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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]


What Do We Need to Fight Porn-Addiction?

12 Nov

I came across this post not too long ago on the DG blog. Though the post was primarily designed (I think) to commend the accountability tool, Covenant Eyes, the following video in which John Piper, Tim Keller, and D.A. Carson discuss how to fight pornography addiction in a Gospel-centered way caught my attention more powerfully for all the wisdom that was packed into it:

The following are a few of the things that Tim Keller and D.A. Carson say are necessary to fight pornography:

1. Both a Repugnance to Pornography And Affirmation of God’s Love in Christ. Tim Keller insists that it’s not enough just to remind people struggling with porn-addiction that pornography is repugnant to God (which it is). Nor is it enough just to tell people struggling with porn-addiction that God loves them no matter what because of Jesus (which He does). Both realities are necessary to avoid cheap grace on one side; and legalism on the other.

2. Gospel-centered Accountability in the Context of Community. Then, D.A. Carson adds to what Tim Keller said by emphasizing the importance of other brothers and sisters in the fight against porn-addiction to the end that pornography will grow more and more repugnant to them. This is done not only through the “cold-turkey” method, but also by reminding the brother (or sister) of the horrors of pornography – namely, that that was what caused Christ to endure that horrific death on the cross.

Click here to read the entire post (which includes other helpful articles and tools by DG on the issue).

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.

Examples of Christian Extreme-ism

27 Aug

David Murray has recently posted a list of recent teachings and practices in the Christian community which many well-meaning Christians have taken to unhelpful and, oftentimes, dangerous extremes which they were meant to be taken.

I know, personally, I have taken several of these teachings/practices to unhealthy extremes in the past. The list includes the following:

1. Nouthetic counseling: Jay Adams identified the problem of so many sinful behaviors being psychologized away. His solution was nouthetic counseling, a counseling methodology that confronted people with their sin and called them to change. But some took this truth to such an extreme that everything became sin and all psychology and physical dimensions to problems were dismissed or even demonized. (Confession time: I’ve got a tendency to react to that extreme by going to the other!)

2. Redemptive-historical preaching: Advocates of this kind of preaching identified the problem of “practical” or “topical” preaching which tended to preach purely applicatory sermons from small bits of Scripture without connecting it to the original context or the larger picture. Their remedy connects every text with the broad sweep of redemptive history. But does every sermon on every kind of biblical literature need to follow this pattern? Is breadth always better than depth? Is practical application never to be the main emphasis of the sermon?

3. Consecutive expository preaching: I referred to the pros and cons of this increasingly popular preaching model yesterday. Again, it identifies a problem, and proposes a good solution. But it can create another problem if it is taken to the extreme of making every sermon conform to this pattern.

4. Christian hedonism: There’s no question that John Piper has been used of God to recover a vital truth for the church. (His book, The Pleasures of God, revolutionized my own ministry about 10 years ago.) But problems arise when that truth becomes the only truth, or the main truth. Interestingly, Piper has since published two extremely helpful books, When I don’t desire God and When the darkness won’t lift, both of which bring a much greater balance to his important message.

5. Gospel-centeredness: I’ve expressed some concerns about this before (Less Gospel, More Christ please). Dane Ortland helped me understand the context of this movement better in a comment to that post and also here. However, again, the danger is that in a well-motivated desire to move away from moralism, even away from a Christ-as-example moralism, we lose Christ and Christ-empowered morality. Joe Thorn put it well:

There is more in God’s word than the gospel. God has given us his law to show us the way, uncover our corruption and condemnation, and point us to our need of redemption. There are commands to be obeyed, there is wisdom to learn and practice, and affections to feel and be moved by. But, the law itself is unable to create within us new hearts, or empower us to obey its demands. So let me say it this way: The gospel is the main thing, it is not the only thing. However, it is the only thing that brings life, power, and transformation. The gospel isn’t everything, but it does connect to everything, and preachers and teachers in the church must be able to show that connection lest we allow the church to drift (or even be lead) into various kinds of hopeless, powerless legalism.

6. Indicatives v Imperatives: This is related to #5. Yes, there has been too much “imperative-style” preaching, especially imperative-style preaching (you do this) that’s not rooted in the indicative (Christ has done it). However, as Kevin DeYoung has warned, although unintended, an over-emphasis on the indicatives may result in us losing the moral imperatives altogether, and in leaving people with only the duty to believe rather than to “trust and obey” as the old chorus goes.

7. Family Integrated Church: It’s great that so many leaders and churches are moving away from separate church services for different age groups, and the multiplying of ministries tailored to different ages that split churches into so many age-segregated cells. However, in the commendable desire to unite families and churches, is there not a danger of going to the extreme of having no age-appropriate teaching and activities?

8. The Full-quiver Movement: Again, it’s wonderful that Christians are swimming against the current of the age in fulfilling the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply above 2.3 children. However, there’s another side to that mandate that is often forgotten: “Subdue, have dominion, and rule.” But, in the worthy desire to fill the earth, some are physically, intellectually, and emotionally unable to provide for their families and have a controlled, disciplined, and orderly home and family life.

 9. Technology: I’m so glad that I’m living through the digital revolution. I’m so enthusiastic about how Christians are using technology to reach out with the Gospel via blogs, videos, mp3′s, etc. However, in our enthusiasm for this good gift of God, we are prone to trust in technology rather than the Holy Spirit, to substitute Facebook for face-to-face, and to have more fellowship in Twitter than in the local church.

10. Personalities: Again, I’m so thankful to have such unprecedented daily access to the blogging, tweeting, writing and preaching ministries of well-known Christian teachers. But our extremist hearts so easily and quickly turn them into Popes and substitute them for our Pastors.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Important Words on Sanctification from John Piper (Part 1)

26 Aug

There has been an extremely important discussion going on recently regarding the doctrine of sanctification. What is it? What’s God’s role? What’s our role? Voddie Baucham recently updated his Facebook status with the following, urging all Christians to care about this issue:

There’s a very important debate going on right now about sanctification. Unfortunately, most Christians are not worried about it, and the overwhelming majority think it’s a waste of time (doctrine divides, etc.), however, this issue is central to the way we view the Christian life and how we preach the gospel.

John Piper was the latest to get in on this conversation. You can find the audio here. But, for my own purposes, I went ahead and typed out a transcript of the interview below [Note: it’s been slightly edited for clarity]. Echoing Voddie Baucham, I would urge all Christians to take the time to care about this very important doctrine.

David Mathis: Let’s start off with a definition of what we have in mind with that theological term sanctification.

John Piper: It’s a biblical term – it’s not just a theological term like Trinity or others. Romans 6 uses it: you’re dead to sin; this leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. And so, it’s not a word or concept imported into the Bible or drawn together from pieces from the Bible. It’s actually there.

To be sanctified is to be made holy. And that means usually being set apart as morally pure; it means real change in the Christian life. So sanctification is the process by which we become conformed to the image of Christ morally, spiritually so that what we feel, think, and do differently. It stops being selfish, worldly, God-dishonoring and becomes everything that the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians says.

What’s distinct about it from other doctrines like justification is that sanctification is progressive. We do not instantaneously, upon conversion, become wholly sanctified. So Paul, at the end of 1 Thessalonians, is praying that “God will sanctify you.” And then he says, “God is faithful; He will do it” – which means He’s not done yet.

And so, we pray toward it and we engage in means of grace by which we make progress in sanctification. So, in a nutshell: sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit, engaging our will, moves us toward holiness or conformity to Jesus Christ (or sinlessness, which we never attain in this life, but strive toward).

DM: What is the relationship between justification and sanctification. How do we distinguish it properly?

JP: Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s a beautiful statement of the “once-for-all-ness” of the nature of justification. When the Holy Spirit awakens our dead hearts to believe and simultaneously unites us through that faith to Christ, that union with Christ establishes us in God’s sight as righteous; that is, just.

So justification is the act whereby God counts us to be righteous or just or perfect or sinless in His sight because of our union with Christ: “God made Him who knew no sin in order that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So, justification is distinct from sanctification in that justification is an imputation and a counting of me as having a righteousness which is alien to me. It is Christ’s righteousness counted as mine.

That’s not the case with sanctification. Sanctification is not a counting of me or a treating of me or a viewing of me as righteous with an alien righteousness which belongs to Jesus. Sanctification begins instantaneously on that justification and then, I start becoming what I am.

So, I am justified – viewed in Christ – as perfectly accepted. I couldn’t be more accepted than I am. And now, sanctification gets under way. It gets under way on the basis of my acceptance through justification.

In other words, justification is by faith alone through grace alone on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone to the glory of God alone. And now begins this lifelong process of becoming – in actual practice toward my wife, my children, my church – what God has made me in Christ.

DM: What are some specific biblical texts? For example, Philippians chapter 2, verses 12-13 and chapter 3, verse 12. Can you explain these?

JP: One of the reasons those texts are so helpful is because they address the issue of action and passivity. In other words, “Is it a gift of God or is it a duty of man?” Here’s the way Paul puts it in Philippians 2:12: “As you have always obeyed so now not only as in my presence, but much more in absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

So there’s the duty dimension. That’s an address to me to engage my mind and will and make moral effort in acts of obedience. So, for example, if I find myself to be mean-spirited and impatient and unkind toward my wife, I should not be merely passive and wait for God to zap me to change this. I need to believe that he is the decisive cause, but He has now said, “Piper, make war on that in yourself; hate that about yourself and do whatever you can do to attack that in yourself. Be aggressive; work out your salvation.”

If God has saved you – and is saving you – from impatience and unkindness, work it out; take hold of it and make it happen… “for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” So the ground for doing my duty is it’s a gift.

God is there working in my willing; if I have any will to make war on my sin, that’s a gift of God. If I have any will to pursue means of grace in Word and prayer and worship and fellowship and accountability – if I have any will to do any of that, God has worked that will.

And if I make any triumphs over these attitudes, that’s a gift of God so there’s no boasting in this. Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am. But his grace toward me was not in vain, but I worked harder than any of them. Nevertheless, it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

So there’s the mystery of the Christian life. Sanctification involves working hard. Paul pummeled his body lest he be a castaway. He saw things rising up in his old man and put them to death with a conscious, willed effort of Holy Spirit-inspired resolve.

And when he was all done, he said, “Nevertheless, it was not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

DM: What does Paul mean when he says the phrase, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” What does he mean by “with fear?”

JP: Peter O’Brien said this phrase is ordinarily related to the presence of the Almighty. When you’re in the presence of the infinitely pure, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God, there is a fear and trembling in your life. It’s not necessarily identical with terror like you’re going to be squished like a bug, but rather it has to do with shear wonder.

So, when Paul says, “with fear and trembling,” remember, he goes on to say, “for God is the one who is right here in you present at work.” This is God the Holy Spirit in your life and you should stand in trembling wonder that you are indwelt by the creator of the universe, who is at work in you to awaken your will to do good things.

DM: And how about Philippians 3:12?

JP: I love this verse. Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” So, in my conversion, when Christ brought me to faith, that’s a fixed, finished, unchangeable reality. And because of it, I press on to experience it in its fullness.

So, if people were to ask me, “Does all this striving you’re talking about; all this working you’re talking about; all this warfare you’re talking about – doesn’t this connote a kind of fragility to the Christian life? Like I might not make it?”

I go to this text and say, “Look, Paul says, ‘I press on.'” He’s not pressing on because Christ has not yet made him his own and he hopes with fingers crossed that someday Christ may make him his own and he will get to heaven.

It’s just the opposite! Paul says, “I press on to make it my own because Christ has made me His own.” He has done the decisive work and I am bound like a fetter to Him. And now, on that confidence, I strain forward for the prize of the upper call of God in Christ Jesus and all the perfection that will go with that someday.

[HT: JT]


20 Aug

I saw this music video of Johnny Cash’s Hurt a while back and the combination of the lyrics, the images of from the music video, and the life of Johnny Cash left me thinking one word: haunting.

The other day, I came across this post by Russell Moore in which he discusses the theological implications of this Nine Inch Nails remake by The Man in Black. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.

Here’s the actual video:

Where to Take Our Guilt

19 Aug

Just discovered this blog by Erik Raymond not too long ago. He’s been posting up some things lately that have been very helpful. Here’s another one that he titled, “When the Chariot of Guilt Rolls Into Town… What Do You Do?” Here’s a quick excerpt from it:

As Christians we typically bounce off of two extremes:

  1. Undervaluing the work of Christ by clinging to our own merit
  2. Undervaluing the work of Christ by wallowing in our guilt

This is as dangerous as it is insane (and unbelieving).

Sometimes I find myself bouncing off of these opposing and perilous walls within the same day.

Typically the chariot that brings in and provokes these responses is guilt. Guilt roles [sic] in because we are sinners. We become aware of our sin. We realize our lack of conformity to God’s Word. We know of our spiritual laziness. We know of our failure to do what God requires. And so we feel the guilt.

Now, before we impugn guilt as the enemy, let’s realize what it has done. All guilt is as rationale response to sin [sic]. We become aware of our sin. This is fine. In fact, it is healthy.

What do we do from there?

Click here to read the rest regarding what we are to do with our guilt.