Category Archives: Personal Holiness

Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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We’re Just Like Hollywood

Mirror Mirror

It’s easy, as Christians, to look down our self-righteous noses at Hollywood, sniffing sanctimoniously that their culture of sexual permissiveness is finally bringing judgment upon them. That assessment is, I believe, true enough, but I question whether or not we ought to gloat over their implosion. Shouldn’t the Weinstein and Spacey scandals cause us to examine our own hearts?

The apostle Paul, after writing that blistering portrayal of rebellious sinners in Romans 1, turns to the religious establishment with penetrating questions. Those of us who identity as Christians might do well to apply these questions to ourselves.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” ~~Romans 2:17-24 (ESV)

I know, most of us have been physically faithful to our husbands, but let’s be honest. Haven’t we felt twinges of envy when Darcy pursues Elizabeth Bennett in Pride And Prejudice? Do some of us harbor secret fantasies about male co-workers or men in church? Would we be embarrassed if people saw our online histories?

We must remember that Jesus said a disturbing thing about our secret thoughts:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~~Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)

And ladies, we know that principle applies to our thoughts about men other than our husbands! The uncomfortable fact is that every one of us has been guilty of sexual sin, even if we never carried our thoughts into physical actions. Let’s make sure, before we click our tongues at “those sinners” in Hollywood,  that we’ve confessed our own sexual sin to the Lord, and that we’ve genuinely repented.

We should respond to Hollywood’s sexual permissiveness with horror and revulsion. But we should also praise the Lord for His grace in pulling us out of those same sins. How kind He’s been to rescue us from ourselves.

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Validating Murder

Anger Makes Us Brutes

Listening to the Grace to You radio broadcast entitled “Forgiveness In An Age Of Rage” yesterday caught my interest as John MacArthur asserted that psychology bears a great deal of responsibility for the widespread anger in society today. In many respects, I agree with him. Psychology encourages people to “get in touch with their feelings,” insisting that even negative feelings must be validated.

MacArthur focuses his teaching on forgiveness as the antidote for anger, and I definitely think he’s on track. What I write today shouldn’t diminish or negate any of his points. But I would like to expand on his comments regarding the effects psychology has on anger because I really think he identified a serious problem.

My personal experience with “Christian” psychology bears out his allegations. Admittedly, counselors always tacked on obligatory exhortations to forgive those who wounded us (usually our parents), but the overwhelming bulk of the counseling centered on our victimization and thus our right to be angry. I remember actually demanding that my mom validate my feelings.

Funny — I felt no interest in validating her feelings.

I eventually admitted that I have a problem with anger. And that my anger, far from being the righteous indignation that Christians should have, is sin. Sin that breaks God’s law. A sin that Jesus said is equal to nothing less than murder.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ~~Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

When psychologists (Christian or otherwise)  invite us to experience or anger, assuring us that it’s a valid response to being offended, they actually encourage us to engage in sin. That sort of encouragement can never lead us into God’s holiness. As a matter of fact, it will almost certainly lead us into unholiness.

Anger can be overcome, not through psychology, but as we die to self and obey God’s Word. It’s a simple principle made difficult by our selfishness and determination to gratify our sinful nature. Biblical counseling can show us how to put anger to death by applying Scriptural principles; psychology will only feed anger by validating it.

We dare not validate a sin that the Lord Himself strongly condemned!

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Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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Perspectives In Titus: Faithful Words On Profitable Teachings

Titus 3 8

Once again, we’ll only get through a single verse in our study of Titus today, but in this verse Paul reaches the zenith of his letter to Titus. Given the climactic nature of Titus 3:8, I believe we need to take our time looking at it, remembering that Titus pastors several churches in Crete with two major problems.

First of all, false teachers known as Judaizers have infiltrated the churches, teaching that Gentile Christians must observe Jewish law. Second, the Cretan culture outside the church is marked by self-indulgence. Paul left Titus the task of putting that region’s churches in order so that they could resist the corrosion of false teaching and thus live in contrast to the unbelievers who surrounded them.

With that refresher on the reason for Paul’s letter to Titus, let’s look at today’s verse within its immediate context.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:4-11 (ESV)

Verse 8 begins by telling us “The saying is trustworthy.” The saying Paul refers to is, of course, Titus 3:4-7 in its assertion that God’s justifying grace leads Christians to live in ways that reflect His holiness. Paul reminds Titus that this understanding of grace is trustworthy. Thayer’s Dictionary brings up the idea that the Greek word carries the sense that we can rely on this saying. In other words, we can rely on the declaration that grace will produce works according to God’s nature.

As an aside, Psalm 19:7 assures us that the testimony of the Lord is sure, again underscoring that Scripture is trustworthy. So we can completely trust Paul’s saying in Titus 3:4-7, confident because the Holy Spirit included the passage in His Word.

Paul wanted Titus to insist on the truths of Titus 3:4-7. Pay attention to the word “insist” here, as it’s pivotal to Paul’s point. The King James Version translates it as “affirm constantly,” leading Barnes to comment that Paul’s intent was that Titus make these doctrines of grace “the constant subject” of his preaching. Indeed, our pastors should repeatedly preach on God’s sovereignty in bringing us to salvation.

The reason for insisting on the doctrines of grace is to encourage believers to good works. Barnes says that the good works here are not “merely to acts of benevolence and charity, but to all that is upright and good – to an honest and holy life.” His interpretation best fits the context of this letter. These good works, remember, don’t merit salvation.  Rather, they verify that the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated us.

Furthermore, these doctrines, being excellent because they accentuate God’s sovereignty, are profitable, in contrast to the unprofitable types of conversations outlined in the next verse. Vincent’s Word Studies cross-references 1 Timothy 4:8 as evidence that godliness is of greater value than even physical fitness because godliness holds both temporal and eternal value. As we exercise the doctrines of grace by keeping them constantly on our minds, we profit immensely.

It seems fitting that last Monday and today we’ve talked about grace, justification and the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Tomorrow marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a work of God that restored these crucial doctrines to the church. What a blessing to see that these doctrines benefit Christians even now.

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Perspectives In Titus: Grace, Justification And So What?

Titus 3 7

During this week leading up to the October 31st celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we’ll be reading a lot about justification by faith and God’s  grace. Interestingly, the verse we’ll study today discusses both topics, and then shows us how to respond to them.

Before I begin, may I offer a friendly reminder? Scripture teaches that women mustn’t teach men. I’m aware that gentlemen other than my husband and elders from my church are reading these Bible Studies, therefore placing me in a position of violating God’s Word. Gentlemen, please don’t do so. While my husband and elders from my church provide spiritual oversight for me, you do not. I respectfully ask, dear brothers, that you leave me to teach my beloved sisters in good conscience. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Now, sisters, let’s begin our study of Titus 3:8 by looking at it within its immediate context.

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. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (ESV)

Again in verse 7, Paul underscores the fact that God justifies us, not on the basis of anything we do, but because of His grace. Justification is a legal term that implies acquittal. Although we are guilty in practice, the Lord judges us as being innocent on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. For that reason, we attribute our justification solely to God’s grace, as described in verses 4-6.

The Complete WordStudy Dictionary defines grace, in part, as being “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” Paul hammers home the concept of justification by grace so that the church entrusted to Titus would maintain an attitude of humility amid Cretan society. Present-day Christians likewise must keep in mind that the Lord justifies us only by grace.

Justification causes us to become heirs of God’s promises. Romans 8:17, as John MacArthur points out, calls Christians “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” He cross-references 1 Peter 1:3-4 as documentation. According to Ephesians 1:13-14, the Holy Spirit Himself acts as the guarantee of our inheritance!

In regard to the phrase, “according to the hope of eternal life,” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state that the position of the Greek words would be better understood as “agreeably to the hope of eternal life.” The idea is that the promise of eternity should influence how we live in the present world. Not that “being good” earns salvation, but that salvation motivates how saved people behave.

You may recall Titus 1:1-2, where Paul stated that the Lord had commissioned him to minister to the elect “in the hope of eternal life.” In that passage, Paul already made the connection between teaching that accords with godliness and that hope of eternal life. Indeed, their understanding of this phrase is consistent with the overall purpose of Paul’s letter. Since the Cretan Christians were heirs of God’s kingdom, their conduct needed to reflect that hope of inheritance.

So, although we neither earn or maintain our justification as a result of good works, God’s grace causes us to behave in good manner that reflects His holiness. In that way, we stand in contrast to the non-Christians around us. Next Monday we’ll see that the Lord, through the apostle Paul, desires us to demonstrate His grace by performing good works.

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The Meditation Of My Heart And How To Make It Acceptable In God’s Sight

Psalm 19V14 B&W

I lay awake last night, letting my mind wander into places it had no business going. Not only did my disobedience rob me of sleep I really needed, but much more importantly it grieved the Holy Spirit by dishonoring the Lord. Thankfully, God brought me to repentance fairly quickly, and I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I again confessed my sin to the Lord. As I prayed about it, I remembered Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

Even though the meditation of my heart had been decidedly unacceptable in the sight of the Lord, I felt a desire to  change that course. So I started pondering about ways to keep my thoughts on things that please the Lord. John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts these last two weeks came to mind, as I recalled him saying something about filling our minds with Scripture so that our thoughts would honor God.

From there, I remembered that an earlier portion of Psalm 19 actually talks about Scripture’s impact on people.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward. ~~Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)

It follows, seems to me, that keeping God’s Word constantly in mind would guard us against dwelling on sinful thoughts. If my heart’s meditation revolves around His Word, naturally it’s acceptable in His sight. Clearly, it leaves no room for entertaining unclean ideas.

Maybe what I’m writing isn’t particularly novel. But sometimes we forget foundational truths. Sometimes it helps to nudge our memories back to things we’ve known for years. We get caught up in the finer points of doctrine, or in serving the Lord, and suddenly lose sight of fundamental attitudes that Christians need.

My mental activities last night most assuredly were unacceptable. But the Lord showed great mercy in using my sin to direct me back to His Word. For that great mercy, I praise His wonderful Name!

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