Improving your relationship with God

Tim Chester: Can you improve your relationship with God? People are often unsure how to respond. The promises of grace suggest one answer; the experience of life often suggest another. In the confusion, we often do nothing. We stagnate. But there is a way forward. Can you improve your relationship with God? Yes. Let’s turn for help to the seventeenth-century Puritan John Owen. In his classic book Communion with God, Owen says, Our communion with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him. (Works, Vol. 2, 8–9, modernized) Note how Owen makes a distinction between “union” and “communion.” In the gospel, through faith, we have union with God in Christ. From start to finish this union is God’s gracious work toward us. But this union leads to communion with God — a genuine, two-way relationship of give-and-take in which our

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Why We Read the Bible

Tony Reinke: Reading the Bible cover-to-cover each year is a resolution that is both noble and realistic. Today we have many apps and guides to help us with the process of our Bible reading. But at the start of our new year it’s helpful to look at the aim of our Bible reading. Why do we read the Bible? In addressing biblical counsellors in 2002, Pastor John [Piper] explained it this way: I have a burden for my people right now, just like I do for myself, that we get beyond propositions and Bible verses to Christ. I do not mean “get around” Bible verses, but “through” Bible verses to Christ, to the person, the living person, to know Him, cherish Him, treasure Him, enjoy Him, trust Him, be at home with Him. I want to count Him more to be desired than all other things — wife, husband, children, success in career, leisure, vacations, health, food, sex, money. He’s more precious.1 And Bible reading is meant to

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Extraordinary Holiness Through Four Ordinary Means

Tony Reinke: In his new book, Kevin DeYoung writes, “It may sound boring or out-of-date, but it just happens to be true: the way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you’ll get good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):  

Communion with God: What, Why, How?

Jonathan Parnell: “Communion” is a good word. What do you think when you hear it? Maybe an ordinance of the church? Perhaps an archaic way saying relationship? Or even some mystical ambiguity connected to transcendence? Communion is one of the few words in the English language that has a general meaning but maintains a sanctified use. “To speak a little of it in general,” John Owen writes, “Communion relates to things and persons. A joint participation in any thing whatever, good or evil, duty or enjoyment, nature or actions. . . . (Works.II.7). In other words, communion most bascially is what’s happening when we cheer on our favorite team with a group of friends. But that’s not the way we really use the word. We call those parties. And notwithstanding the joy aspect of parties, communion is about God — the one, true, personal God in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Communion What? Communion is God’s communication to us

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The Character of a Good Theologian

  Matt Perman: I dusted off again recently Herman Witsius’s excellent essay “On the Character of a True Theologian.” As you can tell from the title, his emphasis is that a theologian is first a person of character, who loves God and believes what he teaches. Here’s one of the best paragraphs: By a theologian, I mean one who, imbued with a substantial knowledge of divine things derived form the teaching of God himself, declares and extols, not in words only, but by the whole course of his life, the wonderful excelencies of God and thus lives entirely for his glory. Such were in former days the holy patriarchs, such the divinely inspired prophets, such the apostolic teachers of the whole world, such some of those whom we denominate fathers, the widely resplendent luminaries of the primitive church. The knowledge of these men did not lie in the wiredrawn subtleties of curious questions, but in the devout contemplation of God

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Communion with God Demands Union with Christ

John Newton writes about the centrality of Christ in our fellowship with God: Communion presupposes union. By nature we are strangers, yea, enemies to God; but we are reconciled, brought nigh, and become his children, by faith in Christ Jesus. We can have no true knowledge of God, desire towards him, access unto him, or gracious communications from him, but in and through the Son of his love. He is the medium of this inestimable privilege: for he is the way, the only way, of intercourse between heaven and earth; the sinner’s way to God, and God’s way of mercy to the sinner. If any pretend to know God, and to have communion with him, otherwise than by the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, and by faith in his name, it is a proof that they neither know God nor themselves. God, if considered as abstracted from the revelation of himself in the person of Jesus, is

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God’s Pursuit of Praise, Our Pursuit of Pleasure

John Piper, Desiring God | “God’s pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are one and the same pursuit. God’s quest to be glorified and our quest to be satisfied reach their goal in this one experience: our delight in God, which overflows in praise. For God, praise is the sweet echo of His own excellence in the hearts of His people. For us, praise is the summit of satisfaction that comes from living in fellowship with God.” (HT: Symphony of Scripture)

No God, no happiness

“The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. (The story in the Book of Genesis rather suggests that some corruption in our sexual nature followed the fall and was its result, not its cause.) What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something

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Sin is aversion of God

From Triumph Over Temptation by John Owen as edited by James M. Houston under the subtitle Sin Is Aversion of God: “The actions and operations of sin are twofold: first by aversion and second by opposition.” (57) “Sin is first of all aversion of God. Sin is indisposed to duty whereby communion with God is obtained. All weariness of duty, all carnality, and all formality in duty spring from this root…In other words, God is saying, “Do you have any spiritual duty to perform? Do you propose to seek communion with God? Look then to yourself, to take care of the inclinations of your heart, for they will wander and be deflected by aversion to what you propose.” ” (58) On keeping the soul from sin’s aversion: Have a disposition of heart fixed upon God. “It is utterly impossible to keep the heart in a holy frame in any one duty, unless it is also in all duties before God. If sin

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John Owen on Stirring the Mind to Contemplate the Glory of Christ

My thanks to Matt Harmon for this: In his treatise “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” John Owen offers five “directions” for stirring up the minds of believers to contemplate the glory of Christ (chapter 4): Let us get it fixed on our souls and minds, that this glory of Christ in the divine constitution of his person is the best, the most noble, useful, beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cleave unto in our affections. Our second direction unto the same end is, that we diligently study the Scripture, and the revelations that are made of this glory of Christ therein. Another direction to this same end is, that having attained the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from the Scripture, or by the dispensation of the truth in the preaching of the gospel, we would esteem it our duty frequently to meditate thereon. Let your occasional thoughts

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Come to me… and I will give you rest

I love this from Todd Pruitt: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” – Isaiah 42:3 We all know what it is like to feel like a bruised reed and a smouldering wick. They are both images of weakness. Relationships, work, loss, and pain can all sap our strength and rob us of strength. It is in those times when we need to know the tender touch of God. I am tired today. Certain burdens are weighing especially heavy. Too often I depend on the approval of others which always results in wounds and disappointment. I am a sinful man and I live among other sinful men. The reality can be overwhelming. But what I need is not more approval or to work harder. What I need is Jesus. Thanks to Ray Ortland for the following post. I needed this today (and a lot of days for that matter). “Come to me,

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A Plea for Heart Devotions and Head Study

I’m dedicating this post, if one can do such a thing, to a dear friend and mentor, Dr.  Stanley Jebb. Stanley always taught us in Bible College to make our theological studies devotional. That is, never to divorce theology from our walk with God. Here’s a plea from John Piper to make theological study the fuel of heart felt devotion: This is a plea that all of you would build into your lives both personal devotions and purposeful study of God’s word. Both: Daily prayerful meditation seeking personal application of God’s word to your own heart and life. And: Regular study in a class or with a book where the (living or dead) teacher has seen more than you have and can give you insight in 30 minutes that might otherwise take you ten years to see. The reason I plead for both is that without a book or a class about what some part of the Bible means and

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The kind of men God used

From Ray Ortlund: Horatius Bonar, writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, proposes that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival have been marked in these nine ways: 1. They were in earnest about the great work on which they had entered: “They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung.” 2. They were bent on success: “As warriors, they set their hearts on victory and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head.” 3. They were men of faith: “They knew that in due season they should reap, if they fainted not.” 4. They were men of labor: “Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul; time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing.” 5. They were men of patience: “Day after day

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Concentrate on Depth!

John MacArthur celebrated 40 years as pastor of Grace Community Church this weekend. In the book, Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, MacArthur shares the secret of his success in conversation with Justin Taylor: Early in my first year or so at Grace Community Church, I had this little kind of motto that I used: “If you concentrate on the depth of your ministry, God will take care of the breadth of it.” My ministry hasn’t changed since that first year in that small, little church. For me, it’s all about getting into the depth of Scripture and my own personal walk with the Lord. Breadth is something that God does. . . . (HT: Between Two Worlds)

Lloyd-Jones: Living Water

I’m just about to leave to preach in a friends church. My text is, 2Tim.1:6,7. My title is, ‘Fanning the flame’. I pray that preacher and people alike share this expectation and encounter described here by the Doctor. My thanks to Justin Taylor for posting this: Crossway has now published Living Water: Studies in John 4—56 previously unpublished sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here is an excerpt: Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him?

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“…that I might be a flame for you”

Justin Childers posts some of his favourite Jim Elliot quotes: “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” “Father, let me be weak that I might loose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand.” “I covenanted with the Father that He would do either of two things: either glorify Himself to the utmost in me or slay me. By His grace I shall not have His second best.” “O Christ, let me know Thee–let me catch glimpses of Thyself, seated and expectant in glory, let me rest there despite all wrong surging round me. Lead me in the right path, I pray.” “Father, take my life, yea, my blood if Thou wilt, and consume

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9 Ways to Pray for Your Soul

. From John Piper: . Here are some ways to pray for yourself so that you’re praying in sync with the way God works. 1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word. Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36) 2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18) 3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.” [I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18) 4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God. O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11) 5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world. O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm

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10 Reasons to Pray the Scriptures

From John Piper: Here are some of the reasons you should pray and meditate over biblical truth. 1. Biblical truth saves. Take heed to yourself and to your doctrine; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16) 2. Biblical truth frees from Satan. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32) 3. Biblical truth imparts grace and peace. May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2) 4. Biblical truth sanctifies. Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. (John 17:17) 5. Biblical truth serves love. It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9) 6. Biblical truth protects from error. Attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…so that we may no

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The Hidden Life

Oswald Chambers – My Utmost For His Highest . . . your life is hidden with Christ in God —Colossians 3:3 The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” ( 1 John 1:7 ). When we think of being delivered from sin, being “filled with the Spirit” ( Ephesians 5:18 ), and “walk[ing] in the light,”

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