Note to Self: Sing

      You really should sing more. You should sing more than at gathered worship with the church. You should sing in the car, while working in the yard, and in your home. And when you sing, you should do so with more than lungs and lips. You should sing with your heart, mind, and soul.

…People sing about the things that capture their hearts and things that give them joy. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. People even sing as a way to express their sorrow. Does anyone have more reasons to sing than you? As a sinner who has been forgiven, a slave who has been freed, a blind man who has received sight, a spiritual cripple who has been healed – all by the gospel – you have real reasons to be known as a person of song!

It is one thing to tell the world of God’s work of redemption in Jesus; it is another to sing of it. Anyone can parrot truth, but to sing of it – from the soul – reveals how you feel. Song is the natural and appropriate response to the gospel, because singing is one of the highest expressions of joy.

So why aren’t you singing ‘always, only for [your] king?’ Have the mercies of God grown small in your heart? Is there little joy, little gratitude, little wonder? Do you just not feel like singing? The confession of sin and gospel meditation will lead you to song, so start there. There are songs of praise, thanksgiving, confession, lament, and victory that need your voice.

…So join the chorus of God’s people, who have always been known as a people who sing.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” (Chap.4 “Sing”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.41-42.

Note to Self: Fear Nothing but God

     You don’t need to be afraid of anything, but you do need to fear your God with a holy reverence. Such ‘fear’ is an aspect of faith that responds to God’s holiness, sovereignty, and transcendence. This higher form of fear is that which leads to awe, adoration, and carefulness of life because of the intimate knowledge of your Maker and Redeemer.

What should you fear in life above a holy God who forgives the sins of unholy men like yourself? What can be taken from you? Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasures in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love. What is there in this life to fear?

The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” (Chap.4 “Fear”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), p.40.

In Memory of Jerry Bridges: A Roundup of Articles and Quotes | LogosTalk

You may have heard that author and teacher (Navigators) Jerry Bridges passed away on Sunday March 6, 2016. Bridges is the author is such Christian life classics as The Pursuit of Holiness and The Practice of Godliness.

There were a number of fitting tributes to this godly man on the Internet. Logos pulled a number of these together in one place last week (March 9), which I point you too if you are interested in learning more about this man and his work and influence. And if you have never read any of his books, now would be a good time to start.

Here is Logos’ introduction; follow the link below to read some or all of the tributes.

Jerry Bridges, the author of more than a dozen books on discipleship and Christian living, passed away this week. The outpouring of love from the Christian blogosphere has been tremendous. Evangelical leaders are celebrating the legacy of a Christian who humbly demonstrated the power of grace-fueled spiritual discipline.

Here’s a roundup of articles celebrating Bridges, and a selection of quotes for you to share in his memory.

Source: In Memory of Jerry Bridges: A Roundup of Articles and Quotes | LogosTalk

Stir Up One Another – to Worship! Jon Payne

TT-March-2016As we pointed out  last week, the March issue of Tabletalk addresses the believer’s beautiful and blessed calling to live in the communion of saints and carry out the Bible’s “one another” duties toward his fellow believers.

We find another of these “one anothers” in Heb.10:24-25, where God’s Word calls us to stir up one another to love and good works, especially in connection with public worship. Dr.Jon Payne explains this well in his article “Stir Up One Another” (link found below).

Here are a few of his closing thoughts – good food for our souls this week:

While members of the body of Christ will possess varying gifts for graciously “stirring up” others to “love and good works,” the author of Hebrews reminds us of the most obvious way in which we all may spur on fellow believers: through faithful attendance to weekly Lord’s Day worship services. When Christians gather together to worship in spirit and truth—to hear the Word, confess sin, sing praise, confess the faith, witness baptisms, receive communion, take vows, and warmly greet one another in Christ—they actively and mysteriously foster Christian unity and “stir up” others toward godly living. Dear Christian, your active and joyful participation in Lord’s Day worship is integral to the spiritual encouragement and growth of others. Your absence, however, has the opposite effect.

Reformed commentator Simon J. Kistemaker notes that one of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from worship services. Such a Christian forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.

Steady devotion to corporate worship communicates not only a love for and dependence upon the triune God but also a love for and commitment to the body of Christ. To confess the “communion of the saints” in the Apostles’ Creed is to affirm that every Christian “must feel himself bound to use his gifts, readily and cheerfully, for the advantage and welfare of other members” (Heidelberg Catechism 55). Unless providentially hindered, therefore, make church attendance the highest priority in your weekly schedule, and thus “encourage one another … all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25b).

Source: Stir Up One Another by Jon Payne | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

“One Anothering” in the Church – March “Tabletalk”

TT-March-2016Yesterday I dug into some of the featured articles in the March issue of Tabletalk, the theme of which is “One Another,” that is, living in the communion of saints so that we “welcome one another,” serve one another,” “forgive one another,” “submit to one another,” and other “one anothers” that belong to our life in the fellowship of the church (a total of nine “one anothers” are dealt with in this issue).

Editor Burk Parsons has an excellent introduction to this theme, part of which I quote here. I encourage you to read the rest of it, and to start reading the various “one another” articles. The two I read yesterday, “Welcome One Another” and “Submit to One Another” are very edifying.

If you have forgotten what it means to live in the body of Christ, or have started to pull away from your fellow saints, or have left the church altogether – for whatever reason, you need to read this editorial and these articles. They will show why you need your fellow saints – and why they need you.

Here then is an excerpt from Parson’s editorial:

The love language of all marriages is self-denial. When both husband and wife are consumed not with their own immediate happiness but with the happiness of one another, they will enjoy a happy marriage. The same is true for enduring friendships and for authentic community.

With the disintegration of marriage has come the dissolution of community. As such, community has fallen on hard times. What every generation in every society in all of history has enjoyed, the rising generation will have to fight for. With the rise of online communities, online church, and online everything, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, shoulder-to-shoulder community has become increasingly difficult to find. Moreover, many don’t know what real community is and thus don’t know what to look for. Real community doesn’t happen on its own—it takes time, patience, repentance, forgiveness, and love that covers a multitude of sins. The church community is not just a crowd of people on a Sunday morning; it is the gathered, worshiping people of God in a congregation where masks aren’t needed and where real friends help bear the real burdens of one another. Community is not just getting together; it is living together, suffering together, rejoicing together, and dying together.

Source: The Orthodoxy of Community by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Note to Self: Preaching Law and Gospel Together

Note-to-self-ThornIn the past month we have considered pastor/author Joe Thorn’s thoughts on making good use of the preaching we hear each week by carrying on practical preaching to ourselves throughout the week. We have looked briefly at his thoughts on preaching the law to ourselves and on preaching the gospel to ourselves (cf. my previous posts).

On this Sunday morning we consider his concluding thoughts on this general subject as he writes about how to put these two together on a regular basis. We find this on p.32 of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself:

     …Therefore preaching to ourselves puts us into the cycle of law and gospel where we move from our guilt and need to God’s grace and provision and then back to the law as joyful and free obedience.

The impact of preaching to ourselves is not found in dramatic moments of crisis, or in our ability to use words creatively, but in the ongoing, regular, and virtually plain preaching of the law and the gospel. Preaching to ourselves is, in a practical sense, like reading notes you have written to yourself [This is a good way to make use of those sermon notes you take on Sunday!]. They will often amount to important reminders about who we really are in ourselves and in Christ.

Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. You will have to ask and be honest about your motives, struggles, and needs. You will need to clarify to yourself what God’s law means in principle, but also what it requires specifically of you. You will need to ask how the gospel meets your needs and heals your brokenness. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget.

Taken from Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011).

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).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 590 other followers