Note to Self: Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves

As we prepare for worship tomorrow and for hearing the gospel, we may learn from these points of Joe Thorn in Note to Self:

We cannot properly preach the law without also preaching the gospel, for God has not given us his law as the end. But before we consider how to preach the gospel, it will be helpful to clarify the gospel itself. In one sense we must say that the gospel is history, It happened. Simply put, the gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. …In the Bible, ‘gospel’ is not something we do but something we believe. It is the good news of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.

At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption…. This is therefore very ‘good news’ (pp.29-30).

Note-to-self-ThornWe can fault Thorn for being too simplistic about the gospel here (I believe he deliberately intends it to be so for his purposes.) and for being too vague with regard to the specific intent of Jesus’ saving work (a substitutionary atonement for those sinners chosen before time by the Father to salvation and life in Christ, that is, for the elect only), and for his use of the word “offer” in his presentation of the gospel (I am not sure he understands the controversy surrounding the use of that term and the “loaded” Arminian connotation it often has in our time), but we can appreciate his point that we need to preach this message of the finished work of Christ to ourselves daily.

Here is what he adds to this section:

When we get to the business of preaching this good news to ourselves, we are essentially denying self and resting in the grace of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection (p.30).

To that we can give our hearty Amen!

Taken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). For the previous post, visit this page.

Awakened by True Conversion – Steven Lawson

TT-Feb-2016As we have pointed out earlier, this month’s issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “Awakening”, which includes personal regeneration/conversion, family renewal, and church revival. In his introductory editorial, “True Reformation,” Burk Parsons writes this:

Awakening is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and it is the reason we are Christians. Awakening is the powerful work of our sovereign and gracious God. When He awakens us, He doesn’t simply awaken us from sleep, but from death. Awakening is the glorious work of regeneration, revival, and reformation. When God awakens us, He regenerates our hearts, gives us the gift of new birth, and makes us alive. He says to us, “Live!” (Ezek. 16:6). The Holy Spirit invades, conquers, and persuades us. He rips out our stubborn, self-trusting hearts of stone and replaces our dead hearts with new, living hearts—hearts that are made willing and able to believe; hearts that are soft and pliable in the hands of our Father, united and lovingly enslaved to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

When God awakens, He always brings revival, whether it is the revival of a single soul, the revival of a family, the revival of a community, or the revival of a nation. When God brings revival, He always brings deep and convicting repentance that leads to a life of faith, repentance, and obedience. When God awakens, He always brings true and lasting reformation—reformation of hearts, lives, homes, and churches.

Dr. Steven Lawson has written the first main featured article on this theme – “True Conversion” – and has this to say at the outset:

What does the word conversion mean? In the biblical sense, conversion means a turning—a spiritual turning away from sin in repentance and to Christ in faith. It is a dramatic turning away from one path in order to pursue an entirely new one. It involves turning one’s back to the system of the world and its anti-God values. It involves a turning away from dead religion and self-righteousness. It involves a complete pivot, an about-face, in order to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life.

Conversion also involves the idea of changing direction. A true spiritual conversion radically alters the direction of one’s life. It is not a partial change wherein one is able to straddle the fence between two worlds. It is not a superficial turning, a mere rearranging of the outward facade of a person’s life. Conversion is not a gradual change that occurs over a period of time, like sanctification. Instead, a genuine conversion occurs much deeper within the soul of a person. It is a decisive break with old patterns of sin and the world and the embracing of new life in Christ by faith.

This spiritual conversion is so profound that it involves many changes in a person. It involves a change of mind, which is an intellectual change; and a change of view, a new recognition of God, self, sin, and Christ. It involves a change of affections, which is an emotional change, a change of feeling, a sorrow for sin committed against a holy and just God. It involves a change of will, which is a volitional change, an intentional turning away from sin and a turning to God through Christ to seek forgiveness. The entire person—mind, affections, and will—is radically, completely, and fully changed in conversion.

To read more on these important subjects, use the links provided here.

Source: True Conversion by Steven Lawson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

The Prayers of J. Calvin (26)

JCalvinPic1On this last Sunday night of January 2016 we continue our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-fifth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 6:16-23, which includes Calvin’s comments on v.16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”:

This passage contains a valuable truth, – that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Rom.v:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds.

Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth.

If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, …how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit to his word; for he himself has promised it, ‘Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.’ And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls (p.342).

And this is the prayer that follows this lecture:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not daily to give Thee occasion of offence, and as Thou ceasest not, in order to promote our salvation, to call us to the right way, – O grant, that we may be attentive to Thy voice, and suffer ourselves to be reproved by it, and so submit ourselves to Thee, that we may continually go on towards the mark to which Thou invitest us, and that having at length finished our course in this life, we may enjoy the fruit of our obedience and faith, and possess that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen

Note to Self: What is Preaching to Ourselves?

Note-to-self-ThornLast Sunday I began to introduce you to a “new” book I picked up in a local thrift store – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

The main part of the book consists of specific “notes to self”, applying the gospel we hear each week to ourselves. These personal applications are grouped into three sections:

  • Part One: The Gospel and God
  • Part Two: The Gospel and Others
  • Part Three: The Gospel and You

We will be taking a look at some of these specific “notes to self” in the weeks ahead, but for today we should start by looking at the author’s introduction. Under the heading “Preaching to Ourselves?”, Thorn starts by defining what he means by “the discipline of preaching to yourself”:

…Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness.

In that connection, he also explains why this is so important and so necessary:

     …It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through his Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

And he closes out this part of his introduction with these words:

     This personal, devotional work is essential to our own health, but also to our effectiveness in sharing the law and the gospel with others. The more deeply we understand and experience law and gospel, the more capable we become in communicating and applying it to those around us. A good teacher or evangelist is first of all a good preacher to himself (p.24).

Prayers of the Reformers (12) – “O Christe, Morgensterne”

 

For this fourth Lord’s Day of January 2016 we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both of these are taken from the section “Prayers for Newness of Life.”

May they help prepare us for worship on this day of our risen Savior, so that He is glorified in all we do.

rev22-18-morningstar

 

O Christe, Morgensterne

O Christ, Thou bright and morning Star,
Now shed Thy light abroad;
Shine on us from Thy glorious throne afar
With Thy pure glorious Word.

O Jesus, Comfort of the poor,
I lift my heart to Thee;
I know Thy mercies still endure,
And Thou wilt pity me.

For Thou didst suffer for my soul,
Her burdens to remove:
O make me through Thy sorrows whole,
Refresh me with Thy love.

Then, Jesus, glory, honor, praise
I’ll ever sing to Thee;
And Thou at last my soul wilt raise
To endless joys with Thee.

-Unknown, 1579 (p.81)

For hearing God’s Word (slightly edited)

Almighty God, as nothing is better for us or more necessary for our chief happiness than to depend on Thy Word, for that is a sure pledge of Thy good will towards us, grant that, as Thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit, we may be attentive to hear Thee and submit ourselves to Thee in true fear, meekness, and humility.

May we be prepared in the spirit of meekness to receive whatever proceeds from Thee, and may Thy Word not only be precious to us, but also sweet and delightful, until we shall enjoy the perfection of that life which Thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by His own blood. Amen

-John Calvin (p.79)

Turning from Vanity – Rev.M. DeVries

Ps119-37The meditation for the January 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer was written by Rev. Michael DeVries, PRC pastor in Kalamazoo, MI. It is a reflection on the prayer found in Psalm 119:37, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity ; and quicken thou me in thy way.”

Penned with the new year in mind, this meditation contains timely and timeless thoughts for us believers living in the twenty-first century. Here are a few of these considerations as we seek to flee the vanities about us and within us in 2016:

A Fervent Prayer
Who can deny that this world is filled with vanities? Who can ignore the horrible manifestations of sin that we see? Shocking immorality! Gross perversion of God’s ordinance of marriage! Unbelievable filth – vanity! Terrible lawlessness and rebellion – vanity! Economic woes and political chaos – vanity. And in much of the church we see bold apostasy and world conformity – vanity! We behold fantastic wealth, luxuries, pleasures, and entertainments – vanity!

…The term “vanity” comes from a root word which means breath or vapor. Go outside in the frigid temperatures of winter and exhale into the cold air. That puff of vapor is vanity! Vanity is that which has no real substance. It is that which is useless and futile. It doesn’t last. Its existence is fleeting. Apart from the fear of the Lord, all the endeavors of man, in every sphere of life, are vanity. All of his learning and culture, his science and philosophy, his invention and industry, his finance and economics, his recreation and entertainment, his life at home, at work, at play – vanity, all vanity! It is all passing away. Man finds no real joy, no real satisfaction, no true peace.

For sin and the curse of God’s righteous wrath beset this world and all the endeavors of men. We see utter rebellion against all Biblical standards of morality and even common decency. And it all ends in the vanity of death and the grave. Almighty God will not be mocked and shall cast the ungodly down into destruction. This is the world of vanity in which we have walked in 2015 and in which we are required to continue walking in 2016.

By God’s grace we pray, yea, we pray fervently, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” By grace we are not one with this world of vanity. Yet we feel the tug, the pull in the direction of the vanities of this world. For we are still beset with our sinful natures that belong to this world of vanity. We realize the appeal, the attraction, the allurement of this world of vanities. Perhaps especially in our youth – physical appearance, popularity, possessions, money – who can deny the appeal?

And so, by grace we express our heartfelt need unto the Lord, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. “ We realize that as earthy creatures all of our senses are attracted to these vanities, but especially our sense of sight. That’s why our culture of “screens” is so dangerous – from smart phones and tablets to large screen televisions to theater screens – the whole world of vanities is there to see! And those images are impressed upon our minds, and we become increasingly hardened and enslaved to the vanities. “O Lord, turn away my eyes!” Is that your plea?

Finding Contentment – Melissa Kruger

TT-Dec-2015Contentment is a great subject to occupy our minds and hearts at the end of this year 2015, and the December issue of Tabletalk directs us to this very matter with its theme “Contentment.”

One of the featured articles is the one linked below, penned by Melissa Kruger, wife and mother married to Dr. Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.

She lays out a wonderful summary of what it means to find contentment in this age of greed, covetousness, and discontent.

Here is part of what she says in her introduction:

…Culture may view contentment as something we gain through relationships, wealth, power, and privilege, but the Bible sets forth very different qualifications for contentment. Biblical contentment unfolds from the Spirit’s work in a believer’s heart, mind, life, and hope. These four qualifications set an eternal foundation for unwavering contentment that holds steady through life’s seasons and storms.

From there she gives those four (4) foundations “for unwavering contentment,” the first of which is this (the most important one!):

A Trusting Heart

The cornerstone of contentment is a heart that trusts the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7–8 confidently asserts:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

This passage, alongside similar imagery in Psalm 1, presents a lovely picture of contentment. The tree’s ability to flourish is independent of circumstances because it has an enduring source from which to drink. Whatever season may come, the tree is always bearing fruit.

On the eve of His death, Jesus furthered this imagery when He taught His disciples: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just like the tree, we possess an everlasting source from which to find nourishment. We abide in Jesus by spending time in the Word, seeking Him in prayer, and walking in obedience to His commands (John 15:7–11). Jesus is our fount, providing the strength, refreshment, and encouragement we need to withstand any and every circumstance we may face, while still bearing the fruit of contentment.

Apart from Christ, we are dry branches, parched and thirsty, always craving more. Jeremiah 17:5 warns, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come.” It is impossible to have biblical contentment apart from abiding in Christ.

By trusting in Jesus, we do not have to fear either abundance or hardship. When dificulties and trials come, His strength is sufficient. When joys and pleasures come, His grace enables us to rejoice in the Giver of all good things. A heart that trusts in God can joyfully proclaim with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

To read the rest, visit the link below. To read another fine article on this subject, “Our New Affection” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, visit the Ligonier link provided with the title.

Source: Finding Contentment by Melissa Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Prayers of the Reformers (11) – Confession and Hope

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this final Lord’s Day of 2015, we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both are taken from the section “Confession and Penitence” and I include the headings below as they appear in the book (I have slightly edited the prayers by adding paragraphs).

Both prayers are fitting for our reflection and petition as we come to the close of the year and as we worship this day in the presence of our God.

Without God, nothing [Martin Luther]

O God, where would we be if thou shouldst forsake us? What can we do if thou withdrawest thy hand? What can we know if thou never enlightenest? How quickly the learned become babes; the prudent, simple; and the wise, fools! How terrible art thou in all thy works and judgments!

Let us walk in the light while we have it, so that darkness may not overcome us. Many renounce their faith and become careless and weary of thy grace. Deceived by Satan into thinking they know everything and have no need, they feel satisfied and thus become slothful and ungrateful, and are soon corrupted.

Therefore, help us to remain in the ardor of faith that we may daily increase in it through Jesus Christ our real and only Helper.

Amen.

 

Confession and hope in Christ [Otto Wermullerus]

O almighty, everlasting God, merciful Father of heaven, thou hast created us after thine own image, and endowed us with exceeding plentiful gifts. Yet notwithstanding all thy benefits, we have in many and sundry ways contemned and transgressed thy commandments. All our days are passed forth with grievous sins. We fear and flee from thee, as from a righteous judge. All this, whatsoever it be, we freely acknowledge and confess, and are sorry for it from the bottom of our hearts.

But, O heavenly Father, we cry and call for thy great mercy: O enter not with us into judgment; remember not the sins of our youth. O think upon us according to thy mercy, for thy name’s sake, and for thy goodness, which hath been from everlasting. Vouchsafe to grant us thy mercy, which thou according to the contents of the gospel hast promised and opened through thy beloved Son, that whoso believeth on him shall have everlasting life.

Now is our belief in Jesus Christ, even in the only Redeemer of the whole world. We utterly refuse all other comfort, help and assistance; and our hope is only through Christ to have pardon of our sins and eternal life. Thy words are true; be it unto us according to thy words: O let us enjoy the benefits of the passion and death of thine only-begotten Son. Take for our sins the satisfaction and payment of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to our own belief. Of this our faith thou shalt thyself, O Lord, be witness, and all thine elect.

Our last will also shall it be, by thy mercy, to die in this faith. Though we now, by occasion of pain, lack of reason, or through temptation should fall away, suffer us not yet, O Lord, to remain in unbelief and blasphemy; but help our unbelief, strengthen and increase our faith, that sin, death, the devil, and hell do us no harm. Thou art stronger and mightier than they: that is our only trust and confidence.

Amen.

Two New Christian Books on Productivity | Glory Focus

As you know well by now, I have been pointing out the benefits of the book What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (Zondervan, 2014).

DoMoreBetter-ChalliesBut now there is a similar, shorter work that also promotes productivity in the Christian’s work life. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity is by Tim Challies and it deliberately seeks to supplement Perman’s book.

Jason Dollar at “Glory Focus” has posted a short review comparing these two books and today I refer you to that helpful post in case you wish to have a shorter work to read.

Here is the heart of his review; you may find the rest at the link below.

Both books are very good, and they both cover essentially the same material. But Perman delves into every topic in much greater detail than Challies. If Perman is Matthew than Challies is Mark.

For someone who wants to think extensively about being more productive (the whys and the hows), then Perman’s book is the way to go. If someone wants the no-frills basics, then it’s Challies all the way.

I found it very helpful to read both books. What’s Best Next led me to a serious rethinking and retooling of my life mission while Do More Good helped me think carefully about how I use the tools of productivity (in particular Google Calendar, Todoist, and Evernote). Challie’s book is so practical that it sometimes reads like a tutorial for these tools.

Both books maintain that the reason Christians should desire to be productive is so that they can better serve other people for the glory of God. Unlike many other books on efficiency and productivity, Perman and Challies are not interested in helping people make more money or work up a corporate ladder. Instead, they promote a God-centered worldview where self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is what life is all about.

Source: Two New Christian Books on Productivity | Glory Focus

The Book of God: “Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.”

The previous post reminded me again of the “Book of books” that we must be most interested in reading and studying daily, so as to grow in our faith in and fellowship with God through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And that reminded me of a wonderful “Grace Gems” post about the value and profit of this “Book of God.” Here is that post I saved from November 29 of this year:

The Book of God!

(author unknown)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness–that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This book contains:
the mind of God,
the state of man,
the way of salvation,
the doom of lost sinners, and
the happiness of believers.

Its doctrine is holy,
its precepts are binding,
its histories are true, and
its decisions are immutable.

It contains . . .
light to direct you,
food to support you, and
comfort to cheer you.

This book is . . .
the traveler’s map,
the pilgrim’s staff,
the pilot’s compass,
the soldier’s sword, and
the Christian’s charter.

Here Heaven is open–and the gates of Hell are disclosed.

Christ is the grand subject,
our good is its design, and
the glory of God is its end.

This book should . . .
fill the memory,
rule the heart,
and guide the feet.

It is . . .
a mine of wealth,
health to the soul,
and a river of pleasure.

It . . .
involves the highest responsibility,
will reward the greatest labor, and
condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Read it to be wise,
believe it to be safe,
and practice it to be holy.

Read it . . .
slowly,
frequently,
and prayerfully.

This Book–the Book of Books, the Book of God, the Bible–is the revelation of God to man!

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