13 Questions to Diagnose Your Idolatries

From Desiring God: This past Sunday, Kenny Stokes preached his second message on 1 John 5:20-21, which ends, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (See his first sermon on this passage.) Near the end he laid out 13 questions, adapted from an old Puritan sermon, to help us identify the idols of our hearts: What do you most highly value? What do you think about by default? What is your highest goal? To what or whom are you most committed? Who or what do you love the most? Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most? Who or what do you fear the most? Who or what do you hope in and hope for most? Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied? Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure? Who or

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The Essence of Holiness

“You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross. This is because holiness starts in the heart. The essence of holiness is not new behaviour, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behaviour. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong. You will aim to prove yourself. Your focus will be the consequences of your sin rather than hating the sin and desiring God in its place.” – Tim Chester, You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 28. (HT: Of First Importance)

How is Your Worship Life?

An excerpt from Marcus Honeysett’s EMA address: The question I most want to ask any Christian, but especially any group of Christian leaders is “how would you describe the state of your worship life at the moment?” Do you currently have the space, capacity and leisure to enjoy God? If not, something will have to go. The reason I say this is that biblical leadership and preaching are by-products of joy in God. They don’t work properly unless they spring from this source. You can’t say “I honour God in my preaching” if you heart is not bursting for him in your affections and adoration. You really can’t. The tasks of leadership and preaching centre around working with people for their progress in the Lord and their joy in the Lord (Phil 1, 2 Cor 4). And the strength to carry out the task, that ability to labour and struggle with God’s energy powerfully working in us, comes from the joy

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Tom Nettles on Experiential Theology

“Without a justification-driven, christocentric foundation all [self]examination results either in self-righteousness or despair, legalism or antinomianism. A clear and forceful integration of the biblical doctrines of the Trinitarian existence of God, the intrinsic glory of the Godhead, Christ’s infinite condescension, humanity’s fall and consequent just condemnation and punitive corruption, divine sovereignty in election, reconciliation and redemption, calling, resurrection, and eternal occupation—all of these and others constitute the pastoral task from the very beginning of establishing a worshipping congregation. The biblical responsibility of the pastor consistently to place the believers in the context of this picture is at once both experimental and theological, practical and doctrinal. What we do and how we feel and how we respond to life’s details flows out of who we believe we are in God’s relentless push toward subduing all things to Christ, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” – Tom Nettles (HT: Timmy Brister)

Sinning as a Christian

From Reformation Theology: In one of the Q&A sessions this week at the Ligonier National Conference, R.C. Sproul asked questions submitted by attendees. On the panel were Michael Horton, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler and Steven Lawson. An effort was made to capture in brief form the questions and answers but you may wish to track down the audio or video to hear lengthier responses. Here is one such question: Why don’t Christians care, or care enough, that they are sinning? Begg: Because we don’t truly understand the nature of the atonement and what has happened in Christ bearing our sins. A low view of the atonement goes in line with an easy-going view of sin in the same way that when people take sin seriously they have a solid and clear grasp of what has happened in Christ dying for us. This was not a moot question for Paul in writing Romans where the same question applied to the people

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The one inestimable gift

“If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. Has it never dawned on us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have

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Edwards – The Common Denominator to Real Christianity

“All gracious affections, that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is ‘unspeakable, and full of glory,’ is a humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child.” — Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Yale edition, ed. Paul Ramsey), 339-40; see Storms, Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections (Crossway 2007), 117 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

Gospel-shaped or religious?

Jared Wilson – Three ways to tell if you are gospel-shaped, or just religious: 1. Your reaction when things fall apart. Do you catch yourself saying, “God, why is this happening? I’ve done x, y, and z?” Do suffering, difficulty, and obstacles provoke “why?” questions predicated on your goodness or effort? You’ve been working so hard, reading your Bible, going to church, serving others . . . why would God let this happen to you now? If that’s your line of thinking, it reveals you believe God owes you. And that’s religion. 2. Your reaction to others. Do you compare yourself, bad or good, against others? Do you belittle, mock, condescend, even if just internally? Do you resent others’ successes? Do you celebrate others’ failures? Do you really wish people would get their act together, or do you really wish people knew Jesus? Are you frequently annoyed, put out, irritated, embarrassed, or inconvenienced by others? 3. Your appraisal of Jesus.

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One Great & Predominant Affection

“It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us – it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible.” – Thomas Chalmers, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection“ (HT: Of First Importance)

The Cure for Cold Religion

The reason our affections are so chilled and cold in religion—is that we do not warm them with thoughts of God. Hold a magnifying glass to the sun, and the glass burns that which is near to it. So when our thoughts are lifted up to Christ, the Sun of righteousness, our affections are set on fire. No sooner had the spouse been thinking upon her Savior’s beauty—but she fell into love-sickness. (Song of Sol. 5:8). O saints, do but let your thoughts dwell upon the love of Christ, who passed by angels and thought of you; who was wounded that, out of his wounds, the balm of Gilead might come to heal you; who leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath, to save you from drowning in the lake of fire! Think of this unparalleled love, which sets the angels wondering—and see if it will not affect your hearts and cause tears to flow forth! — Thomas Watson

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Is Our Desire Too Weak?

From David Murray: Why does heaven feel so far away? Why does Jesus seem so distant? Recent research* by Emily Balcetis and David Dunning indicates that the desirability of an object influences its perceived distance. Thirsty students fed with pretzels perceived a water bottle to be nearer than those who had had their thirst quenched. Other students placed in front of a $100 bill they could win for themselves perceived it to be closer than those who were told that the bill belonged to the scientist conducting the test. A third set of students had their sense of humor graded and clipped to a stand in front of them. Those given positive feedback estimated the stand to be closer than those who could see their feedback was negative. Other similar experiments confirmed the finding that desire reduces the perception of distance. Is this why heaven often seems so far away? We don’t desire it enough? Is this why Jesus sometimes

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High Affections

More from Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. Having recently completed a paper on The Affections, I must say, I have grown in my love for the book and for Edwards. There is much here we need to apply to the Church today. Love is an affection; but will any Christian say, men ought not to love God and Jesus Christ in a high degree? And will any say, we ought not to have a very great hatred of sin, and a very deep sorrow for it? Or that we ought not to exercise a high degree of gratitude to God, for the mercies we receive of him, and the great things he has done for the salvation of fallen men? Or that we should not have very great and strong desires after God and holiness? Is there any who will profess, that his affections in religion are great enough; and will say, “I have no cause to be humbled, that I am no

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Jonathan Edwards – Religious Affections

If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn, what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion. It appears from what has been said, that this arises from our having so little true religion. God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose which he has given all the faculties and principles of the human soul for, viz. that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is the business of religion. And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, than in religion! In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent;

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The Gospel & Christian Experience

“Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience. . . . Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel.  Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and effects our wills.” –  Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2008), 31. (HT: Of First Importance)

The Spirit of Love

“When we thus think of the Holy Spirit we properly think of Him as the one who generates love towards God in our hearts…When we are thinking of the biblical ethic as motivated by and fulfilled in love to God and our neighbour, it is a caricature and travesty of this love that we entertain unless it is a love generated in us by the apprehension of the love that passes knowledge, the love of God in Christ…How vacuous and hypocritical are the pretensions of those whose religion and ethic consist in the maxim, ‘As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them (Luke 6:31), but who know nothing of the constraint of the love of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and therefore as the Spirit of love He captivates our hearts by the love of God and of Christ to us. In the diffusion of that love there flows

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Beholding Christ as Antidote to Worldliness

John Owen on seeing Christ’s glory: It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them by diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die. On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy. –The Glory of Christ (1684) (HT: The Gospel

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Piper in Germany: “Think Christ”

From Desiring God blog: Right thinking about God exists for the sake of right feeling for God. This was the main point of John Piper’s Friday night message, “Think Christ,” at the Hirten Konferenz in Bonn, Germany. Expanding upon Thursday night’s message, “Feel Christ,” Piper said that being satisfied in God will not glorify God if our satisfaction in God is not based on right thinking. Piper gave 10 arguments for the indispensible role of right thinking and right knowing in the life of the Christian: It is possible to have strong feelings and be lost if the feelings are not based on knowledge (Romans 10:1-2). God has planned that thinking about the Bible is the means he uses to give understanding (2 Timothy 2:7). Paul is given as an example of reasoning with the Bible (Acts 17:2-3). Jesus assumes and requires that we will use logic in understanding both what is natural and what is spiritual (Luke 12:54-57). Jesus

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Beholding Glory and Becoming Whole: Seeing and Savoring God as the Heart of Mental Health

Last night John Piper addressed the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) at their world conference in Nashville on the topic “Beholding Glory and Becoming Whole: Seeing and Savoring God as the Heart of Mental Health.” The manuscript of John’s message is available here. Here’s a sample: […] God has done everything with a view to one great end—namely, that the glory of his grace should be praised by innumerable redeemed human beings. You, and everybody you counsel, were made by God to praise him. More specifically, you were made to praise his glory. And more specific yet, you were made to praise the glory of his grace. […] This is why we were created. This goes to the heart of what it means for us to be fully human and for God to be fully honored. And the amazing thing is that the two happen together. They happen in the same act. God is profoundly honored and glorified in the very act

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Chandler: Two Questions for Sanctification

From Leadership ‘s interview with Matt Chandler: Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They’re not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn’t take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking. The same goes for following sports. It’s not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that’s a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him. . . . We want our people to think beyond simply what’s right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with

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