Monthly Archives: August 2009

Flesh & Spirit: Part 2

Romans 8:13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

The truth about sin and its horrible consequences seems completely hopeless and overwhelming.   But God (two of the sweetest words in all of Scripture), being rich in mercy demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Eph. 2:4-5; Rom. 5:8, 8:1).   Christ died the death that we deserved, and by enduring the wrath of God he put to death the deeds of our bodies.  The righteous suffered for the unrighteous.  Through living the life that we could never live and dying the death we should have died, Christ forever freed us from the tyranny of the flesh.  As a result, He has sent the Holy Spirit to come and take up residence within us (Ez. 36:26-27).  The Spirit of Christ has given us a new heart, along with the ability to live a life of obedience.  Becoming the cause of our faith and the certainty of our salvation (Jn. 6:44; Col. 1:27), the Spirit has given us the power and provision to wage war with the flesh.

Sword of the Spirit

Jesus followed the Spirit’s leading into the wilderness.  He was led there so that He might accomplish what Adam and Israel and all of mankind could not do–overcome sin and become a sympathetic Savior.  He was tempted in all the ways that we have been tempted and yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:15).  He used the sword of the Spirit (the word of God) to wage war against the temptations of the enemy.  Through the Spirit’s power He remained obedient to the Father and resisted the opportunity to sin.  The same Spirit that led Him to the wilderness also led Him to the Cross.  It was on the Cross that He demonstrated His greatest act of obedience as He humbly sacrificed His own life to save ours in order that He might defeat the power of sin and death for all of eternity.  Upon His being raised from the dead and ascending to the right hand of the throne of God, He gave His Spirit to dwell inside us so that we, too, might experience life!!

Spirit:but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”

The Spirit is the agent of life, and our sin-killing commander.  He has two main purposes, to magnify Christ in our hearts and to mortify the flesh in our bodies.

I.  Magnifying Christ in our hearts:  First, the Holy Spirit brings new life to us.  He revives our hearts and restores godly affections when He comes to dwell among us.  Through His grace, we grow in godliness.  And through His power, we follow His leading.  The more we follow His leading, the more clearly we see the image of Christ in our hearts, in the word, in the church, and in the world.  As we behold the image of Christ, we are transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).

So, how does He magnify Christ in our hearts?

He renews our minds by the washing of the word (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 5:26).

He causes us to marvel at the mercy of God toward us (Eph. 2:1-22).

He causes us to meditate on the glory of Christ and the beauty of the Cross.

He causes us to treasure Christ above all other things (Phil. 3:7-11).

Are you looking for Christ in Scripture?  Are you talking about Christ in conversation?  Are you thinking about Christ throughout your day?  Are you reading the word for transformation rather than information?  Is it obvious that Christ is your greatest treasure?  Are you obeying what you hear and read?  Are you praising the Father and the Spirit for the work of Christ that saved you?

II.  Mortifying the flesh of our bodies: Second, the Holy Spirit cultivates within us a hostility toward sin.  By the Spirit’s power, we seek to put to death the deeds of our bodies.  Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Instead of feeding the flesh, we have crucified it.  It no longer lives in dominion over us, but has been dealt a mortal wound.  And as it dies, it desperately fights to regain control.  John Owen used the illustration of thrusting a sword in a serpent.  Once you’ve struck a mortal blow, you must keep after it with the sword until it is dead.  Otherwise, the serpent, though dying, will attack you with ferocious anger and resolve.  The Apostle Paul pictures this well in writing of his struggle with sin: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15).  Our war with the flesh will take an entire lifetime, but we know that while we may lose some battles, the Spirit will win the war.  Christ became the captain of our salvation who led us out of the captivity of sin, and He will lead us into eternity with God.  The Spirit that led Christ to the Cross, has also led us there.  That is where we find Christ by faith.  Through the Cross he put to death the deeds of our bodies, and one day soon he will even destroy death itself.  Therefore, let us live in light of the Cross, because we have been delivered by it.  We are no longer under the wrath of God, and nothing can separate us from the love of God; not even our struggles with the flesh (Rom. 8:38-39).

Through radical repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ, we are able to overcome the influence of the sin that remains.  The war is not over, but we don’t have to continue wallowing in our sin.  By the Spirit’s power we can declare war against it.  Rampant sin and resistance to the Holy Spirit indicate that we are of the flesh, but that is no longer who we are!!  But those who walk according to the Spirit, demonstrate that they have the Spirit of Christ living within them since saving grace is always accompanied by sanctifying grace.

So, how does the Spirit mortify our flesh?

By our confession of sin and the cleansing that we receive (1 Jn. 1:8-9).

By forsaking our sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3).

By remembering our former enslavement and meditating on our freedom in Christ.

Are you confessing your sin to God and to other believers?  Are you humbly asking for forgiveness and cleansing?  Are you feeding the flesh or are you starving it?

Remember what a wretched sinner you were and never forget that you are now sons of God and fellow-heirs with Christ.  The Spirit has won the war, but you must continue wielding the sword.

Conclusion:

Often we feel like the war with sin is like playing a round of the arcade game “Whack-a-mole.”  We strike one head and another pops us; then another, and another.  It seems overwhelming.  But we can rest confidently in the Holy Spirit who is fighting our battles and that through Him we can continue fighting the good fight of faith.  Philippians 1:6 encourages us with these words: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  The Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify us as He implants grace and uproots sin. Therefore, let us put to death the deeds of the body by relying on the power and provision of the Holy Spirit.  We have been called, we have been justified, we are being sanctified, and one day soon we will be glorified (Rom. 8:30).  So, let us take hope in that great promise to us.

Blessings in Christ,

Gabe

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Gospel Reader

“Gospel-Centered Reader”

Timmy Brister compiled the following list of articles on topics relating to the gospel.  Here’s a list of what he’s put together…  I highly recommend checking out some of the articles.

1.  Gospel Coalition Foundation Documents
2.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration
3.  Together for the Gospel Statement (PDF)
4.  The Centrality of the Gospel by Tim Keller (PDF)
5.  The Biblical Gospel by D.A. Carson (PDF)
6.  Gospel-Driven Sanctification by Jerry Bridges (PDF)
7.  The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Steve Childers (PDF)
8.  The Gospel and the Poor by Tim Keller (PDF)
9.  Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson (PDF)
10. The Gospel Centered Life by Bob Thune (study)
11.  Gospel-Centered Ministry by Tim Keller (PDF)
12.  How to Preach the Gospel to Yourself by David Fairchild (Sermon MSS)
13.  The Gospel: Key to Change by Tim Keller (PDF)
14.  God Strengthens Us by the Gospel by John Piper
15.  Advancing the Gospel in the 21st Century Part 2 by Tim Keller
16.  Gospel-Centered Preaching by Steve Childers (not online)
17.  Gospel Christianity (1.0) (2.0) (3.0) by Tim Keller (studies)
18.  The Gospel in Its Many Forms by Tim Keller
19.  How Does the Gospel Save Believers? (Part 2) (Part 3) by John Piper
20.  Gospel-Centered by Joe Thorn
21.  Being the Church in Our Culture by Tim Keller (PDF)
22.  Preach the Gospel to Yourself by Tim Challies
23.  What Do I Mean by a Gospel-Driven Life? (Part 2 | Part 3) by John Fonville
24.  The Gospel-Driven Life by Harry Reeder III

HT: Justin Taylor; Timmy Brister

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Flesh & Spirit: Part 1

Romans 8:13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

The central point of Romans 8:13 is that a war exists between the flesh and the Spirit.  This war manifests itself in death, either ours or that of our sin.  John Owen, who wrote a treatise on this one verse, summarized it in the following way: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  The Apostle Paul further describes the nature of this war in Galatians 5:16-17 where he writes, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For, the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…The battleground for this war is not only around us, but it is within us.  The flesh intends to kill our souls, while the Spirit intends to save us by killing our sin.

poison

Flesh: So, what does Paul mean by the term flesh?  Well, it seems clear in this passage that he is not merely describing the physical body.  For all men live in a physical body and all will die a physical death, because all have chosen to rebel against the holy God who created them.  Sin is rebellion against God, something that all of us are well-acquainted with if we’re honest enough to admit it.  When Paul says, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die,” he seems to be talking about the sin that remains within us, not simply our physical bodies.  Those who live according to the flesh demonstrate that they are not of the Spirit.  While those in Christ have been given a new nature and are no longer slaves to the flesh, they are not without the propensity to sin and wander from the fold.  A believer’s legal standing before God has been reconciled through Christ’s blood, but the inner nature of the believer is being gradually transformed as the Spirit works to conform us to the image of Christ.  They may suffer from the influence of the flesh, but they are no longer ruled by its passions and desires.

I believe that Paul is using the term flesh to describe the dominion, desire, and destruction of sin.  Certainly these three characteristics are not exhaustive descriptions of the flesh, but they will suffice for our current meditation.

I. Dominion:  In the Garden of Eden, God gave mankind dominion over creation (Gen. 1:36-31).  Man and woman were given the charge to cultivate and keep the garden.  But when Adam sinned, he compromised his faithful stewardship of God’s kingdom.  Instead of exerting dominion over creation, he allowed sin to exert dominion over him.  In that moment the captain of creation became the captive of the Enemy.  He gave up his freedom to serve the Creator, and instead was forced to serve the flesh.  And all of creation was subjected to the same frustration.  Sadly, this horrible condition has plagued every fallen human-being ever since the Garden.  Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  That includes us.

Although sin entered the world through Adam, it has taken up residence in our hearts so that it might use us to carry out its destructive demands.  Like an unchecked cancer, it has spread to infect every organ of our bodies, so that we might live according to the desires of the flesh.

II. Desire: Through Adam we were born into sin, and through the evil desires of our flesh we have continued to sin.  Like Cain who murdered his brother, sin has been crouching at our door and it desires to have us.  It is subtle and seductive.  It often disguises itself as a kind friend ready to serve our most pressing need, but the knife is hiding behind its back.  Deceived by its attraction, we drop our defenses and welcome it into our home.  It promises immediate pleasure without any consequences, and its appeal seems impossible to refuse.  Yet, it is a cruel master who makes demands on all who accept its offer.  Imagine that you are thirsty and a close friend of yours offers you a glass to quench your thirst.  Eager to be satisfied you guzzle down every last drop only to find out that your supposed friend just served you a glass of poison.  What satisfied your immediate thirst will eventually begin to kill you.

That’s what sin does to all who drink its poison.  It targets our thirst through idolatry and self-indulgence.  By feeding our desire, it tricks us into thinking that it has our best interest in mind.  And, we think we are in control; yet, all the while we are slaves waiting to be slaughtered.  Sin is devastating, and the more we drink of its poison the more destined for death we become.

III. Destruction: The flesh intends to destroy us.  The primary reason is because we were created in the image of God.  The flesh is hostile to God and hates anything that was made to reflect Him.  Its desire is to distort, then destroy, any evidence of God within us.  What is worse, God violently opposes the flesh along with all who serve it.  For such enemies, He has reserved nothing short of His terrible wrath.  Those who serve the flesh will die physically, spiritually, and eternally.  They will experience the destruction reserved for all who oppose God.

Like fire, the flesh ruins everything it touches.  It starts off with a small desire that grows into sin and when full-grown it brings forth death (James 1:15).  Imagine a foolish man who starts a fire in his own home.  Enjoying its warmth, he gradually adds more fuel to it when he ought to be adding water.  Eventually it will destroy the house and everything in it.  Those who are intoxicated by the warmth of sin will be destroyed by its flames; as they live according to the flesh, so they will die.  They will die physically, spiritually, and eternally.  Therefore, let us be warned that those who live for themselves will be devoted to the destruction that they deserve.  However, those who take refuge in the Cross of Christ will find the mercy and love of God to deliver them from the horrific consequences of their sin.

Our Hope: Praise God, that is what we were…  We were dominated by the flesh, we were suffering under the desires of the flesh, and we were destined to be destroyed by the flesh and with the flesh.  But that is no longer who we are… Those of us who are in Christ have been saved from the power of the flesh.  We have been given new life and the privilege of being transformed into the image of Christ.  In the next post, we will consider the second half of this verse: “but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  We will look at the work of Christ who defeated the power of sin and won the war that we could never win.  Then, we will reflect on how the Spirit wages war against the flesh, and empowers us to enjoy eternal life.

Blessings in Christ,

Gabe

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Reliability of the Bible

Reliability of the Bible:

A close friend and admired professor, Dr. Matt Harmon, recently delivered an introductory lecture on the origin and reliability of the Bible.  His excellent notes are available for download:  “How Did We Get Our Bible and Has It Been Changed?” Dr. Harmon was one of several guest lecturers at the No Doubt Apologetics Conference that was held in Indianapolis, Indiana this past weekend.  So, if you’re looking for a good overview of the formation and reliability of the Bible, then be sure to check out this helpful resource!!  Harmon also regularly maintains a blog entitled Biblical Theology. Check out Harmon’s bio at Grace Theological Seminary’s faculty page: Matt Harmon.  He is currently working on several publications that will be coming out in the next couple of years, one of which will be a commentary on the book of Philippians.


Self-Admiration:

A “young Timothy-in-the-making” (who has been a great encouragement to me this summer) sent me a link to John Piper’s article regarding C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards on self-admiration.  If you’re anything like me, then your pride expresses itself more naturally and frequently than your humility.  I highly recommend checking out the article in order to reflect on the continual need for humility: Piper on Self-Admiration.

Happy reading…

Blessings in Christ,

Gabriel

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PRAY the BIBLE

Method for Prayer

Pray the Bible

Matthew Henry wrote an excellent book entitled A Method for Prayer.  It is a valuable resource for guiding us in praying God’s word back to him, as well as edifying the body through praying Scripture.   J. Ligon Duncan has updated Henry’s antiquated language and replaced the KJV with ESV references.  The whole book is made available online in order to encourage believers to grow in praying the Bible.   The website offers the following ways to make the most of this excellent resource according to a variety of interests and schedules.

(1) Read the book online.

(2) Follow the thread of a keyword through different parts of the book.

(3) Work through the heart of the book via daily devotional emails.

(4) Take advantage of the Index and Table of Contents.

(5) Perform your own search of the book’s contents.

(6) Other features of this website.

HT: Justin Taylor

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A Review: Why We Love the Church

Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion

By Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck

DeYoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We Love The Church: in Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. Chicago: Moody Press, 2009.

Kevin DeYoung is coauthor of Why We’re Not Emergent and author Just Do Something. He serves as senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, across the street from Michigan State University.  He and his wife, Trisha, have four children.

Ted Kluck is coauthor of Why We’re not Emergent, author of The Reason for Sports, and an award-winning sportswriter.  He and his wife, Kirsten, have two sons and live in Michigan, where they attend University Reformed Church.”[1]

Summary:

This book has the purpose of addressing the disillusionment of those that have left the church, those that have redefined church,[2] and encouraging those that are discouraged about the local church.  More specifically it is written for: the Committed, the Disgruntled, the Waffling, and the disconnected.[3] DeYoung defines the church as: “I mean the local church that meets—wherever you want it to meet—but exults in the cross of Christ; sings songs to a holy and loving God; has church officers, good preaching, celebrates the sacraments, exercises discipline; and takes an offering.”[4] DeYoung gives four reasons that people do not love the church, they are, missiological, personal, historical, and theological.[5] The chapters are first, DeYoung, and then Kluck, both covering the same topic.  So there are two chapters on each of the four reasons.

Review:

At first glance the title of this book makes my postmodern instincts cringe.  Institutions?  Organized religion? I have found myself at times as part of the disillusioned camp that they are discussing in the book.  Even with my current seminary education I find that the illusion of a perfect local church still can creep up as an idol from time to time.[6] “These days, spirituality is hot; religion is not. Community is hip, but the church is lame.  Both inside and out, organized religion is seen as oppressive, irrelevant, and a waste of time.  Outsiders like Jesus but not the church.  Insiders have been told they can do just fine with God apart from the church.”[7]

At times DeYoung uses historical primary sources[8] and scriptural evidences, whereas the authors and theologians that he responds to use only cultural or secondary sources.[9] Much of DeYoung’s responses are filled with a high number of footnotes, whereas Kluck has few footnotes and writes from a narrative perspective. DeYoung uses a pastor-scholar level of writing on the other hand Kluck writes from a lay-person’s perspective.  The combination of this helps the reader to assimilate the content on two levels.

DeYoung quotes Richard Baxter saying, “some of our churches are pastored by unregenerate men. Even more have preachers who are either confused about the gospel or simply cold to it.”[10] It is clear that DeYoung and Kluck see most of the disillusionment is a gospel issue.  It is a misunderstanding of what the Gospel is by people in the church.

Why We Love the Church

Why We Love the Church

In approaching Gospel-centered social justice DeYoung states,  “The vision behind words like “missional” and “kingdom” often ends up reducing the church to a doer of good, noncontroversial deeds (e.g., no mention of pro-life concerns as important to community transformation) like every other humanitarian organization…There’s also the danger that we only champion issues that win us cool points.  Let’s be honest, no one we run into is for genocide or for sex trafficking or for malnutrition.  It takes no courage to speak out against these things…Some may be drawn to pro-life issues and others to addressing global hunger, but let’s makes sure as Christians that our missional concerns go farther than those shared by Brangelina and the United Way…It seems to me that proclaiming this message of redemption is the main mission of the church, even more than partnering with God to change the world through humanitarian relief and global activism.”[11]

While being proactively advocates for the church, both are realistic with their description of the church.  Statements about the church show this throughout the book. “In our self-esteem-oriented, easily offended, suffering-averse world, I fear that the church is too eager to be liked.”[12] This is the man fearing church.  “We’ve lusted after academic recognition and cultural validation.  We’ve fancied ourselves fashionable and looked around for the world to take notice.”[13] This is the academic, intellectual church.  “We need to get on our faces before God and ask Him to show us our sin. Where there is sin, we need to repent.  Where there isn’t, we need to keep doing church whether it makes us popular or not.”[14] This is the true reality of the Gospel-centered church.  Again DeYoung makes it clear that we all have imperfect churches.  “We all have things to learn and areas in which we need to grow.  The one constant is that we all need Christ, His word, His Spirit, and, not least of all, His bride.  If we are to make it in the world as a people and make a difference in the world as his people, we need the church.  We need the church in visible manifest and sometimes hidden beauty.  We need the church of individuals and of institutions.  Most of all, we ought to love the church—in all her organic and organizational mess and glory.”[15]

Conclusion:

I heartily enjoyed reading this book.  Over the span of three days I could not put it down.  In this day and age there are many authors “reinvisioning” or “revolutionizing”[16] ecclesiology.  If anything these authors are ending up with an unbiblical, sociocultural perspective, relying heavily on culture and not scriptural evidences.  If anything the answer to the question is not an “either or” but a “both and” in matters of ecclesiastical differences.  DeYoung and Kluck respond to these perspectives with a biblically grounded ecclesiology.  This book is clearly written with the pastor or layperson in mind and does well at reaching that audience.  I would recommend laypeople and pastors read this book.


[1] From the about the author section on the back of the book.

[2] DeYoung and Kluck tackle the unbiblical perceptions of the church, given by current trendy Christian authors.  Many of these books are popular with both the college and disillusioned crowd.

[3] DeYoung, Kevin, and Ted Kluck. Why We Love The Church: in Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. (Chicago: Moody Press, 2009), 15.

[4] Ibid. 19.

[5] Ibid. 16-18.

[6] I am and will continue to be part of the local church wherever I live and am proud to be a member of a local church.  Everything in the church I have grown up in says membership (the people of my age group in the church) does not matter; association with a corporation regulates freedom.  This constricts the person and with all the “bad” things that the corporation does (but in the case of the church does not stand for such “bad” things) there becomes no point for association.

[7] DeYoung, and  Kluck. 13.

[8] Such as the Didache, Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians, Ignatius’ Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, The First Apology of Justin Martyr, The Apostolic Traditions of Hippolytus, and The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

[9] Case and point of this would be Viola’s “Pagan Christianity” that uses a majority of secondary sources not primary sources.

[10] DeYoung, and Kluck. 34.

[11] Ibid. 44-45.

[12] Ibid. 80-81.

[13] Ibid. 81.

[14] Ibid. 81.

[15] Ibid. 182.

[16] Barna, George. Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale, 2005), 36.

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Purity, Marriage, and Relationships

The following articles have been well-worth the time spent reading them.  I hope that you’ll find them helpful.  Happy reading...

Maintaining Moral Purity in Ministry

This article provides some helpful guidelines in how men, especially those in roles of spiritual leadership, should conduct themselves in order to be blameless and above reproach in their interactions with women.  It’s not exhaustive of every situation and danger, but seems to focus on the need for discernment and caution when serving  others.

Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well

This feature article from Boundless webzine is both insightful and honest.  Whether or not you agree with it, it gives some helpful things for consideration.  It will serve you ladies well as you think about relationships and disciple other women to be wise and godly in their own.

Guy’s Guide to Marrying Well

This feature article from Boundless webzine is blunt and informative.  It will serve us men well in thinking through how we ought to approach relationships, and prepare ourselves for spiritual leadership in dating, marriage, and family life.

Women: Other Boundless articles…

Men: Other Boundless articles…

Blessings in Christ, Gabe

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Knowing and Living the Gospel

The week of July 13th I went to Pittsburgh PA.  I took some of the students from the church that I serve at to a youth conference called Momentum.  The week is an opportunity to not just receive mental stimulation and growth, but serve the community where the conference is held.  It is not just about understanding mentally the gospel but living it with our lives.  You can only do (live) if you first know (understand). The theme for the week was 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”  We shared the Gospel verbally and shared the living Gospel.

On Saturday God did something magnificent in my heart.  I listened to the Spirit of the Lord in ways that I never had before.  The entire conference 2000 students and leaders went out into communities in the area and served the community.  We were at a park, cleaning it up and playing with kids from inner-city Pittsburgh.  I noticed this kid in the park; he was about 12 years old.  At this point I decided that I was going to start talking to him, with the intention of discussing Christ.  Though my motives were pure and God-centered there was barriers to the Spirit moving in me.  My heart was cynical because of past manipulations and abuses of the Gospel.  Despite this, quickly God left opportunity after opportunity to share with Him the Gospel.  He (Jay was the kid’s name) had heard a false Gospel of works, and was trying to live it but even as he admitted he was falling short.  The irony of this interaction I had, was that I listened to the Spirit.  Previously either from fear of men or a lack of faith would have responded differently.  In the end I trust that God was faithful and now there is one more person that Heaven is rejoicing about.

Me and Jay

The lesson I learned was that living the Gospel starts with knowing the Gospel, but does not end there.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one meant to be lived with our everything, not just part of us.  Romans 1:16-17 says, “16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  Both know unashamedly and live unashamedly the Gospel.  If you do not know the Gospel I encourage you to read the “What is the Gospel?” tab on this blog.  For those that know the Gospel I encourage you to challenge yourself to live it!  Read the word of God and listen to the Spirit!  Search for needs in your neighborhood, community, and city.

Questions to Ponder:

How can I live the good news of Jesus Christ?  Do I know needs in my neighborhood, community, and city?  Am I seeking to help those in need (Spiritually, Emotionally, Physically)?

Have I listened to the Spirit sharing the Gospel by confessing before men (Romans 10:9-10) and with my actions (James 1:22-25)?

In Christ Alone, Mueller

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THE WILL OF GOD

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

  • A plethora of books have been written on the topic of God’s will, but few of them are worth the paper on which they are printed. In this portion of the passage, Paul instructs the Roman believers about the benefits of living a life consecrated to God. He tells them that the result of being transformed by the renewing of their minds will be their ability to know the will of God. That is a rather profound promise. By growing in grace and truth, they will be able to discern between what is and is not God’s will. The important condition upon which this promise is made is the following: “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Discerning God’s will requires being transformed by God’s word.  Simply stated, it is impossible to know God’s will without first knowing God’s word. In other words, a mind saturated with and submitted to Scripture will result in a life that is characterized by sanctified living and faithful service to God.

     woods

  • Before dealing further with this passage, it seems necessary to define what Paul means by “God’s will.” In Scripture, there are two kinds of God’s will: His sovereign will (decretive will) and His revealed will (moral will). Sovereign Will describes what God has ordained to take place.[1] This will is intentional, predestined, and often beyond our knowledge unless He chooses to reveal that to us. The prediction of Christ’s return and future reign is one example of God informing mankind about events within His sovereign will. The interaction between God and Satan in the book of Job, as well as the commenatry by Joseph in Genesis 50:20, inform us about various details of God’s sovereign will that we would never have known otherwise.  Revealed Will describes what God expects, desires, and commands of His people.[2]  He has given them the opportunity to obey or disobey His revealed will. They can live within His commands or they can live outside of His commands. They have the choice to serve Him or to serve themselves. Fortunately, God’s sovereign will cannot be thwarted; not even by the disobedience of sinners like you and me (c.f. Gen. 50:20).  His decrees will stand and His plans will not be diverted by our selfish decisions: …according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).  Everything that He has ordained to happen, will happen.  This means that even the worst behavior of sinful men is not beyond the scope of His sovereignty.  Instead, we find that it was ordained by a good and sovereign God (i.e. the slavery of Joseph, the misery of Job, the death of Christ) to accomplish His glorious ends.

 

  •  Paul is obviously not talking about God’s sovereign will in this passage. There is no guarantee that any believer will know God’s sovereign will simply because he has consecrated himself to God or saturated his mind with Scripture. It is possible; however, to know what God has revealed as His will for our lives in terms of what He has commanded. We may come to know these things simply by studying and obeying Scripture. A mind full of Scripture will be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.  Making godly decisions (i.e. what is good, acceptable, and perfect) requires knowing what God has commanded, forbidden, and left to our discretion.  Obviously, not every decision involves a choice between right and wrong; sometimes it’s a matter of good, better, and best.  Ultimately, God’s will is that I be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 2:18), therefore, everything I experience should be considered in light of that primary purpose.

  •  The phrase by testing you may discern means that knowing God’s will is not an “automatic given” for every Christian. In fact, it requires some degree of effort.  Our default position as sinners is to oppose God’s will.  Our flesh is at war with the Spirit, and without being saved and sanctified we can never know and obey God’s will.   As John Murray has said, “The difference between truth and error is not a chasm, but a razor’s edge.”  The difference between knowing God’s will and knowing that which is contrary to God’s will requires a great deal of discernment. Such discernment can only be gained through a careful study and consistent application of Scripture.  The renewing of the mind causes transformation which causes the ability to discern God’s will.   Consider the following analogy: Those who work with money can spot a counterfeit bill simply by holding it in their hand. An untrained eye would never know that the bill wasn’t legitimate. However, someone who spends the majority of their day handling legal tender will spot a counterfeit bill almost effortlessly. The same is true of a believer  who is growing in grace and truth. When counterfeit teaching comes along, the believer will be able to discern the truth from error. Not everything labeled as “Christian” is biblical, and not every emotion that we experience is the Spirit’s leading (Jer. 17:9).  We must learn to filter everything we experience (see, hear, feel) through what God has revealed to us. Then we will know what is good, what is perfect, and what is pleasing to Him.  Knowing God’s will requires knowing God’s word!!

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Applications: Thus, in making decisions, we ought to: 1) Be often in prayer and the study of God’s word, 2) Be growing in wisdom and maturity, and 3) Avoid trivial things that distract us from important things! Being involved in a local church and having godly people in your life is also very important.  Knowing God’s will requires that we be doers of the word and not merely hearers (James 1:22-25), or else we demonstrate that we do not truly know God’s word.  We have the ability to know and do God’s will because He has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).   God’s word has been given to guide us, and the Holy Spirit has been given to help us discern and apply His word.  Through His power as an agent of the word, we are being transformed into the image of Christ for the glory and praise of God.  Let us therefore, forget what lies behind and look ahead as we press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).

 May the lyrics of this song provide a glimpse of what it ought to look like: Take My Life and Let It Be!!

 

Questions for Meditation:
Are my thoughts, feelings, decisions, etc. in line with God’s “will” for me to be conformed to the image of Christ?


Am I consistently looking to God’s word for guidance regarding His will, or am I relying on more subjective ways that He has not ordained?
 

 

[1] God’s Sovereign Will: This is what God has ordained to take place.  His sovereingty directs all things, and we cannot know this decretive will until after it has already taken place, except where He has predicted the future events of His will.  [ex. Gen. 50:20; Matt. 18:14; John 1:13; Rom. 1:10; 15:32; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:5, 11; 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19; 2 Pet. 1:21].  

 [2] God’s Revealed Will:  This is what God expects, commands, and desires of His people.  He gives them the opportunity to either obey or disobey His moral/revealed will.  They can live within His commands or they can live outside of His commands by serving themselves.  Fortunately, God’s sovereignty does not allow human decisions to divert from what He has ordained to happen in His decretive/sovereign will.  An example of this is the fact that even the sinfulness of men can be used for the good of God’s glory (ex. Joseph being sold into slavery, and Jesus’ death on the cross).  [ex. Matt. 7:21; 12:50; 21:31; Luke 12:47; John 4:34; 7:17; 9:31; Acts 13:22; Rom. 2:18; Eph. 5:17; 6:6; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:18; Heb. 10:10; 13:21; 1 Pet. 4:2; 1 John 2:17; 5:14].

[3] Recommended resources: Guidance and the Voice of God by Philip Jensen and Tony Payne (See a review!!); Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (See a Review!!); Finding the Will of God by Bruce Waltke (See a Review!!); and Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen (See a Review!!)  Bruce Waltke lists 6 Steps for making decisions: Study Scripture, Cultivate a Heart for God, Receive Wise Counsel, Consider God’s Providence, Use Sound Reason, and Trust God to Affirm or Redirect; Jensen and Payne have three: Scripture, Wisdom, Avoid Triviality. 

 

 

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