Monday, May 26, 2014

The Glorious Goal of the Gospel



2 Timothy 4:1-22                 May 25, 2015                 Link for audio/video/manuscript

The goal of Paul’s life was to pursue the glory of God by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ - so that he and those who surrendered their lives to Jesus would receive the glorious crown of righteousness from the righteous Judge when they stepped from list life into the life everlasting. May we all seek to run the race of our lives - all the way - with the fire of God, the flame of His glory, still lit for Him at the end. It is then that life God created us for will truly begin!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Power of God's Word in Difficult Days



2 Timothy 3:1-17                 May 18, 2015                 Link for audio/video/manuscript

The Bible, the Word of God, is the power of God that we have been given by our most sovereign God of grace in these “last days.” The Holy Scriptures are the power of God through the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ that overcomes religion, exposes imitation, and keeps us steadfast and faithful us in difficult times of trial and conflict and persecution. It is within the Word of God we find life, true life, the abundant life that God created us for!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible - Jon Bloom


You can memorize big chunks, even books, of the Bible. Unless you’re part of the very small percentage of us who suffer from a traumatic brain injury or stroke or disability, you really can. And you should. But why should you?

1. Because you have a bad memory.

Don’t say you can’t memorize because you have a bad memory. That’s why you need to memorize. I have a bad memory too. I think it’s worse than average — seriously. I forget names of people I know and see regularly! I have to force my faulty, inefficient brain to drive things that matter most into my long-term memory. This only happens by the process of repeating (memorizing) every day over a period of time. You’d be surprised what you can commit to memory if you have a simple system and put forth some effort. I’ve memorized five New Testament books and am working on my sixth. And that’s because I have a bad memory.

2. Because you need to feed your mind.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. But how can we do this if we can’t remember such things? General positive Bible concepts are not very helpful. We need specific “precious and very great promises” in our memory to draw on when we are alone and battling discouragement or anger or lust or fear (2 Peter 1:4).

3. Because the Bible is too accessible to you.

It’s strange how having an abundance of something can result in our neglecting it. If the Bible’s always there on our tables, tablets, phones, computers, and on the web we can dip in, read sections, search for key words when needed, but feel no urgency to really internalize it. Memorizing is one way to fight that delusion.

4. Because you have the Internet.

Unfortunately the Internet is teaching us how not to read. We are becoming information scanners, quickly browsing but not digesting very much. We are losing patience for deeper, more reflective reading. Memorizing longer passages of Scripture forces us to reflect deeply on meaning and application.

5. Because you don’t know the Bible as well as you think you do.

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend you’ve known for a while that made you realize that there were dimensions to them you never knew and suddenly you understood them better and felt closer to them? That’s what memorizing longer passages and even books of the Bible will do for you. You will find nice Bible friends become earnest confidants and counselors.

6. Because God’s word will become more precious to you.

The things we invest most in become most precious to us. If you spend minimal time in the Bible don’t expect it to be precious to you. But if you spend hundreds of cumulative hours storing large portions of God’s word in your heart so that the word of Christ dwells in you richly, it will become a precious part of your essential life (Psalm 119:11Colossians 3:16Deuteronomy 32:47).

7. Because you will see more of God’s glory.

We can only know a few things about a person by what they make. We can really know them well by what they say. Mountains and microbes, galaxies and goats, they each say some wonderful things about God. But to really know God, to really see and be in awe of the things that are most glorious about him, we must listen carefully to what he says about himself, because God reveals himself primarily by his word (1 Samuel 3:21). Memorizing his word helps us listen carefully and perceive more glory.

8. Because it will fine-tune your hooey gauge.

The world lies to you all the time. The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), and the world lies in his power (1 John 5:19). And your sin nature lies to you. And false brothers lie to you. The better you know God’s word the more skillful you become in handling it (2 Timothy 2:15). The clearer you have his word in your mind the more accurately you will discern demonic hooey. Having a lot of God’s word in your head will fine-tune your hooey gauge.

9. Because you’re going to suffer.

Suffering is coming your way (or is here) and it’s confusing and disorienting. Having memorized big chunks of Scripture is so helpful at such times. Not only will you have specific texts come to mind, but even when, due to pain or fear, you struggle recalling them, you will know right where to go. Memorizing books imprints those books in your mind. You will know which chapters and sections will speak to your suffering.

10. Because your brothers and sisters are going to suffer.

The same is true for bringing gospel comfort and counsel to your brother or sister who is suffering. Memorizing large portions not only serves you, but also is a way of loving others by being able to provide them with faith-sustaining truth when it’s most needed.

How to Memorize Long Portions of Scripture

Review, Read, Recite, Repeat
You do it one or two verses at a time. John Piper and I, along with several others, use a very simple technique that Andrew Davis developed. Let’s use John 1:1–3 as an example.
[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[2] He was in the beginning with God.
[3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Day 1:
  • Read John 1:1 ten times (read it each time to imprint the words in your mind).
  • Then close your Bible and recite it tens times (I suggest reciting it aloud).
Day 2:
  • Refresh John 1:1 and then recite it ten times by memory.
  • Read John 1:2 ten times.
  • Close your Bible and recite it ten times.
Day 3:
  • Recite John 1:1 one time by memory
  • Recite John 1:2 ten times by memory
  • Read John 1:3 ten times
  • Close your Bible and recite it ten times.
And on and on. Review, read, recite, repeat. If you repeat a verse by memory once a day for 100 days it will be in your permanent long-term memory.
If you want to know how to sustain a habit of reviewing, Andrew Davis has a 30-page book on how to do this (only $0.99 on Kindle!).

You Can Do this!

You can do this! You really can! And you should. Memorizing big chunks of Scripture is not as hard as you think and will be one of the best investments of your life for the ten reasons listed above and more. You will not regret it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Power of Faith in the Gospel



2 Timothy 1:1-18                   May 4, 2014           Link for audio/video/manuscript

The Christian faith in not a catatonic religion of static belief, but a dynamic, passionate, heart transforming, continuous pursuit of joy in God through Jesus. The gift of faith given by the spirit of God is the spirit of power, the spirit of love, and the spirit of self-control, which empowers us to live out the gospel - “the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus” – in the midst of trails and struggles, without fear, so that the world may come to know the risen Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wash in the Waters Again - David Mathis

Visible words. That was the Reformers’ term for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
In complement to the spoken words of gospel preaching, these twin rhythms of the gathered church are dramatizations of the grace of God. These “visible words” rehearse for us the center of our faith through images and actions in the God-given pictures of washing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Alongside preaching, they reveal to us again and again the very heart of the gospel we profess and aim to echo. They are enacted “signs,” pointing to realities beyond themselves.
But these ordinances are not just signs, but “seals.” They confirm to us not just that God has done something salvific for mankind, but that it applies to me in particular. The gospel is not only true in general, but specifically for me. And when a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing church applies the seal to me, it can be a great grounds of assurance that I myself am included in the rescued people of Christ.
In this way, baptism and the Lord’s Supper serve to mark us out as the church, distinct from the world, and are part of what it means for the new covenant to be a covenant — with acts of both initiation and ongoing fellowship, both inauguration and renewal.

The Sacraments As Means of Grace

And, as theologian John Frame notes, the ordinances are not just signs and seals, but serve to bring God’s presence near. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16 that the bread and the cup are “a participation” in the body and blood of Jesus. They renew and strengthen our sense of being united by faith to the risen Christ. They are not automatic, but operate through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. Those who participate in faith, grow in grace — as we do under the preaching of God’s word — while those who engage without faith, ask for judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27–30). (Which is cause for keeping those without a credible profession of faith from participating in the sacraments.)
These practices are not, as some have taught since the Reformation, just signs, ormere symbols. Nor do they work apart from faith, as some wings of the church have maintained. Rather, the two ordinances are means of God’s grace, Christ-instituted channels of God’s power, delivered by God’s Spirit, dependent on Christian faith in the participants, given in the corporate context of the gathered church.
For many, the Lord’s Supper is more manifestly an ongoing means of grace, but what about baptism?

Grace in the Water

Baptism marks new-covenant initiation. It is applied just once, to a believer deemed by a local congregation to have a credible profession of faith, as entrance into the fellowship of the visible church. The gospel drama experienced, and on display, in baptism corresponds to the graces of conversion in the Christian life in first embracing the gospel — initial cleansing from sin, repentance, new life, and union with Christ (Romans 6:3–5).
Baptism is not only obedience to Christ’s command, and a living testimony of the candidate’s faith in Jesus to all witnesses, but it also serves as a means of joy to the one being baptized. Not only is it a valuable confirmation from the visible church that we are born again, but it’s a unique, one-time experience of the grace of the gospel dramatized for the one in the waters, as we’re symbolically buried with Jesus in death and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Improve Your Baptism

But baptism isn’t only a means of grace to the one-time candidate, but also to all believers looking on with faith. This is important to the Christian, but something we often miss. The Westminster Larger Catechism calls it “improving our baptism.” This dense statement rewards a slow reading:
The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.
That’s one long, complicated sentence, but the short of it is this: Baptism is not only a blessing to us on that one memorable occasion when we were the new believer in the waters. It also is a rehearsing of the gospel for the observer and a means of grace throughout our Christian lives as we watch, with faith, the baptisms of others and renew in our minds the riches of the reality of our identity in Christ pictured in our baptism (Romans 6:3–4Galatians 3:27;Colossians 2:12). Wayne Grudem writes,
Where there is genuine faith on the part of the person being baptized, and where the faith of the church that watches the baptism is stirred up and encouraged by this ceremony, then the Holy Spirit certainly does work through baptism, and it becomes a “means of grace” through which the Holy Spirit brings blessing to the person being baptized and to the church as well. (Systematic Theology, 954)

Watch in Faith, Wash Your Soul

So, next time your church stirs the waters, don’t twiddle your thumbs waiting out this inconvenience for the singing and preaching that follow. You need not be re-baptized to experience again the grace of this drama.
Rather, with the eyes of faith, watch the gospel on display in the waters. See the preaching of Christ’s sacrifice pictured for you, and hear the music of your own new life in the burying of the believer and their resurrection in Jesus. Keep your eye on the waters, and the witness. Watch in faith, and wash your soul again in the good news of being joined to Jesus.