Quotes by Jim Elliff
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 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.
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.
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.
Nothing is more discouraging than evangelism. The mere mention of the word strikes fear in most people. If it is my goal when speaking in a church to make all my listeners uncomfortable and convicted, all I have to do is say, “evangelize!,” and the guilt quotient rises as fast as the heads drop. Beads of sweat appear on the pastor’s brow. It is the great undone command, and none of us like to be reminded of it.
The pre-sight view of election makes God seem absurd in His language if not somewhat dishonest. You see, God has gone to great lengths to say that some are elected, chosen, foreordained, predestined as part of His eternal purpose. For God to say that He saw those that would choose Him and then He calls them elect (select from a number) is linguistic trickery. It is like the Queen decreeing that the sun will rise in the morning, as others have said. God’s words about His action toward man would mean nothing but could only be construed as a way of presenting an authoritative front that God is in charge, whereas the decisions of eternal life and death are really within man alone. Apply this to prophecy. Much of prophecy is presented to us as that which God determines to do in the future. Is this the truth of it? Did God prophesy that John the Baptist would be the forerunner of the Messiah (Isa. 40:3-5; Luke 3:3-6) on the basis of pre-sight, and then declare that it would happen? Doesn’t language lose all meaning to say that? Does it not make sense of the language to say that the action predicted was based on God’s determined plan and not just what He saw happening?
Church discipline is one of the primary means God uses to correct and restore His children when they fall into sin. It is also one way in which He maintains the unity, purity, integrity, and reputation of the church. Through private or public instruction, warning, counsel, or rebuke, and in some cases even social avoidance or expulsion from membership, God corrects his disobedient children or removes those who are not truly His. Christ Himself declared the church to be heaven’s instrument in carrying out this difficult but necessary function (Matthew 18:15-20).
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.
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!
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).
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.
By studying the apostles’ work in the New Testament, our only lead as to what a missionary actually is, we learn that missionaries are focused on these five responsibilities:
2. Congregationalizing (starting churches).
3. Establishing elders in the churches.
4. Setting the churches in order (teaching them how to function and what to believe).
5. Remaining in contact with churches to offer guidance.
In the final place we should remember that the doctrine of election is principally for the good of those who hear. It says that sinners may be saved. It says that those without hope have hope in God’s love. Though fears may come when one considers the implications of being non-elect, it is most certainly a positive doctrine.
We should not aggressively hunt for offenses or opportunities to enact discipline (Matthew 13:28-30), but we must be vigilant, ready to address sinful behavior when it becomes known.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The problem with being thankful is not so much one of manners as it is of alertness to the facts, that is, simply having open eyes to what is true. And it is true that you and I deserve nothing good. No, more than that, we deserve everything bad – an eternity in hell.
It is true that God is good and that in the world under His control bad things happen – at least bad things happen from the human perspective. When I discipline my child, it might seem like a bad thing from his vantage point, but it is a good thing from mine. When a nation wins a just war, it might seem bad from the enemy’s side, but it is good for the world. So at least part of the problem is perspective. Are we saying something is bad from God’s perspective or man’s?
There is admittedly a certain tension between the different principles involved in church discipline. On the one hand there is the gentleness of Galatians 6:1, on the other, the severity of Titus 1:13. While we may never be judgmental in our attitudes (Matthew 7:1), we must nevertheless judge among ourselves (1 Corinthians 5:12). Just as we are called to love in a manner that is willing to overlook certain sins (1 Peter 4:8), we must also “exhort one another daily” so that none will be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). The tension is seen most clearly in that we are to love our brother as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35), yet remain willing to consider him an unbeliever and cast him away if he continues in sin (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11). We might be tempted to use the word “balance” in describing our desire to manage this tension. But as it is all-too-commonly understood, “balance” means compromise – easing away from convictions and obligations in order not to appear unbalanced or overly zealous. The problem with this understanding is that Scripture never tells Christians to be “balanced” people in this way. On the contrary, we are told to be zealous and fervent, both in our love for one another (Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8), and in our pursuit of holiness and purity (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 12:14-17).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The intimidation that we feel in relating Christ to a non-Christian world has to do with our comparing ourselves to the man or woman, rather than comparing God to the man or woman.
Here are some good reasons for what man thinks is bad:
1. Pain and death help man comprehend the power and awfulness of sin. The entrance of sin brought destruction and decay into the world. It is a good thing to be wary of the effects of evil… By seeing how bad results come from sin, we might learn to avoid it to whatever degree possible.
2. Pain and death are sometimes used by God to judge sin. The Bible is full of stories of God’s use of physical pain and death to accomplish judgment.
3. Pain and death help us know the importance of Christ’s death… Christ took sin on Himself at the cross in order to deliver people from the consequences of their sin. We should be thankful that God has made a way to escape the consequences of sin through Christ. The more I know about evil, the more I should want to be freed from its power, and the more I should be appreciative of the only way of ultimate escape through Christ’s death.
4. Pain sometimes brings people to Christ. When a person realizes that he is weak and needs Christ, he is most willing and ready to come to Him. Sometimes God is good in removing our self-sufficiency through suffering.
5. Pain and conflict with evil does the authentic Christian good. The Bible actually says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28; see 2 Cor. 12:7-10). After Joseph had endured a lot of evil from his own brothers, he told them, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
6. Finally, bad things happen because God wants to teach Christians something about His special favor toward them (see Rom. 9:22-23).
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.
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.
Personal revival beings 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).
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.
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.
Confession means to agree with God on His assessment of our actions and thoughts, and to name our sin to God.
We can be thankful that God does not remove all evil right now. If he did, would he not remove you? Suppose he said, “Ok, I will do just as you request. I will take away all evil right this minute!” Do you think that you would be spared?
There are many who have fought hard for the inerrancy of Scripture who don’t sufficiently break open the Bible they fought for.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t delay. The thought you had just this morning will soon blow off the table of your mind!
Consider the implications of adding the work of confession for ongoing forgiveness… If something more is required for forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness (a state required for heaven), then the believer is in a dilemma. What if he fails to confess some sins? What if he fails to confess one sin? Is he unforgiven and not cleansed from all unrighteousness? This is not what propitiation and the continual immediate cleansing from sin by the blood assert. Must we add to what God has so completely accomplished? Isn’t Christ’s death and the application of His blood enough? Doesn’t this additional requirement diminish the cross by making my naming of a sin, each sin, a prerequisite to forgiveness?
Why is God justified in having wrath toward you if you have not come to Christ on His terms?
1. Because you are a sinner by nature (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 3:10; Ps. 51:5).
2. Because you have amassed a huge volume of sins.
3. Because you have committed the greatest crime possible, against the highest existing authority (Mk. 12:30).
4. Because of your persistence in sinning against God.
5. Because you have spurned the greatest love gift ever [Jesus Christ].
6. Because you have spurned this gift even though you have knowledge of Christ and the way of salvation (Mt. 11:21-24).
7. Because you have been unwilling to admit your desperate need (Jn. 9:39-40).
8. Because you have been proud of your good works, though dependence on them damns you (Gal. 2:21; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 5:4).
9. Because you have not repented even though He has been kind to you (Rom. 2:4-5).
10. Because you have stubbornly refused to yield to God and His way of salvation in Jesus Christ to the last possible moment—now!
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.
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.”
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).
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).
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.
If [1 John 1:9] is a call to immediate confession of every sin we are in trouble:
1. We are in a logistical dilemma. We cannot remember every sin. If our forgiveness depends on this, we are in serious trouble. For this reason, most advocates of this theology say that the confession we are to do is to be for every known sin. But that is an accommodation to the text. It does not say that. Actually, no Christian has confessed every known sin either.
2. We are in a theological dilemma. We have a Catholic theology of sorts. That is, if forgiveness is dependent on our ongoing confession, then what if we die with unconfessed sins? Does this view of confession of every sin being essential for forgiveness and total cleansing mean that our sins are not separated from us like the east is from the west? Does it mean we are not forgiven? Does it mean we are not cleansed from all unrighteousness? In other words, does it mean that the work of Christ on our behalf is ineffective when it comes to forgiveness and cleansing? Does it mean that we are not justified until we get to the end of life, and only then if we have confessed everything?
3. We are in an exegetical dilemma. By this I mean that we cannot reconcile the fact that the same text admits to a continual cleansing from all sins on the basis of the blood with no conditions for the believer, while also requiring the condition of detailed confession in a contiguous verse.
God does hear our prayers. Though God has taught us that He chooses all who are His before the foundation of the world, He also taught us that we should pray, and not only pray, but expect the answer to our prayers. It is true that God is sovereign and it is just as true that He answers prayer. In fact, He could not answer prayer if He were not in control of all things.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
What God is after is not our naming our sins, but our turning from our sins in obedience. He requires repentance from specific sins. He already knows what you do… Naming all our sins may be therapeutic, certainly, but it can never be said to be required… We may name our sins on the way to repentance, but we do not do so in order to be forgiven or cleansed. We trust Christ’s work for that, alone.
The word foreknowledge is actually better understood as “thought of endearingly beforehand,” or “foreloved,” or “foreordained with forethought.”
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.
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 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.
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)?
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).
The exercise of the mouth cannot change the heart. Your sin is like a prostitute. You are speaking against your lover in public but embracing her in the bedroom. She is not particular about being run down in public if she can have your full attention in private.
It is not exceptionally worthy people that Jesus loves, but His love is exceptional in that He loves those of no value at all. In fact, He loves us in our sin. Only such a view of love correctly appreciates the sacrifice of Christ and respects the infinite chasm between what is deserved and mercy.
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 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.
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).
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).
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.
Forgiveness of others in the believer is so standard, so much a part of what it means to be a Christian, that no true believer is without it. If you are not a forgiver, you are not forgiven. To not be forgiven is to be damned to spend eternity in hell.
Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart. There are those who confess only for the show of it, whose so-called repentance may be theatrical but not actual.
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.
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!
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.
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.”