What’s the Purpose of Pastors?

Tim Challies: The Bible knows nothing of lone Christians, of believers who are willfully independent from a local church. Rather, Christians gather in communities to worship together and serve one another. And as God commands his people to gather in community, he also commands them to be led—led by men called and qualified as pastors or elders (terms the Bible uses interchangeably). As we progress through a series of questions  about things we as Christians often take for granted, we now come to the question of church leadership and ask, “What’s the purpose of pastors?” Common Views of Pastors In the church today we find a number of common views of the role and purpose of pastors. Unfortunately, some of these, though perhaps well-intentioned, are unbiblical. Here are two prominent views that both fall short of what the Bible teaches. The first is the pastor as CEO. According to this view, the pastor’s primary purpose is to keep his organization (i.e.,

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What’s the Purpose of the Church?

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

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God Hates Pride

Tim Challies: Is there any trait more deceptive? Is there any vice easier to see in others, but harder to see in ourselves? We despise its presence in them, but defend its presence in us. It is the ugly trait of pride, one of a number of traits for which God has a special disgust. In this series, we are looking at things God says he hates, he despises, or he considers an abomination. We have already seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, injustice, hypocrisy, and deceit. Today we will look at God’s hatred for pride. God Hates Pride “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” So says wise old Solomon. And heading up the list of these seven deadly sins is “haughty eyes” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Haughty eyes are an arrogant man’s windows to the world. From the lofty perch of his own superiority, he uses them to look down upon

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Eight Terrible Consequences of False Doctrine

Tim Challies: The Christian’s responsibility is clear: We are to learn God’s truth by searching God’s Word. We must carefully evaluate every teaching according to God’s unfailing standard. What passes the test is sound doctrine, and what fails the test is false doctrine. False doctrine confuses truth and error, while sound doctrine distinguishes truth and error. False doctrine fails to distinguish between what God has revealed in his Word and what has been fabricated by men or demons. In the book of Hebrews, we see a church that has backslidden, that has reverted to ungodly behavior. They have done so because of their failure to heed sound doctrine. Their pastor writes this: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food … solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by

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The Depth of My Depravity

Tim Challies: Testimony—that’s a good Christian word, isn’t it? Each of us has a testimony, an account of how God extended his grace to us. And these testimonies are beautiful things, each one recounting the sovereign work of our great God. Now, much has been said about how we tend to prefer the testimonies that feature the most dramatic lows. We have all heard those tales that almost seem to revel in past sins more than feel regret for them. But we like those stories because we find a certain kind of thrill in hearing how someone turned away from a life of such egregious sin. I used to feel a little bit odd about telling others how I was saved. I was a good kid. I had opportunities to drink and do drugs, but just wasn’t interested. I didn’t ever steal anything beyond a few coins after running errands for my mother. There just isn’t a whole lot to tell. But the

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The Temple and the Tabernacle

Tim Challies: If you are a committed reader, you know what it’s like when you get swept away by a book—where hours pass in what feels like minutes. You know the sheer pleasure of being drawn into a book that is unexpectedly interesting and intriguing. This was the case for me this weekend when I began to read The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation. Hidden behind that title is a brilliant and fascinating work that offers something to every Christian. This book, as the title suggests, is a study of the Old Testament temple and tabernacle. Yet it is much more than that. So central are these buildings to Old Testament worship and New Testament symbolism that understanding them, understanding the roles they played, understanding the way they were made, understanding their function to Old Testament worship, and understanding the key differences between them illumines so much of the Christian faith. We

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3 Truths to Speak To Your Temptation

  Tim Challies: As a true son of Adam, a person born with a natural affection for sin, I have no shortage of opportunities to consider sin and to consider the desire to commit it in its infinite varieties. As a husband and father, a pastor, and a church member I have no shortage of opportunities to speak to other people about their sin and their temptations. And time and time again I find myself returning to the simplest truths, to words that can and must be spoken to temptation. The first thing to say to the sin that is tempting you is this: That is not who I am! That temptation, that sin, does not fit your deepest identity. Those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus are in Christ Jesus—“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is now a union in Christ that provides an entirely new

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A Call for Christian Extremists

Tim Challies: The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem. But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who arezealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We

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6 Great Reasons To Study Doctrine

Tim Challies: I love doctrine. Doctrine is simply the teaching of God or the teaching about God—the body of knowledge that he reveals to us through the Bible. I guess I’m one of those geekly people who loves to learn a new word and the big idea behind it. But I hope I do not love doctrine for doctrine’s sake. Rather, I strive to be a person who loves doctrine for God’s sake. Today I want to give you 6 great reasons to study doctrine. DOCTRINE LEADS TO LOVE Doctrine leads to love—love for God that then overflows into love for others. 1 John 4:8 makes it plain: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” To know God is to know love; to know God is to equip yourself to act in love. Your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him, so that you can really only love him as far as you know him. As

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I Am An Old-Fashioned Christian

By Tim Challies: I get the books. I read the articles. I see the news. Christianity seems ready to move on. And I realize anew: I am an old-fashioned kind of Christian. I believe in the Bible. I believe that it is clear, complete, sufficient, true, and without error. It is God’s revelation to humanity and demands my full attention and full obedience. I do not expect God to speak to me apart from it. I read, He speaks, I obey. Or I try anyways. I believe in the God of the Bible. I believe in a God who is one, yet three. I believe in a God who is loving, holy, just, kind and good. I believe in a God who has foreordained everything that has come to pass or will come to pass. I believe that God, from nothing, made the world and everything in it in six days. Not six ages or six phases or six million years, mind you, but six

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8 Features of the Best Kind of Calvinism

Tim Challies: I was interested to read through a new little booklet written by Ian Hamilton, pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, England. In this work he means to show that Calvinism is both deeper and richer than the well-known 5 Points (a.k.a. TULIP). Calvinism at its best is also experiential, a word which Tom Nettles once helpfully described in this way: “An experiential theology, or experimental Calvinism, pursues the purposeful application of every doctrine to some area of life that needs further conformity to Christ’s perfect humanity.” Hamilton explains further: Calvinism is natively experiential. Before it is a theological system, Calvinism is deeply affectional, God-centered, cross-magnifying religion. A man may loudly trumpet his adherence to the distinctive tenets of Calvinism, but if his life is not marked by delight in God and His gospel, his professed Calvinism is a sham. In other words, there is no such thing as “dead Calvinism.” Such is a theological oxymoron for one simple

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Sin: Can’t Live With It, Won’t Live Without It

  Tim Challies: Sin. I can’t live with it, but time and time again I have proven that I’m just not able to live without it. I know that I have been freed from sin—freed from the power of sin—and yet I still sin. The Bible tells me not to let sin reign, it tells me that if I am truly a child of God I will not go on sinning (Romans 6:12, 1 John 3:9). And still I sin. Even in those times that I focus my efforts on one particular sin I find that I am unable to stop, unable to put it entirely to death. My mind can’t do it, my heart can’t do it, my will can’t do it, my hands can’t do it. It may not reign as sovereign, but it continues to exist as a trial and a steady temptation. In The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction Sinclair Ferguson writes about this tricky relationship of

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5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

  Tim Challies: It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders. This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different. In the book of Titus, Paul writes to a young man and charges him to appoint elders in every church in Crete. He tells him what kind of man to look

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Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel To Yourself

  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.”

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Challies: Lessons I’ve Learned From False Teachers

  Tim Challies: A few months ago I began a short series called “The False Teachers.” I wanted to look back through church history to meet some of the people who have undermined the church at various points. We looked at historical figures like Joseph Smith who founded Mormonism and Ellen G. White who led the Seventh Day Adventists into prominence, and we looked at contemporary figures like Benny Hinn, the prominent faith healer, and T.D. Jakes, who has tampered with the doctrine of the Trinity. I will soon be starting a new series looking at The Defenders, Christians known for defending the church against a certain theological challenge or a specific false teaching. I will be focusing on modern times and modern issues such as inerrancy and Open Theism. But before I do that, I wanted to reflect on some of what I’ve learned as I’ve spent time considering false teachers and false teaching. Here are a few lessons

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