I’m endeavoring to do a series on membership right now. It’s challenging. While one of the challenges for me as pastor is in the formation of the series, a greater challenge is what this series confronts in the heart of every evangelical Christian living in Western culture. One of those challenges I addressed at the beginning of my sermon last week. I quoted Paul David Tripp to highlight this concern. Take a few minutes to listen to this quote in Tripp's own words, and ask God to search your heart. I would also encourage you to listen to last week’s sermon if you were absent. It’s vital we at new3c are all on the same page during this series.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Have you ever gone through a season of life wherein you know God’s in control, but His providence feels cruel? You want answers, but none seem to come. You know what the Bible says, but your emotions quickly interpret your suffering as a cruel joke – making it hard not to pray in human angst and even anger, “God, why are You doing this to me? Why are you letting this happen?”
To be a Christ-follower means to have this experience multiple times in our journey to the Celestial City. For those in such a place now – and for future moments of this testing of your faith – I offer wisdom from a great pastor and reformer from church history.
“Sometimes the causes of the events [of life] are hidden. So the thought creeps in that human affairs turn and whirl at the blind urge of fortune; or the flesh incites us to contradiction, as if God were making sport of men by throwing them about like balls. It is, indeed, true that if we had quiet and composed minds ready to learn, the final outcome would show that God always has the best reason for his plan: either to instruct his own people in patience, or to correct their wicked affections and tame their lust, or to subjugate them to self-denial, or to arouse them from sluggishness; again, to bring low the proud, to shatter the cunning of the impious and to overthrow their devices. Yet however hidden and fugitive from our point of view the causes may be, we must hold that they are surely laid up with him, and hence we must exclaim with David: ‘Great, O God, are they wondrous deeds that thou hast done, and thy thoughts toward us cannot be reckoned; if I try to speak, they would be more than can be told’ [Ps. 40:5].”
He continues a short time later along these same lines…
“When dense clouds darken the sky, and a violent tempest arises, because a gloomy mist is caste over our eyes, thunder strikes our ears and all our senses are benumbed with fright, everything seems to us to be confused and mixed up; but all the while a constant quiet and serenity ever remain in heaven. So we must infer that, while the disturbances in the world deprive us of judgment, God out of the pure light of his justice and wisdom tempers and directs these very moments in the best-conceived order to a right end.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion: Volume 1 (211)
Thursday, May 1, 2014
During a great and encouraging conversation recently with my wife, Rachel, she said something about marriage that jumped out at me. In the flow of our dialogue, she said – almost anecdotally – three words that my ears heard with bold italics: the last battleground. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said, “It’s easier to humble yourself before God and others outside your home than it is before your spouse. That’s why marriage is the last battleground of humility.” So true.
Whether you get along naturally in your marriage, or it's a lot of work – or you’re somewhere in between those two extremes – you’ve come to see that marriage is the most vulnerable of all human relationships. As a godly older man recently told me, in his younger days he used to think that being “one flesh” referred exclusively to the sexual relationship in marriage. Over time he’s come to see it means more than just that. We both agreed by laughing together about this insight. No further theoretical pontification about the topic was necessary.
To be married is to be vulnerable. To be in a marriage – a healthy one – is to continually make yourself vulnerable. We stand “naked” before our spouse emotionally, mentally, habitually, attitudinally, vocationally, socially, and spiritually. And if humility – the humility of Christ – is not the chief ingredient of the recipe of your life as man and wife, the aroma of your home won’t smell pleasant. If consistent and true confession and repentance are not the practical harmony of your marriage, the daily melody will always feel “off.” If the gospel of grace you shout “Amen!” to at church and read about and receive in your “quiet time” is not being extended to your spouse, walls will inevitably form and sinful hiddenness (= pride and guilt) will become the default and defining nature of your matrimony. This is why we need the Holy Spirit daily challenging us in and through His Word. And this is why we need – and must have – people in our local church who are agents of the Spirit, challenging us to live what we know in that Word. Lives and marriages survive – even thrive! – only when they are regularly connecting with other believers in our community of faith who are pursuing Jesus daily. Such are the practical implications of marriages and lives that are passionately gripped by the gospel.
Friday, April 25, 2014
My heart breaks and is troubled by the rampant sin of pornography that is wreaking havoc on lives, marriages, children, local churches, and communities around the world. There’s something incredibly insidious about this sin. It’s not to be trifled with and curiously investigated by anyone, for it sinks its tentacles so deep in the soul that freeing oneself is impossible.
The only way to be free from pornography is to be captivated, enraptured, stimulated, and fascinated with something – rather, Someone – greater. His name is Jesus. Watch this testimony of songwriter Jimmy Needham and be encouraged if you, a friend, or loved one is entangled in this sin. Pass it along.
May the stain and shame of this sin be cleansed and eclipsed by the simple – yet true and profound – reality of the gospel. Jesus is better.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
My wife and I had the privilege of attending Together for the Gospel last week in Louisville, KY. It’s always a mountaintop experience for me to be able to re-connect with old Bible college and seminary friends, hear phenomenal preaching, and sing with thousands of other ministers and leaders from local churches all over the nation and globe. One of the encouraging things about the conference this year was the gospel testimonies played before some of the sessions.
I’d like to share them with you, so that you will be inspired to invite someone to church this Sunday – Easter Sunday – to (hopefully) hear the gospel preached in your local church. Before you invite individuals and/or families, pray that God would cause them to accept your invitation. (Then pray for your pastor's sermon preparation this week and the Spirit's power to attend his preaching this Sunday!) You never know how God could use you as a vessel of grace to eternally change the life of someone by such an invitation. Be unashamed.