Tim Challies: Whatever else we may know about Christians, we know this: Christians are supposed to go to church. Every Sunday, Christians gather together to worship God and spend time in fellowship. But do we actually know why we do this? Do we pause to consider the purpose of the local church? In this series of articles we are considering the purpose of many things we may take for granted, and so far we have looked at marriage, sex, and children. Today we are broadening our perspective from family to the church. It is important to note that our concern here is not the universal church, which is comprised of all Christians of all times and places. Rather, we are answering the question: What is the purpose of the local church? In other words, why do we as Christians gather together in local congregations? Common Views of The Church As we consider why we gather week by week, we can
Jon Bloom: What do you want? What do you desire? What is your ambition? Do you really want to know? Look at your behavior. You do what you want. This is a devastatingly simple psychology of motivation. But it’s what the Bible teaches: James: Faith without works is dead. Don’t tell me you have faith if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (James 2:17–18) John: Love without deeds is dead. Don’t tell me you love if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (1 John 3:17–18) Paul: Grace without holiness is dead. Don’t tell me you revel in God’s grace if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Romans 6:12–14) Jesus: Discipleship without obedience is dead. Don’t tell me I’m your Lord if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Matthew 7:21) We may say what sounds orthodox, but we do what we really believe. We may
Eric Geiger: We need confrontation. In Christian community, we live and labor alongside broken and struggling brothers and sisters. We ourselves, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord, are broken and struggling with our own issues. All of us are prone to wander and fall, so we need people around us who “if they see something, say something,” who care when something in our lives is left “unattended.” We need people around us who are loving enough to confront us when our hearts are unattended by His truth, when our marriages are unattended by our affections, when our relationships are unattended by forgiveness, and when our decisions are unattended by His agenda. We need to confront. If sin goes un-confronted, the community can self-destruct because the community loses the commitment to the values and beliefs that make her distinct. If you are in Christian community and you see something in a brother or sister’s life, if you
Brad Bigney, author of, Gospel Treason: Betraying The Gospel With Hidden Idols: What am I talking about? Idolatry. Yes, idolatry. So why do we live blind to it so often? Here’s why: idolatry doesn’t operate out in the open; that’s not how it happens. It’s elusive and often flies under the radar undetected. And this is compounded by the fact you can struggle to even know your own heart, because the human heart is so deceptive. Jeremiah tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds’ (Jer 17:9–10). Your heart and my heart are deceitful and desperately sick so we can’t trust them. It’ll lead you into back alleys, one-way streets and dead-ends; all the while promising you life, joy, peace and purpose, but it’s a lie. It always
Matt Moore: Justification—being declared righteous before God—is possible only by grace through faith. You can heap all your good deeds upon one another and climb them to heaven, but if you aren’t clothed in Christ’s righteousness, God will toss your self-righteous self right out of his presence. Our sinfulness runs too deep for any of our deeds to be purely righteous (Isaiah 64:6), and the guilt we bear for our trespasses is beyond our ability to absolve. The blood of Jesus is the only hope any of us has. Seeing all that Christ is for us and trusting in him to save us is the only means by which we can be declared blameless. Christians glory in being justified as a gift by the grace of God alone—not their own works or morality (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, in every generation there have been ignorant and unstable people that take the message of God’s grace through Christ and, as Peter wrote, “twist it
Darryl Dash: The older I get, the more I try to remember the basics. This is what I appreciate in the pastors I love. These are the qualities I want to see in my life. A deepening love for the Lord — Nobody should be more amazed by the depth of God’s grace than the pastor. The thing that people need most from a pastor isn’t strategy or charisma. It’s a heart that is alive to the triune God. A genuine, loving marriage — I remember seeing Jill Briscoe laugh at Stu Briscoe’s jokes. It told me more about him as a man and pastor than if I’d read every book he’d written. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A ministry committed to the Word — I take 1 Peter 4:11 seriously. If you speak, speak God’s Word. Don’t give us your thoughts or musings, or repackage something you read or heard. Give us God’s Word. Gratitude and love
Donald S. Whitney: When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes a “new creation” of us (2 Cor 5:17). But when he accomplishes that radical, regenerating transformation of us, he does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t eliminate any of those things, instead he gives dramatically new purposes to them. He calls us to live the Christian life with the full — though God-centered — use of our minds and judgment and everything else that is a part of our humanity. Let go and let God? However, many people will tell you that your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you are trying to live the Christian life but that God never intended you to do so. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself, so he does not expect you to live
John Piper: Seventeen Aspects of Holy Dissatisfaction One mark of Christian authenticity is discontentment with anything less than “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Coasting is not discipleship. Drifting in self-contentment is not like basking in the pool of security, but like floating, fast asleep, toward the falls. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). There is a holy discontentment. It is not a nail-biting uncertainty about our standing with God. It is the increased appetite of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2–3). It is the pursuit of those who have been pursued and captured by the strong arms of love. “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus; what is discipleship? John Piper: A couple of observations about the word. The word discipleship never occurs in the Bible. The term is ambiguous in English. It can mean my discipleship in the sense of my own pattern of following Jesus and trusting him and learning from him. That is my discipleship. It could mean that. Or it can mean my activity of helping others be disciples in that sense of learning from him, growing in him. The second meaning — this helping others — does have a verb in New Testament Greek: mathetuo, to make disciples. It can mean preach the gospel so that people get converted to Christ and become Christians and, thus, disciples. For example, Acts 14:21says, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium.” So that “make disciples” is one Greek word there and
By Nathan Rose: I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea.  1. You will miss out on God’s primary design for your spiritual growth and well-being. The central aspect of corporate worship is the preaching of God’s Word. The proclamation of Scriptures is God’s primary means for a disciple of Jesus to grow in spiritual maturity. When a professing Christian misses church they are missing God’s prescribed process for spiritual growth. 2. You disobey God.
A very helpful synopsis from Bradley Green (23-24): 1. Loving or knowing God is linked with obedience (John 14:15, 21,23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:22, 24; 5:3; 2 John 6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12) 2. The ‘conditional’ nature of our future salvation (Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Heb. 3:6, 14; 4:14) 3. Christians must ‘overcome’ if they are ultimately to be saved (Heb. 10:38-39; Rev. 2:7, 11; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) 4. The necessity of a great righteousness (Matt. 5:20) 5. The requirement of the law being met ‘in us’ (Rom. 8:3-4) 6. God will efficaciously work ‘in’ us, moving us to obey him (Phil. 2:12-13) 7. The necessity of putting to death the old man, by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13-14) 8. ‘Faith’ and ‘obedience/works’ used as virtual synonyms (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Rev. 12:17; 14:12; cf. 6:9) 9. We are truly judged, or justified, by our works (Matt. 7:21, 25; Rom. 2:13; cf. Jas.
All our obedience, every resolve to do good, and every work of faith is ‘by his power’ and so that the Lord Jesus would be glorified because of the grace he gives. Yes, we must pursue obedience, but that obedience must always be cruciform, formed by Christ’s cross. We must seek to obey because of the cross, find the grace to obey because of the cross, and live free from condemnation whether we succeed or fail in the light of the cross. The cross must be our only story, as Paul boldly proclaimed: ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor.2:2). — Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson Counsel from the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 171-72 (HT: Of First Importance)
Joe Thorn: Last Sunday I preached a sermon titled “Gospel Affection” from 1 Peter 1:22-25 as a part of our Standing in Grace Series. At the end of the sermon I offered 10 practical ways to show love to one another in the church. Consider what follows a simple encouragement to press into a life of love in practical ways. A life God has called us to, saved us for, and modeled for us. 10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS 1. Put Them First “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3) Self-denial lives at the center of love. True love denies self and supports another. Putting others first should be more than an act of humility, but an act of affection. It’s not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are
Tim Challies: I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life—ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips which I call “faith hacks.” I am going to share another one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the important disciplines of preaching the gospel to yourself. Bridges has written in several of his books about the importance of the daily practice of preaching the gospel to yourself. In The Discipline of Grace he writes, “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.”
Is not the forgiveness of all your sins– the full justification of your person– your inalienable adoption into God’s family– the complete payment of all that great debt you owed, and the assured and certain prospect of being where Christ is, and with Christ, beholding His glory forever, a well-grounded source of joy? Most truly! Why, then, are you not a more joyful believer? Why go you mourning all your days, without one gleam of sunshine, one thrill of joy, one ray of hope, one note of praise? Is it not because you are looking to yourself and within yourself, to the almost entire exclusion of Christ and of the great and complete salvation wrought for you in and by Christ? — Octavius Winslow The Sympathy of Christ (HT: Of First Importance)
By Josh Bount: Wait no longer! Write them on Post-It notes, cross-stitch them on your pillow, have Siri repeat them to you daily. 1. Don’t stop searching until you’ve found “The Secret to the Christian Life.” It’s out there! Don’t give up. It might be baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might be true surrender. It might be faith. It might be resting in what God’s already done. It might be…well, you go find it on your own. Don’t let the fact that two thousand years of Christian history has yet to produce the final solution to the perplexities of living as redeemed sinners in a fallen world stop you. Maybe the secret was just waiting for YOU to get out there and discover it… 2. In your advice to yourself and to other believers, use the word “just” regularly. This will be a lot easier after you’ve found the answer to #1. Then you can tell people, “Stop
Tim Challies: I don’t know how much I’ve driven in the twenty years since I got my license, but I do know it’s a lot, what with all those drives down to the South to visit my family. Here is one thing that has never varied across the hundreds of thousands of miles: When I take my foot off the pedal, the car does not speed up. It doesn’t even maintain the same speed. Instead, from the very moment I take my foot off the accelerator, the car begins to slow. Allowing the car to coast is inviting the car to stop. It may take some time, but left on its own, it will stop eventually. It is inevitable. I’ve been thinking about this lately because I see in my own life a tendency to coast—to coast in my relationships, to coast in my pursuit of godliness, to coast in my pursuit of God himself. And here are some
“Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ, not merely imitation of Christ. When the full dimensions of God’s gracious provision in Christ are not clearly articulated in the church, faith cannot apprehend them, and the life of the church will suffer distortion and attenuation. The individual Christian and the church as a whole are alive in Christ, and when any essential dimensions of what it means to be in Christ are obscured in the church’s understanding there is no guarantee that the people of God will strive toward and experience fullness of life.” Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p. 74 (HT: Brian Hedges)
On the most basic levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fulness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist. Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him! Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of
Joe Thorn: If you haven’t figured it out yet let me encourage you to see something that will greatly help you. Not all of your ideas are good. Some of them are bad. And God will often let you flail and fail out there for very good purposes. And when you fail do not lose the opportunity to find grace in the midst of it. I believe this is especially important for pastors to understand. It’s one of the most important lessons I have learned in 16 years of pastoral ministry: failure is to be expected and learned from. I have misspoke, misstepped, and missed the mark in more ways than I can explain here. And failing hurts. Most of us of are afraid of it. Leaders in particular are afraid of failure since it’s always a bit more of a public spectacle. I’m not talking about moral failure that disqualifies someone from the ministry, but ministerial failure. It may