“What sort of parent rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 70).
Enjoying God Blog
This past Saturday I spoke at a men’s retreat here in the OKC area. One of the things I focused on was why men struggle so much with repentance. That’s not to say women don’t have their own problems with it, but I typically find that men are less inclined to repent than women. They are more given to rationalization and self-defense. Why? Here are a few possible reasons.
(1) Satan and the world system have led men to believe the lie that their value or worth as men, indeed, as human beings, is dependent on something other than what Christ has done for them and who they are in Christ by faith alone. If a man believes that other people hold the power to determine his value or worth, he will always be reluctant to reveal anything about his inner life that may cause their estimation of him to diminish.
(2) Sinful pride has put them in bondage to a false belief: namely, that their worth or value as a man is dependent on others thinking that they have it all together; that they are so strong that sin could never exert a sovereign power over their lives; that they are too wise and discerning to be taken captive by sin; that they would lose their position in society and in the church if it became known to anyone that they struggle with certain sins (might they lose clients and potential future business opportunities?); that they would no longer be respected and highly regarded as spiritually mature by people in the church (and thus forfeit any chance for promotion) if it were known that they were susceptible to temptation.
In sum, men don’t repent because they are preeminently committed to saving face. They fear exposure because they fear rejection, mockery, and exclusion. And these are fearful realities only to those who do not yet sufficiently grasp that they are accepted, cherished, valued, and included by Christ.
(3) A toxic and dysfunctional church culture has created an atmosphere in which an
April 22, 2013 0 Comments
Today, April 22, 2013, John Piper posted a letter (www.desiringgod.org) that he wrote to a grieving mother following the stillborn death of her son. I, too, have had women in my church who've endured this sort of devastating loss (one as recently as Saturday). I thought many of you might profit from reading it.
Earlier this year, a grieving mother, who recently had given birth to a stillborn son, wrote to me asking for counsel and comfort. The team at Desiring God thought this letter might be helpful to some others, whether other mothers who have lost infants, parents who have lost young children, or perhaps even more broadly.
This loss and sorrow is all so fresh. I hesitate to tread into the tender place and speak. But since you ask, I pray that God would help me say something helpful.
First, please know that I know I don’t know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers know that. I say “lifeless body” because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.
I do not know what age — what level of maturity and development — he will have in that day. I don’t know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.
God’s crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, tha
“It sounds really spiritual to say God is interested in a relationship, not in rules. But it’s not biblical. From top to bottom the Bible is full of commands. They aren’t meant to stifle a relationship with God, but to protect it, seal it, and define it” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 45).
Listen closely to what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 - “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” If their love is to increase, indeed if our love for one another is to increase, God has to make it happen.
Yes, we are responsible to love others, to do whatever is needed to clear away obstacles and to extend forgiveness and to overcome bitterness and jealousy and envy and rivalry and all the sinful impulses that hinder us from loving others. Yet it is clear that Paul believed God must be present and prior, working in our hearts to make this possible.
After all, if love were entirely within our power to produce, why would Paul have bothered in praying for it? He goes to the throne of grace and asks God to work in the hearts of these people to alert them to ways in which their love is weak and self-serving, asks him to enlighten their minds to see the depths of how God has loved them in Christ, and pleads with God that his Spirit might convict them and stir them and empower them and enable them to overcome the defensiveness and selfishness that so often hinders our love for others.
Love can increase far beyond what we think is possible. We may believe that we have loved to the full extent possible for us, that our hearts are stretched to the breaking, that we have at some point reached the limit of what is reasonable to ask of a human being, but Paul evidently believed that love could grow and expand and become increasingly more passionate and authentic and could express itself in far more concrete and tangible ways than we have even begun to imagine. Here’s how he put it in Philippians 1:9-11 –
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled
I’m happy to announce that my new book, Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions, is now available. Crossway, under the Re:Lit label (a ministry of the Resurgence), has done a tremendous job. Lord willing, there will be a second volume to follow in a year or so with answers to 25 more challenging questions. But for now, the 366 pages of this first volume will have to suffice!
Even though Amazon currently lists it as not available until April 30, and thus only subject to pre-order, my guess is that this will change in the next day or so. We received copies at Bridgeway today. The really good news is that Amazon lists it at a 47% discount! You can click on the book at the bottom of the right hand column and it will take you to Amazon.
Here are some of the endorsements it has received.
Tough Topics offers every questioning person an opportunity to press thoughtfully into the Bible’s answers. Sam Storms is that rare guide we all are looking for—fair-minded, with no axe to grind. I cheerfully commend Tough Topics for your tough questions!”
—Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“Let’s face it, the church has not always done the best possible job at fielding the hard questions posed to it by both skeptics and members. In the case of the first group, skeptics end up discounting Christianity, dismissing it as irrational, head-in-the-sand religious fanaticism. In the case of the second group, members become frustrated with the Christian faith and often drift away from what they have found to be a shallow, inconsistent, and quite unsatisfying worldview. Sam Storms is a leader whom the Lord has wonderfully gifted not only to answer the tough questions, but also to provide an accessible resource for Christian leaders to be better prepared to engage skeptics and church members who wrestle w
“You can think of holiness, to employ a metaphor, as the sanctification of your body. The mind is filled with the knowledge of God and fixed on what is good. The eyes turn away from sensuality and shudder at the sight of evil. The mouth tells the truth and refuses to gossip, slander, or speak what is coarse or obscene. The spirit is earnest, steadfast, and gentle. The heart is full of joy instead of hopelessness, patience instead of irritability, kindness instead of anger, humility instead of pride, and thankfulness instead of envy. The sexual organs are pure, being reserved for the privacy of marriage between one man and one woman. The feet move toward the lowly and away from senseless conflict, divisions, and wild parties. The hands are quick to help those in need and ready to fold in prayer. This is the anatomy of holiness” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 41).
Tertullian (@ 200 a.d.) was one of the greatest of the early church fathers and was actually the first man to use the word “Trinity” to describe the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He lived and wrote at a time when opposition to Christianity and the Church was intensifying. Although Tertullian was an apologist, which is to say he devoted himself to defining and defending the Christian faith against its critics, he was quick to point out that it wasn’t any particular theological or philosophical argument that would ultimately persuade pagans of the truth about Jesus. Rather it was the seemingly inexplicable love that Christians had one for another that initially baffled and finally captivated non-Christians. In one memorable statement, Tertullian said this:
“It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, "[see] how they love one another, . . . How they are ready even to die for one another!’ No tragedy causes trouble in our brotherhood, [and] the family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us [except] our wives. (Apology 39).
This really shouldn’t come as any surprise to us, given that it was Jesus who said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Neither should it come as any surprise to us that when Paul finally gets around to defining the content of his prayers for the Philippians he puts their love one for another at the center of it. In other words, it is in Philippians 1:9-11 that Paul unpacks in considerably more detail precisely what he had in mind when he said in 1:3-6 that he prayed for the Philippians. Here is the content of his intercession:
No one other than those present during the recent conclave in Rome know all the reasons why an Argentine Cardinal is now Pope Francis. But I read one interesting theory in a fascinating article by Jamie Dean in World magazine (April 6, 2013).
Some theorize that the selection of this particular man may be “an attempt to stop the decline in the number of Catholics” throughout Latin America. I’m sure that Pope Francis has numerous qualities that contributed to his selection. But one cannot dismiss the reality that Latin America has experienced a dramatic rise in the number of evangelical Protestants during the last thirty or so years.
According to Dean, “in 1900, the region was almost entirely Catholic. Evangelicals comprised about 1 percent of the population. By 2010, that number had jumped to as much as 17 percent. In Brazil, the number is even higher: In a decade, evangelicals grew from 15.4 percent of the population to more than 22 percent – about 42 million people.”
One reason for this remarkable growth pattern is the explosion in the number of Pentecostals, “the [now] predominant group among evangelicals in Latin America.”
On the other hand, “Operation World attributes much of the evangelical growth to ‘the steady, faithful proclamation and witness of tens of thousands of laymen and pastors planting small churches out of a passion for the gospel.’ Another encouraging trend: Latin American nations are sending a steady number of missionaries to other nations around the world.”
These growth patterns have not gone unnoticed by leaders in Rome; thus the speculation that the selection of Pope Francis may, at least in part, have been a strategic move designed to exert a greater influence in a region once dominated by Catholicism.
April 18, 2013 1 Comments
Countless Christians motivate themselves to obey the call of Christ with the constant reminder of the dreadful consequences of failure or the shameful humiliation of “getting caught” in sin. It is more the terrifying prospect of public exposure than the allure of heavenly joy that accounts for how they live.
Others have embraced the truth that the only way to liberate the heart from servitude to the passing pleasure of sin is by cultivating a passion for the joy and delight of beholding the beauty of Jesus. They have discovered that what elevates the human soul and empowers it to live in the fullness of its created purpose is not religious intimidation or new rules or an anxiety induced by spiritual scoldings. It is faith in the promise that the enjoyment sin brings is fleeting and futile but at God's right hand, and in the presence of his radiant glory, are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16:11).
No one saw this more clearly or articulated it with greater passion than Jonathan Edwards. Here is what he said in Miscellany 724 (volume 18 of the Yale works):
“A being terrified with fears of wrath and seeing the dismal consequences of sin has in itself no tendency to wean the heart from sin: for true weanedness from sin doesn’t consist in being afraid of the mischief that will follow from sin, but in hating sin itself, and doesn’t arise from a sight of the dreadful consequences of sin, but from a sight of the odiousness of sin in its own nature. . . . For a man to meet with many worldly losses and disappointments has in itself no tendency to true weanedness from the world, because true weanedness from the world doesn’t consist in being beat off from the world by the affliction of it, but a being drawn off by the sight of something better” (emphasis mine).
Ah, there it is! Power over sin comes primarily from “being drawn off by the sight of something better.&rd