Self-Proclaimed or Called?

This is an excerpt from a terrific article by Terry Delaney over at the Said at Southern weblog:

We are more than happy to flex our theological brain power in a debate, but what about actually living  what we believe? I am the first to admit that I am a hypocrite in that I do not always practice what I preach, but that does not excuse me from behaving in a manner worthy of my calling. The same is probably true for most of us.  How many of us would be found in compliance with the commandment given by Jesus in John 13:34, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The very next thing Jesus says is that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As Baptists we could probably learn a thing or two about loving one another.  For example, though there are some that are able to discuss the subject of Calvinsim and agree to disagree, there are many who cannot.  This is antithetical to what Christ taught.  I think we should strive to be called Christians rather than telling everyone that we are a Christian.

I am not saying that we should quit preaching the gospel with our mouths.  This is the means by which God has ordained that His people will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:14-17).  However, if we do not live out our faith in opposition to the world, then can we really preach the gospel effectively?  It is my prayer that we who proclaim Christ with our lips will do so with our lives as well.

Via: Said at Southern

I Have a Shelter

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

—Words and Music by Steve & Vikki Cook and Bob Kauflin
Copyright 2008 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music
From the album Come Weary Saints

Related: Free MP3 download of “I Have a Shelter” available from Sovereign Grace Music

Heaven and Hell

This world is the closest the unbeliever will ever come to heaven, and this world is the closest the follower of Jesus Christ will ever come to hell.

—Randy Alcorn
Resolved 2008 Session 2

Related: You can download the message at the Resolved.

Are You a Lone-Ranger Christian?

The following audio excerpt is from John Piper’s first sermon in a short series on the importance of church membership.

The message was entitled “How Important is Church Membership?” and I thought these two quotes were particularly insightful:

The New Testament knows of no Christians who are not accountable members of local churches in the sense that we have just seen. “Lone-Ranger Christians” are a contradiction because becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. It seems to us that in the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ. This is why the issue of membership is so important.

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.

Related: You can read or download the message at Desiring God.

John Piper: How to Hear the Word of God

What does Jesus mean when he says,

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away (Luke 8:18)?

He is applying the parable of the four soils (Luke 8:12-15). Notice the connection between “take care how you hear,” and the focus in hearing in the parable.

  1. “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word.”
  2. “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”
  3. “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life.”
  4. “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

The point of that parable is that three out of four ways to “hear” result in the word being “taken away.” So Jesus says, “Take care how you hear.” It is infinitely important whether we hear like the three soils and lose what we heard, or hear like the fourth soil and bear fruit with what we heard.

Jesus motivates us to “take care how you hear” by saying two things, the first relating to the fourth soil, the second relating to the first three soils.

  1. “. . . for to the one who has, more will be given. . .”
    When we hear and “hold it fast in a honest and good heart,” we bear fruit. That is, more [fruit] is given to those already have [the word held fast by an honest and good heart].
  2. “. . . and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
    The first three ways of hearing are deceived. They “think” they have the word, but they don’t. And even this illusion will be destroyed some day: “What he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

When you hear preaching or read your Bible take hold of it like a miser taking hold of gold and silver. Take hold of it like a pearl of great price and a treasure in a field. Take hold of it like a drowning man seizes a float. Fight off every word-destroying demonic bird and burning affliction and deceitful desire. Then you will “have” and “more will be given.” You will bear fruit with patience.

Via: Desiring God Blog