Archive for May, 2008

It is easy to be duped into thinking that just a little error is harmless and will not matter. And yet Scripture teaches otherwise. Pastor and author Joshua Harris speaks of “half a poison pill” to describe the mindset of many Christians in which they think repeated exposure to just a little bit of evil will not harm them. These Christians seem to think they have a sin threshold beyond which they dare not go. Yet these people may as well ask just how much of a poison pill they need to swallow before it kills them. “The greatest danger of the popular media is not a one-time exposure to a particular instance of sin (as serious as that can be). It’s how long-term exposure to worldliness—little chunks of poison pill, day after day, week after week—can deaden our hearts to the ugliness of sin. Repeated exposure to error can lead us to unwittingly swallow a lethal dose. Error may be subtle but it is always deadly.

The truth is under attack more today than at any other time in history and this should not be surprising in a culture that so values religious freedom and tolerance. Add to such an accepting culture unparalleled speed of communication and the ability to publish books and other writings quickly and easily, and we can rightly conclude that error is being spread with startling speed and efficiency. What the church needs today is a class of believers who are identified as the experts in discernment and as those who have special ability in this area.–Tim Challies, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

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It is judging out of season, and judging at an adventure. (Paul) is not to be understood of judging by persons in authority, within the verge of their office, nor of private judging concerning facts that are notorious; but of judging persons’ future state, or the secret springs and principles of their actions, or about facts doubtful in themselves. To judge in these cases, and give decisive sentence, is to assume the seat of God and challenge His prerogative. Note, how bold a sinner is the forward and severe censurer! How ill-timed and arrogant are his censures! But there is one who will judge the censurer, and those he censures, without prejudice, passion or partiality. And there is a time coming when men cannot fail judging aright concerning themselves and others, by following His judgment. This should make them now cautious of judging others, and careful in judging themselves.– Matthew Henry.

It is important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term “true truth.” In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man, and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge.– Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason

“The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he is his deep heart conceives God to be like…Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” We might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God.–A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centered way of thinking; it proposes objectives which demand no radical breach with man’s fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a “fool for Christ’s sake.” Worldliness is the mindset of the unregenerate. It adopts idols an is at war with God.–Iain Murray

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What is truth?

John MacArthur writes

“Biblical Faith…is rational. It is reasonable. It is intelligent. It makes good sense. And spiritual truth is meant to be rationally contemplated, examined, logically, studied, analyzed, and employed as the only reliable basis for making wise judgments. That process is precisely what Scripture calls discernment.

Like MacArthur, Greg Koukl concludes, “When the Bible talks about discernment—when it talks about assessing spiritual things—it’s talking about a rational assessment based on objective criterion. You can’t be ‘too much in your head’ when it comes to spiritual discernment. Using your head is spiritual discernment, if you’re using the truth properly.” Spiritual discernment is a pursuit that must always engage the mind. We discern truth from error and right from wrong by using our minds to search Scripture, to recall Scripture, and to compare everything to Scripture. Without the Bible and its objective truths there can be no discernment.

Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural, but rather truth spelled with a capital ‘T’. Truth about total reality, not just about religious things. Biblical Christianity is Truth concerning total reality—and the intellectual holding of that total Truth and then living in the light of that Truth.

And what is truth?

“Here’s a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches:Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the self-expression of God. Truth is the biblical meaning of truth…Truth is theological. Truth is what God thinks; it is what God does; it is what God is; it is what God has revealed of Himself in the Bible. Truth is found in its fullest form in God, for His is truth; He is the very source and origin of all truth.

Quote from Tim Challies, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

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Eternal Glory of the sky,
Blest Hope of frail humanity,
The Father’s sole begotten One,
Yet born a spotless virgin’s Son!

Uplift us with Thine arm of might,
And let our hearts rise pure and bright,
And, ardent in God’s praises, pay
The thanks we owe him every day.

The day-star’s rays are glittering clear,
And tell that day itself is near:
The shadows of the night depart;
Thou, holy Light, illume the heart!

Within our senses ever dwell,
And worldly darkness thence expel;
Long as the days of life endure,
Preserve our souls devout and pure.

The faith that first must be possessed,
Root deep within our inmost breast;
And joyous hope in second place,
Then charity, Thy greatest grace.

All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.

(By Ambrose of Milan)

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Quotes on discernment

Here are some short takes from Tim Challies’ recent book on discernment.

“Discernment is a discipline, and like other disciplines such as prayer and reading the Bible, it is one that all Christians should seek to practice and should seek to practice deliberately. If we are to be a people who show our love for the Lord by faithfully serving Him, it is a discipline we must practice.–Challies

“The recipients of this letter [Hebrews] were like many Christians today who think that theology is a waste of time. What difference does it make, people ask, whether God is a Trinity or not, whether Christ’s righteousness comes by imputation or infusion, and whether regeneration comes before faith or after? What is important, they say, is that we get along with each other. Then they cite passages commending a childlike faith, as if that were the same thing as a childish faith, that is, one that is indifferent to or ignorant of the Word of God. Richard Philips, Hebrews

“To lack discernment is to sin against God. It is an inevitable result of turning from Him. It is easy to look at those who have turned from God and to look at their lustful and angry hearts and affirm that this is the result of their sin. When a Christian falls into moral sin he may well examine his life to determine how he has turned his back on God, but is the same true when he exhibits a lack of discernment? A wise pastor writes, “to willingly neglect the truth and to live with our eyes closed shut while good and evil stare us in the face is to sin against God, ourselves, our families, and our Church…Again, this is worth stating over and over again. It is the responsibility of every Christian to learn, to be discipled in the Word, so that we can know how to be discerning. To fail to discern is to walk in darkness.”–Tim Challies

“The Church of our day urgently needs to heed the message of this second letter of Paul to Timothy. For all around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp of the gospel, fumbling it, in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether. A new generation of young Timothys is needed, who will guard the sacred deposit of the gospel, who are determined to proclaim it and are prepared to suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation which in due course will rise up to follow them.–John Stott, 1&2 Timothy

On the relativism in our culture:  “Every idea is a shade of gray. There is no right and wrong or true and false, but only shades of right and wrong or true and false spread along a continuum. The poles of this continuum are extended so far out towards the wings that for all practical purposes they are unattainable and therefore worthless. Nothing, then, is wholly right or wrong. All is relative; most of it is subjective.–Jay Adams, A Call To Discernment

Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.–Tim Challies

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C. J. Mahaney offers some biblical counsel to dads as they lead on the next family vacation. He discusses the following themes:

1. A Servant Heart
2. A Tone-Setting Attitude
3. An Awareness of Indwelling Sin
4. Studying Your Family
5. Skillful Surprises
6. Intentionally Together
7. Gratefulness to God

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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Good books are worth re-reading.  I don’t know how many times I have read Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, but it is one of the most underlined, marked-up books I have.

I have read the book at various seasons of life:  as a young seminarian and pastor just starting out in life with very few resources.  As a father of very young children.  And now as one with one son in college and a daughter about ready to graduate from high school. Every time my soul is fed and challenged.

This week in preparation for my discipleship group with other men I read his chapter on stewarship of time and money.  And here were some thoughts that riveted my thinking over the last few days.

  • I will give to the extent that I believe God will provide for me and my family. My giving can be and is a tangible indication of how much faith I have that God will provide for my needs
  • How much I give is a reflection of how much I love god
  • Giving isn’t sacrificial until it is a sacrifice.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” ( 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).”

I am pondering these two questions as well:

  • What specific steps are you willing to take to implement needed changes in your giving?
  • Are you preparing, through your stewardship of time and money, to stand before God and give an account of your use of time and money?

What has God taught you about stewardship?

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“Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.”  Jeremiah 15:16

This was the theme verse for the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, KY over Memorial Day weekend–a gathering of hundreds of young adults who are pursuing humble orthodoxy!

Meditating on this verse and listening to the first message by Joshua Harris has challenged, rebuked and stirred my soul as I have pondered two questions:

  • Does the Word of God consume me?
  • Does the Word of God shape me? [my thinking, attitudes, views, life]

How would your soul answer these questions today? Oh, may we say anew and afresh, “Bring us the book! Give us the book!”

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Discernment is “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong” (Tim Challies).

If the above definition is true (and I think it is), where should discernment start? I propose that it starts with how one thinks of God. A. W. Tozer wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He goes on to say,

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may so or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. . . .Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightest word in any language is its word for God.

Trace any error in doctrine or religion and you will see that it began with some wrong view of God. Our thoughts about God shape everything else.

So discernment starts with your view of God. This is discernment 101. If you want to be able to discern between truth and error, you have to make sure you know God or else, in the words of J. I. Packer, “you sentences yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

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I have been reading a chapter on the spiritual discipline of time and thinking about this issue with a group of encouraging men.  One of the truths that fascinates me is that Jesus never seemed emotionally or physically rushed.  He ministered long hours and frequently under circumstances that wrung a lot out of him, humanly speaking.   His ministry was spiritually demanding.

But Jesus was a man who cultivated relationships, rested and enjoyed moments of relaxation.  Jesus never wasted an hour of time but he never seemed rush.  At the end of his life, he could say, “Father, I have completed the work you sent Me to do” (John 17:4).

Jesus is our Model in the disciplined use of time. And what is amazing is that in the middle of everything, he was never too busy for people.  Oh, how convicted I felt after reading this article (highly recommended), realizing how often I think “I’m too busy!”

Amazing!  Jesus never was too busy! He always had time and He always will!

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