Few people work faithfully for the same organization for almost 60 years. Yet it was 1955 when Jerry Bridges, a Korean War veteran, joined the team at The Navigators where he continues to this day. An author of several books, Mr. Bridges is a leading voice in explaining the significance of the gospel in everyday life, including The Discipline of Grace,The Gospel for Real Life, and The Pursuit of Holiness, to name a few.
John Piper recently sat down with Mr. Bridges in Minneapolis to talk about life and ministry. In this 25-minute video, they discuss key issues regarding God’s providence, spiritual disciplines, and the Christian life.
In his new book, Kevin DeYoung writes, “It may sound boring or out-of-date, but it just happens to be true: the way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you’ll get good preaching, good fellowship, and receive the sacraments” (134). It sounds ordinary, and it is, as Kevin explains in the following clip (4 minutes):
Earlier this year David Mathis sat down with Don Carson to discuss sanctification. In this three-minute clip, Carson talks about some simultaneous steps to take for overcoming temptation, including a deepening delight in Jesus.
From Charles Spurgeon’s 1867 sermon “A Song at the Well-head”:
You are retired for your private devotions; you have opened the Bible, and you begin to read.
Now, do not be satisfied with merely reading through a chapter. Some people thoughtlessly read through two or three chapters—stupid people for doing such a thing!
It is always better to read a little and digest it, than it is to read much and then think you have done a good thing by merely reading the letter of the word.
For you might as well read the alphabet backwards and forwards, as read a chapter of Scripture, unless you meditate upon it, and seek to comprehend its meaning.
Merely to read words is nothing: the letter kills.
The business of the believer with his Bible open is to pray, “Lord, give me the meaning and spirit of your word, while it lies open before me; apply your word with power to my soul, threatening or promise, doctrine or precept, whatever it may be; lead me into the soul and marrow of your word.”
Also, it is not the form of prayer, but the spirit of prayer that shall truly benefit your souls.
That prayer has not benefited you, which is not the prayer of the soul.
You have need to say, “Lord, give me the spirit of prayer; now help me to feel my need deeply, to perceive your promises clearly, and to exercise faith upon them.”
In your private devotions, strive after vital godliness, real soul-work, the life-giving operation of the Spirit of God in your hearts.
I love this book by Joe Thorn. He says of the book:
I wrote Note to Self (2011, Crossway/ReLit) to help others develop a theological understanding and real-life practice of the discipline of preaching to ourselves. It’s a short read that includes an excellent foreword by Sam Storms on the functional authority of God’s word. Believe me, his contribution alone is worth the price of the book. In the Introduction I spell out what it means to preach to ourselves and note the difference between law and gospel, emphasizing the need to preach both. What follows are 48 chapters which are designed to be daily readings that encourage and model the discipline of preaching to yourself.
Below is Justin Taylor’s helpful interview with Joe.
Joe’s definition of the Gospel:
“At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe. This is therefore very ‘good news.’
Jesus’ life is good news, for his obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us. While we as sinners fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. Jesus’ death is good news because his death was a payment for our sin, and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because his victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.
Whitney also offers an additional 21 questions to help us “consider our ways.”
John Piper answers this question, writing that “Recognizing [the problem] is a huge step in the right direction” and that ” ultimately it’s a gift of grace to feel the glory of God.” Here are some suggestions of what you should do:
1. Seek the Lord earnestly about it. Pray like crazy that God would open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his law.
2. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don’t feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what’s really there.
3. Get in a group where you talk about serious things.
4. Begin to share your faith. One of the reasons we are not as moved by our own faith as we are is because we almost never talk about it to any unbeliever. It starts to feel like a kind of hothouse thing, and then it starts to have a feeling of unreality about it. And then the powers of entertainment have more sway in our life.
5. . . . [T]hink about your death. Think about your death a lot. Ask what you’d like to be doing in the season of life, or hours or days, leading up to meeting Christ. I do that a lot these days. I think about the impact of death, and what I would like to be found doing, and how I would prepare to meet him and give an account to him.
But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . Is it a discipline?
You can call it that.
It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater.
It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers.
It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns.
It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food.
It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water.
It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid.
It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin.
It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey.
It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.
I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.
God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace. Resist the lies of the devil in 2009, and get a bigger breakthrough in prayer than you’ve ever had.
Reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic Spiritual Depression would be a strong way to start the new year.
The title can be a tad deceiving. It’s not merely a book for those with a pronounced sense of spiritual depression. It’s a book for all Christians—for the daily spiritual depressions we all face this side of heaven.
Lloyd-Jones ends his second chapter with these challenging and refreshing words:
Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ’. That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say:
I rest my faith on Him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone. (35)