December 2016

God is Changing Us—But How?

by David Powlison

“Sanctification” is the five syllable word used to describe the process by which we are reborn and then grow in a new way of life as followers of Jesus. But how does your growth in grace actually work? And how does ministry encourage and support growth in someone else? We need to pay attention to how God changes people. One interesting characteristic is that all Christians already have some first-hand experience. Every Christian can say: “This was key in helping me when I struggled with that in those circumstances.” Those stories teach us a lot.

But first-hand experience also presents a danger. It is easy to turn your own experience into a general rule: “This must be the key for everyone.” Both Scripture and personal testimony teach us that there is no single formula for the kinds of problems that call for our sanctification. There is no single formula for the kinds of change that sanctification produces in us. There is no single formula for the truths and other factors that produce change. There is variety in how God changes people. Here are two stories from my own walk with Jesus to illustrate the key things that helped me—with my particular struggles in my particular circumstances.

Story 1. August 31, 1975

When I was 25 years old I came to Christian faith. My conversion was dramatic. In high school I had become preoccupied with existential questions: “What lasts? What is meaningful? Who am I?” Four lines of development gave force and shape to my search.

First, in my teens I became estranged from the nominal version of church-going in which I had been raised. I never heard that Jesus Christ was anything more than a moral example. Christianity, as I experienced it, seemed like a polite veneer for people who didn’t want to face hard realities.

Mon, 12/26/2016 - 19:16 -- john_hendryx

Why Did God Become Flesh?

Why did God become flesh? Was it to teach us to be good to each other? No! That would be putting the cart before the horse. We humans have proven repeatedly that we cannot do good to others as we ought. No, rather God came in mercy and in grace because, try as we may, we cannot save ourselves. The human condition is beyond mere human remedy. There is no political, psychological or moral solution to the world's ills. If we could fulfill the righteous requirements of the law by our own efforts (or merit) then it would have been completely unnecessary for God to become incarnate in Jesus Christ.
While I can deeply appreciate, and applaud, attempts at doing good to our neighbors, social concern, activism and being moral ... yet, independent from God these acts fall woefully short of what is needful to extract humanity out of its deep mire. We are captive to our own pride, greed and lusts. Until we, by grace, realize that all of our attempts are self-defeating then we will go on in our foolish tower building. The history and trajectory of humanity itself should be enough to demonstrate this to you ... technology may have improved exponentially, but we haven't ... even the best of us. And if you could see all of what is in my own heart you would spit in my face. You may be thinking .. "but the message is just too depressing. I cannot bear it" Perhaps, but it is facing reality. We ought to be more concerned about what is true than simply how it makes us feel.
But thanks be to God, the message of the gospel is that our rescue does not come from within but from without. In the end, we need grace ... and that is the reason I follow Jesus, my only hope. It is in grace alone that we behold the truth, beauty and excellency of Christ, come to know our own true condition in the face of God.
Sun, 12/25/2016 - 10:04 -- john_hendryx

How's Your Prayer Life?

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What is the place of prayer in your life? What prominence does it have in our lives? It is a question that I address to all. It is as necessary that it should reach the man who is well versed in the Scripture, and who has a knowledge of its doctrine and its theology, as that it should reach anyone else. What part does prayer play in our lives and how essential is it to us? Do we realize that without it we faint? Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life. It is more important than knowledge and understanding. Do not imagine that I am detracting from the importance of knowledge. I spend most of my life trying to show the importance of having a knowledge of truth and an understanding of it. That is vitally important. There is only one thing that is more important, and that is prayer. The ultimate test of my understanding of the Scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God. Not to know about Him, but to know Him. The whole object of salvation is to bring me to a knowledge of God. I may talk learnedly about regeneration, but what is eternal life? It is that they might know Thee, the only true God in Jesus Christ whom God has sent. If all my knowledge does not lead me to prayer there is something wrong somewhere. It is meant to do that. The value of the knowledge is that it gives me such an understanding of the value of prayer, that I devote time to prayer and delight in prayer. If it does not product these results in my life, there is something wrong and spurious about it, or else I am handling it in a wrong manner.


Thu, 12/22/2016 - 12:45 -- john_hendryx

There Is No Such Thing As Chance

by John Calvin

That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, viz., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried. If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered, (Matt 10:30) will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only in so far as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet, and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure.

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 15:14 -- john_hendryx

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