We are not just dogmatic about the gospel, we are bulldog-matic.
I have watched men catch the vision of reaching the world for Christ. I have caught this vision, and have dedicated my life to this grand and glorious aim. But I have seen some men become so goal-oriented that to achieve their goals they roughly shoulder their way past people who need help and encouragement.
But what is our objective? What are our goals? When we all get to heaven it will all be vividly and pointedly clear. We will find only people in heaven. There will be no committee notes, no scholarly papers on intriguing themes, no lengthy studies, memos, or surveys. People are the raw material of heaven. If we become enamored with projects, goals, and achievements, and never lend a hand to people along the way; and if we say, “Doing this will not help them accomplish my objective,” what are we really thinking about? Self! Exactly opposite to the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.
Leroy Eims, Disciples in Action
“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.”
Why would John say that? He’s talking to a church. He’s talking to a group of believers who were in danger of false teachers. He wasn’t talking to a bunch ex-gangbangers and thugs, who had a history committing the high crime of murder. He’s not speaking to inmates. He’s talking to church folk. Why does he warn them about murder?
The answer is because there’s something else going on here. Something deeper. John knows that while we may not ever murder something, the murderous motivations that compelled Cain to kill his brother are inside us all.
John knows that we have a problem. We are more devious than we often think.
Look at what motivated Cain: “And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.”
This passage is for you and me. It lends great insight into the tendencies of the human heart. It’s written because we are prone to act like Cain.
Aren’t we like Cain when we compare ourselves with others? Remember, it wasn’t Abel who disapproved of Cain’s offering. It was God. But Cain’s hatred broke against Abel. Why? He lost the comparison game, and it made him angry. How often do you compare yourselves with others, only to grow in silent anger because you envy them?
Aren’t we like Cain when we secretly despise the successes of others? How do you feel toward the Golden Child whose life seems to prove that God loves him more than you? And people ooze with praise and compliments for the other guy? How does it make you feel toward others when they get the recognition and you don’t? Abel did nothing to Cain, yet Cain hated him–for nothing other than God approved of Abel’s worship and not his own.
Aren’t we like Cain when we try to steal credit for every good thing in our lives? Deep in his heart, Cain wanted credit for his act of worship, even though it was corrupt. But don’t we all? Don’t we all want take credit for all the good things we do? Don’t we want to get the glory for any success that we have? Don’t we try to trace every blessing’s origin back to our own goodness, our own efforts, our own power? We are credit thieves.
Aren’t we like Cain when we make excuses for our shortcomings but are hyper-critical of others? Cain hated Abel’s offering; didn’t think it should be approved. But he apparently saw nothing wrong with his own sacrifice. We critique others with incisive tenacity, but expect everyone else to extend grace. Double-standard much?
Aren’t we like Cain when we want recognition and approval so badly that we will trample on whoever gets in our way, or we will be infuriated by those who hinder us? Cain wanted to be approved, get recognition, get noticed—in all the wrong ways. When Abel got in his way, he killed him. We do the same thing. Think about the times you got angry this last week. Was it not because someone or something got in the way of what you wanted?
We have a sin-problem. We have a Cain-like heart. We love ourselves way too much, and self-love dams up our love from flowing to others. Our hearts become a stagnant pool of self-absorption, rather than a flowing river of life-giving love.
We need a Savior. The Savior breaks the dam of self-love and releases the flood of God’s love. Springs of life start flowing. Our Savior’s love transforms our self-love into genuine love. But first, we must recognize our weakness, and cling close to Jesus, and depend entirely upon him to work in us.
Perhaps we have forgotten that pastoral ministry is war and that you will never live successfully in the pastorate if you live with a peacetime mentality. Permit me to explain. The fundamental battle of pastoral ministry is not with the shifting values of the surrounding culture. It is not the struggle with resistant people who don’t seem to esteem the gospel. It is not the fight for the success of the ministries of the church. And it is not the constant struggle of resources and personnel to accomplish the mission. No, the war of the pastorate is a deeply personal war. It is fought on the ground of the pastor’s heart. It is a war of values, allegiances, and motivations. It is about subtle desires and foundational dreams. This war is the greatest threat to every pastor. Yet it is a war that we often naively ignore or quickly forget in the busyness of local-church ministry.
Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, pg. 98
If you entertain youth in church, rather than teaching them, don’t be surprised that you lose them when the entertainment no longer appeals.
— albertmohler (@albertmohler) November 20, 2014
What’s the main reason why our young people leave the church? It’s because they were never converted. Their youth pastors were far more concerned with entertain than discipleship. The ones who stay are the ones who were drawn to the Word by the Spirit.
Don’t ever let your theology get so sophisticated that you can’t boldly proclaim John 3:16.
— Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) November 19, 2014
That’s when you know you’ve gone too far. Yes, there’s more under the hood. But that you don’t need to know it to drive it.
The true solider fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he love what is behind him. G.K. Chesterton
— Kevin DeYoung (@RevKevDeYoung) November 12, 2014
I liked that. A matter of perspective, I suppose.
“Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.” H.B. Charles
— C.J. Mahaney (@CJMahaney) November 9, 2014
I always enjoy good one-liners that I can tuck away and save for later. I’ll come back to this one again, I’m sure.
I like Jonathan Leeman’s definition of church membership. It’s a bit clunky, but if we can unpack it I think it’s pretty helpful.
Church membership is a formal relationship between a church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.
A few things stand out to me.
First, it’s formal. Formalizing membership is simply saying out loud “I’m with you, and you’re with me.” We need not fear it as a slope that leads us into institutionalism. A formal recognition of a spiritual reality is helpful communication.
Second, it’s relational. Formal doesn’t negate relational. Church membership ought to be carried out in the context of loving relationship. It’s not about signing papers and taking classes. It’s about getting to know and care for one another.
Third, it clarifies. Membership declares the responsibility of the leadership to oversee and provide direction to the member. The leaders give oversight while the members proactively submit themselves to the church in their discipleship. For both, responsibilities are clarified.
And for these reasons (and many more unpacked in Jonathan’s book) I’d recommend that every Christian become a church member. It serves the leadership. It clarifies your role. It strengthens the relationship. It’s an altogether healthy move.
And if you’re looking for an introduction into the subject, read his book Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, it’s only 132 pages.
Immutability is hard for us to understand. If you look around, you look at things that are changing. Whether it’s the change of location, or change of expression, or change of emotion, or change of mind, there are always changes going on. And not to mention the changes that are happening that we can’t control. You’re getting older. Voices are dropping. Some bodies are developing, others are declining. We are constantly changing. It’s like we’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Wind blowing. Swells come and go. Up and down. That is our world. The only thing that is constant is change.
But God does not change. He does not mutate. He is immutable. Everything that God was, God is. “As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.”
Here are some reasons why God’s immutability is good news for believers.
1. We can trust all his promises. Numbers 28:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”
God distinguishes himself from mankind in two ways here. First, he doesn’t lie. Men lie. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. But nothing God has ever said is false. He only, always speaks truth. And second, he doesn’t change his mind. Men do this all the time, but God never changes his mind. People change. But God never changes. People mispeak, God doesn’t. People change, God never has.
The only hope for a changing world is a changeless God. The only certainty in a storm-tossed world is an immovable anchor. The only security for an insecure world is a rock-solid, unchanging, unalterable God. Because God does not change, every promise he’s ever made is trustworthy and true. Take it to the bank.
2. We can actually know him. If God changed, then we couldn’t ever truly know him. The Bible would only be a single snap-shot of an ever changing being. We would know things he had done, things he had said, things he had purposed, but we could never know whether or not they had changed. We wouldn’t know him.
You’ve probably had the experience of reconnecting with an old friend only to find that they’re not the same person you knew all those years ago. “I hardly know him anymore,” we often say. Such things cannot be said of God. What was true about God a thousand years ago is true about God right now. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Was God powerful when he spoke the universe into being? Yes, and his voice this day is no less powerful, his Spirit these days is just as omnipotent. Was God wise when he crafted this globe, when he shaped the mountains and dug out the deeps for the sea? Yes. Was he wise in how he devised salvation, how he planned to redeem for himself a people? Yes, and this hour this wisdom has not atrophied one bit.
Was God attentive to the prayers of his people? Did he hear their prayers and answer their groanings? He did. And he does. And all the cries of all the prayers in all the world from all the ages has not wearied him for one second.
Was he patient? Then he is now. Infinitely patient. Long suffering. Steadfast. Immovable.
Anything God has ever said about himself has never been modified, edited, abridged, or altered. And so what A.W. Pink says is true: “He cannot change for the better for he is perfect; and being perfect, he cannot change for the worse.” And as such, we can know him.
3. We can understand how he relates to us right now. Sometimes we tend to think of God as sometimes gracious and sometimes angry and sometimes merciful and sometimes wrathful. It’s like we think he is emotional like us. Certainly, God does display features that we might identify as emotions in the Bible, but they do not exactly correlate to how we experience emotions.
Unlike me, unlike you, God is not susceptible to mood swings. He’s not groggy in the morning, apathetic at noon, and wired at night. He doesn’t get emotional like we do. He’s a constant, perfect embodiment of all his attributes all the time. He does not change.
And the reality is that God is, at all times, his unchangeable self. In his nature, he never changes. He always responds to sin with wrath; he always responds to repentance with grace.
A.W. Tozer says, “God never changes moods or cools off in his affections or loses enthusiasm. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when he drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden, and his attitude toward the sinner the same as when He stretched forth his hands and cried, ‘Come unto me, and ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'”
Sometimes when we are offended, we take a little time to settle down. Sometimes it takes time before we’re in a frame of mind where we can forgive our enemies. Not God. He is always extending his hands out to the sinner, and always opposing the pride in their folly. And the nano-second a person comes to him on his terms he accepts. It doesn’t take him time to “get over it.”
Believers ought to be very encouraged by this. Right now, God’s wrath is against your sin. But your sin has been detached from you and placed on Jesus. God’s grace is toward you, because you have Christ’s righteousness. This is the unchanging reality of the Christian: forever blessed, irrevocably accepted, unchangeably beloved.
4. Because of God’s unchanging-ness, man’s ability to change is a gift. For fallen man, the prospect of real change taking place is a immeasurable blessing. The unbelievers don’t see it that way. For the unbeliever, change is a frightening idea. It signifies decay and loss. Change is the harbinger of death. Change is a monster, terrorizing every poor soul that has nothing immutable to hold on to.
But for the redeemed, change is a gift.
Because of God’s immutability, we need not fear change. The hurricanes of this world need not frighten us; our live is hidden in the unchanging Creator. He is working in all things to change us each day. And he does. The unchanging God uses all change to change his children into the likeness of their changeless Savior.
5. We can feel the weight of eternity. The promises of God to save the repentance and the punish the sinner are immutable, written-in-stone, promises that will bear throughout eternity.
Those who do not believe will suffer immutable wrath. Unchanging anger. Immovable judgment. Unending torment. Be as good as you want, be as upright as you please, be as honest as you will, the weight of this threat stands toward all who do not give up trying to save themselves and trust Jesus Christ. Those who do not know Jesus savingly will have no second chances, there will be no do-overs, there will be no opportunity to set things right, there will be no fixing what went wrong. The gavel will sound and the judge will issue the immutable sentence: damned.
Believers ought to feel this weight and live with a marked urgency to help people see and believe in Jesus Christ, the only Savior.
But those who come to Jesus in repentance and faith will receive unchanging, immovable, granite-like salvation that will last them throughout all the ages of eternity. The oceans of his love will be dumped on them, he will delight in showing them kindness forever, he will not grow weary of them, he will not get bored of them, he will never get tired of them. Out of the infinite, unchanging riches of his grace he will lavish his generosity toward them.
God’s immutability guarantees this hope for the believer. God will not grow tired of heaven, wipe us out and start over. God will not change his mind. He never has.
Immutability is a very practical doctrine. And when we import man-like attributes into God, immutability is one of the first things to go. God becomes less like a rock of refuge and more like a sea of uncertainty. We are as secure as what we trust in, and there’s nothing more secure than an immutable God.
Sir John Maddox, speaking about Big Bang theories:
“The view of the origin of the Universe is thoroughly unsatisfactory.”
“The essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.” Further on, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Why believe that there is a God at all? My answer is that to suppose that there is a God explains why there is a world at all…and so much else. In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience, and it does better than any other explanation which can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true.
Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA)
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”
Sir Frederick Hoyle
The chance that higher life forms arose by evolutionary processes is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Beoing 747 from the materials therein.
The Associated Press on Antony Flew:
“A British philosopher who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than 50 years has changed his mind. Antony Flew, 81, [of Oxford University] said scientific evidence has now convinced him that a super-intelligence is the only explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature…If his newfound belief upsets people, Flew said, “that’s too bad”—but he’s always been determined to “follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
These quotes are taken from Nathan Busenitz’s book called Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence that Confirm the Christian Faith.
John Piper answers the question: “How should teenagers handle relationships with the opposite sex?”
To Talitha, my daughter, I say, “Through high school, keep it at groups. And then when the guy shows up, tell him to call me”—that’s one way to manage it—”and we’ll talk about what it should look like.”