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What you will find in this post is the third part of an answer to a question raised by a reader about how to develop a stronger faith and overcome consuming lust. The third essential factor for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust takes us back to the basics again. Before i mention this third factor, I want to encourage you not to refuse to think seriously about it because in your judgment it is so basic. Remember the exhortation of Vince Lombardi on another front that we mentioned in the last blog: victories are won by paying attention to the basics and failure occurs because we fail to learn and practice the basics with abandonment. So here’s basic factor number three for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust: to develop and sustain a stronger faith and a more robust fear of God you must consistently and submissively study God’s Word.
Sometime ago I wrote a book called The Twin Pillars of the Christian Life. One of these pillars was the pillar of fervent prayer that we mentioned in the previous post. The other factor that my book addresses is the pillar of Bible Study. These are the pillars of the Christian life on which a vibrant spiritual life must be built. Though very basic, we must understand that here can be no substitute for either these pillars. Mark it down, don’t overlook it: if you want to develop a strong faith that will overcome sinful patterns and a robust fear of God that is necessary for progress in the Christian life, you will never develop and sustain these essential qualities apart from fervent prayer and the faithful study of His Word. Again as mentioned in the former post, the battles of the Christian life are won or lost because people either faithfully practice or don’t practice these two disciplines.
The crucial importance of faithful and submissive Bible study is suggested by numerous verses in which the fear of God is mentioned. I will quote a few of these verses and, as I do, I will emphasize (underline) certain words that will help us to get an answer to the ‘yes, but how’ question.
1. Deut. 4:10 – “Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My Words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth…” (Deuteronomy 4:10);
2. Deut. 6:1,2 – “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you … so that you and your son, and your grandson might fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6:1,2);3. Deut. 8:6 – “Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6);4. Deut. 13:4 – “You shall … fear Him, and …listen to His voice…” (Deuteronomy 13:45. Deut. 14:23 “… in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23); 6. Deut. 17:19 – “… and he shall read it (God’s Word) all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19);7. Deut. 31:12 “…and all
Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:21);“Assemble the people … in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12);
8. Psalm 34:11 – “Come you children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11);
From these verses we may draw several conclusions about how to develop and sustain the fear of God in our lives.
Several times we notice in these verses that hearing and listening are associated with developing the fear of God. Romans 10:17 informs us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” In other words, if we want to have a strong faith we must put ourselves in a place where we will hear God’s Word being faithfully preached. Faith doesn’t float around in the air and mysteriously grab us. God uses His preached Word to strengthen our faith. People who want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God must faithfully,diligently and attentively hear God’s Word being preached. This is one of theprimary instruments God uses in building this quality into our lives.
Still further these verses teach us that people who want to develop a stronger fear of God must make this a priority in their lives and they must do it regularly.
And, they must make sure that the preaching they are listening to is really an expository ministry. It is not some man’s ideas, it is not the theories of psychologists or philosophers or sociologists that promote the fear of God. It is the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. There can be no neglect, nor substitute for this.
The second conclusion we may draw from these verses we just read is set of verses that the fear of God is that developing and sustaining the fear of God will involve the use of the mind. To become God-fearing people we must be students, we must put forth an effort to learn. Being a student obviously involves studying. If you don’t study, you have no right to think of yourself or present yourself as a student. Sitting around watching television or even sitting in a church auditorium or classroom doesn’t necessarily mean you are a student or that you are learning anything.
You may just be sitting there occupying space. You may not be learning or retaining or processing anything that is being said. No one can be considered a learner unless they retain, process and benefit from what is being said. And, again please note that growing in the fear of God is associated with being taught, studying and learning the Word of God.
In our book, The Fear Factor, we define the fear of God in this way (and what we said about the fear of God can also be said about true faith): the fear of God is a reflex attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding of who and what God is.
1. The word “reflex”indicates that our attitudes and emotions automatically respond to something. When our hand touches an extremely hot surface, we don’t have to tell our hand, nor make our hand move away from that surface. Because of the nerve endings in our hand, our hand just automatically jerks away from the hot surface.
When I use the word “reflex” in association with the development of the fear of God or a stronger faith, I mean that when a certain thing happens we will naturally, automatically respond with the fear of God and have a stronger faith.
2. The word “reaction” in our definition conveys a similar idea. What we’re saying is that the fear of God (or a stronger faith) is more of a “reaction” than it is an action. It is something that happens rather than something we directly make happen. Only in an indirect way do we make the fear of God and a stronger faith happen. The fear of God happens because something else has happened. And unless that something else happens we will never develop and sustain the fear of God.
The question then is: what is it that causes the fear of God or a stronger faith to develop? What must happen for the fear of God to happen? The rest of our definition answers these questions.
1. The fear of God happens as we gain and maintain an accurate understanding of who and what the God of the Bible is. In other words, it happens as we hear and listen to God and His Word; it happens as we continue to study and learn, as we continue to accurately think about and meditate on God and His Word.
2. This is the method God uses to make our fear of God quotient stronger. You simply can’t expect to have a strong fear of God quotient if you are unwilling to be a perpetual student of God’s Word.
Interestingly, Psalm 19:9 makes this connection between the diligent study of God’s Word and the development of the fear of God unmistakably clear by calling the Bible “the fear of the Lord”. Obviously, the Bible is called “the fear of the Lord” because it is a primary means by which God develops and sustains this quality in our lives.
In his book on the fear of God, John Bunyan writes, “The fear of God flows from … a sound impression that the Word of God makes on our souls; for without an impress of the Word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said that God gave Israel good laws, statutes and judgments that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord their God …For as to the extent that a man drinks good doctrine into his soul, so to that extent he fears God; if he drinks in much, he fears Him greatly; if he drinks in but little, He fears Him but little; if he drinks not at all, He fears Him not at all.” (John Bunyan, ibid, p. 424)
So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the study of God’s Word a regular and diligent discipline in your life.. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture, as noted in the earlier part of this blog, makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully study His Word.
This, then, is the third factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of diligent and submissive Bible study..
John Bunyan was absolutely convinced that a diligent study of God’s Word played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the fear of God in our souls. He could hardly have made that point more clearly. According to Bunyan, drink much of the Word of God and you will have much of the fear of God, drink little and you will have little, drink not at all and you will have none is his conviction. And, according to the Scripture, he was right! This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor
(God willing, we will move on to another extremely important factor in the near future. I have just been dismissed from the hospital after a minor hart problem. So it may be a little while before I actually post the next factor, but Lord willing it will come. )
In this post, I’m continuing to respond to one of the questions a person who reads our blogs raised in the comment section to one of our blogs. One of the questions he asked was “how do you overcome unbelief and doubt” and the answer I’m giving this series is really related to the question how do you develop a more robust fear of God? But what I’m writing about in terms of how to develop a robust fear of God is the same answer I would give to the question “how do I develop a stronger faith and overcome unbelief”? (And as I previously mentioned, the answer I’ll give in this series of blogs is also the answer to another question raised by a responder about how to overcome consuming lust.) Now here’s an absolutely essential second factor for developing and sustaining a robust fear of God or developing and maintaining a strong faith: to develop and sustain the fear of god you must be devoted to fervent and persistent prayer. “You have not because you ask not” or because you ask for purely selfish reasons is the word of God that explains why the faith of many of us is weak (James 4:2, 3).
Several years ago when Vince Lombardi was a well known coach of one of the best and winningest American professional football teams he stood one day at the beginning of the season before his seasoned, very experienced football players and brought a stirring message to them. He was attempting to motivate them to become a strong, dedicated, skilled and winning football team. There they sat before him as a group of massive human beings eagerly waiting for instructions from their experienced and knowledgeable coach; there they sat wondering what pearls of wisdom about how to be a winning team would come from his lips. And what did he say? He said something similar to what he had often said and would often say in the future. It’s reported that he said something like this, “Gentlemen, if you want to be a good, strong, winning football team you must concentrate on the basics. The game of football is not really that complicated. When you boil it all down, the game of football consists of blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching and doing all these basics with abandonment. Let’s get back to the basics. That’s how you win football games by learning and doing the basics well. Teams lose football games because they neglect the basics.”
Well, the message that Vince Lombardi brought to his football team is the message I’d like to bring to Christians who want to build a strong faith in God and a robust fear of God. My message is, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to get back to the basics. It’s time for us to learn and practice and do the basics of Christianity well and with abandonment. Instead of looking for new techniques and gimmicks for developing super duper Christian lives, for building a strong faith and increasing in the fear of God, let’s get back to learning and practicing Christianity 101. That’s how to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And failure to practice the basics well is why many Christians are losing the battles in their spiritual lives.”
In Psalm 86:11 the Psalmist is an example for all of us who want to be more God-fearing in our approach to life. Here we find him praying, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” David who wrote this Psalm teaches us several things about becoming a more God-fearing or a person with a strong faith. One, he makes it clear that you have to begin with the heart. The fear of God (or strong faith) is developed in the heart before it is ever experienced anywhere else. If we have a powerful fear of God it will emerge from the heart. If we lack the fear of God, something is wrong in our hearts. Two, David realized that for a person to have a robust fear of God his heart had to be united. David knew that his heart was the mission control center of his life; he realized that if his heart was not united nothing else would come out right in his life. He was aware that a double hearted or triple hearted or quadruple hearted person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). He knew that his heart was the reservoir from which all of the issues of life flowed (Proverbs 4:23). He realized that frequently our hearts are divided in terms of their focus. He knew that sometimes our hearts begin to drift or become distracted from what is really important.
Sometimes we lose our focus, and like Martha, we become focused on many things rather than the one thing that is needful (Luke 10:38-42). Sometimes our hearts get out of control and run off in many different directions. Sometimes we forget that the fear of God should be a priority issue with us. David knew that he couldn’t control his heart on His own. He knew this was too big a task for Him. He knew that if his heart was to be united, God had to give him strength to do it. This petition was both an expression of his desire and also an expression of weakness. He realized he desperately needed the help of God if he were to have a united heart controlled by the fear of God.
In essence, David has learned the lesson about prayer that Jesus was teaching in the model prayer He gives us in Matthew 6:9-13. In this prayer Jesus used different words than the ones David did, but the meaning is the same. He said that when we pray we should begin by praying that God’s name (which represents who and what He is) would be hallowed. And what is it to hallow God’s name? It is to set it apart as holy, unique, worthy of reverence and holy respect. By indicating that this is the first petition we should pray, Jesus was teaching us that reverence for God should be a primary focus of our lives and prayers. And, the fact that he taught us to pray that God’s name would be hallowed indicates that we can’t do this without the help of God.
Developing and sustaining a healthy, robust fear of God should be a primary emphasis in our prayer lives. We will never be able to give God the respect and reverence that is His due apart from His help. You show me a person who isn’t praying the way David prayed in Psalm 86:11 and the way Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9 and I’ll show you a person in whose life the fear of God or his faith in God is very small or non-existent.
So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the acquisition of such a matter of fervent and persevering prayer. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully ask Him for these gifts (James 4:2; 5:17; Matthew 7:7 – 11; Luke 11:13).
This, then, is the second factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of devoted prayer. This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor. I close this blog with a paraphrase of a statement made by John Piper. He wrote, “Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power and no prayer, no power.” Well, I say, “Much of the right kind of prayer, much faith; little prayer, little faith and no prayer, no faith.” (God willing, we will move on to other factors in the near future.)
In this post, I’m kind of responding to one of the questions Scott raised in the comment section to one of our blogs. I say “kind of responding” because one of the questions he asked was “how do you overcome unbelief and doubt” and the answer I’m going to give in the next few blogs is really related to the question how do you develop a more robust fear of God?
At first glance, what I’m going to say about how to develop a robust fear of God may not appear to relate his question, but, in my judgment, my answer does very much relate. It is my conviction that the answer to the question “how do I develop a robust fear of God” is the same as the answer to the question “how do I get rid of my doubts and develop a strong faith”?
(Actually, the answer I’ll give in this series of blogs is also the answer to another question raised by a responder about how to overcome consuming lust.)
If Scott or anyone else is saying, “I really do want to develop or increase and sustain a more healthy, wholesome, robust fear of God (i.e., a strong faith in God). I really do want to be a truly God fearing person, i.e., a strong believer. Will you please tell me how I can become and remain that kind of person? I want it, I need it, but how do I get it?” my next few blogs should be very helpful. In these posts I want to point Scott and all of us who claim to be Christians to some biblical directives for doing the very thing the previous quote from Scott indicates he desires to have happen. If the fear of God (or a strong faith) is as important for us as Christians as the Bible clearly indicates it is, we might expect that God would give us information about how to develop it. And, indeed He has! In these posts we’re going to see that God has much to say about this aspect of developing, increasing and sustaining the fear of God in our lives.
I begin in this post with factor number 1 which is: to develop and sustain the fear of God you must have a change of heart. (Hang with me: this is only the first installment. There is more to come, but we must begin with factor number 1 because it is foundational to all the other factors.)
To understand how to develop and sustain a healthy, robust fear of God it’s important for us to note that we don’t just naturally fear God. With all that the Bible says about the majesty and glory of God we might be tempted to think that men would automatically fear God or have a strong faith in God.
Understanding who God is, what He has done and still does and the benefits that come to people who fear Him, we may be inclined to ask the same questions that Jeremiah and the people in Revelation asked: “Who would not fear Thee, O King of the Nations?” (Jeremiah 10:7); “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?” (Revelation 15:4) It seems irrational, absurd, unbelievable that people would not automatically fear and reverence someone who is as great and majestic as God is, someone who has the power and ability that God has, someone who has done and still does what God has done and continues to do.
In reality, when you consider the greatness of God, there is nothing more reasonable than the fear of God. To not fear Him is the height of absurdity. Yet the Scripture declares and our experience illustrates the fact that men don’t naturally fear God. In God’s description of what characterizes the whole of the human race (Romans 3:9 – both Jews and Greeks are under sin) since the time of Adam, He says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). In this verse Paul is probably quoting an Old Testament text that says essentially the same thing: “There is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). “There is no fear of God in this place” was the way that Abraham described the society in which he lived. The situation has not changed. The society in which we live in the twenty first century is still devoid of the fear of God. Unregenerate, unredeemed men don’t by nature fear God. Instead of fearing God, men automatically fear man (Proverbs 29:25; Romans 1:23, 25). By nature, men are more concerned with the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:43).
If that is true, the question that naturally arises is: what must happen for men who don’t naturally fear or trust God to begin to do this? Thankfully, the Scriptures give a very clear answer to this question. God provides an answer through the inspired prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32. In that message, God says this about the people whom He says He will make His people and for whom He will become their God (Jeremiah 32:38), “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me always … I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me” (Jeremiah 32:39, 40). For people to fear God, God has to supernaturally put that fear in their hearts. Earlier in Jeremiah, God has described the hearts of men before He gives them a new heart as being deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Before God gives to men a new heart they oppose the God of the Bible, they resist and rebel against this God (Romans 1:18-25; 8:5-8; Mark 7:21-23; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 1:5; Genesis 6:5). Sometimes this heart resistance and rebellion is covert and sometimes overt, sometimes violent (easily recognized) and sometimes more subtle and even disguised.
Nonetheless, the hearts (a word that is used metaphorically to describe our inner man, our soul, the non-physical part of us as human beings, the core of our being, the mission control center of our lives) of all men resist God and don’t fear God in the way described in the last message of this book.
For a person to truly fear God, some important internal changes must take place, changes that only God can make. This change is variously described in Scripture. Jeremiah indicates that for this change from a lack of fear of God to a fear of God to occur, God must perform heart surgery. He must give that person a new heart. He must change that person on the inside, at the very core of his being. In the book of Ezekiel, God describes this same indispensable operation in two passages: First, He does it in Ezekiel 11: 19, 20: “I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes and keep my ordinances to do them.” Then He does it again in message 26:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes”. In both of these Ezekiel passages, God makes it clear that the problem with people in terms of their attitude toward and relationship with Him is a heart problem. They have a heart of stone and need a heart of flesh. What they need is a new heart, a new spirit; a heart of flesh. Their heart of stone (a heart that was impervious to God and His Word, a heart that was uncaring about God, a heart that was committed to an antiGod focus in life, a heart that was insensitive and inflexible, a heart that lacked the fear of God) needed to be replaced with a heart of flesh (a heart that was soft and impressionable and responsive, a heart that was sensitive, a heart that was tender and compliant to God and His Word). Ezekiel 26 refers to filthiness and idolatry. Where was the primary location of that filthiness and idolatry? The references to needing a new heart and a new spirit indicate that the change and cleansing that was needed was internal. Ezekiel message 14 mentions that the problem with people is heart idolatry (Ezekiel 14:1-9) and message 11:21 mentions that their hearts are going after detestable things and abominations (i.e., that which is an abomination to the Lord). The problem of man, then and now, is a heart problem. So the cleansing that Ezekiel 26 says men need is a cleansing that is not merely external, but primarily internal.
As with all of us, these people needed to be cleaned up on the inside; because that’s where the real problem was. For them to become God centered, God fearing, they needed to be cleaned up on the inside, they needed to receive a new heart, a new disposition, a new spirit, a new internal control center. No one fears God in the Biblical way until this has occurred. In his comments on this passage Matthew Henry has rightly said, “We cannot sanctify God’s name unless he sanctify our hearts, nor live to His glory, but by grace alone.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Volume IV, Revell, New York, 962) Turning to the New Testament, we find the same truth about our need for an inner change before we can be rightly related to God and become God fearing people emphasized in many places. I Corinthians 6:9-10 describes what the Corinthians were like before they became Christians. They lived lives of debauchery and immorality, there was no fear of God before their eyes – they lived for themselves, they lived to please people, they did what they wanted to do, they had no regard for the God of the Bible, they had the hearts of stone of which Ezekiel was speaking. But Paul says something happened to them that changed them; he says, “Such were some of you” indicating that they were no longer living that way. What had happened to change their orientation to life? Verse 11 explains what made the change – they had been washed (cleaned up on the inside), they had been justified (declared righteous) through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf. And more than that, the change had occurred because they had been set apart by the Holy Spirit. They heard the Word of God and, as they did, the Spirit of God convicted them of their sin, brought them to repentance over their sin and to faith in Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit using God’s Word and through the atoning work of Jesus Christ they had been cleansed on the inside and the inside cleansing then manifested itself in their changed attitude toward themselves, toward sin, toward life and especially toward God. In the words of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God gave them a new heart, a new spirit, a new disposition that enabled them to do what they could not have done previously. He replaced their old inner control center which was under the control of sin with a new inner control center under the control of God. Or in the words of Paul in his second epistle to the Corinthians, Christ had come to them through the Gospel and by the Spirit and had made them new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As a result, they could bring glory to God and live a God fearing life (I Corinthians 6:19, 20; 10:31).
How can we develop the fear of God or a stronger faith in God? How can we overcome unbelief and doubt? The first requirement for developing and sustaining a God – fearing manner of life is being cleaned up on the inside, receiving forgiveness through the sacrificial death of Christ (I John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21); being declared righteous by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ (Romans 3:24, 25) by faith in Christ alone. When that happens, a person becomes a new creature in Christ, receives a new heart and spirit which God provides for all who come to Him through Christ and becomes indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who enables Him to live a God centered and God honoring life (Romans 8:9-13; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:17-19). As Peter puts it in I Peter 1, because a person is redeemed by Christ he should and can live his entire life on this earth as a God fearing person. Experiencing redemption from the penalty and power of our sin sets us free to live our lives in the fear of the Lord. (I Peter 1:17-19). This kind of a life is only possible for those who have been redeemed, but it is possible for all who are redeemed. John Bunyan explains, “This fear flows from a new heart. This fear is not in man by nature; the fear of devils they may have, as also an ungodly fear of God, but this fear is not in any, but where there dwelleth a new heart, another fruit and effect of this everlasting covenant, and of this distinguishing love of God. …So then, until a man receive a heart from God, a heart from heaven, a new heart, he has not this fear of God in him. … This fear of God must not be, cannot be found in old hearts; old hearts are not bottles out of which this fear proceeds, but it is from an honest and good heart, from a new one, from such an one that is also the effect of the everlasting covenant, and the love of God to men. He therefore that has not received at the hands of God a new heart, cannot fear the Lord.” (John Bunyan, The Complete Works of John Bunyan, Volume II, The National Foundation for Christian Education, Marshallton, Delaware, p.423.) This, then, is the first factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts you must examine yourself to make sure you really have had a supernatural change of heart.
This is only one of many factors, but since it is a foundational factor to everything else I will say in future blogs I wanted to begin here in that here is where God starts. (God willing, we will move on to other factors in the near future.)
I’m not sure what Dad is up to.
I know that he is busy preaching, teaching and writing but he obviously hasn’t been able to post anything on the blog in a long time. If anyone is interested I’m still writing over at Africabound
I thought though if Dad still reads this blog and has the time (which is a big if) he might answer one or two of the following questions left by Scott on a previous blog-entry:
“1.) How do you overcome unbelief and doubt?2.)How do you overcome lust when it seems the only thing that you can think about?
3.) I don’t know how to listen to the Holy Spirit and I don’t know if it’s Him or me?
I struggle a lot with anxiety over these issues and I have a hard time just believing God at His Word.”
I received this statement about the new perspective on Paul from Pastor Geof Thomas and thought it was so good and relevant and important that I decided to include it as a blog. It was part of a newsletter Geof sent out publicly.
The influence of the New Perspective on Paul …. Derek (Thomas) was asking a student how he defined the gospel. “Jesus Christ is Lord,” he said, which is Archbishop Tom Wright’s definition. What is gospel – good news – about that? If that same Lord declares that he is going to say to many in that Day, “Depart from me you cursed ones into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” where is there good news in the person of Christ? Surely you have to go to I Corinthians 15 and its opening verses for the gospel . . . Christ died for our sins and rose again. If you don’t fix your eyes on Christ’s work of salvation then his Lordship is terrifying. We men crucified him and we are facing his holy Father. Derek asked another student … , “Is the Christian obliged to keep the Moral Law?” The student paused for what seemed an interminable time before answering. Then guardedly said that the Christian was obliged, to BUT that salvation was all from Christ, and we could make no contribution to our salvation by our law keeping and there were dangers of a legalistic mentality taking over etc., etc. at length “Come on,” Derek was thinking, “this is not the question I asked you. Do you and I have an obligation to keep the moral law of God?”
The New Perspective on the apostle Paul is the biggest issue to have hit the evangelical church in America for years. It is beginning to divide associations and denominations and seminaries. The issue is central to the gospel. It denies the imputed righteousness of Christ in an act of justification. It stresses that children sprinkled with water in the name of the Trinity are to be considered as children of God. Many of its adherents champion these infants being given bread and wine in the communion. Its emphasis is on the congregation as the body of Christ and it loathes searching preaching and self-examination as destructive of the divine status of church members who receive the ordinances in the public means of grace. The new perspective claims and promises so much, just like Karl Barth’s neo-orthodoxy claimed to be the ‘theology of the word.’ Yet did it produce one single evangelist? Did one minister go to the slums and fill a building with future missionaries and godly people by preaching Barthianism? No one. The same judgment will be passed on the new perspective. They will take the already evangelised and taught Christians and muddle them up. (End quote)
Paul’s warnings about “another (heteros – of a different kind) Gospel” not really being “another (allos – of the same kind) Gospel are as relevant today as they were when he first wrote them the church at Galatia. And Jude’s exhortation to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” was never more relevant than it is today. There is nothing more precious than the true Gospel of God’s Word and there is nothing more devious and destructive than the perverted Gospel that some are proclaiming today. May our great God have mercy on us and guard people from the delusions of truth about the Gospel that are robbing our Saviour of the glory which is rightly His and robbing people of the freedom and forgiveness and power of the true Gospel (Romans 1:1 – 16: Galatians 1:3 – 9; Titus 2:8 – 14; Romans 3:24, 25; I Corinthians 15:1 – 4).
I know I’m not in Dad’s category, but I just wrote down some of the tasks I need to get accomplished this year…
Finish my doctoral dissertation.
Raise funds to move to South Africa.
Pastor Grace Church in Coopersburg.
Teach two new classes at Plumstead Christian School.
Help develop the philosophy of ministry for Tshofelo Children’s Home as well as discover support.
Find a replacement for me at Grace.
Transition the church smoothly.
Each one of these things by themselves is beyond me. Seriously. There’s only one that seems like it might be somewhat easy and that is teaching two classes at Plumstead and sitting here writing that I know I shouldn’t because if I say I think it might be easy that probably means it isn’t going to be nearly as easy as I think.
I need God’s help. In a big way.
If you think of it, could you please pray for me? These are just tasks and they are beyond me. Imagine all the other really important stuff, like being a godly man and discipling my wife and children and reaching out to unbelievers with the gospel.
The title of this post is also the title of a new book I’ve written and recently had published by Focus Publishing. In the book I attempt to deal with what has been called the common cold of mental ailments from a distinctly biblical perspective.
The back cover puts it this way: if you are not facing the problem now, you know someone who is or one day you will personally face it. Moreover since this is true, it is my conviction that it is important for all of us to know how to deal with depression as God intended. It is my conviction that each of us needs to know how to define and describe depression accurately ahd biblically; we need to know how and why depression develops and we need to know a biblical procedure for defeating or preventing depression for our own sakes and for the sake of helping others.
The question is: do you know how to do these things? You can and you should. So get to work studying Scripture on the subject and after you’ve done that you may want to do more research by reading the book Out of the Blues.
The title of this blog represents the progression on fruit bearing found in John chapter 15. In verse 5 of this chapter Jesus compares Himself to the vine and us as professing Christians to the branches. Then in verse 2 he says that “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He (God) takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” There you have mention of no fruit, fruit and more fruit. In verse 16 Christ continues this emphasis on fruit by stating a number of important truths about the Christian life, “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” One, he tells us that He is the one who initiates our relationship with Him – He chose ut. Two, He tells us that as those who are chosen by Him He expects us to bear fruit and to continue to bear fruit that is solid and genuine – it remains. Verse 8 enlarges on our Lord’s fruit bearing lesson by stating, ”By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” ( John 15:8)
Fruit bearing, according to John 15:8, serves two purposes: one it glorifies God and two it demonstrates that we are really disciples of Christ. In other words, it fulfills the main purpose for which we have been created and redeemed: it glorifies God; it puts the glory of God on display. And more than that, verse 8 asserts that it also manifest the fact that we are really Christians. It does not make us Christians; that is all of God’s grace. But it does demonstrate the reality of our profession of faith.
So the questions are: do you want to really fulfill the purpose for which God made you and redeeemed you? Do you want your life to be a theater in which the glory of God is clearly and vividly displayed? Do you want to fulfill the purpose for which He saved you? Do you want to prove to be Christ’s disciple? Well then Jesus says you can do all these things by bearing fruit, more fruit, much fruit.
But you may ask, what is the fruit I am to bear that will accomplish these purposes? An answer comes from a message I heard yesterday which was preached by my good friend Pastor Lance Quinn at The Bible Church of Little Rock. Lance used an acrostic to define the fruit that fulfills the fruit bearing lessons of Jesus in John 15. I simply give you his outline. In the message , he said that the fruit God wants us to bear is:
F = Fear of God – Psalm 128:1 -3;Ecclesiastes 12:13;
R = Righteousness – Psalm 92:12 – 15;
U = Understanding of God, His Word, His purposes, etc. – Proverbs 3:13; 4:5; 5:1; 8:14; 16:22;
I = Integrity = Psalm 15:1,2; 25:21; 41:12; Proverbs 10:9; 19:1; Job 2:3; 27:5
Trust in God = Jeremiah 17:5 – 8; Nehemiah 1:11; John 15:4.
There is, of course, much more to this fruit bearing for which Jesus chose us than we’ve noticed in this blog or even in Lance’s whole message, but this is a start. I challenge you to go further by using your concordance and checking it out for yourself by looking up the many references that talk about the source of our fruit bearing, the nature of the fruit we’re to bear, the requirements for fruit bearing and the results of our fruit bearing and the awful warning to those who make a profession of faith but bear no fruit in their lives.
I'm never going to be on Larry King Live and I'm thankful for that. People like Dr. Mohler and Dr. MacArthur do an amazing job at it and I'm glad they do. I do think it is fun though to listen to Larry's questions and think about how I might answer if I were in that position.
For example, take last night's discussion about homosexuality.
Larry King asks… click here for the rest of the article.
To diminish your PQ (pride quotient) and increase your HQ (humility quotient) we encourage you to take this inventory and then confess, repent, plan how and where you need to change and then put your plan into practice.
Take the following True Humility Inventory which is designed to evaluate our pride and humility quotient. Since humility is considered by God to be such an important quality and since we are so prone to be proud, this inventory can be helpful in promoting spiritual growth in our lives. Read through each of the manifestations of humility and then rate yourself using the following rating scale: 4 = always true of you; 3 = frequently true of you; 2 = sometimes; 1 = seldom; 0 = never. On the items where you recognized your lack of humility, confess that lack to God as a sin and ask Him for help to change. Periodically, complete this inventory to promote spiritual growth in humility. Perhaps you would like to ask an honest, brave and loving friend to evaluate how he/she would rate you on these items.
True Humility in terms of our behavior toward men:
1. I am not selfishly ambitious or greedy of the honor and appreciation of men. ____
2. I am not ostentatious around people; I don’t try to impress people with my intelligence or abilities or status in life. ____
3. I am not arrogant or assuming or presumptuous in my behavior toward people. ____
4. I am not scornful nor contemptuous or demeaning to people. ____
5. I am not willful nor stubborn in my behavior toward people. ____
6. I don’t seek to level those who are over me or have authority over me;
I show respect for and am willing to submit to God ordained authorities. ____
7. I show respect for and am willing to submit to others who are not as educated or gifted as I may be. ____
8. I am not defensive when others rebuke me or criticize me. ____
9. I am willing to confess my sins and faults to others and frequently do so. ____
10. I am willing to accept instruction and correction from others. ____
11. I am willing to serve others and not be upset when I don’t receive appreciation for what I’ve done. ____
12. It doesn’t bother me when others are honored more than I am. ____
13. It doesn’t bother me when others are honored for something I’ve done. ____
14. I am willing to sacrificially serve others even if they are not willing to serve or help me. ____
15. I am willing to sacrificially serve others even if it involves hardship and difficulty. ____
16. I am willing to listen to others rather than talk or express my opinion. ____
17. I am willing to seek and follow good counsel. ____
18. When I must make decisions I seek the input and perspectives of others before acting. ____
19. I display a lifestyle of truthfulness even if others may be upset with me for telling the truth about what I have done or said. ____
20. I am Christlike in my attitude and words and actions toward others.. ____
(Adapted from Wayne and Joshua Mack’s book, Humility: A Forgotten Virtue, P& R Publishers)