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On the Relationship Between Assurance and Perseverance

16 Dec

Here’s a helpful, encouraging, and challenging talk on the relationship between assurance of salvation and the necessity of perseverance by Tom Schreiner of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Part 1

Part 2

[HT: Resurgence]


How Do We Grow in Love and Affection for God?

14 Dec

I’ve started reading J. Gresham Machen’s book, What is Faith? and it is packed with all these great gems of truth. Well, to answer the question, he first writes (contrary to the non-theological emotionalism of his day and ours) the following:

The devout man may indeed well do without a complete systematization of his knowledge… but some knowledge he certain must have.

In other words, he writes that in order to love somebody, we must know some things about them. And one of the ways (along with nature and our conscience) that he identifies that we get to know God is through the Bible. He writes:

… we rise from the Bible… with a knowledge of the character of God. There is a real analogy here to our relation with an earthly friend. How do we come to know one another? Not all at once, but by years of observation of one another’s actions.

And then he goes on to list some of those actions by a friend that helps us to grow in love and trust for them:

We have seen a friend in time of danger, and he has been brave;

we have gone to him in perplexity, and he has been wise;

we have had recourse to (sought help from) him in time of trouble, and he has given us sympathy.

So, gradually, with the years, on the basis of many, many such experiences, we have come to love him and revere him. And now just a look or a word or a tone of his voice will bring the whole personality before us like a flash; the varied experiences of the years have been merged by some strange chemistry of the soul into a unity of affection.

Then, Machen, compares that now to the knowledge of God and growing in affections toward Him:

So it is, somewhat, with the knowledge of God that we obtain from the Bible.

In the Bible, we see God in action;

we see Him in fiery indignation wiping out the foulness of Sodom;

we see Him leading Israel like a flock;

we see Him giving His only begotten Son for the sins of the world.

And by what we see we learn to know Him. In all His varied dealings with His people He has never failed; so now we know him and adore Him. Such knowledge seems to be a simple, an instinctive thing; the varied dealings of God with His people have come together in the unity of our adoration. And now He is revealed as by a flash by every smallest dispensation of His providence, whether it be in joy or whether it be in sorrow.



Cultivating Distrust in the Certainties of…

2 Nov

Justin Taylor posts this blogpost about the importance of cultivating distrust in the certainties of despair/depression. He quotes John Piper, who makes a very good point based on the life of William Cowper:

We all [must] fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of his pessimism. But we have seen that Cowper is not consistent. Some years after his absolute statements of being cut off from God, he is again expressing some hope in being heard. His certainties were not sureties. So it will always be with the deceptions of darkness. Let us now, while we have the light, cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.

Though Justin Taylor (and John Piper) uses this to stress the importance of cultivating distrust in the certainties of despair/depression, I believe that the same could be said about doubt. Doubt is relentless in the certainties of his uncertainty. But for those who struggle with doubt, by God’s grace, there are moments of clarity in which the warmth of full assurance melts away the cold ice of doubt. It is not consistent. Therefore, “let us now, while we have light, cultivate distrust of the certainties of doubt.”

Ten Tips On How To Study

1 Nov

David Murray has posted another very helpful and practical blogpost. This time, it includes ten tips on how to study. The first eight are from this Wall Street Journal post, and the last two are from David Murray himself. Here they are reproduced below:

1. Testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory. The method is more effective than re-reading a textbook.

2. Review the toughest material right before going to bed the night before the test. That approach makes it easier to recall the material later.

3. Don’t wake up earlier than usual to study; this could interfere with the rapid-eye-movement sleep that aids memory. (All-nighters impair memory and reasoning for up to 4 days).

4. Eat breakfast the day of a big test. High-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best.

5. What you eat a week in advance matters, too. Students who ate a regular balanced diet that included fruit and veg did better than those who ate a high-fat, low-carb diet that was heavy on meat, eggs, cheese, and cream. The brain requires a constant supply of energy and “has only a limited backup battery.”

6. While many teens insist they study better while listening to music or texting their friends, research shows the opposite: Information reviewed amid distractions is less likely to be recalled later.

7. Reducing “novelty and stress on the day of the exam” can prevent choking under pressure. If you are taking the exam in an unfamiliar place, visit the room in advance.

8. If you’re still feeling anxious about an exam, set aside 10 minutes beforehand to write down your worries. Expressing one’s worries in writing, unburdens the brain.

Here’s 9 & 10 from me.

9. Short and frequent is better than long and rare. It is better to study your four or five subjects every day for shorter times than to study one subject each day for the full day. By the time you go back to what you studied four or five days previously, most of what you learned will have gone.

10. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I know it’s really boring but it’s also really effective. When I ask struggling Hebrew students about their study habits, they will usually say, “Well, I study 2-3 hours every day. The first thing I tell them to do is to shorten their study time. Once they’ve started breathing again, I explain the strategy using the following diagram:

(I can’t remember where I picked this up, but it works for all subjects, and especially for language study).

8am: Study the subject first thing in the morning for 45-60 minutes maximum. As soon as you end that period, your mind immediately starts losing data at a frighteningly rapid rate. Imagine where this graph ends up by the end of the day (feel familiar?)

11am: Re-study the same material again, although this time it should only take you 20-30 minutes. Notice that the knowledge level is higher than the the first period (and reached faster), and that the data loss rate has a shallower gradient (it takes longer to forget what you’ve learned).

4pm: Re-study same material again, this time for 10-15 minutes. Knowledge peak is even higher and gradient of loss even shallower. (In between these study times, you can be studying other subjects using the same method.)

9pm: Just before bed, review the material one more time for about 5-10 mins. Note peak and gradient (appealing, isn’t it!).  Compare where you are now with where you would be if you only studied the subject for one long period. Where would that red line be? Preachers, imagine what this could do for your eye-contact!

And if you want to seal it for good, do a quick 5-minute review first thing the next morning before studying new material. That will really set the mental concrete.

One of the Most Overlooked Aspects of Sin: Autonomous Human Reasoning (Part 2)

11 Oct

In Part 1, I described the monumental paradigm shifts that God has graciously been taking me through with regards to what Scripture calls sin. More than simply a breaking of an impersonal set of rules, it is, at its core, a radical self-centeredness that manifests itself in sinful deeds and desires.

But, yet again, God has been pleased to expand my understanding of sin to also take into account how the mind or intellect is involved in this radical self-centeredness. John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of the Word of God defines intellectual sin (or, “autonomous human reasoning”) as the following:

Intellectual autonomy is the view that human beings have the right to seek knowledge of God’s world without being subject to God’s revelation (Frame, DWG, p. 15-16).

In other words, the way I take this definition is to mean that in our sinful self-centeredness, all of us try to understand God’s world (e.g., psychology, sociology, ecology, ethics, theology, etc.) without ultimately subjecting ourselves to God’s Word.

Frame spends much time expanding and explaining that definition throughout his book, giving biblical grounds and support for it. For example, commenting on Genesis 3, he writes that “Adam and Eve make their decision to disobey God’s personal word to them [and] in their decision, they affirm their right to think autonomously, even to the point of contradicting God himself” (DWG, p. 16).

But suffice it to say that, according to Frame, because God “is there” and He “is not silent” (using Francis Schaeffer‘s terminology), we, God’s creation are obligated to trust and obey the words of our Creator.

The only problem is, apart from the Holy Spirit mercifully awakening us to our radical sinful self-centeredness to repent and believe in the Gospel, we will continue to try an understand God’s world without subjecting ourselves to God’s Word. And thus, we will continue to be blinded (2 Cor. 4:4) and enslaved in the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

So, then, do you recognize any areas in your life where you are trying to understand this world – God’s world – with your own understanding? With your own wisdom? With your own reasoning – without humbly looking at it through the lens of Scripture?

In Part 3, I’ll share my most recent example (of what I am sure will be many more) where I was deeply convicted by the Spirit of an area where I tried to understand God’s world without subjecting myself to God’s Word.

One of the Most Overlooked Aspects of Sin: Autonomous Human Reasoning (Part 1)

7 Oct

I don’t know about anybody else, but in the context I grew up, I was taught implicitly (because silence communicates loudly, as well) that sin was limited to deeds (i.e., breaking God’s Law). But over, the years, I have been learning that though sin is definitely not less than that, it is so much more.

So, for example, from the ministry of John Piper and Tim Keller, I began to see that sin is essentially an orientation toward the self. That is, because we substituted ourselves for God at the center of the universe (Gen. 3), we do everything in such a way that the world has to now revolve around us and our desires and our purposes and our plans.

In other words, it’s this radical self-centeredness that pervades all areas of our lives. In fact, the writing and preaching of Piper and Keller helped me to see that our sinful deeds are a direct result of this radical self-centeredness.

And so, because I am not satisfied with God and His plans and purposes for me, therefore, I chase after other things (i.e., human approval, status, money, pleasure for the sake of pleasure, etc.) with a blatant disregard for God and others around me. Those around me (including God) simply become tools to use to get what I want or obstacles to remove to get what I want.

And thus, arises the sinful deeds of anger against God or people around us (because they tell us to not do what we want to do), sexual assault (because the person is seen as an object to use for pleasure, rather than a person made in the image of God), gossip (because elevating ourselves over and against another will give us a sense of vindication) – and the list goes on and on and on, literally.

But, more recently, God has been slowly but surely expanding my paradigm with regards to what sin is through the writings of John Frame. One of the biggest contributions that I have gleaned from his book The Doctrine of the Word of God (DWG) is the fact that included in that radical self-centeredness (along with our sinful deeds and desires) is our minds and our intellects. Thus, on page 17 of DWG, Frame writes:

Why should anyone imagine that the intellect could be left out of our account of sin? The mind is part of our being. It contributes to sin as much as our wills and feelings, as much as our arms and legs. So the spirit of autonomy appears in the history of human thought.

God-willing, in Part 2, I will expand on this definition of the sinful intellect (or, to use Frame’s terminology “autonomous human reasoning”) and then, in Part 3, give an example that the Holy Spirit has graciously been convicting me of most recently regarding my sinful, autonomous reasoning.

How to Glorify God at Work

9 Sep

John Piper:

Dependence: Go to work utterly dependent on God (Prov. 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.

Integrity. Be absolutely and meticulously honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. “Thou shalt not steal.” More people rob their employers by being slackers than by filching the petty cash.

Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you not only the grace of integrity but the gift of skills. Treasure that gift and be a good steward of those skills. This growth in skill is built on dependence and integrity.

Corporate shaping. As you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ. For example, someone is shaping the ethos of Chic-fil-A restaurants with this video.

Impact. Aim to help your company have an impact that is life-enhancing without being soul-destroying. Some industries have an impact that is destructive (e.g., porn, gambling, abortion, marketing scams, etc). But many can be helped to turn toward impact that is life-giving without being soul-ruining. As you have opportunity work toward that.

Communication. Work places are webs of relationships. Relationships are possible through communication. Weave your Christian worldview into the normal communications of life. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Put it on the stand. Winsomely. Naturally. Joyfully. Let those who love their salvation say continually, Great is the Lord! (Psalm 40:16)

Love. Serve others. Be the one who volunteers first to go get the pizza. To drive the van. To organize the picnic. Take an interest in others at work. Be known as the one who cares not just about the light-hearted weekend tales, but the burdens of heavy and painful Monday mornings. Love your workmates, and point them to the great Burden Bearer.

Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. You are a trustee. Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures. Make your money speak of Christ as your supreme Treasure.

Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. Let your thankfulness to God overflow in a humble spirit of gratitude to others. Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work.