Thoughts on the Way Home

Monday, January 30, 2012

Valuable for His Own Sake

Machen:
We are subject to many pressing needs, and we are too much inclined to value God, not for His own sake, but only because He can satisfy those needs. . . .

[Food, clothing, companionship, and inspiring work] are lofty desires. But there is one desire that is loftier still. It is the desire for God Himself. That desire, too often, we forget.

We value God solely for the things He can do; we make of Him a mere means to an ulterior end. And God refuses to be treated so; such a religion always fails in the hour of need. If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things--even lofty and unselfish things--then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. . . .

If we possess God, then we can meet with equanimity the loss of all besides. Has it never dawned upon us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
--J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith?, 73-74

HT: Dane Ortlund

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales || Spoken Word

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HT: Justin Taylor
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Post-Prayer Satanic Whispers

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“…and forgive my sins. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Within seconds the wicked whispers start.
“Too short.”

“Too shallow.”

“Too distracted…again.”

“Missed out her, and him, and them…”

“Yawn. Nothing new to say?”

“You call that a prayer?”

“Not enough faith…not enough passion…not enough anything.”

“You don’t actually believe that made a difference, do you?”

“You’ll probably not even think about prayer for the rest of the day”

And on, and on, and on it goes.

Relentless, cruel, malicious Satanic whispers that begin the second I end my morning prayer with, “Amen.”

Anyone else get that? It’s so discouraging, isn’t it. I mean, why pray if all you get at the end of it is an even heavier feeling of guilt and failure? Prayer should be a delight not a dread.

I’d really welcome your own input on this, but here’s how I try to fight back, silence the whispers, and turn prayer into a soul-refreshing delight again.
  1. God has forgiven me all my sins – even my sinful prayers.
  2. Jesus is perfecting my prayers and presenting them absolutely flawless to my Heavenly Father.
  3. My salvation does not depend on my prayers but on Jesus’ prayers.
  4. My Heavenly Father listens even to the raven’s ugly grating squawks (Ps. 147:9) and gives it food; how much more will he hear and answer the ugly grating squawks of one of His children?
  5. God delights in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy (Ps 147:9).
  6. God knows I’m a limited creature who cannot possibly pray for everyone everyday.
  7. Surely the Devil would simply leave me alone if my prayers were really so pathetic and useless.
  8. Just because my children don’t (can’t) tell me everything about their lives doesn’t make me love them less, nor does it reflect a lack of love on their part.
  9. But maybe best of all, “You, Satan, are going to be crushed under my feet shortly” (Rom. 16:2o).

HT: Challies

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

We Are Unworthy Slaves

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"Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:7-10)

Our tendency is to do ONE thing which we are commanded to do, and then look around for praise and congratulations for having done that one thing. But the standard for Christ's followers is exceedingly higher. Even after we have done "ALL the things which are commanded," our response ought to be, "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done." May the Lord grant us such humility of mind!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Remember the Outcome

"...what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death." - Romans 6:21

This verse out to come to mind with every temptation. Sin never did anyone a favor. It has always and only left us with shame and death.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Universal Cry for Real Love

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What is it that we all want? Significance, yes. Worth, yes. Approval, yes. All of that and more. I think, though, that if we could sum up the varieties of expressions of human desire we would say "real love." I think the cry of every human heart is to be known totally, inside and out, and loved totally anyway. Everything we've done, everything we've said, everything we've thought, everything we are -- everything. And in response: belovedness.

So we test out this cry, to see if it will be answered in some way, in every relationship. We try it with our parents, our children, our spouses, our friends, our church. It frequently, if not always, goes haywire. Sin gets in the way, fear gets in the way, defensiveness gets in the way, stupidity gets in the way, finite capabilities get in the way.

We are not equipped to love each other perfectly, not yet anyway. We are not omnipotent. And we are not love. And we are not omniscient, so we can't know each other perfectly, inside and out, past present future.

But God is and can do all that. And the good news is that God knows every single stinking thing about us . . . and loves us totally, unabashedly, powerfully, savingly. I find this staggering. 

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The Greatest Need in the Church Today

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From an interview with Jerry Bridges:

    There are so many needs in the church today that it is difficult to single out one as the greatest. However, if I had to pick one, I would say the most fundamental need is an ever-growing awareness of the holiness of God. I don’t say this because that is the main emphasis of Ligonier Ministries but because I believe it is true.

    The emphasis of my own ministry has been the believer’s personal pursuit of holiness. But years ago I came to realize the gospel has to be the foundation and motivation for the pursuit of holiness. Believers need the gospel to remind them that our standing with God is not based on our own obedience but on the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ. Otherwise, the pursuit of holiness can be performance driven: that is, “If I’m good, God will bless me.”

    How, then, can we get Christians to embrace the gospel every day? I believe Isaiah 6:1-8 gives us a paradigm for addressing this need. Isaiah sees God in His holiness, that is, His supreme majesty and infinite moral purity. In the light of God’s holiness, Isaiah is completely undone by an acute awareness of his own sinfulness. This is what we need in our churches today. Because we tend to define sin in terms of the more flagrant sins of society, we don’t see ourselves as practicing sinners.

    It is only after Isaiah has been totally devastated by the realization of his own sinfulness that he is in the right position to hear the gospel proclaimed to him by the seraphim: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (v. 7).

    What happens next? Isaiah hears God say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Immediately he responds, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). What causes such an immediate and spontaneous response? It is gratitude for the forgiveness of his sins as he hears the gospel from the seraphim. Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). It is because the vast majority of Christians do not realize how much they have been forgiven that there is so much lethargy in the church today.

    There is an inevitable sequence in the account of Isaiah’s vision. It is God (in His holiness), guilt, gospel, and gratitude. It is deep, heartfelt gratitude for the work of Christ as proclaimed in the gospel that motivates us to pursue holiness. But it all begins with an ever-increasing realization of the holiness of God. That is why I see it as the greatest need in the church today.

Read the whole interview HERE.

HT: JT

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The Bottom Line: Change - Mark LaCour

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THE  BOTTOM  LINE
 Mark LaCour

“My days are like a lengthened shadow, and I wither away like grass.  But You, O Lord, abide forever, and Your name to all generations. (Psa. 102:11-12).

Change -- it’s the slogan of politicians, the promise of unfaithful partners, the quest of scientists, the dream of inventors.  Change is inevitable.  While I type this my body will have changed microscopically so that I’m not the same person I was when I started -- having succumbed to the second law of thermodynamics.

But there are some things that will never change in 2012.  Here are a few immutable things you can expect to happen this year:  First, contrary to our relativistic culture, truth will not change in 2012.  Truth by nature is immutable and eternal. If hypothetically all truth was capable of change, then the single truth that all truth changes would be immutable -- incapable of change (Psa. 117:2).  Hence, proving the point.

Second, God’s nature, will, and glory will not change this year.  Since God can’t increase or decrease, His plans can’t be frustrated, neither His glory diminished by any action or inaction of His creation.  ". . . the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Sam. 15:29).

Third, Jesus Christ as our high priest cannot and will not change.  “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “you are a priest forever” (Psa. 110:4).  And if a priest, then effectual in being heard by the Father (Heb. 7:25) and sympathetic toward His people (Heb. 4:15).

Fourth, the inability of sinners to please God will be inexorable.  Just as leopards can’t change their spots (Jer. 13:23) sinners can’t please God -- never have, never will.  All the cajoling of religious authorities, all the charity of benevolent philanthropists won’t change a sinner’s status before God (Rom. 3:10-18) in calendar year 2012.

Fifth, the hatred of your spiritual enemies won’t change in 2012.  Expect the accuser to accuse, the world to seduce, and the flesh to oppose.  It’s what they do and the forecast is for more of the same.

Sixth, God’s grace won’t change in its sufficiency in 2012.  Whether faced with the opportunity to bless (2 Cor. 9:8), or struggling with trials (1 Cor. 10:13), everything you receive will be a mercy from God.

But lastly, there are some things in 2012 that must change: God’s people must change.  They must be born again (Jn. 3:7) because they must see the kingdom of God.  They must repent of their sins because they can’t perish (Lk. 13:3), and they must believe and treasure Christ (Heb. 11:6), because their pre-ordained inheritance demands their trust and obedience.  All these “must” changes never change in how God deals with His children.  They’re as  immutable as God Himself -- which is far greater than any resolution you can make for yourself in 2012.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fleeing Immorality, Pursuing Purity

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Three very helpful messages from Ryan Fullerton:




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Drawing Near in 2012

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“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty.

One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws near to broken sinners who own up.  What if we saw, in our very sins, the nearness of God awaiting us with greater mercy than we have ever known before?

Two, let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.  No one grows in isolation.  We grow in safe community.  Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches.  It should be common among us gospel people.  It should be our lifestyle.  We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners.  But so often, someone must break the ice.  I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession.  Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment.  If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out.  But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16).  What if in 2012 we were, to one another, unshockable friends, down on our knees together, not judging one another but praying for one another?  Surely God’s nearness would be there.

- Ray Ortlund


HT: Dane Ortlund

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