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Archive for December, 2011

The Beginning of Discipleship

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself.” The Gospel is a call for self-denial; it is not a call for self-fulfillment. Some view Jesus as a utilitarian genie—you rub the lamp, He jumps out and says, “You have whatever you want.” You give Him your list and He delivers. There are those who tell you Jesus came just to give you peace and joy. Jesus makes you a better salesman and Jesus helps you hit more home runs. Jesus really wants to elevate your self-image and put an end to your negative thinking.

The familiar words “enter through the narrow gate” are from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13. Being a Christian means going through a narrow gate, a constricted passage that leaves no room for extra possessions, baggage, or needs. We have to be willing to give up everything. We aren’t going to get saved by dumping all our earthly goods and desires, but we have to be willing to do so. That’s how devoted we have to be to Christ, and that is the beginning of true discipleship.

– John MacArthur, adapted from Truth Endures (March 2011).

December 30, 2011 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

“Exceptional” Sin: The Gateway to Downfall

from Russell Moore’s Tempted and Tried

We sinners are remarkably good at rationalizing our sin. We can come up with a myriad of reasons why our particular vice isn’t really theft, envy, abuse, etc. because our situation is exceptional. We may even be able to outline the exact reasons why our actions are immoral, but because of our specific circumstances we are excused. Or perhaps we view ourselves as a slave to our passions, a powerless mess that is hopelessly animalistic and therefore incapable of accountability or change.

Viewing ourselves in this way means we have forgotten who we are. We are created beings, neither beastly nor above reproach. Rationalizing sin is the beginning of life-wreckage. In order to defeat temptation, we must face reality. We cannot mistake a seeming lack of conscience for the freedom from temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says temptation is “common to man.” We must recognize this and resist apathy and excuses. We need to run to the Lord in acknowledgment and repentance, with a desire to live in holiness.

Learn more about Tempted and Tried.

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December 29, 2011 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Worship Distorted

by Bill Clem from Disciple

I was asked to teach an intensive course at a seminary, three eight-hour days of presentation. During the first hour my agenda was to introduce the idea that we are all idolaters. I began by saying, “One hundred percent of your pastoral counseling will involve identifying and confronting idols.” Immediately the push back began: “Idolatry is a primitive idea”; “People don’t have idols; they have issues.” As long as we ignore what the Bible says about the human heart and what God desires from his people, we will raise these same objections. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

The root of idolatry is pride. Isaiah described Lucifer’s rebellion as he ceased to worship because he wanted to be worshiped:

“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isa. 14:13–14).

In James, pride is seen as a heart condition that God resists. The posture appropriate to approaching God is one of humility:

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:5–7, 10)

Pride is seen as detestable to God precisely because it steals from God’s glory and his preeminence. Pride is rebellion, but it is much more than rebellion against God’s authority. Pride is self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. A proud heart sees itself as central and God as the one who must find his place of orbit in the proud heart’s universe. While few people who call themselves Christians would admit to such a self-centered worldview, I find my weeks filled with people with questions and comments such as these:

  • How can God be loving and let this bad thing happen to me?
  • I can’t believe in a God who let’s bad things happen.
  • I don’t care what the Bible says; this is what I want.
  • I have been praying for a Christian husband, and if God wanted me to marry one, then he would have provided one.
  • If God is against homosexuality, why did he create me this way?
  • If God wanted me to stay married, he should have told that to my cheating spouse.

Look beyond the content of those objections to the underlying conviction of those who are making them. The objectors believe they have rights and God has the responsibility to work within those rights. To their way of thinking, God can’t love and also do something the objector can’t understand, nor can God call for behavior that is inconvenient or politically incorrect. They believe that God has no right to ask them to opt for grace and forgive another when they have a “biblical” right to hurt someone who has hurt them.

A couple of things need to be pointed out. First, the idea that God is accountable to us for his behavior, or at least for explanations for acting as he does, skews our real place with God. At best, it makes him our peer, and in that vein he should give us a reasonable explanation. When I talk to people who are angry at God for what he has done or is allowing to happen, I often hear them say, “All I want to know is why.” I have asked several of them, “Really? What if his explanation didn’t satisfy you, and you were convinced he could achieve the same end without doing or allowing what has angered you?” At that point, they often realize that they really want more than a why; they want a why that satisfies them and that makes God accountable to them.

Second, the concept of creature and creator gives God a trump card. He really does get to design his world, his creations, and his story for his own glory. Anything that attempts to compete with that is an idol. Pride paints us into corner between self-centeredness and idolatry.

Jesus already raised the bar from adultery to a heart of lust and from murder of a brother to anger. So how is it we continue to smuggle sin and knock-off versions of righteousness into lives and community in the name of Christianity? It has to have something to do with who or what we are worshiping. When self is at the center, things that feel good or right, emotional places of consolation or insulation, or distractions and attractions don’t seem that bad. But when God is the center, when the God of the universe comes into your soul, living quarters become tight, and there just isn’t any room for things that don’t exalt the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Modified from Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus by Bill Clem

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December 28, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,Trials / Suffering | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:15 am | (2) Comments »

What’s Your Reading Plan for 2012?

It’s that time again!

Have you thought much about your 2012 reading plans? Here are some links we hope you’ll find helpful:

Bible Reading Plan:

Book Reading Plan:

Happy reading in the new year!

December 27, 2011 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 11:25 am | (2) Comments »

Why God Came Into the World

by Francis Schaeffer published in Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Why did God come into this world? Only the scriptural answer will suffice: the second person of the Trinity has been born because he loves the world. But why did he come this way, as a little baby? Why did he choose to lie in a manger and be cared for by a human mother, with the sweetness but the utter weakness of a newborn babe? He came this way because he came to meet the central need of men.

  • He did not come to overthrow the Romans, though a lot of the Jews would have loved that. If he had, he would have come riding on a great conquering steed.
  • The central reason he came was not to raise the living standards of the world. Surely if modern man were going to vote on the way he would like a messiah to appear, he would want him loaded down with moneybags from heaven.
  • He did not come primarily to teach and relieve ignorance—perhaps then he would have come laden with books.

An angel had revealed to Joseph the primary task for which he came: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He is here to cut the nerve of man’s real dilemma, to solve the problem from which all other problems flow. Man is a sinner who needs an overwhelming love. Jesus has come to save his people from their sins.

Selected excerpt from Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

December 26, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Holidays,Jesus Christ,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Theology | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 1:14 pm | 0 Comments »