Quotes by Jim Elliff
When we are tempted and seek to know and love God, and like Moses long to see His glory, and out of that occupation of our minds have no further love for that previous temptation, we have experienced something of the reality of the very highest form of freedom from sin. It is one thing to love sin and to force ourselves to quit it; it is another thing to hate sin because love for God is so gripping that the sin no longer appeals. The latter is repentance; the former is reform. It is repentance that God requires. Repentance is “a change of mind.” To love and yet quit it is not the same as hating it and quitting it. Your supposed victory over a sin may be simple displacement. You may love one sin so much (such as your pride) that you will curtail another more embarrassing sin which you also love. This may look spiritual, but there is nothing of God in it. Natural men do it every day.
Though some situations which invite temptation cannot be changed, most can. A man who will not flee the setting of his temptation when he is able still loves his sin.
Men-fearing preachers will treat (the Word) so lightly, touch it so gingerly, speak of it so generally, plead it so weakly, believe it so loosely, that the truth is neutralized down to nothing worth getting excited about. Snooze. And the preacher says, “No more doctrinal sermons; they won’t hear them.” How a preacher can use the same Bible that spawned the Protestant Reformation, launched the modern missionary movement, and put his forbears on the block, and never stir up anybody is a mystery to me.
There are many who have fought hard for the inerrancy of Scripture who don’t sufficiently break open the Bible they fought for.
Obviously self-esteem is not the point. It may be all that can be used for folks in a secular society that will not esteem God, but it is hardly God’s great purpose to make you feel like you’re something special.
By meditating on Scripture you are transformed into the person God intends you to be. Meditation is a blend of your words to God and His Word to you; it is loving conversation between you and God through the pages of His Word. It is absorption of His words into your mind by prayerful contemplation and concentration.
As a philosophical idea, God’s decreeing of a thing has dominance over His seeing a thing beforehand. Even though…the word foreknowledge is more than pre-sight, we nonetheless cannot disregard the verity that God sees all things beforehand. Thus God’s seeing all things has forever been a reality to Him, and God’s determining all things has also been forever. These two have had eternal origins. As long as He has decreed, He has known; and as long as He has known, He has decreed. So, in one sense, we cannot put one philosophical idea ahead of the other in terms of time. Yet we can put one above the other in terms of dominance. If God has seen and determined at the same time, we cannot make His decreeing subservient to His knowing. The reason one is preceding the other in terms of force (not time) is that determination is a willful act of God, whereas seeing is a passive act. God cannot help but see all, but He wills to decree. Therefore what He determines, He sees; and what He sees, is determined. The force of decreeing a thing dominates the seeing.
As Christians, we are involved in a battle. Our arch-enemy is Satan who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The way in which he devours unwary people is by tempting them to sin – by convincing them that sin is a more rewarding master than Christ. He therefore disguises himself and his agents, and he makes the pleasures of sin appear very appealing to us. And Satan does not just attack us from the front where we can clearly see him coming; he attacks from every side.
It is the job of the church to baptize every true convert as “an outward symbol of an inward reality” and we must do that as soon as possible. But we must emphasize in the case of children and really every professing believer that it is valid converts we baptize, not just anyone who says he has believed. We find that knowing this is more difficult with children because they cannot express themselves as an adult would and because their experiences in life have not as clearly demonstrated that they have life from God. But we still cannot baptize those we only hope are Christians. So we must wait until we know, and then we will baptize as immediately as possible.
Throughout the book of Acts, baptism is always the first act that follows conversion. The three-thousand at Pentecost, the eunuch in chapter 8, Saul in chapter 9, Cornelius in chapter 10, Lydia and the Philippian jailer in chapter 16 – all of these were baptized following conversion.
Holiness or sanctification is not just about purity or discipline. It is about displaying your radical difference, showing the marks of God’s ownership, and illustrating through your behavior the unusualness of your new life in Christ.
What are the Substitutes for true Repentance?
1. You may reform in the actions without repenting in the heart (Ps. 51:16-17; Joel 2:13).
2. You may experience the emotion of repentance without the effect of it.
3. You may confess the words of a true repenter and never repent (Mt. 21:28-32; 1 Jn. 2:4, 4:20).
4. You may repent for the fear of reprisal alone and not for the hatred of sin.
5. You may talk against sin in public like a true repenter but never repent in private (Mt. 23:1-3).
6. You may repent primarily for temporal gains rather than the glory of God.
7. You may repent of lesser sins for the purpose of avoiding the greater sins (Lk. 11:42).
8. You may repent so generally that you never repent of any specific sin at all.
9. You may repent for the love of friends and religious leaders and not repent for the love of God (Isa. 1: 10-17).
10. You may confess the finished action of sin and not repent from the continuing habit of sin.
11. You may attempt repentance of your sin while consciously leaving open the door of its opportunity.
12. You may make an effort to repent of some sins without repenting of all the sin you know.
It is true, repentance includes sincere emotion, an affection for God and a disaffection for sin. Torrents of sorrow may flood the repenter’s heart, and properly so (Jas. 4:8-10). But there is such a thing as a temporary emotion in the mere semblance of repentance; this emotion has very weak legs and cannot carry the behavior in the long walk of obedience. Your sorrow may even be prolonged. Yet if it does not arrive at repentance, it is of the world and is a living death – and maybe more (2 Cor. 7: 10). It is an old deceiver. Judas had such remorse but “went and hanged himself.” (Mt. 27:3-5)
Dull hearts make dull preachers. But I must also say that dull ears can ruin the best of sermons. And dull ears are outgrowths of dull hearts also. There is nothing more devastating to a Sunday than putting both of them together. You might as well be living with Cain in the land of Nod. The preacher blows arid desert air on the people, and the people flap their eyelids shut, the dust of indifference circling up from their nodding heads.
It is not that people are unable to hear stronger sermons: it’s that we’ve become lazy listeners. People died for those doctrines you take for granted! What Paul meant by milk is not what we mean. We want Kool-Aid. Milk is at least good truth in a digestible form for babies, but Kool-Aid is pure taste plus nothing. And oh how we crave it!
We should not encourage young children to draw and play during the preaching of the Word since we are training listeners, not idle-minded pew sitters.
If a man turns from sin without turning to God, he will find his sin has only changed its name and is hidden behind his pride.
Sadly, some pastors leave because of a hireling mentality. They leave their churches precisely because there are problems. When the wolf comes and tears into the sheep, they find it uncomfortable to be there and they move on. I don’t say this is always the case, but it may be true more often than we like to think. It appears that they wish to turn the church over to the wolves who are at first only nipping at them. They run because they are hirelings who do not love the sheep.
One is taken aback by the emphasis upon the Cross in Revelation. Heaven does not “get over” the cross, as if there are better things to think about, heaven is not only Christ-centered, but cross-centered, and quite blaring about it.
When buying books remember the following:
1. Buy only the best books since you will only read a few hundred in your lifetime. When possible seek a recommendation first.
2. Don’t excessively fret over the price, since the cost of a book is always small if it impacts your life for good.
3. Buy to preserve the truth for your family or some deserving friends or institution in the future, for they will inherit your library when you die.
4. Never let the reading of books replace the reading of the Bible. Instead of one or the other, do both.
5. Let a good book humble you and not make you proud, by seeking God in what you read.
The illuminist seeks guidance from God by getting a series of impressions, which he believes come as God directly impacts his spirit. The illuminist is often wary of the mind and using his or her reason. Certainly we need to be cautious lest we fall into the error of blindly trusting bare unaided reason. The illuminist, though, often goes so far as to reject any hope that reason can be useful. “This doesn’t come from me,” he will say, “it comes from God.”
Except in rare cases, the experience of direct interventions of God’s guidance in the lives of various Bible characters was not indicative of normal discipleship and they are likely recorded precisely because of their unusual nature. Due to the compressed makeup of the Bible it appears to its reader that God is speaking directly more often than He actually does.
Reason and Scripture are systemic and essential to sound decision-making… We are to actually think through the given situation, wrestle with the options, weigh them, sift them, ponder the implications and consequences, and we are to do all of this in the light of truth as we find it in the Scriptures interpreted in context. And we presume, underneath all of this, God is working.
It was George Muller who once said that nine-tenths of knowing God’s will has to do with “having no will of our own.” A concerted effort to rid ourselves of selfish desires as they relate to our decision is foundational.
Helpful [items] to consider when seeking God’s will in matter of guidance:
1. Begin by prayer for wisdom. Do not doubt that God has a wise course of action for you and will make it known.
2. Intentionally seek God’s face even more than His answers. “In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
3. Seek to be willing to take any course that God would have for you. Be thorough in your work on yourself. Often people miss God’s will because they are not fully willing to be submissive to God whatever He leads them to do.
4. Carefully seek to discover if there are any directives already given in Scripture which could guide you. Are there illustrations, commands, principles, which speak to this issue? Meditate on these and see if Scripture promotes or rules out any action you are considering. Try to find not only what God permits and does not permit, but what God likes, what is dear to His heart. Go directly to any passage which deals with the general subject to see if there is help to be found which you had not discovered before. Always read the Bible in context.
5. List each possible course of action, and in a prayerful frame of mind write out what are the pros and cons of each option. Put these options before the lens of Scripture one by one to see if God has spoken on these issues in some way. You will find more being said about most issues than you might first believe.
6. When helpful, seek objective counsel from godly and wise men or women you can trust.
7. Finally, examine your will again. If you are willing to do anything God might direct and that is certain in your mind, then you are free to pursue what God may be placing in your thinking related to the issue. Is there a long-term righteous desire in you?
8. Now, act in faith. If God in His perfect cadence intervenes so as to cause everything to turn again, this is His business. For your part, you are required to take action along the lines of the wisest choice you can biblically make. Rejoice and do God’s will!
To put a wall between you and others is to build a wall between you and God.
The worst thing that can happen to a Christian is not persecution, physical injury, or death. In many respects, these are the best things that can happen to us. Jesus said that we are blessed when we are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). Paul decided to “take pleasure in infirmities…for Christ’s sake… For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Jesus said to His followers, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). This makes perfect sense, because for the believer, “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord.” None of these earthly threats should hold any sway over us whatsoever.
When free believers take their liberties too far and violate the commands of God or demonstrate a bent toward impiety because they wish to press the outer ranges of liberty, or when they laugh at piety as if it is beneath them, then they have stepped out of the spirit of true Christianity.
What are the signs of disrespect to your parents and other adults?
1. Knowingly disobeying.
2. Making fun of them.
3. Not speaking when they greet you.
4. Making threatening statements, rude or hurtful remarks.
5. Yelling for them to come to you when it not an emergency.
6. Grumbling about decisions they make.
7. Being ungrateful for something they do for you or give you.
8. Complaining about what they have given you to eat.
9. Talking back.
10. Objecting, mocking, correcting, questioning, or giving unasked-for explanations are all signs of disrespect.
11. Speaking in an irreverent way or in anger.
12. Saying to your parents or an adult, “I’ll do it in a minute” or “just wait.”
13. Pushing for something after being told “no.”
14. Treating a discipline lightly.
15. Not listening when you are being spoken to.
16. Entering into a closed room of an adult without knocking or quietly asking.
17. Sighing, shrugging the shoulders, or giving a sour look when told to do something.
We have failed to understand that children and young people are not God-lovers until the Spirit changes them. They are dead to God. Our attempts at getting these young people to “pray the prayer” when they were small have not necessarily made them children of God. Their behavior belies the true state of their hearts. God has said that the only hope for them, therefore, is the regenerating work of the Spirit in the context of the preaching of the Word (James 1:18). However, our inadequate view of depravity and the inability of man has led us to resort instead to a greater confidence in entertainment to reach them and a minimizing of the use of the Word. If God has ordained that the Word and the Spirit are the only hope for these kids, then we should not avoid the means God has promised to bless.
We have the mistaken notion that evangelism is a choreographed set of ideas well laid out, perfectly transitioned and flawlessly presented. Forget it. It’s not this way. Many of us have tried this with frustration. It is much better to think of evangelism the way the Bible does – “sowing the seed” in any way you can. Any of us can do that. Ever seen a weed grow in an otherwise barren parking lot? Somehow the seed got there and flourished. The simple word in the right place, or the tract well-placed might be the means God uses. Well-oiled presentations frustrate because there is no room for serious questions and discussion on the one hand, and it rules out the less verbal among us, on the other. Rejoice over even the smallest of advances! You are sowing the seed.
We have not made enough of the fact that evangelism has a great deal to do with what you expect God to do. If you raise your antennae as the day begins and ask God to make you an instrument for divine encounters during the day, it will happen – almost every time. Christians living in anticipation of being used by God are like cats on the lookout for mice. They never lose their focus. They seem to sleep with their eyes and ears alert. When you stay ready, you are actually living by the faith you claim to exercise!
The word “propitiation” (pro-pish-ee-ay-shun; sometimes translated, atonement) means this: Jesus fully satisfied the just anger of God for people like you by dying in your place, taking on himself all the wrath you deserve. We learn about this in Romans 3:24-25 and Hebrews 2:17. God’s just fury, indignation and anger for sins were poured out on Christ for every sinful person who will come to him by faith.
Though God owes us no explanation, one or all of the following possible objectives may help us understand “why” God decrees such fear-producing events (in nature) – (see Psalm 135:6-7; Lamentations 3:38):
1. God is recognized as powerful and not to be trifled with. God often asserted that cataclysmic events were done to display His power to men (Exodus 9:14-16; 14:31).
2. Society is warned of the greatest calamity, eternal judgment. A physical disaster is nothing compared with eternal damnation. A hurricane is an announcement: “If you don’t repent, worse than this is coming” (Luke 13:1-5).
3. Some people are deservedly punished for their rebellion. The Bible states that “the wrath of God is revealed [lit. is being revealed] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18). That means now. Hurricanes are just one of the ways that might happen (Psalm 7:11-13).
4. Some true believers are tested or disciplined and made stronger in their faith. The same storm that judges a non-believing man may be the crucible of testing and/or chastisement for a true Christian, and will toughen and purify him for the future (James 1:2-3; Hebrews 12:5-11).
5. Believers may be taken to heaven; and some enemies of God may be removed from the earth. This is a reality that is hard to accept, but nonetheless true. The Bible says that our days are ordained by God even before one of them is lived (Psalm 139:16). He also promises that many rebellious people will face a calamitous end (Psalm 73:18-19).
6. The godly are given an opportunity to love sacrificially. Because of the nature of the true believer, you will always find Christians among those on the scene helping to relieve the distress (1 John 3:17; Galatians 6:10). Their love may point many to Christ.
Personal revival begins when the believer faces his sin honestly. Though painful, only honesty with God and others will enable the Christian to walk in purity and power. The following resolves are not a formula but are required of every believer.
1. Repent of every known sin (Rev. 3:19).
2. Forsake all questionable habits and activities (Rom. 14:23).
3. Make right any wrongs between yourself and others (Mt. 5:23-24).
4. Commune with God in prayer and be personally instructed through His Word (1 Thes. 5:17).
5. Trust God to use you as His specially designed tool for revival in others (Jas. 5:19-20).
My appeal is for you to rest in God’s sovereign will and to put more emphasis on developing discipline in your life, learning and practicing God’s Word, becoming holier in word and spirit, proclaiming the gospel, and “engaging in good deeds” (cf. Titus 2:14; 3:1, 8, 14), rather than being enamored with the pursuit of visible signs. Be careful about following those who can turn miracles on at 7 p.m. during a certain meeting. Pray and trust at all times, but do not become absorbed in a lust for miraculous signs like the wicked and adulterous generation Christ spoke of (Mt. 12:39). It will be an illusory journey that will often disappoint you.
Though miracles of all types did speak of Christ’s divine origin and were instrumental in authenticating His and His apostles’ message (see Jn. 3:2; 10:38; Heb. 2:1-4), Christ surprisingly did not appreciate those who sought for a sign. Herod was among them (Luke 23:8). In fact, Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign” (Matt. 12:39).
Guidance of the Spirit through the mind toward a life of obedience and toward truth is propounded in Scripture as essential Christianity. Nowhere though does the Bible teach that direct guidance by means of impressions must be the experience of the believer. Those who argue that such experiences are to be regular fare for the Christian virtually always make their case on the basis of the narrative or story sections of the Bible and not on those that are didactic or teaching sections. I have not been told by God in His Word that divine visitations of unusual nature constitute authentic Christianity. I have not been commanded to have them or seek them. Interestingly enough, Christ Himself said that it is an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:39).
It seems almost inconceivable to believe that there was life before television. As good as the medium is for some things, it is an instrument of death to conversation in most families. Add computers, a personal CD player, and speed-eating and we’ve successfully killed off the last remnants of conversation in most families. Frankly, most families have no meaningful conversation at all. Days and weeks pass, if not months and years, without the skimpiest morsel of a good conversation. When I think about this, I almost weep for the magnitude of the loss. A mudslide of media has pushed our families into a cold ravine. We exist together for as long as we can make it, but we don’t know each other. Without face-to-face communication, the home has become an electronic desert.
Throughout the book of Acts, baptism is always the first act that follows conversion… There is no indication is ever given in the New Testament that a person may share in the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper with other Christians, prior to being baptized… Peter’s strong and direct command in Acts 2:28…indicates this same order by not mentioning the Lord’s Supper, but rather baptism as the first priority for these new converts (also see Acts 10:47-48).
Here are some reasons it is okay to celebrate Christmas:
1. The day itself is not really the day Christ was born. Nobody actually has the exact day down, but most believe it was not during this time of year at all. Probably it took place in the spring, not on a “cold winter’s night that was so deep.”
2. Diversity over the years has taken away much of the “Romish” flavor to the holiday. Our Catholic friends do as they wish on the night before and the day of Christmas, that is granted. But we do not have a state church. There are so many other ways Christmas is celebrated that no one really thinks about it the way the Puritans did so many years ago. The problem is not so acute because of so many years of varied expressions. At least this is true in our part of the world.
3. God can be honored in gift-giving and generosity as well as in singing carols and telling the story. They’re both important if done in the right spirit. We don’t have to make something spiritual out of giving gifts. You may make a birthday cake to Jesus if you wish, but you don’t have to. We do need to be Christian, however, about everything we do. Emphasizing the giving part of the day can heal lots of wounds, open calcified hearts, stir up gratefulness, and just be plain fun. God’s not against fun is He?
4. There may be better things to be different about. In other words, we might show our radical difference better in the way we treat other shoppers, the kindness we show to retail clerks, the warmth of our hearts, the largeness of our generosity, the thankfulness we express and really feel.
5. There are admittedly some great opportunities to make Christ known during Christmas. With all that is bad about it, we can still make our point. And we will have some sympathy for our message. For years I’ve led Christmas Eve services, short ones of only 45 minutes, but packed with meaning. The building will be full and all kinds of our friends and family will hear the truth as clearly as we are willing to express it.
Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God, which is known by its fruit – obedience (Mt. 3:8; Acts 26:20; Lk. 13:5-9). It is hating what you once loved and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ.
It is one thing to love sin and to force ourselves to quit it; it is another thing to hate sin because love for God is so gripping that the sin no longer appeals. The latter is repentance; the former is reform. It is repentance that God requires. Repentance is “a change of mind.” To love and yet quit it is not the same as hating it and quitting it. Your supposed victory over a sin may be simple displacement. You may love one sin so much (such as your pride) that you will curtail another more embarrassing sin which you also love. This may look spiritual, but there is nothing of God in it. Natural men do it every day.
Along with everybody on the face of the earth, you are constantly sinful. These thousands of sinful thoughts, words, and actions cause the perfectly holy God to judge you as deserving of hell. But Christ’s death in the place of sinful people, as a true substitute, provides the way of escape. God pardons the one who comes to Him because Jesus took the punishment in his place. In simple terms we may say that the just penalty for sins either falls on you or Christ.
Ultimately, no sign, miracle, wonder, or gift will persuade a person to believe if God has not opened his heart to receive the word (cf. Acts 16:14; Lk. 16:27-31)… Many who see signs will at first appear to believe, yet will still be unconverted. “Many believed in His name, observing the signs which He was doing,” said John. “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them” (John 2:23-24). Why not? John says it was because Jesus knew their hearts (v. 25). Seekers may be entranced by the miraculous and look as though they are true believers, yet still be unchanged in their hearts.
We are to be biblically rational, though not rationalists. This is not a subtle raising of reason above God. Rather, it is a recognition that normally God works through reason.
If reason is unaided (by the Word of God), if it is mere reason by itself, it will do little good. Reason standing alone might lead us to some sort of workable resolution, but it carries the liability of doing so without pleasing God. That circumstance is as unsatisfying to us as it is unsatisfactory to God.
Seven laws for running the [Christian] race.
1. Run to win: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
2. Observe strict discipline: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training… I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
3. Don’t look back: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
4. Get constant encouragement: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us…run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
5. Throw off restraints: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
6. Discount pain: “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22-24).
7. Don’t let up until you cross the line: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
The miracle of the new birth is no less possible to God if our child is attentive to Him or running away from Him. Our child is like all other children when it comes to God’s grace. He is dead spiritually whether he is in church or not, whether he listened well to the truths we tried to teach him or did not, whether he has some interest in God now or has none at all. He may be converted in the pig pen or the pew and we do not know in this case what is preferred by God.
Your own disobedience in the past will not ultimately keep your child from becoming a believer. It is pointless to berate yourself for any wrong behavior on your part as if it were the reason your child is without Christ. This does not mean that we as parents should not repent and do better, and even admit wrong to our children. But the reason your child is without Christ is related to his or her own sin. Every parent is sinful and inconsistent. This has never been a barrier to God if He desires to save your child. Illustrations abound of children who come from far less godly families who are nonetheless converted to Christ. In fact, this may have been the case in your own experience.
You cannot save your child yourself no matter how hard you try. You are in a position of trust alone. This is good because it is the only way to please God (Heb. 11:6). Your rest in God, while simultaneously praying to the God who answers prayer, will be an encouragement to others in the same situation It will also help you respond to your child more positively, and will make your life far more joyful than your anxiety ever could.
I have tried to say with as much clarity as possible, and often, that the assurance a (child) has that he or she is actually a Christian does not have to do with praying a prescribed prayer, being affirmed by a Christian leader, walking an aisle, signing a card or raising a hand, but whether that person has life from God… What are these signs of life?
1. There is the sign of repenting and believing itself. The dead boy or girl now trusts Christ as his or her only hope for heaven. There is no mixture of trust in self or works or religion, but only in Christ and what He has done and will do.
2. There is a new valuing of the Scriptures. I cannot say this clearly enough. If I am to know you, I will know you principally by your words as you express yourself and communicate your thoughts. God’s Word is His principal communication of Himself. But it is more than just the words themselves that is important in this change. It is the Spirit working in the words that gives understanding and that “knowing” of Christ. Christ said, “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). This is granted – and not to all (Matthew 13:11).
3. There is obedience from the heart. All kids may be taught to obey like Pavlov’s dogs. If there is enough discipline and incentive, any child can straighten up. And, it is right for parents to expect this obedience even from unconverted children. Yet, when a child is made alive there is a new sensitivity to sin and a new and higher motivation and inner compulsion to obey. You will see obedience from the heart as if the child were newly constituted. In fact, he is. I am not saying that he will be perfect, any more than you are. But something has taken place on the inside that is unmistakable.
If a more intense and prayerful approach to our young people does not reach them, or if many refuse to participate because there is not enough entertainment to appeal to their love of pleasure, then we should not be confused. Our children are like all the rest of the world in their attitude about God (Eph. 2:1-3). They run from the light, just as Jesus said (Jn. 3:19-21).
1. The Principle of Non-Attachment – I will purchase or receive nothing that I cannot give away (Lk. 12:15; cf. 12:32-34; 16:13-25; 1 Jn. 2:15-17).
2. The Principle of Liberty – I will owe no man anything but to love him (Rom. 13:8; cf. Pro 22:7).
3. The Principle of Liberality – I will constantly seek to give away possessions for God’s glory (2 Cor. 8:3-5; cf. 2 Cor. 9:7; Luke 6:38).
4. The Principle of Recall – I will keep accurate records of God’s dealings with me financially in order to show others that God answers prayer and provides for His own (Mt. 5:16; Pro. 27:23-27).
5. The Principle of Security – I will save and invest only if God is leading, with the understanding that I will give it all away at His slightest instruction ( Mt. 6:19-20; cf. Prov. 28:8; 1 Tim. 6:9-11).
6. The Principle of Compassion – I will not pray for someone’s needs financially unless I am willing to be the instrument God uses to meet that need if He should desire (1 Jn. 3:16-18; cf. Jam. 2:15-17; Lk. 6:30, 38;2I Cor. 9:6-15; Prov. 28:27).
7. The Principle of Contentment – I will be content to live on whatever God chooses to provide, whether little or much (Phil. 4:11-13; cf. Prov. 30:7-9; Matt. 6:24-34; 1 Tim. 6:8).
God decreed from eternity past that you would be like Christ (Rom. 8:29-30); He put His Holy Spirit in you to make sure that it would happen (Phil. 2:12-13); Christ prayed for you to be sanctified, and His prayers are always answered (Jn. 17:17); He even promises you that He will lovingly discipline you in order to return you to holiness whenever you stray (Heb. 12:5-10). How could we ever doubt that God means what He says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14)?
Legalism, properly understood, is not about Christians obeying too precisely. It is also not about individuals having convictions that are their own private resolves. It is about seeking to be justified by means of the law. When Jewish infiltrators came to the early believers and said that they must be circumcised and obey the Jewish feasts in order to be true Christians (Acts 15:1), then they demonstrated New Testament legalism. We do have Christians with a spirit akin to the legalist, but their sin is that of being unloving or distorting responsibility or placing private convictions on others, not true legalism. In most cases, they are not seeking to be justified by the law (Gal. 5:4).
As difficult as it might be, the early church had far more to work through than what music would be sung. Their struggles and successes are instructive to us who may have less to work through than they did. It will be sad to face Christ in the future and say, “We could not be the glorious church you called us to be because we could not get together on the music.”
What may we observe about deacons in Acts 6:1-7?
1. Their work was practical in nature.
2. Their name also denotes the practical nature of their work. They are servants. But practical work is spiritual work when done for Christ and the kingdom.
3. Their objective was to relieve the elders (originally the apostles) for the ministry of the Word, prayer, and oversight of the church.
4. They were to be accountable to the Elders (“whom we may put in charge”).
5. Their work was assigned and was not related to decision-making for the church as a whole.
6. Some deacons were also gifted in other areas of ministry and were at liberty to use their gifts. Stephen and Phillip, for instance, were deacons who also had other gifting. As deacons, however, they functioned in a practical way. Deacons are not limited to practical service, but must be engaged in practical service to be deacons.
Why should you join a church? Because by committing yourself in that way you will help to fulfill your purpose as a Christian. It seems pretty obvious from [the] biblical metaphors of building stones and body parts that the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. You, as a Christian, were designed and created by God, not for a life of individuality and self-will, but to fill a niche in the spiritual building called the church.
We are not called to live the Christian life apart from the protection of the church. The fellowship of a group of committed believers is vital to our spiritual health and to our endurance in the faith. The church, in the midst of this “crooked and perverse generation,” is just as important for our survival as the ark was to Noah and his family; they simply would not have survived without it.
Our salvation is a miraculous intervention of God. Evangelism is all about miracles. We pray asking God to change the human will, or to override and arrange the natural course of things in certain ways, or to defy all odds.
Here’s what we should learn: If we want our children to hear the gospel from us, they must see the gospel’s impact upon us. How we live before them powerfully preaches the gospel and its implications for our lives.
When culture rushes down on your family and the professing church is trying to imitate the world itself, how will your family keep from being swept away in its path? Only through the Word of God! Family worship, on a daily basis, is your hope that they will stand like steel piers against the prevailing tide… In India there was a custom of throwing babies into the Ganges River as a sacrifice to the gods. If we are unwilling to do any more than merely take our children to church, we might as well be throwing them into the river of the culture. This is an explanation why many children of Christian parents are so often no different than the world’s. They have been given to the gods by their parents – thrown in with hands of neglect.
One man may appear to be righteous before another man, but before God there is no one truly righteous. The only righteousness that God accepts is His own. To stand before God in our own righteousness is certain rejection.
Future worry is overwhelming. There’s a reason. We don’t have grace today for tomorrow. One of Satan’s simplest tricks and most effective devices is to draw our attention to things we can do nothing about. There’s nothing worse than a crisis that can’t be fixed. If our hours are spent with thoughts of tomorrow’s problems, which are not accessible today and which we know we cannot touch with today’s resources, we are doomed to worry. And worry wears us out… [Yet] our calling is today. It’s not that we don’t think of tomorrow, but it must consistently be filed under “future grace.” The tide of confidence in God’s sufficiency must wash out worry. In fact, it’s a command. “Do not be anxious for tomorrow.” To go there is to disobey a directive from the One who holds every moment in His hand.
We should not want a revival of experience alone without true reformation. And so the term revival is not adequate for our day unless we add the qualifiers “reformational” or “word-driven.” It is not wrong to desire revival if we mean a revival that is a resurgence of correct believing along with the enlivening of our experience with God which comes out of (not apart from) that sound doctrine.
Here are some reasons for writing out our thoughts: 1. We more easily discipline our minds to sustain our thoughts without interruption. 2. If interrupted, because we have written our thoughts, we are able to return to them again for further contemplation and development. 3. We can also return to our reflections in the distant future, when otherwise they might have been totally forgotten. 4. Writing demands that we organize our thinking connectedly or cohesively on a subject. 5. We train our minds to express ourselves meaningfully and accurately. 6. We build a reserve of good thoughts for a time when our thinking is more vacuous, or our spirituality is in decline. 7. We teach ourselves the significance of learning by demonstrating to ourselves that cogent, biblical thinking is worth writing down. 8. We find that our developed thoughts sometimes emerge in our public speaking or private conversations, even though we did not prepare to use them. 9. We have a cache of mature thoughts to peruse as seed for public writing or speaking. 10. We leave our thoughts to future generations when normally the preponderance of them, if not every last one of them, would have vaporized upon our death or mental decline.
Don’t delay. The thought you had just this morning will soon blow off the table of your mind!
It was [Paul’s] mission as the “apostle to the Gentiles,” and it is the universal church’s mission as well, to promote that harmony of cultures in Christ that the cross brings them (or, we might say, forces upon them for their good). Imagine what it took for this former Jewish leader to accept that the Jews’ lofty position as God’s chosen people is not ultimately about ethnic Jews, but only Jewish Christians who share the position with “Gentile dogs” who have also become Christians. The promises made to the Jews are for all who are in Christ; the inheritance is both for Jews and Gentiles. We are all members of one body. The immensity of this new knowledge is not only enough to cause every God-fearing Jew to scream curses at Paul, but is the very reason Gentiles like me have any hope whatsoever. Paul carried this message everywhere.
An additional impetus to our unity among diversity is that of the projected makeup of the future kingdom. It is glorious in its admixture of those from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:11). We cannot, must not, live contrary to our final convergence in Christ. In the ugly old slavery of early America, the schizophrenia about this was incredible. There were blacks and whites who would not dream of worshipping as equals (though they were sometimes in the same building), yet at the same time would hold the doctrinal verity that all colors would be in heaven together some day. This was entirely incongruous. We are called to experience in this life as much of the spirit that will characterize us in the new earth as is possible. The ideal of heaven is always to be the pursuit of earthbound believers. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). We cannot pray for the Kingdom to come and not relish what that coming Kingdom means. Our community of believers is to be a living demonstration of the power of the cross and also of the purified Bride who awaits the wedding. We are denying our future calling to fail in this area. We are smearing our reputation and throwing dirt on our bridal gown.
If you shoot past truth to get to experience, then you will have at best something very limited and immediate only, something which, in the final case, will produce a greater heteropraxis (wrong living). Heterodoxy always leads to heteropraxis. God has already instructed us as to how transformation of behavior is to take place. It is through the truth, not by mere experience. “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
When we speak of assurance, we are speaking of that which we know because the evidence is clear. This is the heart of First John and the other passages dealing with this subject. The way to tell if you are a Christian is not to look at the sincerity of a decision, but to look at the change in the life. As far as I can tell, there is no teaching in the Word which says that you can be sure that you are a Christian by looking back at an historical conversion experience. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (1 Jn. 5:13, emphasis mine). What things? Those tests which make up the content of the epistle. In other words, one’s assurance should be based on discernible factors which can be tested.
So, how do you know you’re a Christian? First be sure that you understand the basics. Do you believe that Jesus is God? Do you believe that He came to the earth to deliver sinful people from the consequences and power of their sin? Do you believe that Christ lived a perfect life and then died on the cross to pay the penalty that you deserved to pay before a holy God? Do you believe that He was raised from the dead and has overcome the power of sin and death? And have you, to the best of your knowledge, placed your entire trust in Christ alone as your only way of salvation? Have you rejected the selfish life you have now come to despise? Then you have the basics and may well be a true believer.
A seeker becomes a true Christian because God does something, creating desire for Him and distaste for sin. If God is at work, you cannot help rejecting your independence and coming to Him. You will place your trust in Him because there is nothing else left to trust. You will love Him because He is irresistible to you.
What may be good and beautiful under the authority of God, becomes a damning god if you love it more than Christ.
It impossible…to be converted to Christ while at the same time loving (your) sin. It is true that anybody who comes to Christ will come with sin. In fact, he or she will come precisely because of that sin – that is, to be rid of it and its awful result. But to come to Christ while loving and cherishing sin is totally impossible. It is like an airplane trying to fly in two directions!