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Video: Four Ordinary Means of Grace

Kevin DeYoung explains that there are four very ordinary means to pursuing holiness. Long-time Christians may be tempted to roll their eyes at how elementary this seems, but surely we never mature beyond the need to pursue these means of grace. Be sure to tune into the rest of this seven-part interview series linked below or learn more about DeYoung’s new book, The Hole in Our Holiness.

The seven-part series:

 

 

How to Pray for Your Pastor

October is pastor appreciation month. Don’t forget to send your pastor an encouraging note (or a book or even an iPad)!

But what’s more important and perhaps more difficult is to pray for your pastor fervently and consistently. Pastor and Crossway author Joe Thorn recently offered the following great suggestions on his blog (original post).

We challenge you to take 5 or 10 minutes today to pull away to pray fervently for your pastor along these lines:

For The Word To Be At Work In His Heart

Before he preaches the word to others your pastor needs to experience the word himself. Pray that he would search the Scripture to know God and his truth personally, and then bring that to the people. Ask God to impress on him the practical implications of the doctrines revealed in the text, to convict him of his own sin, and work grace in his heart. Ask God to make his message the offspring of Bible and belief, bearing the distinguishing marks of truth and passion.

For Jesus To Be Exalted In His Message

The goal of his preaching should be to make much of Jesus, bringing him before the people with clarity and conviction. So, pray that whether he is in the Old or New Testaments, hitting a passage heavy on law or gospel, that he would be led to point his hearers to the gospel hope of pardon and peace in Jesus Christ.

For The Spirit to Empower His Preaching

As gifted as your pastor may be, he remains a weak and sinful man in himself. The only hope he has for his preaching to carry power is the Holy Spirit’s ministry of conviction, conversion, and counsel. Pray for The Holy Spirit to do what only he can do–empower the preaching of a mere man who holds out the words of life with trembling hands.

For His Satisfaction to be Found in Jesus

Preachers often struggle with feelings of failure after they step away from the pulpit. Mondays can be times of doubt and frustration for many ministers. Pray that your pastor would be so satisfied with what he has in Christ that even if he lost his way while preaching he would remain confident that Christ has neither lost him nor his word. Ask God to give your pastor such confidence in the Spirit’s power and the Scripture’s sufficiency that should his last sermon fail to live up to his standards, his hope remains steadfast for God can use any man’s preaching, no matter how deficient, as long as he gives the people the word. Pray that your pastor would have the mindset that “success” is simply faithfulness to God, and fruitfulness determined by God.

JOE THORN is the founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in Saint Charles, Illinois. He is an active blogger at JoeThorn.net and author of Note to Self.
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October 10, 2012 | Posted in: Church and Ministry,Prayer | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 7:00 am | (2) Comments »

7 Steps to Walking the Spiritual Walk

Life in the Spirit is a journey, and while there are many great passages throughout Scripture that discuss the role and person of the Holy Spirit, Romans 8 is perhaps one of the most insightful. In his book, Walking in the Spirit, Ken Berding provides 7 suggestions that will fuel a passion for the things of the Spirit and further educate how to live a life directed by him.

7 Steps to Walking the Spiritual Walk
(Modified from Walking in the Spirit by Kenneth Berding)

  1. Walk in the Spirit – (Rom. 8:4)
  2. There is no shortcut to learning how to walk with the Spirit. It’s not just for ultra-spiritual people nor is it reserved for charismatic Christians. Life according to the Spirit is not simply trying to do the right thing, nor is it trying to live according to God’s Law. Walking in the Spirit is the central metaphor for describing what it means to live as a Christian. The person who walks according to the Spirit will in fact have the essence of the Law fulfilled in his life.

  3. Set your minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5)
  4. The question “how does one overcome the pull of the flesh?” sounds like an old riddle: How can someone extract all of the air out of a drinking glass? The most direct way to get all the air out of a glass is by filling it with something else. You cannot extract thoughts that displease God from your mind. Like [the solution to the riddle], you need to be filled up with thoughts—indeed with an entire mindset—that is oriented toward the things of the Spirit (e.g. Gal. 5:22-23).

  5. Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13)
  6. The person who has been regenerated by the Spirit is not stuck in sin. By the Spirit, the pull of the flesh can be resisted. To ‘put to death the deeds of the body’ is pretty much the same thing as ‘saying no to sin,’ but unlike the anti-drug campaign among youth many years ago, ‘Just Say No’ by itself will never be successful. Just saying no will never allow you to consistently overcome sin. Then what must you do? You must say no by the Spirit. Read more.

  7. Be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14)
  8. The Holy Spirit leads us broadly (always) and more specifically (sometimes). He always leads us through his written Word, which was revealed to the prophets by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21). We are to prayerfully, carefully, and humbly apply broad biblical wisdom to the situations we face in our lives.

    Sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us directly.  The Holy Spirit can choose to act in any way and according to any timetable that he wishes; we do not dictate to him how or when he will move. Since the Bible gives many examples of him acting more specifically, we should anticipate that he will sometimes choose to lead us directly if we are open and available to his guidance.

  9. Know the Fatherhood of God by the Spirit (Rom. 8:15-17)
  10. Without the Holy Spirit, we would never know our freedom and identity as God’s adoptive children. Thankfully, God has freely given us his Holy Spirit, and these verses from Romans 8 display three amazing things the Spirit does:

    1. He acts as the go-between who takes us out of a place of slavery and fear and brings us into a place of adoption and acceptance.
    2. He helps us to cry out to God as Father.
    3. He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

  11. Hope in the Spirit (Rom 8:22-25)
  12. The biblical concept represented by the English word ‘hope’ is so strong that it is almost a synonym for ‘eager expectation.’ The focus of the expectation isn’t that life will get better here; it is absorbed with the glorious life to come.

    What is the role of the Holy Spirit in all this? Rom 8:23 says: ‘ We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.’ Paul claims that it is because we have the Spirit, not despite it that we groan. In this passage, it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within you that causes you to feel this particular kind of suffering—the longing for final redemption in the midst of a fallen world. In this way, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives reminds us of the stark contrast between the wonderful things God has prepared for us who believe and this fallen world that is so full of sin, suffering, and futility.

  13. Pray in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-28)
  14. These two verses (Rom 8:26-27) are so rich and helpful in our lives in the Spirit.

    1. We learn that we are weak when we come to prayer. We often don’t know what to pray for in any given situation. The concern is not about the manner of prayer (the ‘how’), but rather the content of our prayers—what do we actually pray about?

    2. We learn that the Spirit joins to help us when we are struggling to know how to pray by interceding for us with wordless groaning. It is not, as some propose, that we should just pray whatever we want since we don’t have any idea how to pray, and that the Spirit fixes them up and prays on our behalf to the Father. Rather, the verb often translated as ‘helps’ has a preposition attached to the front of it, which suggests that it really means ‘joins to help.’

    3. The Spirit is searching our hearts and knows that we have a mind-set that is focused on him, even if we do not know exactly what we are supposed to pray.

    4. The result is that our prayers are prayed ‘according to the will of God’ because the Holy Spirit is moving us thus to pray and is presenting the prayers that he is guiding us to pray to the Father.

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Communing with the Holy Spirit

Modified from Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

What does it mean to “commune”? To commune with someone is to share something with him or her that is of mutual benefit. John Owen defines communion as “the sharing of good things between persons who are mutually delighted being cemented together by some union.” Communion, then, is not just shared delight, but the “cementing effect” of that shared delight between two persons.

The Cementing Effect of Communion

You have probably experienced communion with close friends. What makes a friend close? You are close, not because of proximity, but because you share a delight in some of the same things (music, film, food, values, beliefs), and that shared delight has a cementing effect, which creates a close bond between friends. Prayer fosters this bond with God, cementing our souls with him through shared delight in the gospel of grace. All too often we eliminate the Holy Spirit from our communion with God. We live as functional bi-nitarians, communing with the Father and the Son, not Trinitarians—communing with Father, Son, and Spirit. In order to experience the Spirit’s power, we need know the Spirit as a Person, to begin a relationship with him through prayer.

How Can we Commune with the Holy Spirit?

Here are a few ways to begin today:

  • Repentance over your neglect of the Spirit. Confess your sinful self-reliance to the Father and the Spirit, asking the Son for forgiveness, and thanking God for the gift of the Spirit.
  • Address the Spirit throughout the day in ways that reflect his role in your life (understanding, discernment, decision making, power to overcome sin, desire for God, faith in the gospel, etc.)
  • Memorize and meditate on texts that show you who the Spirit is so that you can get to know him (Ex. 31:3; Num. 27:18; 1 Sam. 16:13; Joel 2:28–29; Acts; Romans 8, 15; 1 Corinthians 2; 2 Corinthians 3; Galatians 3–6).
  • Rejoice in the gift of the Spirit as a Person who indwells us with power to believe the gospel, glorify, and enjoy God!

What Happens When we Commune with the Holy Spirit?

  • Communion with the Spirit brings us a general happiness and contentment that cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Communing with the Holy Spirit produces a vertical relationship with the Lord that has horizontal results.
  • When we re-personalize the Spirit, he reintegrates us as disciples who have a whole way of living wholly under God’s redemptive reign in Christ.
  • The more we relate to the Spirit, the less we will be concerned about balancing vertical and horizontal discipleship.
  • Spirit-empowered belief in Jesus Christ as Lord leads to an integration of piety and mission. This communion with God takes us deeper into holiness and sends us further into mission.
  • As we relate to the Spirit, he empowers us to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.


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March 7, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life & Doctrine,Prayer,Prayer,The Christian Life,The Holy Spirit,The Holy Spirit,Theology | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Treasured Words on the Altar of the Urgent

What goes through your mind as it hits the pillow each night? Are you able to say with Job, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12), or is our closed Bible on the altar of the urgent?

If we’re honest with ourselves, often, in the craziness of life, instead of treasuring and applying more Scripture to a heart that needs it we shy away from time in the Word.

In the prelude of For the Love of God, D.A. Carson offers the following observation:

The challenge [of reading our Bibles] has become increasingly severe in recent years, owing to several factors. All of us must confront the regular sins of laziness or lack of discipline, sins of the flesh, and of the pride of life. But there are additional pressures. The sheer pace of life affords us many excuses for sacrificing the important on the altar of the urgent. The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive—we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the space and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of Scripture. More seriously yet, the rising biblical illiteracy in Western culture means that the Bible is increasingly a closed book, even to many Christians. As the culture drifts away from its former rootedness in a Judeo-Christian understanding of God, history, truth, right and wrong, purpose, judgment, forgiveness, and community, so the Bible seems stranger and stranger. For precisely the same reason, it becomes all the more urgent to read it and reread it, so that at least confessing Christians preserve the heritage and outlook of a mind shaped and informed by holy Scripture.

This, then, ought to be our response: we are to read systematically and repeatedly from the Word of God so that we might rejoice in Scripture. When we do, we remove God’s Word from the altar of the urgent and rightly call its contents, “treasured.”

If you’re struggling to get into the word, here are some ideas to give you the jump start you may need to dive back in:

  • It’s not to late to start up on a Bible reading plan. (You can even have them sent directly to your email or synced with your iCal).
  • Gather a group of friends from church and start reading the Bible out loud together.
  • Find a prayer partner and pray through Scripture together on a weekly basis.
  • Read through some of the Old Testament narratives. Sometimes the narrative genre is a bit easier to jump into.

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