Category Archives: encouragement

Ordinary

OrdinaryOrdinary rockExplosion, radical, risky, insane … Where are the ordinary Christians? One of the problems I have is to join the latest craze without thinking it through. Why does Biblical evangelism have to involve an explosion? Why does Biblical faith have to be radical? Why do I have to risk as a Christian? Why does God’s gracious, saving sovereignty have to be insane?

I think these words, and many like them, appeal to the worldliness of Christians. A Christian is not exploding with evangelism, radically obeying by faith, etc. A Christian is obeying the Bible and therefore pleasing God. Continue reading

Unified Congregationalism, or, doing what you didn’t think you wanted to

We had a congregational meeting tonight. We have them once a month. They range from redundant and idiosyncratic to troubling to exciting.

One passage that is often taken without context is Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them.” Often it is taken as a promise that even if an unsuccessful church event is held, God is still there.

While that’s true, Christ Jesus is there when you are alone as well. And by the grace of God the Holy Spirit indwells even you! So what’s the significance of Matthew 18:20?

The point is that Jesus is there with the congregation when it makes decisions. Matthew 18:20 completes an unpopular section where church discipline is commanded (Matthew 18:15-20). So, Jesus is there with authority in these difficult decisions about turning a church member over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:18-20). And that ensures us that other congregational decisions are made with confidence that Christ is there working His will out through His fallible and continually erring people.

So the next time you or I participate in a congregational meeting, whether you voice your vote for or against (or even abstain?), do so with confidence that the Lord is working His will. And when you get voted against and it passes, put your heart into the Lord’s work and do what you didn’t think you wanted to because your Lord Jesus was there, sovereign and glorious as ever!

Unbelief as the origin of sin

selfishI have noticed lately that I search around for validation or encouragement to a sinful degree. We had an absolutely positive business meeting last night at church. Though we had a lot to talk about it turned out great. Afterward what did I want? Validation for the ‘importance of my role’. I sought discussion on the topic that I might find compliments. I’ve found myself doing this before too.

I mention it because of a simple rule: all sin has its core in unbelief. If I fully believed passages such as Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” then I would be confident that I had nothing to boast about it my accomplishments but could only boast in Christ, His work and His work in me through His Holy Spirit. Also I would find encouragement from this verse promising that God truly is working in me (Philippians 2:12-13 too).

Now to be clear, the sinful part is not the need for encouragement. One of the things the church is called to do is encourage (Hebrews 10:23-25). But to avoid sin we must not desire encouragement above our desire to see Christ glorified for His work on the cross, His resurrection, His mediation in heaven for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us which is the only thing that causes any good to be done by us.

So let us truly take hold of God’s Word in faith to fight and rid ourselves of unbelief.

Thoughts of the Father

This struck me while reading John Owen’s Mortification of Sin (131, Crossway 2006). Luke 15:11-13a (emphasis mine)

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country

We find ourselves in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Notice how the son abandons the father and goes to a far country.

Luke 15:17-20a

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father.

Now notice the son, just by remembering the father and the father’s generosity. The son also understands the deep grace of his father, being willing to return such a great distance. And on the way back from this far country he has no money, no food yet he is sustained by the thought of the father. And he thought only of being a servant, not a son again!

How much more should we be sustained by thoughts of our Heavenly Father as we seek to follow our Lord Jesus through this life to live with Him forever as His adopted son, sharing in the great inheritance of our brother Jesus. It is worth so much more than this ragged, hungering, dirty, sin-stained walk through this far country.

The unknown people

The longer I’m at seminary the more I wonder where all these men of God go once they graduate. The vast majority serve small churches where they do not receive recognition. I thought I’d read 2 Kings 5, a story where the unnamed are important.

Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.” (2 Kings 5:1-4, NASB)

There are three people, mostly unnoticed, that this story hinges on. The first two, above, are the wife of Naaman, a Syrian commander, and her Israelite servant. The faith of the servant appears when she mentions to her mistress the ability of the prophet (Elisha) who is in Samaria. The wife, then, must have mentioned to her husband the servant’s faith and her suggestion to visit the prophet in Samaria.

Naaman visits Elisha and is told just to go wash. Naaman gets angry and leaves because of the simple instructions,

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Naaman’s servants offer wisdom at this point. They points out that it isn’t a hard thing that Naaman has to do. And if the task Elisha assigned was more difficult then Naaman probably would have gone more quickly to do it. But God heals through faith, not hard work. When Naaman does what Elisha told him, he is healed.

So Naaman’s servants, Naaman’s wife, and Naaman’s wife’s servant all serve God by directing Naaman toward salvation through faith (5:15-19).

May God be with those of us who are servants or wives of great men, may our faith and wisdom glorify God by advising and supporting the great men He has chosen.