The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor. 4:4
Category Archives: Spiritual Life
Doing What God Has Revealed In The Bible
A Book Review by David P. Craig
When I was in my teens I read a great book (still in print) called Decision Making and the Will of God by Gary Friesen and Robin Maxon. It was a watershed book for me in helping me with how to make biblically informed decisions. Over the years I’ve recommended the book to many who have have sought my counsel on the question “How can I know the will of God for my life?”. The problem with the book by Friesen and Maxon is it’s length (It was based on Friesen’s doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary). It’s a great book, but it’s length is prohibitive for many. Here’s the distinct advantage of DeYoung’s book – essentially the same principles and content – in 300 pages less!
DeYoung focuses on the facts of what God has revealed in the Scriptures so that we can best discern wisely what he wants from us. He makes a good case that God never intends for us to know “specifically” what He wants us to do (vocation), where He wants us to live, or who to marry (among many other questions we ask); however, DeYoung shows what God wants us to be like (Jesus) and how this purpose (sanctification) informs our decision-making. In the final analysis DeYoung writes: “Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God…the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.”
The author does a wonderful job of using practical illustrations to show how we worry, procrastinate, and flat-out sin by not doing what we know to do, as we put out fleeces, wait for signs, and pray as we wait for God’s discernment. He shows that oftentimes we are paralyzed by the fear of making a wrong decision or being out of God’s will, when what we really need to do is focus on what God has revealed in the Scriptures clearly that we are to do (principles, commands, and boundaries). Just Do Something is biblical, practical, theologically astute, and can be read in a few hours. I highly recommend it for any Christian of any age whose chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. This will now be my new “go-to” book when people ask me: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”
5 Things Jonathan Edwards Teaches Us about the Christian Life
This is a guest post by Dane Ortlund. He is the author of Edwards On the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. – originally posted @http://www.crossway.org/blog/2014/08/5-things-jonathan-edwards-teaches-us-about-the-christian-life/
Jonathan Edwards for the Rest of Us
For many of us, Jonathan Edwards is a skinny white guy who never smiled, except when talking about hell. If we know anything more, it’s:
that he wrote a lot of really dense books
that he talked a lot about the glory of God
that he was part of the Great Awakening
that John Piper likes him a lot
And that’s about it.
But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us.
Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life:
1. If you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically different and freshly empowered you now are.
When sinners repent and believe for the first time, it often feels as if nothing much has happened, and it often looks as if nothing much has happened. Our wrinkles don’t go away. Our Myers-Briggs personality profile doesn’t change. Our IQ isn’t improved. Our driver’s license photo looks the same after conversion as before, just a few years older and grayer.
Similarly, a foreigner who has just attained citizenship in their country of residence will not feel or look much different, upon receiving formal declaration of citizenship. Yet they now belong to an entirely new nation. More than this, they now have all the rights and privileges that belong to citizens of that nation.
Edwards teaches us that the quiet, seemingly innocuous change that takes place in the new birth is of eternal—even cosmic—significance. A fallen sinner has just become an invincible heir of the universe. The Holy Spirit has just taken up permanent residence in the temple of this soul. In new birth, Edwards writes, the Christian “is a new creature, he is just as if he were not the same, but were born again, created over a second time.”
For a Christian to wallow in sin and misery is for a butterfly to crawl miserably along the branch as if it were still a caterpillar.
2. Even if you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically fallen and blindly dysfunctional you remain.
If we understate the positive change in new birth, we also tend to understate the fallenness that remains. But Edwards knew of the strange dysfunctions that remain among all of us, including true believers. He saw it in himself.
Edwards spoke frequently, for example, of the lurking dangers of pride: “It is a sin that has, as it were, many lives. If you kill it, it will live still. If you suppress it in one shape, it rises in another. If you think it is all gone, it is there still. Like the coats of an onion, if you pull one form of it off, there is another underneath.”
We often don’t feel the weight of our sin. Why? Because of our sin. The disease is itself what prevents us from detecting the disease.
How do we get out? One answer is: read Jonathan Edwards. His sermons will do wonders to re-sharpen your blunted conscience and re-sensitize your heart to its fallenness.
3. Authentic discipleship to Jesus Christ calms and gentle-izes (not radicalizes and excites) Christians.
Edwards is famous for his hellfire sermons, but it is striking to trace the evolution of his preaching over his three decades in the pulpit. Scholars point out that the hellfire sermons were more typical of the young Edwards and gradually decreased over his career, while other themes grew increasingly strong: the beauty of Christ, the loveliness of holiness, the calmness of a justified life, the gentleness of God.
A sermon that nicely sums up the core of Edwards’ ministry is “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” based on 1 John 4:16. There we read statements like:
“The very nature of God is love. If it should be enquired what God is, it might be answered that he is an infinite and incomprehensible fountain of love.”
“He who has divine love in him has a wellspring of true happiness that he carries about in his own breast, a fountain of sweetness, a spring of the water of life. There is a pleasant calmness and serenity and brightness in the soul that accompanies the exercises of this holy affection.”
“God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it.”
That, more than anything else, is the pulsating core of Edwards’ ministry. Radical godliness is not obnoxious, showy, or boisterous. It is quiet, gentle, and serene.
4. Christianity is gain, and only gain.
Toward the end of his life, Edwards was kicked out of his church by a vote of ten to one—by professing Christians, upstanding church members. This, and other trials he encountered during his life, lead me to conclude that the lofty vision of Christian living that he has left to us is not naïve idealism. He felt the pain not only of rejection, but of rejection by close friends and family members who were part of his church. And yet, having his eyes opened to present pain did not close his eyes to future glory.
Why? Because we will have God, in heaven, unfiltered, forever. Consider the following breathtaking statement:
The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or in each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them.
Christians leave nothing behind when they die. All is gain.
5. Revival is not what you think it is.
When evangelicals today hear the word “revival,” we generally picture tears, loudness, animated preaching, exuberance, humiliating confession of sin, and so on. Some of these things may be present in revival, perhaps, but Edwards came to long for revival because he saw that it is not a move from the ordinary to the extraordinary so much as a move from the sub-ordinary to the ordinary. We become human again. We breathe once more.
Edwards witnessed two revivals. One was local, contained to New England, in the mid-1730s. The other, six years later, was transatlantic and became known as the Great Awakening. Edwards made the fascinating observation that, in the first revival, God’s people tended “to talk with too much of an air of lightness, and something of laughter,” whereas in the second revival “they seem to have no disposition to it, but rejoice with a more solemn, reverential, humble joy.” The first revival’s joy was real but frothy. The second revival’s joy was deeper and more calm.
Simply put, revival isn’t weird. True revival is rehumanizing. It re-centralizes not the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit so much as the ordinary fruit of the Spirit.
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway. He is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, and serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible study series. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their four kids in Wheaton.
Help for Those Fighting or Grieving a Suicide
by Jon Bloom
Robin Williams’s alleged suicide has sent shock waves through the world. Williams was a man bursting with manic energy, an out-sized personality, prodigious dramatic talent, and a completely unique comic genius. He could make us roll on the floor in laughter and he could move us deeply to tears. Many of us have memories of his performances that stretch back into our childhood. Now, suddenly, at age 63, it appears that he has taken his own life. For this tragedy it is too early for any more words. Let us cover our mouths, weep, and pray for his family.
But for some of us in the household of Jesus, Williams’s death hits hard for very personal reasons. For some, a profound, oppressive darkness is threatening to douse the little light and hope they see. They are fighting for dear life to remember and believe that life is worth living. And Robin Williams’s surrender is sucking the hope that they will be able to keep fighting. If that’s you, I simply want to point you to hope by recommending a few things: Read the book of Ecclesiastes. That may sound strange because some find that book depressing. But I have appreciated this book most in my darkest times. Reading it will remind you that the Bible deals straight up with the bleakness of futility — finding hope in the world apart from God in this age. And it has clear pointers to hope.
Then read the book of John. Here is the Hope. The Light of the world shines with unique brightness in this book and in his light we see light (Psalm 36:9). When despairing of life, we need to spend concentrated time listening to the Life (John 14:6). Look through our list of free resources for help dealing with depression and despair. A while back I wrote about what I learned in one of my dark spiritual storms. It might be helpful to you. You Are Not Alone And one thing you need to remember is that the oppressive darkness and the temptation to despair is common to man. You are not alone. About ¼ of the Psalms are written to help you. And one man’s surrender to the darkness does not at all mean that’s where you’ll end up. This precious promise is for you: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The Fight for Hope
For others in the household of Jesus, Robin Williams’s death is a reminder of another precious, precious loved life that ended in a similar incomprehensible surrender, and has reopened the wound that will never fully heal in this age. Ineffable love and sorrow and confusion and maybe anger has been stirred up again and they are fighting for hope that suicide may not be the final word on that life and that the God who did not intervene to prevent it is good — or is there at all. If that’s you, I’d like to point you also to a few helpful resources: Suicide is not the unforgivable sin. John Piper shared some very helpful thoughts on an episode of “Ask Pastor John” last May titled, “Suicide and Salvation.” John also has preached a number of funerals for believers who committed suicide. This one from 1988 and this one from 2007 are particularly hopeful and helpful. Our National Conference from 2005 focused entirely on suffering. I recommend every session. But a particularly poignant one might be Mark Talbot’s message, “Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us.” Listen to the Light One thing for you to remember is what C. S. Lewis’s Aslan once said, “I tell no one any story but his own.” Essentially that was what Jesus replied to Peter who wanted to know Jesus’s plans for the Apostle John: “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22). We dare not speculate too much about what we cannot see and cannot know about another’s story. We must rest in the trust that the Judge of all the earth will do what is just (Genesis 18:25). And remember that someday: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4) For most of us, depression is an indication of what we are believing. Let us not listen to the darkness and it’s seductive, hope-depleting half-truthed lies. It leads to a black hole. Listen to and move toward the Light. Light will dawn for those who trust him (Psalm 112:4). It’s a promise.
Related resources: The Joy Will Come When God Says Wait Worship in the Dark Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.
By Charles Stanley (Winning the War Within, pp. 128-130)
Good morning, Lord. Thank You for assuring me of victory today if I follow Your battle plan. So by faith I claim victory over _______________ (I normally list some things I know I will be faced with that day).
To prepare myself for the battle ahead, by faith I put on the belt of truth. The truth about You, Lord–that You are a sovereign God who knows everything about me, both my strengths and weaknesses. Lord, You know my breaking point and have promised not to allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able to bear. The truth about me, Lord is that I am a new creature in Christ and have been set free from the power of sin. I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who will guide me and warn me when danger is near. I am Your child, and nothing can separate me from Your love. The truth is that You have a purpose for me this day–someone to encourage, someone to share with, someone to love.
Next, Lord I want to, by faith, put on the breastplate of righteousness. Through this I guard my heart and emotions. I will not allow my heart to attach itself to anything that is impure. I will not allow my emotions to rule my decisions. I will set them on what is right and good and just, I will live today by what is true, not by what I feel.
Lord, this morning I put on the sandals of the gospel of peace. I am available to You, Lord. Send me where You will. Guide me to those who need encouragement or physical help of some kind. Use me to solve conflicts whenever they may arise. Make me a calming presence in every circumstance in which You place me. I will not be hurried or rushed, for my schedule is in Your hands. I will not leave a trail or tension and apprehension. I will leave tracks of peace and stability everywhere I go.
Lord I now take up the shield of faith, Lord. My faith is in You and You alone. Apart from You, I can do nothing. With You, I can do all things. No temptation that comes my way can penetrate Your protecting hand. I will not be afraid, for You are going with me throughout this day. When I am tempted, I will claim victory out loud ahead of time, for You have promised victory even now because I know there are fiery darts headed my way even as I pray. Lord, You already know what they are and have already provided the way of escape.
Lord, by faith I am putting on the helmet of salvation. You know how Satan bombards my mind day and night with evil thoughts, doubt, and fear. I put on this helmet that will protect my mind. I may feel the impact of his attacks, but nothing can penetrate this helmet. I choose to stop every impure and negative thought at the door of my mind. And with the helmet of salvation those thoughts will go further. I elect to take every thought captive; I will dwell on nothing but what is good and right and pleasing to You.
Last, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is Your Word. Thank You for the precious gift of Your Word. It is strong and powerful and able to defeat even the strongest of Stan’s onslaughts. Your Word says that I am not under obligation to the flesh to obey its lusts. Your Word says that I am free from the power of sin. Your Word says that He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world. So by faith I take up the strong and powerful sword of the Spirit, which is able to defend me in time of attack, comfort me in time of sorrow, teach me in time of meditation, and prevail against the power of the enemy on behalf of others who need the truth to set them free.
So, Lord, I go now rejoicing that You have chosen me to represent You to this lost and dying world. May others see Jesus in me, and may Satan and his hosts shudder as Your power is made manifest in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.