God is simple and my conviction is that people need to know Him. It is not enough to assume that people know about God nor will it do to throw out a few words like communicable and incommunicable every now and again. As believers we must delight in God. Actually, “must” doesn’t seem like an appropriate word. I should say that we have the privilege of delighting in God. We get to delight in Him! Personally, I love to preach on the doctrine of God. My heart literally thrills in the moment to proclaim God in all of His splendor.
Many years ago I was listening to Christian radio. It was in the early 90s and there was a lot of talk about self-esteem. In fact, if you were raised in the 80s and 90s you probably remember the government, media, books and lingo associated with the self-esteem craze. Maybe you were small enough to have been read, The Lovables in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem! Maybe your mom read to you over and over again the inside cover, “I am lovable! I am lovable! I am Lovable! By using these magical words, the gates of the Kingdom of Self-Esteem swing open for readers of all ages.”
Yes, well, I remember listening to a radio program during those self absorbed years. A preacher was preaching, though I don’t remember who it was, and he said something I have never forgotten. He said if you want to improve self-esteem in a person, I think he used self-worth then you must teach them about the person and nature of God. He said that the only way a person will have any sort of self-worth to speak of is if they understand who God is. I agreed then and I agree now.
Every once in a while in my preaching I take my congregation to theology proper. I want them to look at God. I have even preached on the simplicity of God from the pulpit. Why? Because God is simple and my conviction is that people need to know Him. It is not enough to assume that people know about God nor will it do to throw out a few words like communicable and incommunicable every now and again. As believers we must delight in God. Actually, “must” doesn’t seem like an appropriate word. I should say that we have the privilege of delighting in God.
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By Barry York — 6 months ago
Hospitality furnishes family. In this broken world of ours, the poor, the stranger, and the widow often live in isolation. When elders provide hospitality to folks such as these, they learn that they are truly regarded as brothers and sisters in God’s house.
All Christians are to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But elders are to be so engaged in this practice that it characterizes them (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). In so many words, Paul told Timothy and Titus that elders not only need to go and seek God’s sheep; they also need to bring them into the fold of the shepherd’s home.
At least three benefits come to the congregation when its pastors and elders open their homes to the flock. First, hospitality supplies experiential love. An elder’s having members of the congregation in his home demonstrates a special care for them. You learn about one another in ways that simply are not possible at Sunday morning worship. Sharing a meal and laughter around a table brings a needed warmth to the gospel that is preached in the church. Shepherds are testifying to their congregants that the true Shepherd loves them so much that He is preparing an eternal home for them (Ps. 23:1, 5).
Second, hospitality provides Christian modeling. In my years of pastoral experience, I am grateful that I have served alongside elders who are hospitable. Many of the people brought into our congregation by the gospel did not come from Christian homes.
By Don and Joy Veinot — 7 months ago
Though individuals can and often do overcome broken homes and/or poor parenting, it certainly appears to us that our nation and culture may not be able to rise above the overall damage that has been done. The Bible speaks of woe for the nations that forget God. In order to “forget God,” these nations had to know Him at some point in time – and then very foolishly cast Him aside. Yet, as Christians, whatever may happen, we take great comfort in knowing that the Lord will not forsake us, his children. No matter what the future may hold, we know who holds our future.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Over twenty years ago, Joy and I came across a news story about an increase in “rogue elephants.” Okay, what is a “rogue elephant?” It turns out that when male elephants are raised without a father present, they are likely to act out with violence and extreme mayhem, causing much trouble in Elephant “society,” as well as other smaller animals that may cross paths with them. Who knew? We also watched a fascinating documentary on the horrendous problem of young male elephants that have been orphaned. “Orphan elephants go on the rampage” by Eddie Koch tells the reader the problem’s source in the first paragraph.
Like children, young elephants need discipline if they are to grow up as responsible members of society. Wildlife biologists say that orphan bull elephants in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Game Reserve have turned delinquent because they have never been taken in hand by their elders.
This came to mind as we discussed the recent opinion piece, “America’s crisis is a lack of fathers,” by Rep. Burgess Owens, Rep. Byron Donalds, and Jack Brewer, which focuses on the issue of the importance of human fathers. They write:
There is little doubt that America is experiencing an unprecedented fatherless crisis. Approximately 80% of single-parent homes are led by single mothers; therefore leading to nearly 25% of our youth growing up without a father in the home.
They go on to note a seeming correlation:
85% of children and teens with behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, and over 70% of all adolescent patients in drug and alcohol treatment centers originate from homes without fathers.
data shows that children without a father in the home are five times more likely to live in poverty than a child in a two-parent household. Furthermore, research indicates that children without fathers at home are nine times more likely to drop out of school and represent 90% of all homeless and runaway children. We can no longer afford to ignore the debilitating impact that fatherless homes have on our youth and our country.
This situation has been a long while in the making. Until the last six decades, America lived under an essentially Judeo/Christian sense of morality and ethics. It isn’t that most Americans were Christian in the biblical sense. They weren’t. However, their general beliefs about right and wrong were informed and shaped by the Ten Commandments and New Testament ideas, encapsulated in “The Golden Rule,” for example. Americans had a strong sense of “fairness,” and most believed it was right to protect the weak, live honorable lives, and remain faithful to one’s spouse and children. This certainly does not mean that all individuals were fair, honest, or faithful to their marriage vows, etc., but people believed these things were right, even if they themselves violated them in practice. Peer pressure also tended to keep people “in line” to a certain extent. Television shows and movies also reflected a Judeo/Christian ethic and promoted solid “family values.” It was firmly held that the welfare of “the children” should be put before any selfish pursuits of either spouse. It was a different world.
The family was considered the building block of society. In that milieu, the importance and roles of the fathers and mothers were well understood. They both contributed to training their children. Through observation and imitation, the children learned about relationships, work ethic, the importance of education, and how to live in a complicated world. Not all families were healthy, and the children were often trained in those environments to mimic bad behavior. But there were usually other good role models that children could emulate. Often these alternative role models would be extended family members and neighborhood men and women. One’s friend’s parents could also strongly influence the path a child would ultimately take, as could adults at church and school. It is fair to say that most children treated all adults with a respect we do not see anymore. As the 1960s rang in, the nation gradually moved away from God, and Judeo/Christian values and families became increasingly fractured. This has deeply affected and changed communities of every stripe, but it hit first and especially hard in minority families.
A study of 1880 family structures in Philadelphia showed that three-quarters of black families were nuclear families, composed of two parents and children. Data from U.S. Census reports reveal that between 1880 and 1960, married households consisting of two-parent homes were the most widespread form of African-American family structures. Although the most popular, married households decreased over this time period. Single-parent homes, on the other hand, remained relatively stable until 1960; when they rose dramatically. (African-American family structure)
While 25% of children across all ethnicities are currently being raised without a father in the home, this statistic nearly triples among African-Americans:
In the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households had two parents.
By Sinclair B. Ferguson — 1 year ago
Written by Sinclair B. Ferguson |
Thursday, December 9, 2021
Our fundamental need is not for “mortification” or even for “sanctification.” It is for the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Mortification and sanctification are but the pathway to “Christification”! And as Abraham Kuyper shrewdly put it, there are no other resources in heaven or on earth for the Holy Spirit to employ to make us Christlike outside of Christ himself. Only in him are there resources appropriate and adequate to transform sinful humans into Christlike ones.
He was 31 years old. Born in modern Algeria, from all accounts he had an ambitious streak that could border on ruthlessness. But it was matched by a probing intellect and a thirst for reality that had the potential to unbalance him or even lead to perpetual disappointment. The combination had taken him to great cities and led him to inquire into world religions and philosophies. But now, barely into his thirties, he was on the verge of despair so extreme that one day, despite his pleasant surroundings, he could scarcely sit still or stem the flow of tears. And then he heard two Latin words — Tolle lege — that changed everything.
At first, he thought the words must be part of a child’s game. But he knew no game that included the mantra “Take it and read it.” But by what John Calvin would later call “a secret instinct of the Spirit,” he reached out for the copy of the Scriptures that lay beside him. Opening it randomly — as people in antiquity did, hoping for divine direction — he read the words that brought him to faith in Christ.
You likely have guessed his identity. Perhaps you recognized him from the first sentence: Aurelius Augustinus — Augustine. But do you know where the Scriptures “randomly” fell open, and the words that changed everything? Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Augustine would ponder and seek to apply these words for the rest of his life. For all the profundity of his grasp of God’s grace, he could doubtless say of them what he wrote of the mystery of God’s sovereignty: “I see the depths, I cannot reach the bottom” (Works of Saint Augustine, 3.2.108).
Underlining the significance of Paul’s words from the vivid context of Augustine’s conversion hopefully serves to secure them in our minds and hearts — “like nails firmly fixed . . . given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). In fact, the words are so pointed that repeating them a couple of times may fix them permanently in your memory banks. And they need to be well secured there because they enshrine key biblical principles for living to the glory of God.
Paul’s words contain two imperatives. What is particularly striking about them is that they not only tell us what to do, but the first imperative contains within itself the indicative that makes possible the effecting of the second imperative. Their importance can be measured by the fact that the effect of Romans 13:14 on the history of the church through Augustine is rivaled only by the effect of Romans 1:16–17 on the church through Martin Luther.
The biblical gospel has a grammar all its own. Just as failing to properly use the grammar of a language mars our ability to speak it, so an inadequate grasp of the grammar of the gospel mars what the older translations fittingly called the “conversation” of our lives. It results in lives that reflect Christ in a stilted manner.
So how are the substructures of gospel grammar illustrated in Romans 13:14?
First, the emphasis on the positive (“put on”) is matched and balanced by an emphasis on the negative (“make no provision”). This is characteristic of Paul. Think of Galatians 5:24: “Those who belong to Christ [positive] have crucified the flesh [negative].” Or consider Ephesians 4:21–24: you were taught
as the truth is in Jesus . . . to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires [negative], and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [positive].
Perhaps the clearest and fullest example is in Colossians 3:1–12. Those who have died and been raised with Christ, those whose lives are hidden with him and who will appear with him in glory, are to “put to death whatever is earthly [negative]” and to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [positive].”
The grammar lesson? There is no growth in holiness unless both the negative and the positive elements are present.
More Than Mortification
None of us is by nature “normal” or “balanced.” We sinners are inherently lopsided. Each of us has a natural bias either to the negative or the positive. If we have not discovered that, we probably have not yet come to know ourselves adequately. Thus, some of us tend to think of sanctification largely, if not entirely, as a battle against sin. John Owen’s eighty pages on The Mortification of Sin is the book for us!