins that continually entangle us in our efforts to follow Christ. Sometimes we struggle for decades, with bouts of backsliding and despair recurring. Most godly Christians, who have made true progress in their pursuit of holiness, can sing with feeling “prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” or share the lament of Augustine: “I have learned to love you too late!” 

The gospel gives us hope that all sin, even nagging sins, can be both forgiven and subdued. But because sin has such persistence and power, we must be vigilant in our struggle against it. As John Owen puts it, “If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish . . . can we expect a comfortable event?”

Here are four strategies for maintaining vigilance in the fight, drawn from John Owen, and particularly in relation to a nagging, persistent sin — that kind that keeps on tripping us up and entangling us in its grip.

1. Hate it.

...Nagging sins are those we are most likely to become numb to, and therefore we have to work extra hard to continually re-sensitize our consciences to them in light of the gospel, saying things like:

  • This impatience is part of what Christ had to bear on the cross.
  • This worldly ambition would lead me to hell, but for the grace of God.
  • This lingering resentment grieves the Holy Spirit within me.

Often this means really slowing down and really examining our hearts. In a lesser-known passage in his Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis, reflecting on the distinction between enjoyment and contemplation, observes that “the surest means of disarming an anger or a lust (is) to turn your attention from the girl or the insult and start examining the passion itself.” Defeating nagging sins often requires this uncomfortable, honest reflection and acknowledgement on what the sin is doing within us. 

Nagging sins can survive our annoyance and mild dislike. Only hatred will fuel the needed effort. 

2. Starve it.

...One of the most important principles involved in this starvation process is to act quickly: Don’t let sin get even the smallest step. Don’t say, “I will give in this much, but not that much.” That never works. As John Owen puts it: “Dost thou find thy corruption to begin to entangle thy thoughts? Rise up with all thy strength against it, with no less indignation than if it had fully accomplished what it aims at.” 

3. Corner it.

Sin, like any other enemy, thrives among its allies (unhappiness, exhaustion, and discouragement are some that come to mind). To wage effective war against sin, therefore, we must deprive it of the opportunities and occasions it makes use of... 

4. Overwhelm it.

...the gospel means that God provides us with power, that we might overcome nagging sins (2 Timothy 1:7). His Spirit gives us strength beyond ourselves with which to fight, and his all-satisfying presence gives us the promise of a superior, lasting joy...

Read the full article here.

Are You Living in a Ghetto?

Paul Tripp with a call to check our lives and our hearts when it comes to our schedules and priorities: 

For me, one of the most unsettling statements Christ makes comes during his Sermon on the Mount. He says to those listening, and to us reading years later, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14)

Why is this statement so ruffling for me? Because in another passage, Jesus declares, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

The logic here should make us feel uncomfortable: Jesus is placing his name (the Light of the World) on you and me. It's God's divine plan to make the light of his Son visible to others by sending us into a dark and lost world and living as light.

Matthew 5:14 is not a commission for pastors or full-time missionaries. Rather, this command is for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus. We have been called to be lights in the world, pointing to the Light of the World.

But here's the problem: many Christians live trapped inside a Christian ghetto.

If you were to look at an average week, how much of your time is consumed by the scheduled activities of the local church? How many hours do you spend participating in worship services, small groups, men's and women's ministries, youth ministries, children's ministries, etc?

What about your friends? Outside of these scheduled ministries, how many hours do you spend with other Christians in social settings? Is it natural for you to gravitate towards a believer over a non-believer?

Let me pause - the goal of this piece is not to discourage you from participating in ministries, nor to discourage you from spending time with fellow believers. Not at all! But, I want to encourage you to be unsettled and ruffled by the teachings of Jesus.

For many of us, we haven't actually taken Matthew 5:14 seriously. We haven't created for ourselves a lifestyle where we have natural opportunities to be a light in a dark place. We're simply trapped in the Christian ghetto.

Read the rest here.

Sometimes We Need a Good Rebuke

Marshall Segal over at Desiring God with an encouragement that most of us need to hear: 

When was the last time someone told you you were wrong? 

If you can’t remember, you may have reason to be concerned. Sometimes the most loving thing someone can do for us is point out an error or inconsistency in the way we think or live. The reality that we have remaining sin still inside of us means that we will be wrong. And it means we will inevitably be blind to some of the ways we are wrong. Therefore, God often gives us the perspective we desperately need on ourselves through someone else’s eyes, heart, and words. They see something that needs to change or be corrected, and they lovingly tell us the truth. They rebuke us. Love will rebuke us.

Paul had to rebuke Peter once. “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11). Why? Because Peter (a Jew) caved to pressure from his peers, and refused to eat with Gentile believers. Peter had pioneered the reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles through Jesus (Acts 15:11). He had seen and experienced the barrier-breaking love of God for us through Jesus and his cross (Acts 10:28). It had changed everything, even down to his eating habits (Galatians 2:12).

But Jews started persecuting Christian Jews because of Peter’s eating habits, and so some tried to convince him to stop. Thus, at the very point the Gentile Christians needed him most, Peter withdrew in fear. Christ had purchased these people, the Father had declared them his own, and the Holy Spirit was living inside of them. And Peter abandoned them.

Love Enough to Say the Hard Thing

Paul writes, “When I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Galatians 2:14). In short, “Stop it!” Peter, the testimony of your behavior is telling a different gospel, a gospel that will not save anyone. And the false, peer-pressure, racist gospel your conduct tells is winning followers (Galatians 2:13). Remember the true gospel — by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from ethnic barriers — and repent. Bring your public actions back into conformity with the message for which Jesus died. 

Based on the rest of the story, Paul’s rebuke may have rescued Peter’s ministry and the fledgling church (humanly speaking). Peter repented and openly ate with Gentiles again. Because Paul was willing to say the hard thing, to love Peter the inconvenient and less socially acceptable way, a false gospel’s seed was dispelled, and the true gospel was preserved, demonstrated, and spread. 

So what can we learn from Paul’s example? How do we rebuke one another in love? Here are four lessons.

1. Rebuke to preserve the gospel and its witness.

2. Rebuke on the gospel’s terms, not your own.

3. Rebuke with humility, gentleness, and conviction.

4. Rebuke to please God, not man.

Read how he fills out each point here

Staying Connected as a Married Couple

Erik Raymond shares some thoughts on how to stay connected as a married couple: 

Is it important for married couples to spend intentional time together each day? Few would argue with the wisdom of the practice but many would balk at its practicality. For many today the practice is simply not happening. A recent NY Times article written by Bruce Feiler indicated that it is increasingly common for husbands and wives to rarely see each other. The article focused on preferences and practices for sleep. Many wives are early to bed and early to rise each day while their husbands like to stay up late and sleep in a bit later. While some women are up early exercising and prepping for the day their husbands are up late watching Netflix or something on ESPN.

In my experience the practice is common for many Christian couples as well. Different sleep and lifestyle preferences combined with a desire to defer to one another leads to a lifestyle where very little time is actually spent together. There is a danger of simply living together rather than really living together. This tension is particularly acute for Christians. Our marriages are to joyfully reflect the reality of the gospel. In order to do so there must be regular expression of love, forgiveness, patience, respect, grace, and kindness. You simply can’t do these things without spending time together.

In order to pursue the type of relational intimacy that requires the gospel of grace there must be some intentionality. We are all plagued by a demanding life, a unique set of trials, and indwelling sin. Furthermore, we have the same amount of time each week, the same commands, and the same Holy Spirit.

Some basics that I’ve seen pay dividends in my marriage and the lives of those Christian brothers and sisters around me include the following:

1) Sync-up Meetings. 

2) Pray together. 

3) Learn together. 

4) Be Ordinary together.

Read how he fills out each point here.

Recognizing Our Orphan Tendencies

Christina Hoover writes an article over at Desiring God that I'm guessing will resonate with many of us. Here are some highlights:

Until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving — striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

In her forthcoming book, Nothing Is Impossible with God, Rose Marie Miller describes my life as she depicts her own:

The gospel was not my working theology: Mine was moralism and legalism — a religion of duty and self control through human willpower. The goal was self-justification, not the justification by faith in Christ that the gospel offers. But, as many people can tell you, moralism and legalism can “pass” for Christianity, at least outwardly, in the good times. It is only when crises come that you find there is no foundation on which to stand. And crises are what God used to reveal my heart’s true need for him. (4)

Later she writes:

Rose Marie Miller’s husband, Jack, characterized her self-justification as orphanhood: “you act as if you are an orphan. You act as if there is no Father who loves you” (11).

  • Orphans have to take care of themselves.
  • Orphans must be strong.
  • Orphans must protect themselves from being taken advantage of.
  • Orphans cannot depend on anyone.
  • Orphans cannot be weak.
  • Orphans crave to be taken in and loved but doubt they ever will.
  • Orphans want to be accepted, to belong.
  • Orphans only trust themselves.
  • Orphans cannot get too close.
  • Orphans are on the outside looking in.

For many years, I was acting as if I were an orphan, trying to do the Christian life but failing miserably. I thought that my failures were my accusation, not realizing that this understanding — that I could not actually live the Christian life myself — was the first step toward liberation. Galatians 3:3 taught me that the Christian life can only be lived by the Spirit: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

NO LONGER ORPHANS

The Father advanced toward me, showing me that, in Christ, I am no longer an orphan but his child: “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).

If we are daughters (and we are, if we are in Christ), we enjoy the love and protection of a perfect Father. He is not an impatient, stingy parent forever irritated at our weaknesses and failures. He invites us into the family, gives us His name, dresses us with righteousness fitting of His family, and erases the ways of our orphanhood, especially our self-reliance and self-justification.

Read the rest here.

Eating as Worship

Becky Wilson, over at For the Church, encourages us to see our enjoyment of God's good gifts in the form of food as a kind of worship. In reading it I was reminded of 1 Timothy 6:17c, where Paul writes that God "richly provides us with everything to enjoy." 

My favorite definition of savor is "to give oneself to the enjoyment of." I love that. A lot.

But are we really supposed to do that? Give ourselves to the enjoyment of food? Well... I think yes, but before you get mad and label me a glutton or hedonist, let me explain. By no means am I suggesting that we are to worship the food itself, nor to over-indulge in food or obsess about it. The food itself deserves none of those forms or levels of attention.

But now let's consider the Creator of food. Why do you suppose He gave us such a gorgeously diverse menu to choose from when we feed ourselves? Couldn't He have fed us simple manna every day? Or maybe even more boring, couldn't He have designed our bodies to be fueled by simply swallowing a super-mega vitamin daily? I'll answer that. Yep. He most definitely could have. He's God. He can do whatever He wants. Which means...

He must have wanted us to have a delightful sensory adventure every time we eat. Why else would He create so many colors and textures and smells and flavors? Consider the boundless variety of sensory experiences available to us through food. The colors we see, the aromas we smell, the textures we feel, the sizzles we hear, and OH the flavors we taste!

Why would He do that? I think there are many reasons we could talk about which would all be true, but for the sake of this brief discussion, let's focus on this-- He loves His children. (That's us.) He delights in our enjoyment of His gifts to us. Any and all of His gifts, including food.

So, can we worship (offer adoring reverence or regard to) God when we bite into a perfectly ripe, lusciously fragrant, sweet and juicy strawberry, remembering who created it for our enjoyment? Or when we smell and taste that first sip of coffee in the morning? What about when we hear bacon sizzling in a pan on that rare Saturday morning we have nothing on our calendar? Yes, I think we can. But more than that, I think we should