How to practice gospel-centred spirituality

Donald S. Whitney: As you’ve surely noticed, everyone is “spiritual” today. Some years ago I came across a USA Today survey where even a majority of atheists consider themselves “spiritual” people. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, I’m just not a spiritual person.” Perhaps for many spirituality simply means spending time occasionally in personal reflection. For others maybe it means consciously trying to live by certain principles, or attempting to be thoughtful on important issues like the environment or homelessness. However, the common perception of spirituality is not the biblical one. I’m writing from the perspective that spirituality includes—but transcends—the human spirit, and involves the pursuit of God and the things of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation (that is, the Bible). Spirituality and the Gospel This kind of spirituality is not self-generated; rather it is one result of the new spiritual life that God creates in the

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Instead of Building Your Platform, Build Your Character

  Derwin Gray: Pastor, words like “platform” and “influence” are important. But if we aren’t careful, in our desire to build our platform and influence, we can end up building our EGO. As leadership gurus Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges say, “EGO stands for ‘Edging God Out’.” BUILD YOUR CHARACTER Instead of building your platform, focus more on building your character. According to the Apostle Paul, the qualifications to be an elder-pastor are about character, not gifting. The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

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The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible

Dan Doriani: In the past month, I learned that two more Christian leaders whom I know have either tarnished or destroyed their ministries. Neither was a friend, in the full sense, yet I’ve been friendly with both men and respected their talents and the fruit of their labors. Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I’m liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul’s admonition: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew. But how can we repent quickly and keep from hardening ourselves to God’s voice as he calls us back to himself? Leaders stumble for

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My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this article by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Recently I ran into a woman I had not seen for several weeks. I hardly recognized her. Her hair, normally blonde, had turned completely white. The transformation was dramatic. All it took was forty minutes and some bleach. If only spiritual transformation were that easy. Just read a book, see a counselor, attend a conference, make a fresh commitment, shed a few tears at an altar, memorize a few verses … and, presto, out comes a mature, godly Christian. To the contrary, the experience of many believers looks like this. Commit. Fail. Confess. Re-commit. Fail again. Confess again. Re-re-commit. Fail again. Give up. After all the struggle and effort, we tend to want a “quick fix”—a once-for-all victory—so we won’t have to keep wrestling with the same old issues. In my own walk with God, I have discovered some helpful principles about how spiritual change takes place. 1. Deep, lasting spiritual change rarely happens

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Are Christians Meant to Feel Guilty All the Time?

This is excellent from Kevin DeYoung: Read the whole thing here. So why do so many Christian feel guilty all the time? 1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all it’s scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1). 2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do morefor Christ (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christlikeness as something we

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The danger of displacing the primacy of the gospel

From Jimmy Davis: A word of caution from D. A. Carson about the ease with which we sometimes substitute faith in Jesus with faith in our spiritual disciplines and devices: A litany of devices designed to make us more spiritual or mature or productive or emotionally whole threatens to relegate the gospel to irrelevance, or at least to the realm of the boring and the primitive. The gospel may introduce you to the church, as it were, but from that point on assorted counseling techniques and therapy sessions will change your life and make you happy and fruitful. The gospel may help you make some sort of decision for God, but ‘rebirthing’ techniques—in which in silent meditation you imagine Jesus catching you as you are born from your mother’s womb, imagine him hugging you and holding you—will generate a wonderful cathartic experience that will make you feel whole again, especially if you have been abused in the past. The gospel may

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No Drifters!

“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” D.A. Carson

Jerry Bridges on Power in Prayer

“[W]e must keep in mind that the Spirit of God is sovereign over when and how he works through the instruments of prayer. He certainly hears our requests and responds to them. But it’s not for us to question the purposes and actions of his sovereign will. Instead we’re to submit to and accept whatever he has for us. And as we respond to his answers to our prayers, we must continue to acknowledge our dependence on him through more prayer. As we cycle through our prayers and his answer in this way, our dependency grows. No wonder those who regularly practice this spiritual discipline often speak of there being power in prayer. The more prayer, the more dependency; the more dependency, the more power. The source of power is not the prayer; it is the Holy Spirit, who uses prayer as a means of grace through which he provides the power.” – Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington,The Bookends of

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What if Philippians were our only Bible?

I’ve just started meditating my way through Philippians as part of my devotions. This post from Ray Ortlund is excellent, and will serve me well as I ponder afresh this gem of a letter. A recent study in Philippians prompted me to wonder, what if this one brief book were our only available Bible? How much would we have to believe and live off? At least this: • He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (1:6); • We are all partakers of grace together (1:7); • We will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (1:10); • Human opposition, far from defeating the gospel, is serving to advance the joyous spread of the gospel (1:12-18); • Should life be lost, Christ is gained (1:21); • Temporary survival is gospel opportunity (1:22); • To depart and be with Christ is far better than this life (1:23); •

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Disciplined Duty vs. the Lie of Legalism

John Piper: 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

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Swords Are for Killing

By John Piper: In New Testament times swords were not for digging, shaving, or whittling. They were for killing. The only reason Peter cut off Malchus’s ear was that he missed (John 18:10). But Herod didn’t miss: “He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2). Many saints have felt the full force of the sword: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:37). So it was and will be: “If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain” (Revelation 13:10). That’s what swords are for. So when Paul calls the word of God the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17, he is serious—something must be put to death. And it is not people. Christians don’t kill people to spread our faith; we die to spread our faith. The link in Paul’s mind is given in Romans 8:13. If by the

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The Studying Christian

An important and necessary challenge from from Mark Driscoll: In following Jesus’ command to love God with “all our mind,” the Christian life is supposed to include regular times of study and learning. The goal of such study is to have what Paul called “the mind of Christ” so that we can live the life of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, this month we will examine the contemplative spiritual discipline of study and the correlating active spiritual discipline of obedience. Study In John 17:17, Jesus prayed that we would study our Bible. He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Therefore, to become more and more like Jesus we must have regular time in God’s Word. The Scriptures have much to say about the benefits of regular study. Scripture regarding study “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees

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The Sanctifying Influence of Christ’s Love

Do all you can to buy this book! I’ll be posting more on this over the next few weeks. “Terror accomplishes no real obedience Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.” – Horatius Bonar, quoted by Milton Vincent in A Gospel Primer for Christians (2008), 89. (HT: Of First Importance)

Drifting From the Truth

“So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT As Christians, we are all in danger of being deceived by false teachers or chasing after the things of the world. We are advised by the writer of Hebrews to intently listen to the truth we have heard in God’s Word. I particularly like the implications of the word “drift” in this verse. This kind of drifting is like a ship without an anchor. It will be gently pushed by the waves away from where it began. Before long, the wind will howl and the torrential rains will pour. The ship will be surrounded by a thick darkness. The world’s influences will crash on us eagerly trying to capsize our witness for Christ. The fury of Satan will do all it can to overcome us. Without an anchor in Christ and His Word, we as Christians will drift into

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by Steven J. Lawson For the last four years, I have spoken at a conference on the West Coast called Resolved. The name is drawn from the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards and is aimed at college students and “twenty-somethings” in the next generation. As an eighteen and nineteen year old, young Edwards wrote seventy resolutions, which became his personal mission statement to guide his life. To launch the first conference, I spoke from Edward’s first resolution, what Edwards determined would be the single most important pursuit in his life — the glory of God. Edwards began his Resolutions with what he desired to be the driving force of his life — an all-absorbing passion to pursue the glory of God. “Resolved: that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and to my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many

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Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

By Tony Reinke Recently on the blog we posted seven consecutive sections from C.J.’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” which will be published in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway). The book was written by a team of C.J. and four other Sovereign Grace leaders—Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, and Craig Cabaniss. John Piper added the foreword. Though books will not ship until late September, Crossway Books has extended to our blog readers a generous 35 percent discount on pre-orders. For the next two weeks simply go to the Worldliness product page, click “pre-order” and enter coupon code: 8SG1. And with the completion of the modesty blog series, we’ve created an index of the posts and added discussion questions below (which also appear in the printed book). For convenience, we’ve compiled the chapter (the full content of the blog posts) and the discussion questions into one PDF (download here). Modesty Series Index

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Why Doctrine Matters

By John MacArthur Is it enough to “believe in Jesus” in some amorphous sense that divorces “faith” from any particular doctrine about Him, or is doctrine—and the content of our faith—really important after all? Scripture plainly teaches that we must be sound in the faith—which is to say that doctrine does matter (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:2-3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1). It matters a lot. “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4, emphasis added). Sound, biblical doctrine is a necessary aspect of true wisdom and authentic faith. The attitude that scorns doctrine while elevating feelings or blind trust cannot legitimately be called faith at all, even if it masquerades as Christianity. It is actually an irrational form of unbelief. God holds us accountable for what we believe as well as how we

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Satan v. Church Leaders

From 9Marks blog: Southern Seminary professor Chuck Lawless imagines what he would do if he were Satan, trying to ensnare pastors and church leaders. The whole article is here, but his seven basic points are First, I would attack those who are most gifted . . . by reminding them that they are gifted. Second, I would encourage leaders to talk about accountability . . . but not be personally accountable to anyone. Third, I would challenge leaders to emphasize spiritual disciplines . . . but only for others. Fourth, I would focus the leader’s attention on tomorrow . . . rather than today. Fifth, I would encourage ministry by e-mail . . . especially with those of the opposite gender. Sixth, I would not hinder ministry success . . . as long as “success” results in few changed lives. Seventh, I would stress failure . . . and then lead the church to do the same.

10 Ways to Help Kids Love Missions

This is a very helpful piece from Tia at Desiring God blog. Check out the links at the end. There are things we can do to help our kids love the nations and the cause of Christ, even though a heart and calling for the Great Commission is ultimately something only God can grant. Here are a few ideas from Ryan and Anna, who are currently preparing to serve in Asia with their two young daughters. 1. Pray for missionaries as a family. We keep a stack of prayer cards on the dinner table and rotate through them during mealtime prayers. 2. Read missionary biographies to your children. The stories of Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, Gladys Aylward, and other missionary pioneers are captivating ways to orient a child’s heart on the most important things in life. 3. Draw the whole family into supporting missionaries financially. Teach your kids from a young age that being a good steward of

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