For centuries, Christians have considered the preaching of God’s Word to be one of the primary means of grace. In other words, it is one of the main things God uses not only to save, but to grow and sanctify His people. Does the way we view, prepare for, and listen to preaching reflect this truth? If we really believe that preaching is one of the primary tools God uses to fashion, guide, and grow us, what practices regarding sermon-listening should we develop? I’d like to offer seven.Continue reading “Seven Ways to Get More Out of Sunday Sermons”
In the book Live Sent: You Are a Letter, Jason Dukes lays out 10 questions to help Christians discern whether or not they are operating with a missional mindset. I have tweaked them and explained them below. Challenging words!
1. When you speak of church, what prepositions do you use?
Do you focus on church as a place or event more than a people who are sent? We are all called to live missionally, and we as a church are to be sent out as “salt and light” to a decaying and dark world. Our church in Athens has a sign as you leave the parking lot that exhibits this mindset, reading, “You are now entering your mission field.”
Jesus was very clear about the change that must take place in order to become one of his own and see the kingdom of God.
“You must be born again” John 3:7
Must I go to church? No, you must be born again. Must I pray a certain prayer? No, you must be born again. Must I give to the poor? No, you must be born again. Must I be baptized? No, you must be born again. Must I follow the law? No, you must be born again. Must I teach Sunday school or sing in the choir? No, you must be born again!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3
One of my spiritual heroes, C.H. Spurgeon, illustrated this truth this way (in my own paraphrase):
Suppose that in England, there should be a law passed that admission to courts, preference to office, and any privileges in the nation were only given to the natural born citizens of the country. What then, would court officials say if an native Indian man came to them and said, “I will change my name” or “I will change my dress” or “I will change my family, my friends,” or “I will learn the language” or “I will work for it!” You see none of these things could admit the man, for the law is absolute, the man must be an natural born citizen to obtain the privileges, and he is not.
This illustration also correlates with us as Christians. We cannot change our names (call ourselves Christians), change the way we dress, change our friends, change our behavior, learn to talk like Christians, learn to pray like Christians, give away our money, help the poor, or do any type of Christian service. For God’s statement is clear: “You must be born again.”
This new birth is a sweeping process which is more than a change, it is a creation. Not just reformation, but regeneration. Not just becoming religious, but being born. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come.”
Do you exhibit a different life than you did before? Do you now hate the very things you used to love? Have your desires changed? Do you have a hunger for reading and understanding God’s Word? Do you desire to be around other believers? Can you persist in sin? What is your attitude towards sin- are you brokenhearted over it? or are you still indifferent to it? To whom have you entrusted your whole life to?
We cannot bring about these changes ourselves, nor make ourselves “born again.” We are only born again of the Spirit, the power of God. Salvation is a magnificent work where a soul is saved and made completely new. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who can bring about this new creation in us.
It is imperative to understand that he brings about this change. “Behold” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Dear friend, you must be made new; you must be born again! I paraphrase Mr. Spurgeon again, “Christ can make you really pure in heart; he can make you a new creature, so that you shall be converted and become as a little child. “Oh!” say you, “how can I get it? How can I prepare myself for him?” You do not want to prepare yourself for him. Go to him just as you are; trust him to do it, and he will do it. That is faith, you know–trust, dependence. Can you believe that Christ can save you? Oh! you can believe that; well now, will you trust him to save you? Will you trust him to deliver you from your drunkenness, from your angry temper, your pride, your love of self, your lusts? Do you desire to be a new creature in Christ Jesus? If so, that very desire must have come from heaven. I could fain hope that he has already begun the good work in you, and he that begins it will carry it on.”
“”Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Savior.” (Spurgeon, A New Creation, published July 15, 1915.)
This year, my family, some friends and I are reading through the book of John counting down to Christmas. Each day we are reading a chapter and I am writing an analysis. Please join us! Today is John Chapter 1.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God.” (verses 1-2).
In the very beginning of the book of John, we are given a clear representation of who Jesus is. From these first two verses, what are we told? That in the beginning, the Word was there, with God, and was God. So who or what is this “Word?” None other than Jesus himself! Skim down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aha! Now we can read these “Word” verses with this knowledge in mind. Lets summarize what this section tells us about Jesus:
- In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. (v.1)
- He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (v.2)
- All things were made through him (Jesus), and nothing was made without him. (v.3)
- In him (Jesus) is life, and he is the light of men. (v.4)
- Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (v.14)
Is this odd that John starts with these deep truths about Jesus right at the beginning? Why would he do that? I believe he was intentional about it, because he believed it was absolutely crucial to understand that Jesus was God in the form of a man, to understand the gospel at all!
So what else is unique here? (besides John the Baptist, I will write of him in a later post). Look at this verse, “No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18). What does this tell us? The 2nd time the verse says “God,” it is referring to Jesus! Some older manuscripts read “The only Son…..has made him known.” We could also read this verse now thinking of Jesus: “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
So Jesus has come to make God known, and so that we can know Him! As we read on in John, we will see that because of our sinful condition, this was the only possible way that we could be made right with God. The Bible calls this “knowing God” eternal life; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
We will see as we continue reading that Jesus came to accomplish this very purpose, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). But first he must live a life of perfect obedience, offer up his life by being nailed to a cross, and rise from the grave to do so. I hope you will join my family and me as we continue to read the gospel of John this Christmas season, as we strive to know God through the amazing gift he has given us: Jesus!
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, KJV)
To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins–egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion–are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy.
They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice….
Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment.
“Oh Lord, do that ‘work of God in destruction’ within me today. I am indeed ‘crucified with Christ.’ I pray this morning that the cross would obliterate the self-sins in my life and let me live only for Jesus Christ and His glory. Amen.” (Tozer on Christian Leadership, November 15)