Monthly Archives: July 2011

Bible-Based Convictions

Beliefs vs. Convictions 

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33

Are our Christian beliefs just interesting advice, or good counsel, or pleasant thoughts? Or, are our Christian beliefs true convictions that we will not violate, even if, our commitment to those truths cost us precious time, important relationships, and real money?

To pursue holiness, one of the disciplines we must become skilled in is the development of Bible-based convictions. A conviction is a determinative belief: something you believe so strongly that it affects the way you live. Someone has observed that a belief is what you hold, but a conviction is what holds you.

Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), 154.

The Two New Testament Priesthoods

Ministerial and Believers

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV

From living lives of hostility and enmity towards God, Christians have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into ministers who bring the healing and grace of Christ to the least, lost, and the lonely of our world.

The ministerial priesthood is called to serve, nourish, sustain, and guide the priesthood of all believers. The believer’s priesthood is a call to be Christ in the secular workplaces of the world. Men are not ordained into the ministerial priesthood in order to remove the priesthood away from the people of God, but to encourage, empower, and equip the priestly people of God for their work in the world.

This doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is not the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. In other words, every believer has a ministry, but that ministry is to be conducted in community while being accountable to church leadership and submitted to the Tradition of the historic church. This personal ministry of me and my Bible with God telling me, and me alone, the only correct interpretation of the meaning of Scripture is not the priesthood of all believers. Two priesthoods, ministerial and believers, serve the one Christ for the purpose of reaching the world for Christ.

The New Testament concept of the pastor is not of a person who jealously guards all ministry in his own hands, and successfully squashes all lay initiatives, but of one who helps and encourages all God’s people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. His teaching and training are directed to this end, to enable the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively but humbly according to their gifts in a world of alienation and pain. Thus, instead of monopolizing all ministry himself, he actually multiplies ministries.

John Stott, The Message of Ephesians: The Bible Speaks Today series (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 167.

HT: John Stott passed away yesterday at the age of ninety. A memorial page has been provided by his ministry, Langham Partnership. Thank you, Lord, for John Stott whose love of the Word and careful study of it blessed the Church for many years.

The Parent’s Nature

Sharing the Father’s Nature

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 Jn. 2:5-6

A heart that has been changed by the Holy Spirit is a heart that reflects the Father’s character. A born-again experience transforms our motives, our desires, and our goals. From heart of selfishness to love, the Holy Spirit works the life of Christ in us. We cannot claim to be a Christian without our lives reflecting in some manner the character, attitude, and purposes of Christ.

If you know as a fact that God is righteous, John says, then you will perceive as a logical consequence, “that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (1 Jn. 2:29). The child exhibits the parent’s character because he shares the parent’s nature. A person’s righteousness is thus the evidence of his new birth, not the cause or condition of it.

John Stott, The Letters of John: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, rev. edn. (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 122.


A Trinity of One

The Three in One 

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, othe heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

Matt. 3: 16-17

God is three persons, each person is fully God, and there is one God. Three distinct individuals/persons, each with all of the full attributes of the Godhead, yet one in essence/substance. Each person is equal in being, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in role.

The Father is the Heavenly Vinedresser, the Son is the Vine, and the Holy Spirit is Life itself (John 15: 1-4, 7:37-38). The Father outwardly prunes, the Son indwells us, and the Holy Spirit works through us.  The Father sovereignly directs our circumstances, the Son’s work redeems the circumstance, and the Holy Spirit transforms us in the midst of our circumstances.

In summary, the Father directs, the Son performs, and the Holy Spirit applies. The Holy Spirit does in us what the Son did for us on the Cross by the will of the Father. Peter Leithart recently wrote, “God is one as Trinity.” In other words, the Lord is a Trinity of one.

No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Theological Orations, XL, 41, located in Phillip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series, Vol. VII. (Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997), S. 375.


Threefold Blessing

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Recently, I was reviewing a draft theological document. As I read the treatise, I grew more and more disappointed with the purpose and aim of the paper. The more I read, the more I felt that the writers all wrote about the spokes of the wheel without ever explicating the hub. The piece was everything about Christianity without ever focusing on the one thing needful, Jesus Christ. It talked about commands, morals, and theologies without explaining in fullness the beauty, purpose, and power of the person and work of Christ.

The essay failed to understand that all the blessings of the Christian life begin and end in Christ (Eph. 1: 3-10). We look away from ourselves, look up to Christ, and then out to his glory and grace. The threefold blessing: freedom from self-consciousness, freedom to know Christ, and freedom to experience Christ (2 Cor. 1:18-22).

Only in proportion as we come into touch with the Lord Jesus, only as we realise His presence, His person, shall we receive His blessing. Apart from him, nothing; but in Him, and with Him, all things necessary for the present and future are ours.

How will the blessing come? Not by looking in, but by looking up and by looking out. You must see His face, and you must hear His voice, and you must do His bidding. That is the threefold secret of blessing. You must see the King first; and in His hand the sceptre, and the crown of that sceptre is the cross. You will realise that the King must be seen first on the cross, the King of the Jews, before He becomes King of your lives, and the King of heaven. Look up, then, and see Him as your personal Saviour, the representative for the new Adam, the new race, as it were, introducing a new creation into the world.

J. Taylor Smith, “The Blessed Life,” in Daily Thoughts From Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 53.

Self Deception of the Worst Kind

Why Does Sin Look So Good?

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Heb.11:24-26 (ESV)

Sin promises pleasure without consequences, love without commitment, fulfillment without sacrifice. Sin pledges that things, circumstances, or people will satisfy without God’s direction or blessing. Our desire for affection and fulfillment is perverted when we attempt to meet our needs without trusting in God’s faithful provision. Sin swears happiness without obedience to Christ and his commands.

Sin does not provide forgiveness, fulfillment, or the freedom we seek: it fails to bless by creating fleshly bondages, disappointed expectations, and emotional destitution. Money, sex, and power are the ultimate sinful idols of our society—they promise happiness, love, and influence. However, sin make promises it will never keep. Sin is a hollow promise that fails to deliver. By sin’s own design, it cannot bring true fulfillment: only God’s blessing of intimacy in Christ can provide heart-satisfying joy. Sin is deception of the worst kind.

Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.

Impatient yelling wears the costume of a zeal for truth. Lust can masquerade as a love for beauty. Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart. The pride of always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom. Evil simply doesn’t present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.

You’ll never understand sin’s sleight of hand until you acknowledge that the DNA of sin is deception. Now, what this means personally is that as sinners we are all very committed and gifted self-swindlers . . . . We’re all too skilled at looking at our own wrong and seeing good.

Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2008), 32.

HT: Between Two Worlds

A Joyous Delight

Supernatural Fulfillment 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Delight is a genuine joy that wells up within our inner being knowing that we can bless God’s heart by obeying his commands. A believer’s delight is found in their motivation: pleasing, knowing, and loving God brings them great joy. Delight is found in the face of God as we enjoy his constant, conscious presence. In the mist of the stresses, trials, and tribulations of everyday life, Christ’s presence fills our hearts with supernatural satisfaction.

The stronghold of the Christian faith is the joy of God, not my joy in God …. God reigns and rules and rejoices, and His joy is our strength.

Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race: A Word from Oswald Chambers for Every Day of the Yearelectronic ed. (London : Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., 1968).

Oh the joy of that life with God and in God and for God! It takes a sharp discipline for many of us to learn that “my goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself my God.

Oswald Chambers, God’s Workmanship, electronic ed. (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1953).



Preach Christ

A Loaf of Bread Without Flour 

To you is the word of this salvation sent.

Acts 13:26 KJV

I have been a Bible-believing Christian since 1976 and I have heard many, many sermons. Some of those sermons were memorable, some were challenging, some were convicting, and some were forgettable. The common denominator between the life-changing sermons and the God exalting ones were Jesus Christ. The preachers proclaimed Jesus Christ: his person, his work, his grace, his cross, and his love. A sermon without Christ is moralism: a sermon proclaiming Christ is the gospel.

The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and Him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.

Charles H. Spurgeon,“To You,” No. 2899, A Sermon Published on Thursday, September 1st, 1904, Preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Lord’s-Day Evening, July 9th, 1876.

Charles H.Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 50electronic ed. (Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1998).

HT: Mike Neglia 

The How of the Christian Life

Sanctification by Faith

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rom. 15:13

Being made right with God is by faith. Growing in grace and holiness is by faith. The Christian life is a life of faith. No formula. No checklists. No programs and procedures. The Christian life is faith in the person: Jesus (John 6:29). We stand on his promises, his victory, and his resurrection power. The how in the Christian life a is moment-by-moment trust in Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12: 2).

The unity of what salvation is: a single piece, and yet a flowing stream. I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment. There is the same base (Christ’s work) and the same instrument (faith). The only difference is that one is once for all and the other is moment by moment.

The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place. If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength, we will have sorrow; but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in place of sorrow He will be our Song. That is the difference. The how of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit, by faith moment by moment (Rom. 15:13).

This is our calling through the agency of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to serve God just any way, but to know joy and peace in believing.

Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian Worldview, Vol. Three: True Spirituality (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1996), 273. [paragraphing mine].


A Faith That Is Not Alone

Faith Overflowing

[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:14

Good works is everything that a believer expresses, achieves, undertakes, performs, or accomplishes because Christ lives in them. Good works cannot achieve right standing before God. However, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis. Good works flow from Christ’s grace enabling us to pour out costly love for and on behalf of others.

Being right with God is by faith alone, but not by a faith that stands alone. No place exists in the Christian life for claiming a “born from above” experience while displaying no evidence of a changed life. A born-again life is a life that allows Christ to live in and through us dispensing the fruit of the Spirit openly and widely (1 John 4:9).

Good works are described as the fruit of faith. Good works are not produced by the Christian, but good works are borne in the life of the Christian by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We are fruit-bearers not fruit-producers: enabling grace works out the life of Christ in us.

Good works, or deeds, display to the world the changed heart that Christ has created in us (Matt. 7:15-20). Faith in the finished work of Christ expresses itself in deeds done for God and others. Good works are the fruit of faith, they follow after justification, they are evidence of a changed heart, and therefore, flow from a heart transformed by the Cross.

In the end, Martin Luther’s old formula still sums things up nicely: “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by a faith that remains alone.” Nothing we can do merit God’s grace and favor, we can only believe that he has given it to us in Jesus Christ and receive it by faith. But if we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbors. If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that now we need to add hard work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.

Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God : Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (New York: Dutton, 2008), 123.