Monthly Archives: October 2010

Feast of All Saints

What Is a Saint?

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

1 Cor 1:2 NKJV

According to the Church Calendar, November 1 is All Saints Day. All Saints Day commemorates all who have died in Christ and walked holy and faithfully with him. Special attention is given to their having been living examples of Christlikeness with special praise to God for their availability to the Spirit’s work, gifts, and power.

A saint is not someone who is perfect, but a sinner who looks to Christ for life-transforming grace in their chronic weaknesses and on-going struggles. Saints are not those who perform adequately in the spiritual life, but are those who most available to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and power. Saints are those who are needy and looking constantly to Christ for help.

To be holy does not mean being superior to others: the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Stop Pushin’ It

Stop Trying to Live the Christian Life by Your Own Strength

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Col. 1:29

We come to Christ by faith. We believe that the finished work of Christ on the Cross was for us. Christ’s death saves us from the penalty of our sin, his burial delivers us from the power of sin, and his raising to life again overcomes the presence of sin. We are free indeed.

Yet, we continue in the Christian life struggling and striving to live a life of holiness. Frustrated, we read the New Testament’s instructions for Christian living and find them impossible to obey. We want to quit, it’s all too much and too hard in a world gone mad.

Yet, God has something better for us. He wants us to trust his Son: that very Son who lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:20). The Lord never intended for us to live the Christian life in our own strength. God’s intention: allow Christ to live the Christian life in and through us (Col. 2:6). By faith, we trust the only one who has ever successfully lived the Christian life to empower us to say, “no,” to sin and “yes,” to righteousness (Titus 2:12).

How stupid it would be to buy a car with a powerful engine under the hood and then to spend the rest of your days pushing it! Thwarted and exhausted, you would wish to discard it as a useless thing! Yet to some of you who are Christians, this may be God’s word to your heart.

When God redeemed you through the precious blood of His dear Son, He placed, in the language of my illustration, a powerful engine under the hood–nothing less than the resurrection life of God the Son, made over to you in the person of God the Holy Spirit. Then stop pushing! Step in and switch on and expose every hill of circumstance, of opportunity, of temptation, of perplexity–no matter how threatening–to the divine energy that is available.

Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ/The Mystery of Godliness (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 22.

I Want It

I Want Satisfaction in You

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Phil. 4:11

Contentment is deep and abiding satisfaction in God himself. Contentment focuses on God’s presence, joy, and love as opposed to our wants, needs, and desires. Nothing the world offers compares with this deep sense of fulfillment gifted us in the love of Christ. Contentment is found when are our emotional needs are met in God’s love and our inadequacies are overwhelmed in God’s sufficiency. We experience true joy because Jesus has met our deepest need–peace with God. We are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, we are content with the necessities of life that the Lord has provided.

Contentment is developed over time: it is not an instant virtue. Contentment is obtained through trusting Christ and a willingness to live without the world’s passing fashions (Phil 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5). Contentment is found by trusting God’s will, submitting to his appointments (even if they are disappointments), and drawing strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13). We want contentment because we want him and contentment give us more of him and less of us.

I want Thy plan, O God, for my life. May I be happy and contented whether in the homeland or on the foreign field; whether married or alone, in happiness or sorrow, health or sickness, prosperity or adversity – I want Thy plan, O God, for my life. I want it; oh, I want it.

Oswald J. Smith

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Transformation of the Mind

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Rom. 12:1-2 NLT

My Paraphrase of Romans 12:1-2:

Based on the fact that God has done so much for us in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we should give ourselves wholly to God. By giving ourselves wholly to God, we worship. Our worship blesses God’s heart and our heart devotion replaces Temple ritual. We are to stop thinking like the world does assuming that God does not care about our needs or supernaturally acts in our personal lives. The world believes that only what can be seen is reality. The spirit of the world is embodied in the love of money, hunger for unbridled sex, and thirst for power. Don’t believe the way the world does, but change the way you think. As you change the way you think, you will mature and take on Christ’s character. As you grow up in Christ, you will know God’s heart and then you will be able to do exactly what God wants.


Romans 12:1-2 exhorts us not to entertain evil thoughts or allow our minds to become passive. The Apostle Paul reminds us that our reasoning processes are fallen and that they must be guarded. If our thoughts are not filtered by Holy Spirit discernment, Satan will use our minds to delude us and misled us into error. This error is not just about doctrine, but also concerns our everyday choices and life decisions. In other words, don’t believe everything you think, but allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to transform all your thought processes.

Never submit to the tyrannous idea that you cannot look after your mind; you can. If a man lets his garden alone it very soon ceases to be a garden; and if a saint lets his mind alone it will soon become a rubbish heap for Satan to make use of. Read the terrible things the New Testament says will grow in the mind of a saint if he does not look after it. We have to rouse ourselves up to think, to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (rv). Never pray about evil thoughts, it will fix them in the mind.

Oswald Chambers, The Moral Foundation of Life : A Series of Talks on the Ethical Principles of the Christian Life (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996, c1966).

“The Gospel Actually Makes Them Free”

Free Indeed

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36 NIV

We often sell the gospel short. We don’t believe that God can really change a life: freedom from sin, healing from brokenness, and transformation of character. God loves us as we are, yet God loves enough not to leave us as we are. He can free us and others from the sin that so easily binds us.

For sin’s human captives, God never intends anything less than full deliverance. The Christian message rightly understood means this: The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free. To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 27.

“A Less Busy Heart”

Praying When Busy

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . . .

Col. 1:9

Prayer is an ongoing dialogue-a real and intimate conversation-between the Abba Father of Jesus and us, his beloved children. Since prayer is a conversation between us and God, we can expect to be heard by the Holy Spirit and to be spoken to by God. Our conversation with God involves sharing, asking questions, clarifying, and responding. Prayer opens our hearts to God’s presence, our ears to his direction, our minds to his will, and our spirit to his great love. Prayer makes us great receivers of God’s most gracious grace.

It is always tempting to pray later. So much needs to be done: work to finish, children to school, email to answer, phone calls to return, etc. We commit to pray after we accomplish the needed tasks of day. Then at the end of the day, we find that we never prayed at all. We fail to realize that our tasks leave us empty and drained because our activities have not been saturated in prayer. By not making time for prayer, we were not available to receive God’s most gracious grace.

The quest for a contemplative life can actually be self-absorbed, focused on my quiet time and me. If we love people and have the power to help, then we are going to be busy. Learning to pray does not offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet. Because we are less hectic on the inside, we have a greater capacity to love . . . and thus to be busy, which in turn drives us even more into a life of prayer. By spending time with our Father in prayer, we integrate our lives with his, with what he is doing in us. Our lives become more coherent. They feel calmer, more ordered, even in the midst of confusion and pressure.

Paul C. Miller, Our Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009).

Security in Christ

God’s Covenant Promise

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Jude 24

When I first became a Christian, I was asked if I believed that a truly converted soul could lose their salvation. The question perplexed me, “Is my salvation dependent on my behavior or God’s faithfulness?” I determined that God’s covenant faithfulness was greater than my weaknesses, failings, and inadequacies.

Covenant is an eternal binding promise made by God to believers that he will love us unconditionally. This eternal covenant is not a contract. In a contract, the relationship is based on performance, if the terms of the contract are broken, the relationship is terminated under penalty. In a covenant relationship, love is the basis of the relationship. If the covenant is broken, the offended party pursues the offender winning back their heart through discipline, grace, and love (Jer. 31:31-34). Under the new covenant, God makes this very promise, “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40). Notice the key phrase, “That they will never turn away from me.” God promises that even when we stray, he will pursue us, conquer our hearts, and win us back again to a life of obedience.

The basis for our security in salvation is not ultimately our righteousness or obedience but God’s promise, God’s power, God’s purpose, and most of all God’s passionate love for us in Christ. God is committed to preserving us in faith, for if we were to stumble so as to fully and finally fall away, God stands more to lose than we do.

Sam Storms, “A Defense of the Perseverance of the Saints – Part II,” November 6, 2006,

How Badly Do You Want Him?

The Command: Be Filled With the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

Eph. 5:18

How badly do you want the Holy Spirit to work in and through you? How badly do you want his blessing, presence, and power? Do you really want the complete anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life and ministry? If so, yield all to his Lordship: no reserve, no holding back, no secret sins, no self-protection. We complain that God is not blessing us, could it be that our heart is the problem? To have the fullness of the Spirit is to be fully given to God.

Are you sure you want to be filled with a Spirit who, though He is like Jesus in His gentleness and love, will nevertheless demand to be Lord of your life? Are you willing to let your personality to be taken over by another, even if that other be the Spirit of God Himself?

If the Spirit takes charge of your life He will expect unquestioning obedience in everything. He will not tolerate in you the self-sins even though they are permitted and excused by most Christians. By the self-sins I mean self-love, self-pity, self- seeking, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, self-defense. You will find the Spirit to be in sharp opposition to the easy ways of the world and of the mixed multitude within the precincts of religion. He will be jealous over you for good.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 131.

A New Reality

His Seal Makes a New Community

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal (Greek: arrabōn) on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Cor. 1:21-22

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin is one of my favorite figures in church history (1909-1998). You may not have heard of him: bishop in the Church of South India, street preacher, theologian of the post-modern age, lover of the sacraments, Holy Spirit led and directed, and missions pioneer.

Gratefully, I had the opportunity of meeting Bishop Newbigin about year before his passing. I attended a special missions conference held in Newbigin’s honor at Beeson Divinity School. This conference would be his last formal speaking engagement before his passing. In our conversation, Newbigin was gracious, unusually anointed of the Holy Spirit, and a fine conversationalist. Officially, he spoke twice that day and continued to be a powerful preacher of the Word though blind and weak.

This quote is a little longer than I normally post, but these thoughts from his seminal work, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, are quintessentially Newbigin.

This presence of a new reality, the presence in the shared life of the Church of the Spirit who is the arrabōn of the kingdom, has become possible because of what Jesus has done, because of his incarnation, his ministry as the obedient child of his Father, his suffering and death, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and his session at the right hand of God. When the apostles are asked to explain the new reality, the new power to find joy in tribulation, healing in sickness, freedom in bondage, life in death, this is the explanation they give.

It follows that the visible embodiment of this new reality is not a movement that will take control of history and shape the future according to its own vision, not a new imperialism, not a victorious crusade. Its visible embodiment will be a community that lives by this story, a community whose existence is visibly defined in the regular rehearsing and reenactment of this story which has given it birth, the story of the self-emptying of God in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Its visible centre as a continuing social entity is that weekly repeated event in which believers share bread and wine as Jesus commanded, as his pledge to them and their pledge to him that they are one with him in his passion and one with him in his victory.

Instead of the celebration of the sabbath as the end of God’s old creation, they celebrate the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, as the beginning of the new creation. In this they find enacted and affirmed the meaning and goal of their lives as part of the life of the cosmos, their stories part of the universal story. This story does indeed lead to a glorious end and is therefore filled with meaning, but the end is not some far distant date in terrestrial history. The end is the day when Jesus shall come again, when his hidden rule will become manifest and all things will be seen as they truly are. That is why we repeat at each celebration of the Lord’s Supper the words which encapsulate the whole mystery of the faith: “Christ has died, Christ has risen: Christ shall come again.”

Lesslie J. Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 120 [paragraphing mine].

HT: Euangelion

What Does the Bible Mean by “Worldliness”?

Not Merely External

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Gal. 6:14 NLT

Worldliness is being in love with the things of this life as opposed to the trust and affection for our Savior. The spirit of the world is embodied in the love of money, hunger for unbridled sex, and thirst for power. A worldly attitude is an arrogance that takes pride in our accomplishments, status, and rank over and above the majesty and glory of God.

Worldliness is any passion, craving, or hunger for the pleasures of sin while simultaneously desiring to receive the approval of others for our poor choices. Worldliness uses and misuses people for personal satisfaction, political influence, and fleshly pleasure. Worldliness is an organized scheme of humankind that uses our flesh (i.e., sin nature) to draw us away from an intimate relationship with God. Worldliness is a heart attitude intrinsic to being born in Adam and living in a fallen world. The solution to breaking the world’s all-pervasive grip on our lives is the Cross of Christ ( 1 John 2:15-17, Gal. 6:14).

The Christian is called to separation from the world, but we must be sure we know what we mean (or more important, what God means) by the world. We are likely to make it mean something external only and thus miss its real meaning. The theater, cards, liquor, gambling—these are not the world; they are merely an external manifestation of the world. Our warfare is not against merely an external manifestation of the world. Our warfare is not against mere worldly ways, but against the spirit of the world.

For man, whether he is saved or lost, is essentially spirit. The world, in the New Testament meaning of the word, is simply unregenerate human nature wherever it is found, whether in a tavern or in a church. Whatever springs out of, is built upon or receives support from fallen human nature is the world, whether it is morally base or morally respectable.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Windspread, 1950), 124.