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Three Ways Parents Can Pray for Their Prodigal Children

In Home and Family on July 30, 2018 by The Spillover

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Sarah Walton:

I once was that prodigal child — lost, angry, and struggling to find my identity. Hardened on the outside, but deeply hurting within. The pain of my choices was not only destroying me, but creating heartache within our family and severing my relationships with the people who loved me most.

By God’s grace, my parents did not give up on me — despite how tempting it must have been at times. Instead, they entrusted my life to God, prayed for my brokenness, and fought for me in prayers that God eventually answered.

Parents, if you are raising a seemingly hard-hearted, rebellious son or daughter (whether outwardly or inwardly), I challenge you to take up your arms, fight the spiritual battle that rages over them with all of your God-given strength, and refuse to give up on their life.

I encourage you to pray these three prayers over lost children.

1. Pray for a heart of brokenness, no matter the earthly cost.

It’s incredibly hard to pray for anything but a comfortable, successful, and pain-free life for our children. But as Christian parents, the greatest eternal good that we can pray for them is their salvation over their earthly happiness or comfort. We have to fight for them in this world filled with temporary pleasures, self-gratification, and blurry lines — entrusting their lives to our Lord — even if the path of salvation comes through pain.

I am eternally grateful that my parents loved me enough to pray for my brokenness, a brokenness that would lead to healing.

And my path of brokenness nearly killed me.

After a devastating loss of my identity as an athlete and hidden abuse from peers, my life spiraled out of control. I searched for identity and purpose in anything but Jesus. As self-destructive patterns drove me deeper into despair, I longed for an escape from this world, ultimately landing me in the protection of a hospital.

In that stark white hospital room, the choice before me was clear: be crushed by the weight of my sin or lay the broken pieces of my life at his feet. By his grace, he led me to my knees and has been redeeming those broken pieces ever since.

We will only be bold enough to pray a prayer of brokenness over our children when we ourselves have been broken before God and trust his love for our children and us. It’s only when we have completely surrendered our children to him that we can pray, “Father, use what you must to save my child from an eternity apart from you, no matter the cost.”

2. Pray against the enemy’s desire to have them.

A battle is being waged over our children’s lives. We have to fight for them, especially when blindness keeps them from fighting the battle themselves.

I remember my mom telling me the story of a time when I was standing in the kitchen with her, angry at the world, and taking it out on her. She looked at me and said boldly, “I am fighting for you, and I won’t let Satan have victory over your life!” After she spoke those words, I fell into a heap on the floor and burst into tears.

Although we don’t have a guarantee of our children’s salvation or the outcome we may desire, we can be confident that God is faithful to his promises and hears our prayers. One of the great weapons God has given parents to fight against the world’s pull and the enemy’s schemes over their children is to pray the way Christ did for Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32).

Although Peter was a believer and the children we are praying for may not be, we can still pray to God that he would rescue our children from the power of Satan, give them faith in Christ, and use their lives to advance the gospel and strengthen other believers.

3. Pray specific Scripture over their life.

Even if your child wants nothing to do with the truth and hates to hear the word of God, they can do nothing to stop you from praying Scripture for them. This is another mighty weapon God has given to parents.

My parents prayed Psalm 18:16–19 over my life and prayed it often:

He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

It truly amazes me to look back and see how faithful God was to answer this prayer. I was drowning in self-destruction, abuse from others, rebelliousness, and sorrows too deep to understand at the time. God, in his mercy, drew me out of many deep waters, and rescued me from my own flesh and Satan’s desire for me.

As I sat in a hospital room, no longer wanting to live, God rescued me, brought me out into a broad place, and showed me that he delighted in me (despite my unworthiness). He has continued to be faithful to this prayer, upholding me through many deep waters and carrying me through many dark days.

Parents, no matter how far your child seems to be from Jesus or what path they are on, you can fight for their life with the powerful weapon of God’s word.

The Power of a Praying Parent

The truth is, while we must teach and train our children, and put boundaries in place, we have no control over their hearts. Ultimately, God alone can fill their hearts with a love for Christ and open their eyes to see the beauty and glory of who he is.

I am learning this on a new level and from a different perspective as I now face struggles with my own children that often tempt me to despair. But we are not helpless, and we are never hopeless. Whether our children are young or old, have soft hearts or hearts of stone, we have the power of prayer, God’s living word, and a sovereign God we can trust.

Our Father in heaven loves to take seemingly hopeless lives, like my own once was, and show himself merciful and mighty. Give your child the gift of prayer, and trust that God will use his or her life for his good purposes — growing and transforming your own life in the process.

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Answering Claims That the Bible Contains Errors, and Why It Matters That It Doesn’t

In Scripture on December 14, 2017 by The Spillover

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Randy Alcorn:

When people say they believe the Bible contains errors, it’s a good practice to ask them to name those errors so you can open a Bible and look at them together.

Sometimes they will raise old and easily answered questions such as “Where did Cain get his wife?” But usually they can’t name many supposed errors, if any at all. Often, they’ve taken as truth the word of other people that the Bible contains errors, without investigating for themselves.

When you take the time to talk about their concerns, you can demonstrate that you have investigated it for yourself, that you’ve done your homework, and are convinced that when God says all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), He means that it is all accurate and reliable. Of course, if you haven’t actually done that, it’s time to start! Don’t be afraid, because God’s Word will hold up under your scrutiny. (It certainly has under mine!)

Remember, if someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s okay to say, “That’s a great question. Let me research it, and I’ll get back with you.” The Christian Research Institute gives this advice: “…rather than taking a fearful attitude when faced with an alleged biblical contradiction, we should view these occasions as opportunities to search and explore the Scriptures. One thing I can guarantee is this: your awe of the majesty of Scripture will deepen.”

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

Let’s go back to Cain’s wife. She is referred to in Genesis 4:17 as the mother of Enoch. The typical claim is that Cain couldn’t have had a wife since only he and Abel were born to Adam and Eve.

This fails to recognize that Genesis 5:4 specifically tells us that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters. Considering their long lifespans they likely had many childbearing years. But is there a problem since Genesis 4:17 precedes Genesis 5:4? Not at all. The narrative is not strictly sequential. It’s very common for books of history to talk about one person’s life, tracing out what they did for decades, then move back to deal with another of their contemporaries. With Cain, the text of Genesis has fast-forwarded decades, and by then he likely had a number of sisters of marriageable age. He obviously married one of them, or if it was multiple decades later, possibly one of his nieces. If in those days no one had children by a close relative, the human race would have quickly become extinct.

The problem of Cain’s wife is no problem to anyone but the most superficial reader of Scripture (and to those who have heard others say it is a problem).

What about Other Supposed Errors?

There are many claims of various errors in the Bible; I’ll deal with just a couple.

Some say that since it groups bats with birds, the Bible falsely teaches that bats are a type of bird (Deuteronomy 14:1118). First, there was no scientific definition or established classification of a bird in that time. It makes perfect sense that bats could be grouped with birds due to the fact that both fly.

The inspired original manuscript, in reference to bats, used a Hebrew word meaning a kind of animal that can fly. Unfortunately, some English translations render the word as “bird.” When a bat is involved, a better English translation would be “flying animal.” Obviously, it’s not an error to categorize a bat as a flying animal!

Some critics claim attribution errors, such as in Matthew 27:9-10: “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’” This reference is actually found in Zechariah 11:13, not in the book of Jeremiah.

The answer to this lies in early Judaism’s understanding of the canon of the Old Testament. The standard Jewish practice was to group the prophets together, even as Jesus did in referring to “the Law and the Prophets” in Matthew 22:40. According to Jewish scholar Nahum Sarna, Jeremiah was once regarded as the first book of the prophets, before Isaiah. He further explains “…in the Jewish way of labelling things you call a book by its first few words, and you call a collection of books by the first book in that collection.” So a learned Jewish exegete would see nothing strange in Matthew’s attributing this fulfilled prophecy of the potter’s field to Jeremiah.

Was Jesus Wrong about the Mustard Seed?

Some claim that when Jesus said the mustard seed was the “smallest of all the seeds on earth” (Mark 4:31), He was mistaken, since there are smaller seeds.

According to botany experts, the seed of the black mustard variety was in fact the smallest garden-variety seed commonly used in Palestine—even the entire eastern world—at that time. It grew into a very large shrub. Jesus used it as an illustration twice, and both times was speaking proverbially with statements about faith (Matthew 17:14-20) and the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:30-34).

John Piper lends a helpful perspective by clarifying the proper definition of error for judging the reliability of any literature. Thus when Jesus said the Kingdom of God is “like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth” (Mark 4:31), His basic intention was “not in the least botanical…Jesus capitalized on the proverbial smallness of the mustard seed to make a perfect, inerrant point about the kingdom of God.”

Why Does All This Matter?

It matters because if we cannot trust the Bible—if we can’t rely on it to tell us the truth in everything it speaks to—then it cannot be, as 2 Timothy 3 says, “profitable” for us. We can’t correct ourselves with it if it’s sometimes incorrect.

And if it isn’t reliable in this and that area, why would I think it is correct about love, holiness, grace, justice, idolatry, greed, gossip, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or even the Gospel itself? If the Bible cannot be trusted to tell us the truth in all things—big or small—how can it be trusted at all? And if God considers truth so precious, and His Word so powerful, why would He claim to breathe out Scripture from His mouth (2 Timothy 3:16) and carry along the writers of Holy Scripture (2 Peter 1:21), and then fail to guard that Scripture against error?

In the early church, God’s Word, all of it, was viewed as the standard by which God’s people should evaluate any and all teachings. The Berean Christians were commended for measuring the apostle Paul’s words against the Old Testament Scriptures: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11, NIV).

Unless the Bible were fully inspired, fully true, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true” would be meaningless. We can’t take something containing untruths—with no objective way to decide what’s true and what isn’t—and use it to measure whether something else is untrue. If you had a tape measure you knew to be inaccurate, would you bother using it?

Ironically, without studying Scripture or researching the actual facts, countless believers embrace the claims of the Bible’s critics. Yet most of those critics’ claims are nothing new. The Bible has been criticized incessantly for the last 150 years, and long before that. The charges just haven’t stuck. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

I’m reminded of what the Huguenots said of the Bible and its critics: “Hammer away ye hostile hands; your hammers break, God’s Anvil stands.”

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Where Is God in a Mass Shooting?

In Perspective on October 3, 2017 by The Spillover

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Russell Moore:

A few hours ago I was on the phone with a friend in Las Vegas. He and his neighbors had just lived through, and will be living through for some time, the trauma of seeing in their own city the worst mass shooting in modern American history. I reflected after that conversation what my friend, a strong Christian and a respected leader, would say when asked by those around him, “Where was God in all of this?” He will have a word for his community, but for many Christians, when disaster or great evil strikes, this is a hard question to answer. Maybe that’s you.

The first thing we must do in the aftermath of this sort of horror is to make sure that we do not take the name of God in vain. After a natural disaster or an act of terror, one will always find someone, often claiming the mantle of Christianity, opining about how this moment was God’s judgment on an individual or a city or a nation for some specified sin. Jesus told us specifically not to do this, after his disciples asked whether a man’s blindness was the result of his or his parents’ sin. Jesus said no to both (Jn. 9:1-12). Those self-appointed prophets who would blame the victims for what befalls them are just that, self-appointed. We should listen to Jesus and to his apostles, not to them. Those killed in a terror attack or in a tsunami or in an epidemic are not more sinful than all of the rest of us.

We live in a fallen world, where awful, incomprehensible things happen. When an obvious and egregious injustice such as this one is done, we should stand where God does and see this as real evil, not as an illusion of evil. This means that our response to such should not be some sort of Stoic resignation but instead a lament with those around us who are hurting.

Christians sometimes suppose that our non-Christian friends and neighbors want to hear a detailed explanation, to justify God in light of such horror. The Bible doesn’t give us easy answers. The Word of God instead speaks of the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7). When tragedy fell upon Job, an ancient follower of God, and asked why such happened to him, God did not fully answer him. God instead spoke of his own power and his own presence. That’s exactly what we should do.

We do not know why God does not intervene and stop some tragedies when he does stop others. What we do know, though, is that God stands against evil and violence. We know that God is present for those who are hurting. And we know that God will ultimately call all evil to a halt, in the ushering in of his kingdom. We know that God is, in the words of the hymn, both “merciful and mighty.”

When my wife and I were going through a difficult time, years ago, a friend stopped by, a respected theologian who spoke often and well of God’s sovereign providence. I expected him to speak to us of how God was working in this tragedy we were facing. He didn’t. He cried with us. He sat with us. He prayed with us. And as he left, he turned and said, “Russell, I don’t know why God permitted this to happen to you, but I know this: Jesus loves you, and Jesus is alive and present right now in your life.” I’ve never forgotten those words.

Our neighbors do not need us to provide easy answers to what is, this side of the eschaton, unexplainable. What they need, though, is a reminder for us that life is not the meaningless chaos it seems to be. There is a loving Presence at work in the universe. They need for us to weep and hurt with them, as Jesus did at the grave of his friend. In short, they need us to be a people of the cross, a people whose God is not distant and blank but a God who instead loved the world enough to send his Son to bear in his own body the full measure of the curse of evil. In the cross, we see evil and horror. We also see that God is there. And in the empty tomb, we see that death does not get the last word.

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Resolved: To Read the Bible

In Soul Food on December 30, 2016 by The Spillover

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David Mathis:

Whether you feel like a beginner, or the grizzled old veteran, one of the most important things you can do is regularly read the Bible for yourself.

It is a remarkable thing that we have Bibles we can read personally, whenever we want. For most of church history, and still today in many places in the world, Christians have not had their own personal copies of the Bible. They had to gather to hear someone read it to them. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13) was all they had for Bible time.

But now, with printed Bibles and electronic options galore, we have priceless access to God’s very words to us, words that we are so tragically tempted to take lightly. Reading your own copy of the Bible daily is not a law that every believer must abide; most Christians have not had this option. But daily Bible reading is an extraordinary means of God’s grace. Why miss this bounty and blessing?

The Whole Thing?

“All Scripture,” says 2 Timothy 3:16, “is breathed out by God and profitable.” It is the whole Bible, says Sinclair Ferguson, which was given to make whole Christians. Everything in Scripture, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, is for the good of the church. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

But not every text functions to build our faith in the same way, and has the same effect for every one of God’s children in the new covenant. It is a wonderful thing to read all the way through the Bible. It is something that pastors and teachers in the church should strongly consider doing on an annual basis, to let all the Scriptural data pass before their eyes for continually informing their public theological claims. But this is not a yoke to be set on every Christian every year. Though it would be a good thing for every Christian to try at some point, or at least to have some multi-year plan in place to eventually get you through the whole Bible in some cycle.

For those considering the journey, you may be surprised how doable it is. It takes about 70 hours to read the Bible from cover to cover.

That’s less time than the average American spends in front of the television every month. In other words, if most people would exchange their TV time for Scripture reading, they’d finish reading the entire Bible in four weeks or less. If that sounds unworkable, consider this: In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time. (Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 29)

Maybe now is your time to try it. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Discipleship Journal is our most beloved, and most used, over the years at Desiring God. There are four daily readings, but only 25 days each month — which leaves some margin for missing here and there when life gets busy. John Piper says, “Few things discourage us more from reading the Bible through in a year than falling behind. This plan gives five catch up days every month. This is absolutely golden!”
  • M’Cheyne is the classic plan, designed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–1843), the beloved Scottish minister who died before his thirtieth birthday. The plan has readings for every day of the year and will take you once through the Old Testament and twice through the Psalms and the New Testament.
  • The Kingdom gives proportionate weight to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and one for the New. The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of the Hebrew Bible, with one reading coming from each portion per day. Only 25 readings are slated per month and can be started at any time of the year.
  • For Shirkers and Slackers is for those who’ve tried other plans and stalled out again and again. This plan assigns certain genres to certain days of the week and breaks biblical books into sections you can read in one sitting — so without reading everyday, you can still make measurable headway. Pace yourself well and do some extra reading, and you might even finish in less than a year.

Also Justin Taylor has a long list of plan options; Ligonier has another list.

Or if the whole thing in a year seems out of your reach, try taking up a plan and working through it at your own pace, even if it takes you several years. It will give you a specific place to go next when you open the Bible, instead of just opening to some random text, and in time it will give you confidence that you’ve traversed the whole terrain of Scripture and at least glimpsed briefly God’s full written revelation to us.

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Stop the Revolution. Join the Plodders.

In Perspective on October 5, 2016 by The Spillover

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Kevin DeYoung:

It’s sexy among young people—my generation—to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church—a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church. As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed—and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.

The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott).

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). If we truly love the church, we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. The church is the hope of the world—not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders. Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.

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10 Spurgeon Quotes for Wounded Christians

In Soul Food on September 7, 2016 by The Spillover

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Christian George:

Carl F. H. Henry was right to call Charles Spurgeon “one of evangelical Christianity’s immortals” (Carl. F. H. Henry in the foreword to Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers).

In his twenties, Spurgeon pastored the largest mega-church in Protestant Christendom. London’s most cavernous buildings could hardly accommodate his crowds – and one of them even collapsed. American tourists returning from England were greeted with two questions: “Did you see the Queen?’ and ‘Did you hear Spurgeon?’” (A. P. Peabody, “Spurgeon,” North American Review 86 [1858], 275). Truly, the memory of his ministry has become immortal.

But Spurgeon himself was very much mortal. The preacher was anything but bulletproof. In fact, for most of his life Spurgeon nursed deep wounds and struggled to cope with a myriad of emotional and physical maladies.
In 1867 Spurgeon suffered his first attack of chronic nephritis, or Bright’s Disease (kidney inflammation similar to Lupus). At 35 he was diagnosed with gout, an inflammation of the joints. In 1886 he said, “When I am suffering very greatly from gout, if anybody walks heavily and noisily across the room, it gives me pain” (MTP 49:234). In a letter to his brother he wrote, “I thought a cobra had bitten me and filled my veins with poison” (Autobiography 3:134).

So much medicine arrived from friends and family that Spurgeon said he “would have been dead long ago if we had tried half of them” (ST 4, February 1875).

Spurgeon also suffered from depression. “I do not suppose there is any person in this assembly who ever has stronger fits of depression of spirits than I have myself personally” (MTP 15:640). After witnessing seven people trampled to death he said, “The very sight of the Bible made me cry” (MTP 37:383-84).

On October 22, 2009, Dr. Anil Den, a London-based psychiatrist, reviewed Spurgeon’s symptoms and concluded:

“Spurgeon was suffering from a form of endogenous depression and that, if he had presented with such symptoms today he would certainly have been treated with a mixture of medication and therapy” (Peter J. Morden, Communion with Christ and His People, 262).

While it’s difficult to diagnose the dead, one thing is certain: Spurgeon lived in the spotlight and the shadow.

In a moving sermon “Songs in the Night,” Spurgeon revealed the struggle of the Christian trying to praise God in the dark:

It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is the skilful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read,— who sings from his heart, and not from a book that he can see, because he has no means of reading, save from that inward book of his own living spirit, whence notes of gratitude pour forth in songs of praise (MTP 44:98-99).

Spurgeon’s ministry sparked a wildfire throughout the world because it was forged, to be sure, in the fire. “I think it would have been less painful to have been burned alive at the stake than to have passed through those horrors and depressions of spirit” (MTP 53:137-38).

Yet even in the heat of public criticism, character assassination, physical setbacks, and emotional challenges, Spurgeon experienced the warm kindness of God.

Spurgeon never suffered from having never suffered. He saw hardships as God’s hammer, shaping sinners into holiness and channeled his suffering into his sermons. Small wonder the hard working class were magnetized to him. “You must go through the fire,” he said, “if you would have sympathy with others who tread the glowing coals” (MTP 32:590).

Here are ten quotes with their contexts, forged on the anvil of Spurgeon’s own affliction:

1. “The storm has a bit in its mouth.”

“Perhaps at this very moment, down in some cabin, or amidst the noise and tumult, and the raging of the ocean, when many are alarmed, there are Christians with calm faces, patiently waiting their Father’s will, whether it shall be to reach the port of heaven, or to be spared to come again to land, into the midst of life’s trials and struggles once more. They feel that they are well-cared for, they know that the storm has a bit in its mouth, and that God holds it in, and nothing can hurt them; nothing can happen to them but what God permits.”

“Safe Shelter” (MTP 15, Sermon 902, p. 650).

2. “The greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness.”

“Health is set before us as if it were the great thing to be desired above all other things. It is so? I would venture to say that the greatest blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has. If some men, that I know of, could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God’s grace, mellow them marvelously.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “The Minister in These Times” in An All-Round Ministry (Banner of Truth, 2000), p. 384, italics in the original.

3. “Men will never become great in divinity until they become great in suffering.”

“Men will never become great in divinity until they become great in suffering. ‘Ah!’ said Luther, ‘affliction is the best book in my library;’ and let me add, the best leaf in the book of affliction is that blackest of all the leaves, the leaf called heaviness, when the spirit sinks within us, and we cannot endure as we could wish. And yet again; this heaviness is of essential use to a Christian, if he would do good to others. . . . There are none so tender as those who have been skinned themselves. Those who have been in the chamber of affliction know how to comfort those who are there. Do not believe that any man will become a physician unless he walks the hospitals; and I am sure that no one will become a divine, or become a comforter, unless he lies in the hospital as well as walks through it, and has to suffer himself.”

“The Christian’s Heaviness and Rejoicing” (NPSP 4, Sermon 222, p. 461).

4. “Better to be taught by suffering than to be taught by sin!”

“Perhaps there may be no way of teaching us so thoroughly the baseness of our heart as by leaving us to its devices; perhaps we shall never know our folly, unless suffered to play the fool, but oh prevent it, Lord! prevent it by thy grace! Better to be taught by suffering than to be taught by sin! Better to lie in God’s dungeon than to revel in the devil’s palace.”

“Hezekiah and the Ambassadors, Or Vainglory Rebuked” (MTP 12, Sermon 704, p.438).

5. “Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly.”

“Grace is given to keep us from sin, which is a great blessing; but what is the good of grace except it is in the time when the trial comes? Certainly, the grace that will not stand in the hour of temptation or affliction, is a very spurious sort of grace; and we had better get rid of it, if we have it. When a godly woman’s child dies, the infidel husband sees the mother’s faith. When the ship goes down, and is lost in the sea, the ungodly merchant understands the resignation of his fellow-man. When pangs shoot through our body, and ghastly death appears in view, people see the patience of the dying Christian. Our infirmities become the black velvet on which the diamond of God’s love glitters all the more brightly. Thank God I can suffer, thank God I can be made the object of shame and contempt; for, in this way, God shall be glorified.”

“A Wafer of Honey” (MTP 52, Sermon 2974, p. 80).

6. “Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering.”

“Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Morning (New York: Sheldon and Company, 1865), April 5, p. 96.

7. “There is no University for a Christian like that of sorrow and trial.”

“Israel gained by education. The Lord was not going to lead a mob of slaves into Canaan, to go and behave like slaves there. They had to be tutored. The wilderness was the Oxford and Cambridge for God’s students. There they went to the University, and he taught and trained them, and they took their degree before they entered into the promised land. There is no University for a Christian like that of sorrow and trial.”

“Marah Better Than Elim” (MTP 39, Sermon 2301, p.151).

8. “There are times when we cannot cry at all, and then he cries in us.”

“Is it not ourselves that cry? Yes, assuredly; and yet the Spirit cries also. The expressions are both correct. The Holy Spirit prompts and inspires the cry. He puts the cry into the heart and mouth of the believer. It is his cry because he suggests it, approves of it, and educates us to it. We should never have cried thus if he had not first taught us the way. . . . There are times when we cannot cry at all, and then he cries in us. There are seasons when doubts and fears abound, and so suffocate us with their fumes that we cannot even raise a cry, and then the indwelling Spirit represents us, and speaks for us, and makes intercession for us, crying in our name.”

“Adoption –The Spirit and the Cry” (MTP 24, Sermon 1435, p. 537, italics in the original).

9. “O dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the very dust, worship there!”

“O dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the very dust, worship there! If that spot has come to be thy Gethsemane, then present there thy ‘strong crying and tears’ unto thy God. Remember David’s words, ‘Ye people, pour out your hearts,’ — but do not stop there, finish the quotation, — ‘Ye people, pour out your hearts before him.’ Turn the vessel upside down; it is a good thing to empty it, for this grief may ferment into something more sour. Turn the vessel upside down, and let every drop run out; but let it be before the Lord. ‘Ye people, pour out your hearts before him: God is a refuge for us.’ When you are bowed down beneath a heavy burden of sorrow, then take to worshipping the Lord, and especially to that kind of worshipping which lies in adoring God, and in making a full surrender of yourself to the divine will.”

“Job’s Resignation” (MTP 42, Sermon 2457, p. 134).

10. “Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”

“I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me, he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else, it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”

“Ziklag; Or, David Encouraging Himself in God” (MTP 27, Sermon 1606, p. 373).

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God’s Sovereign Grace in Timbuktu

In Soul Food on August 4, 2016 by The Spillover

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Randy Alcorn:

As a child, Steve Saint thought of Timbuktu as a made-up name for “the ends of the earth.” In 1986, while traveling in western Africa for Missionary Aviation Fellowship, he found himself stranded in the real Timbuktu.

Steve decided to rent a truck to travel elsewhere, despite warnings that if it broke down, he wouldn’t survive in the Sahara Desert. Men armed with scimitars and knives watched him suspiciously. After he failed to find a truck, Steve’s thoughts ran to his father, Nate Saint, a former missionary in Ecuador. When Steve was only five, natives speared to death his dad and four other missionaries. Now, thirty years later, Steve found himself questioning his father’s death. “I couldn’t help but think the murders were capricious, an accident of bad timing.”

Steve asked for directions to a church. Some children led him to a tiny mud-brick house with a poster on the wall showing wounded hands covering a cross. A dark-skinned man in flowing robes approached and introduced himself as Nouh Af Infa Yatara.

Steve asked Nouh, through a translator, how he came to faith in Christ. Nouh said he had stolen vegetables from a missionary’s garden. The missionary gave him the vegetables and promised him an ink pen if he memorized some verses from the Bible. Nouh believed the verses he learned and came to Christ. Nouh’s parents threw him out of the home and pulled him out of school. Nouh’s mother even put a sorcerer’s poison in Nouh’s food at a family feast. Nouh ate the food but suffered no ill effects.

Steve asked Nouh, “Why is your faith so important to you that you’re willing to give up everything, even your life?”

“I know God loves me and I’ll live with him forever.”

“Where did your courage come from?” Steve asked.

“The missionary gave me books about Christians who’d suffered for their faith. My favorite was about five young men who risked their lives to take God’s good news to stone-age Indians in the jungles of South America. The book said they let themselves be speared to death, even though they had guns and could have killed their attackers!”

Stunned at these words, Steve said, “One of those men was my father.” “Your father?” Now Nouh felt stunned.

Steve assured Nouh of the truth of the story. And then Nouh assured Steve that God had used his father’s death, many years later, to help a young Muslim-turned-Christian hold on to his faith. Steve realized that if God could plan the death of his own Son, He could also plan and use the death of Steve’s dad, Nate Saint, to accomplish His sovereign purpose—including reaching one young Muslim for Christ and orchestrating this God-ordained meeting of two men at the ends of the earth.

Stories like this don’t apply only to the deaths of missionary martyrs. Over time, God has brought countless people to Christ through the lives and deaths of ordinary housewives, common laborers, farmers, factory workers, business people, teachers, and schoolchildren.

We won’t all, in this life, meet someone whose story will suddenly shed light on God’s purpose in our loved one’s suffering or death. But I think most of us will have that very experience one day, beyond the ends of this Earth, on that New Earth, where we, eyes wide, will hear countless jaw-dropping stories of God’s sovereign grace.

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Why These 66 Books?

In Soul Food on April 28, 2016 by The Spillover

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Nathan Busenitz:

Have you ever looked at your Bible and wondered, “How do we know that these 66 books, and no others, comprise the inspired Word of God?”

That is a critically important question, since there are many today who would deny that these 66 books truly make up the complete canon of Scripture.

The Roman Catholic Church, for example, claims that the Apocryphal books which were written during the inter-testamental period (between the Old and New Testaments) ought to be included in the Bible. Cult groups like the Mormons want to add their own books to the Bible—things like the Book of Mormon, The Doctrines and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. And then there are popular books and movies, like The Da Vinci Code from several years back, that claim later Christians (like Constantine) determined what was in the Bible centuries after these books were written.

So, how do we know that “all Scripture” consists of these 66 books? How do we know that the Bible we hold in our hands is the complete Word of God?

There are a number of ways we could answer such questions; in fact, we could spend weeks studying the doctrine of canonicity, carefully walking through all of the relevant biblical and historical details. And there are many wonderful books available that can guide you through that wealth of information.

But in this article, I would like to offer a simple answer that I hope will be helpful – because it gets to the heart of the whole matter.

It is this:

We believe in the 39 books of the Old Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament. And we believe in the 27 books of the New Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christauthorized His apostles to write the New Testament.

The doctrine of canonicity ultimately comes back to the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we believe in Him and submit to His authority, then we will simultaneously believe in and submit to His Word. Because He affirmed the Old Testament canon, we also affirm it. Because He authorized His apostles to write the New Testament, we likewise embrace it as well.

It was not the Catholic church that determined the canon. Constantine did not determine the canon. Joseph Smith certainly did not determine the canon. No, it is the authority of Christ Himself, the Lord of the church and the incarnate Son of God, on which the canon of Scripture rests.

The Old Testament Canon

When it comes to the Old Testament, Jesus Christ affirmed the Jewish canon of His day—consisting of the very same content that is in our Old Testaments today.

A study of the gospels shows that, throughout His ministry, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament in its entirety (Matt. 5:17–18)—including its historical reliability (cf. Matt. 10:15; 19:3–5; 12:40; 24:38–39), prophetic accuracy (Matt. 26:54), sufficiency (Luke 16:31), unity (Luke 24:27, 44), inerrancy (Matt. 22:29; John 17:17), infallibility (John 10:35), and authority (Matt. 21:13, 16, 42).

He affirmed the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets and all that was written in them; clearly seeing the Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God (Matt. 15:16; Mark 7:13; Luke 3:2; 5:1; etc.).

Significantly, the first century Jews did not consider the Apocryphal books to be canonical. And neither did Jesus. He accepted the canon of the Jews as being the complete Old Testament. He never affirmed or cited the Apocryphal books – and neither do any of the other writers of the New Testament.

(At this point, some may be wondering about Jude’s reference to the Book of Enoch. But the Book of Enoch is not part of the Roman Catholic Apocrypha. It was simply a well-known piece of Jewish literature at that time period, which Jude cited for the purpose of giving an illustration, much like Paul did when he quoted pagan poets on Mars Hill in Acts 17.)

For those who might wonder, “Why don’t Protestants accept the Apocrypha?” the ultimate answer is that Jesus never affirmed it as being part of Scripture. And neither did the apostles.

Many of the early church fathers did not regard the Apocryphal books as being canonical either. They considered them to be helpful for the edification of the church, but they did not see them as authoritative. Even the fifth-century scholar Jerome (who translated the Latin Vulgate — which became the standard Roman Catholic version of the Middle Ages) acknowledged that the Apocraphyl books were not to be regarded as either authoritative or canonical.

So we accept the canonicity of the Old Testament on the basis of our Lord’s authoritative affirmation of it. And we reject the canonicity of the Apocryphal books based on the absence of His affirmation of those inter-testamental writings.

The New Testament Canon

The same principle applies to the New Testament canon. Our Lord not only affirmed the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, He also promised that He would give additional revelation to His church through His authorized representatives—namely, the apostles.

Jesus made this point explicit in John 14–16. On the night before his death, Jesus said to His disciples:

John 14:25–26 –  “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

That last line is especially significant for the doctrine of canonicity. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would help them remember all the things that He had said to them.

That is an amazing promise, the fulfillment of which is found in the four gospel accounts—where the things that our Lord did and said are perfectly recorded for us.

Two chapters later, in the same context, the Lord promised the apostles that He would give them additional revelation through the Holy Spirit:

John 16:12–15 – “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”

Where is that additional revelation found? It is found in the New Testament epistles, wherein the Spirit of Christ guided the apostles to provide the church with inspired truth.

The New Testament, then, was pre-authenticated by Christ Himself, as He authorized the apostles to be His witnesses in the world (Matt. 28:18–19; Acts 1:8). We embrace and submit to the New Testament writings because they were penned by Christ’s authorized representatives, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Old Testament prophets (cf. 2 Pet. 3:19–21).

With that in mind we could go book-by-book through the New Testament, and we will find that it meets this criteria.

• The Gospels of Matthew & John were both written by apostles.

• The Gospel of Mark is a record of the memoirs of the Apostle Peter, written by Mark under Peter’s apostolic authority.

• The Gospel of Luke (and the book of Acts) were both the product of a careful investigation and eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:2), research that would have included apostolic sources. Moreover, as the companion of the Apostle Paul, Luke wrote under Paul’s apostolic oversight. (For instance, Paul affirmed Luke 10:7 as being part of the Scripture in 1 Tim. 5:18.)

• The Pauline Epistles (Romans–Philemon) were all written by the Apostle Paul.

• The authorship of Hebrews is unknown, but many in church history believed it to have been also written by Paul. If not penned by Paul himself, it was clearly written by someone closely associated with Paul’s ministry—and therefore, by extension, under his apostolic authority.

• The General Epistles (the letters of James, Peter, and John) were written by apostles. Peter also acknowledged Paul’s writings as being Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15–16.

• The epistle of Jude was written by the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55;Mark 6:3) who operated under the apostolic oversight of his brother James (cf. Jude 1).

• And finally, the book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John.

Every book of the New Testament was written under apostolic authority—either by an apostle or someone closely linked to their apostolic ministry. Thus, we submit to these books because they come from Christ’s authorized representatives. In submitting to them, we are submitting to the Lord Himself.

The reason the canon is closed is because there are no longer any apostles in the church today, and have not been since the end of the first century, when the foundation age of the church ended (cf. Eph. 2:20).

So … why these 66 books? Because God inspired them! They are His divine revelation. And Christ confirmed that fact. He affirmed the Old Testament canon, and He authorized the New Testament canon (cf. Heb. 1:1–2).

The authority of the Lord Jesus Himself, then, is the basis for our confidence in the fact that the Bible we hold in our hands is indeed “All Scripture.”

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Finally and Totally Justified

In Soul Food on February 28, 2016 by The Spillover

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John Piper:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33)

Paul could have said here, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” and then answered, “No one! We are justified.” That’s true. But that is not what he said. His answer instead is, “God is the one who justifies.”

The emphasis is not on the act but on the Actor.

Why? Because in the world of courts and laws where this language comes from, the acquittal of our judge might be overturned by a higher one.

So what if a local judge acquits you when you are guilty, if a governor has the right to bring a charge against you? So what if a governor acquits you when you are guilty, if the emperor can bring a charge against you?

So here’s the point: Above God, there are no higher courts. If God is the one who acquits you – declares you righteous in his sight – no one can appeal, no one can call for a mistrial, no one can look for other counts against you. God’s sentence is final and total.

So hear this, all who will believe on Jesus, and become united to Christ, and show yourself among the elect: God is the one who justifies you. Not a human judge. Not a great prophet. Not an archangel from heaven. But God, the Creator of the world and Owner of all things and Ruler of the universe and every molecule and person in it, God is the one who justifies you.

The point: unshakable security in the face of tremendous suffering. If God is for us, no one can successfully be against us. If God gave his Son for us, he will give us everything that is good for us. If God is the one who justifies us, no charge against us can stand.

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What does it mean for a man to lead his home?

In Soul Food on January 29, 2016 by The Spillover

Great little video from Ray Ortlund:

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Finding Forgiveness After My Abortion

In Soul Food on January 7, 2016 by The Spillover

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Garrett Kell:

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.

God Intervened

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.

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10 Kingdom Priorities

In Soul Food on November 10, 2015 by The Spillover

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David Murray:

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.”

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Single You Will Be the Married You

In Home and Family, Soul Food on October 27, 2015 by The Spillover

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Phillip Holmes:

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.

Quotes

Issues

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.

Burk Parsons

Posted September 29, 2015 by The Spillover

Articles

There Is No Better Life

In Soul Food on August 19, 2015 by The Spillover

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Tim Challies:

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.

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Keep Speaking

In Soul Food on August 14, 2015 by The Spillover

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Jon Bloom:

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.

But on “those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2). The return to sanity, the end of the nightmare, is Jesus Christ, “the light of the world” (John 8:12).

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.

Keep Speaking!

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).

Quotes

A Continual Looking Forward

A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

C.S. Lewis

Posted August 5, 2015 by The Spillover

Articles

A Call to Teenagers to Be Free

In Soul Food on July 28, 2015 by The Spillover

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John Piper:

I am writing for the liberation of teenagers. I write to challenge teenagers to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16). Be wise and strong and free from the slavery of culture-conformity. To put it another way, I am calling teenagers to a radical, wartime lifestyle.

The Creation of “Teenagers”

As teenagers, you should know that the idea of “teenagers” was created only seventy years ago. The word “teenager” did not exist before World War II. Between children and adults, there was no such category of human being. You were a child. Then you were a young adult.

Just a hundred years ago, you would bear crucial responsibility at age thirteen on the farm or in dad’s business — or mom’s kitchen and weaving room. You would be trained for gainful employment, or domestic enterprise, by age seventeen, and would marry before you were twenty, and be a responsible husband and father — or wife and mother — by your early twenties.

This scenario is perhaps hard for you to imagine. And I am not saying we can go back to that era, or should want to. My aim is that you be liberated by the truth. The truth will set you free. The truth that you do not have to fit into the contemporary lockstep expectations put on you by your culture or your peers.

Very few teenagers have an awareness of history. That ignorance leads to a kind of slavery. Most teenagers are slaves of the expectations of their peers and of the big industries that market their fashion and music and technology and entertainment.

This slavery is so pleasant — and so consistently rewarded — that the possibility of being free from conformity to teen-culture rarely enters your mind. Being aware from history that other possibilities exist can set you free for radical “wartime living” in the name of Jesus.

What “Teenager” Meant Seventy Years Ago

In 1944, when “teen-age” was still hyphenated, Life magazine covered the new teen phenomenon. The article said,

There is a time in the life of every American girl when the most important thing in the world is to be one of a crowd of other girls and to act and speak and dress exactly as they do. This is the teen age.

This was not a very enviable beginning for the meaning of “teenager.” Things have not changed much in sixty years. A teenager wrote to my hometown newspaper:

Most of my friends often are not comfortable with what is popular, but we wear it anyway. Standing out is just not always worth the struggle. Society tells us to be different, yet mainstream.

How do you dress to please yourself, your parents, and your peers? You can’t. Teens end up compromising their values to fit in. If we intend to make it through high school, or even junior high, without being tormented, then we must dress to please our peers.

We are the up-and-coming leaders of this nation, and we must see what we have become and change. (Minneapolis StarTribune, November 16, 2002: A23).

It is not easy to be a Christian teenager. You desperately want to be liked. To be rejected by friends can feel devastating. But just like this young woman, you know deep down that living to be liked is slavery. And if you belong to Jesus, that slavery may be a torment worse than rejection.

What Does It Mean to Be Cool?

For many, being cool is everything. But what is cool? Is it really which phone you have? Or what movies you’ve seen? Or how strong or fast or handsome you are? Or the way your hair falls and your figure is shaped? You are not stupid. You know that living for such things is superficial and meaningless.

What is cool for a fourteen-year-old young man? I think what follows is a hundred times more cool than phones and clothes and movies and games. The year is 1945. World War II was still raging. Thousands of teenagers wanted to fight. The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the deadliest — 6,800 American soldiers are buried on that tiny island, many of them teenagers.

Jack Lucas had fast-talked his way into the Marines at fourteen [in 1942], fooling the recruits with his muscled physique. . . . He stowed away on a transport out of Honolulu, surviving on food passed along to him by sympathetic leathernecks on board.

[At 17] he landed on D-Day [at Iwo Jima] without a rifle. He grabbed one lying on the beach and fought his way inland. Now, on D+1, Jack and three comrades were crawling through a trench when eight Japanese sprang in front of them. Jack shot one of them through the head.

Then his rifle jammed. As he struggled with it, a grenade landed at his feet. He yelled a warning to the others and rammed the grenade into the soft ash. Immediately, another rolled in. Jack Lucas, seventeen, fell on both grenades. “Luke, you’re gonna die,” he remembered thinking. . . .

Aboard the hospital ship Samaritan, the doctors could scarcely believe it. “Maybe he was too damned young and too damned tough to die,” one said. He endured twenty-one reconstructive operations and became the nation’s youngest Medal of Honor winner — and the only high school freshman to receive it. (James Bradley, Flags of Our Fathers, 174–175)

You Are Teenage Soldiers in a War

Knowing you are in a war changes what is cool. If your family is under attack, fretting about your clothes and your hair stops. There are more important things at stake. And we are at war. The enemy is stronger than the Axis of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Indeed, stronger than all human powers put together. The battle is daily. It is fought in every locality. And its victories and defeats lead to heaven or to hell.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)

Fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Wage the good warfare. (1 Timothy 1:18)

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)

Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

What Is Really Going On?

Don’t be part of the blind, teenage masses who do not know what is going on. They think that to know the latest movie or iPhone app or hit song is to know what is going on. Those things are like cut flowers. Bright today, tossed out tomorrow. They are utterly insignificant compared to events that are shaping the course of eternity.

What is really going on is that people and nations are being enslaved by Satan or liberated by Christ. And Christ fights his liberating warfare through Christians, including teenage Christians.

But not through teenagers who are amusing themselves to death. The average teenager is so wrapped up in himself, and how he looks, and whether anyone likes him, that he makes a poor soldier. One of the great marks of the soldier in wartime is that personal comforts give way to the strategic mission. Soldiers may play cards the night before the battle, but when the trumpet sounds they lay down their lives.

The Battlefield of Money

Take the battlefield of money, for example. The trumpet has sounded. You are the soldier. The battle has begun. You may not feel rich, but you have lots of stuff. Your stuff threatens to strangle your soul by lying to you about how important and how satisfying it is (Mark 4:19). And the money you don’t have threatens to pierce you by creating a passion to be rich.

The Great General has sent you a personal message on the battlefield. It reads,

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9–10)

Does this call wake you up? Does it make you vigilant like a soldier on alert?

Then, along with the alert, he sends a great promise that he will not leave you stranded and alone in this battle:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6)

You are set free from fear and greed by this confidence: The Commander-in-Chief will not abandon me to perish on the field of battle. So look your enemies in the eye. Stare down covetousness and craving, and slay them with the Sword of the Spirit and with the superior pleasures of Christ: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

The Battlefield of Comfort

Or take the battlefield of comfort and ease. Almost all the forces in your life put you under pressure to maximize your comfort with the ease and softness of our age. But the Great General has sent you a message, as the enemy surrounds you. Remember the great warrior Moses! Fight like he did!

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24–26)

O, there is reward for victories in this warfare! Yes, there is — beyond imagination! But the enemy wants you to think all the rewards are in this life. He has dropped propaganda leaflets behind the lines that read, “Heaven is a fairy tale. You are a fool to live for the reward of heaven and not the reward of comfort and ease in this life!”

But the Commander-in-Chief counters his propaganda at every turn with spectacular promises. No matter how hard the fighting is — no matter even if you die in his service — he will raise you up and give you the best pleasures forever.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11–12)

This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

In fact, the Great General has sent us word on the battlefield that he will not just reward us, but he will be our reward. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

With this sword in our hand, we drive back the lying hordes of safety and ease and comfort and offer ourselves for Christ’s service in the most risky assignments.

The Battlefield of Ego

Or take the battlefield of ego and peer-approval. O, how powerful this enemy is! He has swallowed up more teenagers perhaps than any other adversary, even lust. He comes with horrible stories of how painful your shame will be if you do not conform to this world. He will lie to you, and say that the only alternative to the mood and fashion and music and movies and sexual pleasures of this world is utter humiliation and embarrassment.

The Great General sees it all. His walkie-talkie lights up with messages for his embattled teens. Do not be deceived. They say you will experience shame. No. No. It is they who play the futile game of trying to turn their shame into their glory. But you see reality for what it is. They do not. They “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18–19).

They think all the fun lies with them. It is a fool’s fun — like a roller coaster that, at the most breathtaking moment, flies off the rails.

With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:4–5)

You are the ones who know reality. You know what lasts — what really satisfies. For them, all is grass and the flower of grass.

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24–25)

Let the messages of the Commander sink in. Your identity is deeper and stronger and more durable and more glorious than any plastic veneer that your peers try to pressure you into. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). You are a treasured possession (1 Peter 2:9). You are a son or daughter of the Creator of the universe (Romans 8:16).

With these truth-daggers in your hand, slay the ghoulish lies of peer pressure that try to deceive you into thinking conformity is freedom.

Let None Despise Your Teenage Youth

We could go on with all the different kinds of battlefields you must fight on. But you get the idea. The enemy lies, and the Commander-in-Chief counters with truth. And the truth sets you free (John 8:32).

When the Great General says, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12), he means: Don’t fit into the stereotype of the aimless, careless, superficial youth. Break the mold. You belong to Christ. Show the world that there is another kind of teenager on the earth.

This teenager is not a leaf blown along with the wind of cultural trends. He is not a jellyfish floating with the current of the times. He is a tree that stands firm in the strongest storms. He is a dolphin who slices the waves against the tide. He is going somewhere.

Dream of being a kind of teenager that the world cannot explain. Maybe someday, if there are enough of you, they will invent a new name. And “teenager” will be a footnote in the history books.

Articles

More about Perspectives

In Calvary Baptist Church on July 7, 2015 by The Spillover

Articles

Learn more about Perspectives

In Calvary Baptist Church on June 22, 2015 by The Spillover