Category Archives: Faithfulness

Remember His Faithfulness

As we look back at the Reformers this month, can we help noticing how faithful the Lord was in helping them proclaim the Gospel? For that matter, can we look back further to see His faithfulness to the apostles? To the Old Testament prophets?  To all who trusted in Him?

Observing how the Lord has cared for his own throughout history gives us hope that He will continue caring for us. And that care goes well beyond this earthly life, extending into eternity!

This week’s hymn commemorates God’s faithfulness to our spiritual fathers and anticipates that He will show us that same faithfulness.  In this wonderful month of celebrating 500 years of reform, let’s treasure the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Reminder Of Christian Behavior

Titus 3 1&2

Believe it or not, ladies, we’re actually starting Chapter 3 of Titus today! Even more incredible, we’ll actually cover two entire verses! As soon as you recover from the shock, please prepare for today’s Bible Study by reading all of Titus 3 to familiarize yourselves with the context. Also, bear in mind the verse we studied last Monday.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. ~~Titus 2:15 (ESV)

As we said last week, the apostle Paul (writing under the authority of the Holy Spirit) commanded Titus to declare the instructions and doctrines that preceded verse 15. But Titus would also need to declare the instructions and doctrines we now find in our current chapter. So Paul begins with addressing how the Cretan Christians should respond to those in civil authority.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. ~~Titus 3:1-2 (ESV)

Paul wanted Titus to remind the Cretan Christians of several responsibilities. Though they knew these fundamental attitudes, the pressures of the surrounding heathen culture had the potential of distracting them and drawing them into compromise.

Firstly, Paul wanted Titus to remind them to submit to secular authorities. Paul’s letter to the Romans issued a similar injunction (Romans 13:1-7). Submission requires a willing subordination instead of grudge obedience.

They were to submit to civic authorities. Their allegiance to God’s kingdom didn’t excuse them from being good citizens, especially in a society characterized by rebellion.

According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, this obedience didn’t necessarily imply spontaneous obedience (since the authorities might demand actions contrary to the Gospel). They instead posit that obedience generally tends toward the good works that civil leaders generally encourage.

Barnes adds that Christians should have a readiness to do good works, rather than needing to be coaxed. This readiness allows us to regard opportunities to do good as a privilege instead of a burden.

But verse 2 broadens  the scope of  people Christians must respect. Titus also must teach the Christians not to speak evil of anyone. This idea includes the avoidance of slander, but it extends further. We must take care not to put anybody in a bad light. Maybe Paul particularly meant that they should speak respectfully of secular authorities, but he by no means restricted the command to our attitude toward civil authority.

Paul also wanted the Cretan Christians to avoid quarreling and instead treat others with kindness and consideration. Additionally, they were to behave gently, in contrast to the brutal demeanor of the unsaved Cretans, treating Christians and non-Christians alike with perfect courtesy.

Although Paul’s  letter specifically addresses Titus and how the Lord wanted him to pastor the churches of First Century Crete, don’t neglect the fact that the Holy Spirit included this epistle in the Canon of Scripture for all Christians of every generation to read. Therefore, the principles Titus must teach his flock apply to us. As we meditate on Titus 3:1-2 this week, perhaps the Lord will encourage us in showing courtesy to those we meet.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Pastor’s Duty

Titus 2 v 15

Forgive me for skipping last Monday’s Bible Study. John and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts with dear friends from church as a homeschool field trip for their kids (the dad had the day off work). But I’m here today, so let’s remind any gentlemen (other than my husband and elders from First Baptist Church Weymouth MA) that these studies are for ladies only and dig right in to our text.

Titus 2:15 constitutes its own paragraph in English translations, so to establish its context (which is absolutely necessary in understanding this verse) I really need you to either open your copy of Scripture or click this link to read the chapter before we proceed. Once you’ve read the chapter, look at verse 15:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

You may be tempted, as I usually am, too skim over this verse. After all, as women, none of us will be pastors like Titus. Yet older women do have a responsibility to teach younger women, as we see in Titus 2:3-5. In that respect (though certainly to a lesser degree), we might apply this verse to our own ministries.

Paul instructs Titus to declare the things contained in this chapter, and perhaps especially verses 11-14. Matthew Henry remarks that, in contrast to the Jewish fables and traditions that the Judaizers tried to impose on the Cretan Christians, Titus is here (as in verse 1) charged to preach and teach sound doctrine and godly ways of living.

He commands Titus to exhort the Cretans. Exhortation demands impassioned speech that both encourages and urges hearers towards obedience to God’s Word. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries says that the Greek word denotes a “calling near” to comfort, beseech or entreat. While it doesn’t compromise, exhortation has an aspect of gentleness.

Along with exhortation, Titus has a duty to rebuke. According to Vines New Testament Dictionary, the Greek word here means to convict or reprove. Thus it lacks the gentleness of exhortation. Rebuke specifically confronts sin in a manner which then calls for repentance.

Paul tells Titus to exhort and rebuke “with all authority.” God gives pastors authority over those they shepherd because, in preaching God’s Word, they represent the Lord Himself. Earlier, in Titus 1:13, Paul alluded to Titus’ pastoral authority by directing him to rebuke the Cretans “sharply.” Such sharpness comes only when someone has authority.

Furthermore, the Greek word translated “authority” here carries the sense of commanding speech, free of ambiguity of compromise. According to Barnes, Paul’s point here is that Titus’ words shouldn’t come across as mere advice, “but as the requirement of God.”

Because God has given Titus pastoral authority, Paul counsels him not to permit anyone to disregard him. He gave Timothy similar counsel in 1 Timothy 4:12, where he elaborates by saying Timothy should set an example for believers. You’ll recall that Paul wants Titus to be a model of Christian living (Titus 2:7).

In addition to encouraging us in our ministries to other women, today’s verse can also remind us of the incredible responsibilities our pastors bear. Sisters, our pastors need us to pray for them regularly as they do difficult work, quite often behind the scenes, standing for righteousness in a culture much like the Cretan culture of Titus’ time. Use this study as motivation to pray for your pastors.

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The Obligation Freedom Brings

Not Your OwnCertainly, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin, and in His crucifixion the Lord exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness. Putting it another way, the Father now considers us righteous because Jesus paid the penalty of our sins (past, present and future) on our behalf. No sin we commit will undo His work of grace.

During my devotions this morning, the Lord brought me to an interesting passage in Colossians.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~~Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV)

The preceding verses highlight the wonderful truth that the Father qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints by reconciling all creation to Himself through His Son. Now in verses 21 and 22, Paul tells us that Christ has reconciled us to God, consequently presenting us to the Father as holy, blameless and above reproach. He proves that our reconciliation is genuine when we remain in the faith, not deviating from the Gospel.

The insistence on anchoring our righteousness solely in what the Lord did for us on the cross must remain in the forefront of our minds. So often, we try to take credit for His work of righteousness in us, mistakenly thinking that He requires us to maintain our salvation. We obey His commands with an attitude of self-righteousness, patting ourselves on the back for being such good little Christians.

So yes, we can rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross, assured that the Father sees us as righteous.

However.

I’ve seen evangelicals pervert God’s grace into license to sin. They reason that, since the Lord declares them righteous because Jesus died for their sins (past present and future), they can live in any way they please. Lately, they describe this approach to life as authenticity. In their estimation, they’re being true to themselves, convinced that the Lord is fine with it.

Yet the Bible teaches something entirely different, doesn’t it? Although Jesus has indeed borne the eternal consequences of our sins and therefore the Father sees us as righteous, the Lord now claims us as His property. Let me show you a passage written specifically about sexual sin that applies to sin in general.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~~1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

Dear sisters, God’s grace frees us from sin, but it also places us under obligation to Him. Rather than being authentic to ourselves, we must now be true to Him. Not that we in any way earn or maintain our salvation. Christ has already taken care of that. But in gratitude for His sacrifice, we need to recognize our obligation to live in ways that honor Him. We must reflect, however imperfectly, His holiness. At least we ought to desire to reflect His holiness.

Authenticity shouldn’t give any Christian an excuse to indulge in shameful thoughts, attitudes or behaviors. Instead, the wonderful grace of God should fill us with grateful devotion that inspires our joyful obedience to Christ.

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When Discernment Makes You Forget Your First Love

First LoveA former pastor once counseled me to write about things God showed me during my personal devotions. I rather suspect he noticed John MacArthur’s influence on me and hoped to steer me away from Reformed Theology. For the most part I ignore that pastor’s counsel, preferring to blog about topics that press on my mind at any given time.

This morning, however, I read a passage in Revelation 2 that really fit into my growing concerns about abuses I see in a few discernment ministry blogs I follow. I believe the warnings in this passage desperately need to come to the attention of those who care about Biblical discernment, and I don’t think many people have considered these verses in relation to contending for the faith. But look at what the Lord commands the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:2-7 (ESV)

In this letter, the Lord begins by commending the Ephesians for standing against false teachers. This point shows that discernment ministry definitely has its place. Indeed, several of the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 receive harsh chastisement precisely because of their tolerance of false teaching. The Lord demands purity in His Church.

Yet the Ephesians focused so much on discernment that they abandoned their devotion to Christ Himself. They no longer had a zeal to serve Him in other ways. So, despite their stellar record in standing against false teachers, they stood in grave danger of losing their testimony. In no uncertain terms, these discernment giants were ordered to repent.

I’ve been writing fairly often on the problems with many present-day discernment ministries, as I’ve seen how some of them lean toward calling out people they disagree with and toward propagating conspiracy theories. Many, or perhaps all, of these people undoubtedly started out genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to please Him by refuting false teaching. Somewhere along the way, however, their focus shifted from Christ Himself to their ability to argue doctrine.

I myself was on that trajectory for a while. God graciously intervened by letting me see that discernment ministry was becoming an idol. More accurately, I idolized myself as having polished discernment skills. In my idolatry, I minimized the Lord Jesus Christ and so many of His teachings on loving others and serving within the local church. Thankfully, the Lord has since reoriented my priorities by reminding me that He wants my attention set squarely on Him.

Any type of ministry can distract us from loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Discernment ministry is no exception. The Ephesians excelled in recognizing and refuting false teachers, which pleased the Lord. But once they let discernment ministry eclipse their love for Christ, they jeopardized their testimony. As 21st Century Christians, we must learn from their mistakes and fix our hearts on our first love: the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Perspectives In Titus: Grace As A Personal Trainer

Titus 2 v 12Last Monday we studied Titus 2:11, which introduces a passage that I’ve found particularly meaningful in this era when so many professing Christians understand grace as license to indulge in sinful behavior. In today’s study of verse 12, however, we will discover that the grace of God functions quite differently.

Before diving into verse 12, let’s again look at the immediate context in order to grasp the general flow of thought.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

And you thought I wrote complex sentences!

Anyway, we see by verse 11 that the grace of God is the subject of this sentence, making it clear that grace actually does something. Accordingly, Paul notes that the grace of God trains us. The Greek word here translated “training” means to discipline, as in bringing up a child by educating him toward spiritual and moral discipline. Hebrews 12:5-10 supplements this idea by depicting God the Father as disciplining His children in order that they bear the fruit of righteousness.

Puritan commentator John Gill makes the interesting observation that, since only believers receive God’s discipline, verse 11 certainly can’t mean that every person is a recipient of God’s grace. Again, cross-reference to Hebrews 12:5-8, which insists that God’s discipline indicates His acceptance of us as His children. I stress this point to remind you to interpret verse 11 by it’s context. Verse 11, in context, does not teach that Christ died for each individual. His grace trains Christians exclusively.

Grace disciplines us to reject ungodliness and worldly passions. Keep in mind that Titus lived in Crete, an area famous for its culture of self-indulgence. Therefore Paul wanted Titus to develop Christians who would differentiate themselves from unbelievers. 1 John 2:15-17 delineates the nature of worldly passions.

In contrast to ungodliness and worldly passions, grace instructs Christians to live in ways that honor the Lord.

Self-control, as we’ve noticed in several verses throughout this epistle, indicates the ability to restrain our desires. The Cretans, much like Westerners in today’s culture, weren’t known for controlling themselves, so Christians needed to model that quality. In our present-day society, we have even more responsibility to exercise self-control.

The word translated “upright” in the ESV means that Christians bear a responsibility to minister to others in righteousness, treating everyone justly. Albert Barnes says that it

…refers to the proper performance of our duties to our fellow-men; and it means that religion teaches us to perform those duties with fidelity, according to all our relations in life; to all our promises and contracts; to our fellow-citizens and neighbors; to the poor, and needy, and ignorant, and oppressed; and to all those who are providentially placed in our way who need our kind offices. Justice to them would lead us to act as we would wish that they would towards us.

Finally, the grace of God trains us to live in godliness, meaning that it disciplines us toward pleasing the Lord rather than living according to our selfish pleasures. Once more, Paul emphasizes that Christians must distinguish themselves from everyone else. However, true godliness emanates from an inner conviction that we belong to the Lord; a mere outward show is nothing more than hypocrisy.

This self-control, uprightness and godliness must be lived out in this present age. As we will see in verse 13, living this way helps us wait for Christ’s return. So please come back next Monday for a discussion of Christ’s return and what sort of people He will redeem upon that return.

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