Great little video from Ray Ortlund:
When I was 20 years old, I loved my life. It was carefree and full of good times. School, sports, parties, and girlfriends filled my mind most days.
Until one day that changed my life forever.
A girlfriend and I discovered we were pregnant. We hadn’t planned to get pregnant, but we were. When she broke the news to me, I was a little nervous, but reassured her we’d figure out a way to make it. My empty assurance was followed by a question that would push me to a place I’d never been before. With fearful eyes, she looked at me and asked, “Are you going to be with me? Are you going to marry me?”
I was young. I had hopes and dreams and plans. I had my whole life in front of me; I wasn’t ready to be married or to raise a child. But I’m not sure I would’ve thought about it exactly like that in those days. I didn’t know how to think about serious realities. I only operated in the moment.
I told my girlfriend I wasn’t ready to get married. She knew that, but my words confirmed it. A friend gave her the $400 we needed to have “the procedure,” as they called it. I was there when she took the pill. I was there when we flushed our child down the toilet. I was there when we cried, even though we didn’t know why. And some days I’m still there.
I think about the fact that I never heard my child’s laughter. Never locked eyes for the first time. Never saw a smile or cheered first steps. I never heard the sound of reading or endured endless questions about why the world is the way it is. Sady, I missed all that because I didn’t value my child’s life.
My child would be 18 today. I’d be looking forward to calls about how life away from home is going.
Sometimes I think about those things. But I don’t dwell on them, because God intervened.
A year after my girlfriend’s abortion, a friend shared the good news of Jesus Christ with me. I began to read the Bible and was convinced that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. I learned he is the Savior of sinners, who died to take our judgment and rose to extend forgiveness. By God’s grace, I believed those truths.
One of the events the Lord used to awaken me was the abortion. Through his Word, he showed me I wasn’t the good person I thought I was. Rather, I was a person so in love with myself that I agreed to end my own child’s life in order to keep my life going in the direction I wanted.
But this is where the gospel shines light into the darkness with rays of life-giving hope. Isaiah 53:4 says of Jesus: “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” God’s Son stepped down from his throne of glory to enter into our world of perversion and absorb the punishment we deserved. He was pierced for my transgressions so I could be guiltless. He was crushed for my sins so I wouldn’t stand condemned. He was punished so I could know peace with God.
Comfort, Grace, and Guilt
While it’s true Jesus gives peace with God, he also gives the peace of God to all who trust him. He brings healing to the scars that sin left behind. Through Christ God says to us, “Comfort, comfort, my people,” and provides a peace the world cannot give (Isa. 40:1; John 14:27).
So today, when I look back to what I did, I may still feel grief, but there is a comfort the Father of mercies gives in the midst of it. Not a comfort that says, “It’s okay, don’t feel bad,” but rather, “Do not fear, it is forgiven.” And it is from this comfort that I write these words. By God’s grace, Jesus doesn’t just forgive sinners like me; he delights in using them to help others.
Paul puts it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3–4).
Jesus entered into my broken world and gave comfort when I deserved condemnation. He gave love where I withheld it. He gave mercy where I acted murderously. Why? One reason is so I can share his grace with others facing similar sorts of brokenness.
Friend, I do not know anything about you. But the Lord Jesus Christ does. He knows where you have been and what you have done. You may have a story like mine, or you may be someone who boasts that you have no such sin. Either way, God’s grace is enough to cover your transgression and give comfort in its place. Look to Jesus and find comfort, and then give his comfort to others who need it too.
One of the most common pieces of advice in business and self-help books is about the need to prioritize. We all have so much to do, that we need to plan and organize our lives so that we get the most important and urgent things done. There are various complex schemes and principles for achieving this productivity nirvana.
But there’s a divine priority that blows them all out of the water. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33).
But what does that look like? How do we do that? Here are 10 ways to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Enter the kingdom first. There’s only one entrance – and that’s through the door of regeneration (John 3:3,5). Before you do anything else, surrender to the King and submit to His rule.
Make the kingdom your greatest interest. Instead of asking “How is my team doing do?” “How are the polls doing?” How are my shares doing?” Ask “How is the kingdom doing?” Make the church of Christ your first interest and chief delight.
Give the first of your money to the kingdom. Instead of seeing how much is left over at the end of the week or the month, the first cut from your salary should be your tithe to the kingdom.
Devote the first minutes to the kingdom. Don’t wait until you can squeeze God in at some point in the day or delay until you give him the drowsy dregs of the day. As soon as you rise and are refreshed give time to listening to the King’s Word and petitioning the King’s throne.
Commit the first day to the kingdom. God set apart one day in seven to turn away from the kingdoms of the world and our personal kingdom-building to focus our attention on the upbuilding of His kingdom.
Dedicate your best energy to the kingdom. Don’t wait until you are old and can only offer a few tired years to the Lord’s kingdom. Serve him early, serve him young, serve him vigorously and energetically.
View everything through a kingdom filter. As you read and hear the news, apply the kingdom filter to it, look at world events through the lens of the kingdom.
Choose, decide, and plan using kingdom criteria. When you are faced with major life decisions, your first question shouldn’t be “How will this affect my family?” but “How will this affect the kingdom?”
Prioritize kingdom interests in your prayers. While there’s nothing wrong and plenty right with praying for personal and family needs, we must remember that “Your kingdom come” comes before, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Seek the salvation of our children above all else. While we may want our children to get a good education, and good jobs, and good spouses, and good houses, above all we want them to know the goodness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If we asked our children “What do you think your parents want most for you?” would their answer be “The Kingdom.”
There’s a wonderful promise attached to this command: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What are these things? The context tells us — food, drink, and clothing. The necessities of life, in other words. It’s not a promise of health, wealth, and prosperity, but of basics, enough, and sufficient.
God’s basically saying, “If you take care of my interests, I’ll take care of yours.”
Joining a gym won’t instantly transform your physique. Starting a blog won’t immediately make you a good writer. Purchasing a piano won’t make you a musician. The same principle is true for marriage. Getting married will not make you a good spouse or a better person.
When I was single, I thought marriage might be the magic bullet. I believed that it would miraculously transform me. I assumed I would suddenly possess a new measure of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that I had not yet known or experienced as a single man. I believed that once I said, “I do,” I would see the world through a different lens and become a responsible and loving man — a responsible and loving husband.
I probably would have denied believing any of the above if you’d asked me before marriage. Privately, though, I believed that marriage was the missing link on my journey to Christlikeness. I could not have been more wrong.
Marriage will not instantly change you. It will only expose what was already inside of you.
Killing Sin While You’re Single
Some Christian singles live lives of passivity. Often there is little to no accountability in their lives. Therefore, secret sins survive and corrupt. Singles indulge in different kinds of sexual immorality, give little to nothing of themselves to the church, scarcely attend Sunday worship, spend their free time idly, rarely read the Bible or pray, and pay little attention to the sin that still abounds in their heart. Much of this was true for me in my singleness.
But as newlyweds, an uncomfortable truth is discovered: The single you still resides inside of the married you. If you’re lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful when you’re single, you will be just as (or more) lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful after you say I do.
It is essential that we not put off the practice of watching and killing sin in our lives. The sins that entangle you, as a single, will inevitably continue to entangle you in marriage. Nevertheless, singles shouldn’t kill sin simply because you want to be good spouses; you should kill it because you want to live happy and holy lives, whatever your marital status.
Paul warns everyone that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and that we should be about the business of putting to death “what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). This command is not simply for the married, but for the unmarried as well. If you don’t kill sin now, it will kill you later, unless you repent.
Don’t Put Off the Killing of Sin
Paul also uncovers the great danger in putting off the practice of killing known sin in our lives:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. . . .
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . .
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness. . . . Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:24–32)
God gave them up because “they knew God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die” but continued in these things instead of repenting. While this passage addresses sexual immorality, it clearly also includes gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.
This passage is a warning to us all, especially to single people, of the risk in putting off (for whatever reason) the killing of sin. I say especially to single people because you’re living without the day-in, day-out accountability of a spouse. It is a dangerous thing to be given over to your sin. It is frightening to know that we can one day reach a point where we’re unable to see the suicidal foolishness of our transgressions.
The Grass Is Truly Greener in Jesus
We’ve all heard the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The saying is meant to address mankind’s discontentment with his or her current position or plight. We all think that we’d be happier if we were in a different set of circumstances. The same is true for our marital status. Most of us know singles who want to be married or married people who want to be single again. Why? We think our current state of discontentment is external rather than internal.
Discontentment with present circumstances is near the root of every single person’s expectation that marriage will instantly change them. Marriage has gradually become their Holy Spirit and the wedding day has become their Pentecost. But after the wedding day has passed and the honeymoon phase fades — they discover the ceremony lacks the saving and sanctifying power they need, and they’re still the same sinful person they were when they were single.
It is spiritually and eternally irresponsible to put off the business of killing sin as a single — in hopes that a different life (marriage) will make one holier and happier. Only Jesus can make us happy. Regardless of our current circumstances, the grass can be greener with Jesus. Run to him. Repent of your sins. Drink from the only fountain that can quench the thirst that is inside of us all.
No, marriage will not instantly change you. God, because of Christ and through his Holy Spirit, will change you when you’ve surrendered yourself to him, whether married or unmarried.
Don’t be afraid to admit you have issues. Be afraid if you’ve deluded yourself to think you have no issues. God knows your issues—go to him.
The old catechism says it well: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. You and I exist for God’s glory. In fact, all things exist for God’s glory. We get that. But how? How do we glorify God? I want to list 4 simple ways that you can glorify God today and every day.
GLORIFY GOD BY ADMIRING GOD
You glorify God by admiring God, by simply appreciating him for who he is and for what he has done. Within the Bible we see plenty of examples of each.
Consider Paul admiring God at the end of Romans 11. Paul has spent all this time discussing man’s great need and God’s great provision in Jesus Christ, and then he just can’t help himself: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” He just has to break into this little song of worship, this little song that brings glory to God.
You can also admire God for who he is, pondering his character and attributes. We see this in the little doxology at the end of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude considers who God is and then naturally glorifies him.
You glorify God through your admiration of his character and his ways. Do you make it your habit to admire God?
GLORIFY GOD BY WORSHIPPING GOD
You glorify God by worshipping God. Just think of Psalm 29 which begins like this:
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
Worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life (which is why I recently asked What Would I Lose if I Lost Worship?). Worship is ascribing to God his own worth. It is “the art of losing self in the adoration of another.” When we worship him we give him honor, we magnify him in the sight of those who join with us. We declare that he is the point and purpose of our entire world and our entire existence. God is glorified in this kind of self-forgetful worship.
Do you love to worship? Do you take every opportunity to worship? Do you worship for God’s sake and God’s glory?
GLORIFY GOD BY OBEYING GOD
You glorify God by obeying God. This is true whether that obedience is expressed through character or through action. You glorify God by living a life of obedience, by doing those things he says to do and by refusing to do those things he forbids. The New Testament tells us with crystal clarity that there is an old way of living that God tells us to turn away from and a new way of living that he tells us to embrace.
It makes God look great, it brings glory to his name, when you stop sinning, when you put to death those evil deeds and evil desires. It makes God look great when you begin living righteously and, even more, when you long to behave righteously. Why? Because you prove that the power of God is active in you.
God is glorified in your holiness, not in your sin. Do you grow in holiness so that God can be glorified? God is glorified in your selfless deeds, not your selfish ones. Do you love and serve others?
GLORIFY GOD BY DELIGHTING IN GOD
Finally, you glorify God by delighting in God. To delight in God is to have great affection for him, to find your heart moved by him, to find ultimate joy in him. It is to love and long to do things that make him look great. It is to engage all you are and all you’ve got in the full-out pursuit of God. Like Jesus said, it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” When you delight in God you express free and willing love toward him. You see God as a great treasure who is worthy of your pursuit, worthy of your affection.
I love how Thomas Watson says it: “True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God.” Could it be said of you that you are burning in love to God?
NO BETTER LIFE
God does all things for his glory. If you can get this in your mind and into your heart, it will transform the way you look at the world and the way you live in the world. It will changes everything. It will allow you to give up pride and position as long as God is glorified. It will allow you to give up lifelong dreams and treasured sins as long as God is glorified. It will even allow you to joyfully give up your life, firmly believing that God will be glorified. There is no better life than the life lived for the sake and the glory of God.
This is not the time for Christian timidity. This is not the time for Christian silence. This is not the time for Christian retreat. This is a time for Christian boldness. It is a time to speak.
Into a world that considers any exclusive truth claim to be the height of bigotry, we must lovingly speak that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]” (John 14:6).
Into a world that has rejected God’s objective meaning for marriage, opening the door to a wide range of perversities, we must lovingly speak that it was God who said, “a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).
Into a world that has embraced the horrific lie that to kill a child is an act of compassion to his mother, we must lovingly speak that God alone has the right to give and take life and that we shall not murder (Job 1:21; Exodus 20:13).
Speak Sanity Into the Madman’s World
Into a world that has repressed the truth and asserted the glorious order and fine tuning of the universe, the biological richness of earth, and the rational mind of man to comprehend quasars and quarks are the products of eons of chaos, unintelligent macroevolution, and unimaginable odds, we must lovingly speak that “what can be known about God is plain to [us], because God has shown it to [us]. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [we] are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20).
A world that embraces the rejection of truth, the destruction of marriage, the extermination of the innocents, and the veneration of a mindless, value-less “creator” is the world of a madman. It is the devil’s playground (1 John 5:19). It is an insane nightmare.
And it is precisely when the dark descends that the light is most needed. We must shine the light.
Our Dishonor May Be God’s Answer to Our Prayers
We have prayed for Jesus to shine in this world. We have prayed for the completion of world evangelization. And now we in the West are seeing our societies grow increasingly hostile toward the gospel. Some of us are bewildered. Some are discouraged.
But we must bear in mind that God often answers our prayers in unexpected ways.
For what do we see in the New Testament? We see that human beings perceive the love of God in the gospel of Christ most clearly in this dark world, not through the prosperity of his servants, but through their suffering.
First, it was our Lord himself. The cross was the most evil and most righteous, most hateful and most loving, most profane and most holy event in all of human, indeed cosmic, history. Then the gospel began to spread to Samaria and all Judea and to other regions following the death of Stephen. Then the gospel spread through Asia Minor and into Europe through Paul and his band who suffered more than most of us can imagine (2 Corinthians 11:23–28).
Testifying and suffering — it is the motif of all of redemptive history. It is God’s chosen method to display his love and spread his gospel. The earliest Christians even rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).
That might seem strange to us Westerners. But that’s because we’re strange in redemptive history. Most of us have not had to endure dishonor for bearing the name Christian.
But we have prayed for the gospel to spread through our nations and the world. Looking at redemptive history, should we be surprised if God answers our prayers by counting us worthy to suffer dishonor for his name? What if the cross of our dishonor is a means to the salvation of millions?
Jesus did say, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). And he told us, “You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. . . . [A]nd because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:9, 12).
And Paul prepared us too: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12–13).
If It’s Costly to Speak, It Must Be Valuable
So what are we to do as increasing dishonor comes to us? We are to do just what the early disciples did: keep speaking. When the governing authorities charged them to stop preaching the gospel, the apostles replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20).
It is precisely when it is personally costly to speak, and we still speak, that people listen to what we have to say. When it’s costly to deliver a message, the message must be costly. For people only pay dearly for what is valuable. Paying dearly glorifies the valuable thing. And no message is more valuable than the gospel of Jesus.
So keep speaking. Relentlessly keep speaking. Relentlessly keep speaking, not to win a culture war, but to win souls. Relentlessly keep speaking to win souls because you love souls.
And as we keep speaking, we should not expect to measure our success by immediate circumstantial improvement. In our short-term context, the gospel may appear to lose ground and evil appear to have the momentum. That is often how circumstances appeared to saints throughout history. But in fact, the gospel has only ever continually spread through the world, despite the mad devil’s best attempts to stamp it out.
So keep speaking the gospel. It is going to win. Jesus promised it would: “The one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13–14).
Note this, we will have to endure. That means suffering and dishonor. But the gospel will be preached to the whole world.
God will answer our prayers, first by causing us to endure, and then bringing the end. Then Jesus will deliver the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). And then, pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).