Either a disciple of Jesus Christ or no Christian

by Howard Snyder

A person is either a disciple of Jesus Christ or no Christian at all. A believer either expeeriences costly, close koinonia with brothers and sisters in Christ or he or she has only the foggiest of notions as to what the Church is all about.

~ Community of the King, p. 157

Effective evangelism

by Howard Snyder

The way to work effectively toward the Kingdom today is not primarily through emphasizing evangelism or social justice as things in themselves, but through the rediscovery of the Church as the community of the King. When the church is the Church biblically understood, it grows and infects the world with an epidemic of health. . . . Kingdom faithfulness is a matter of removing the hindrances to life and growth.

~ Community of the King, p. 191

Spontaneity In Worship

by Bob Kauflin at The Resurgence blog

If planning is classical music, spontaneity is jazz. Both are important for serving the church faithfully with our gifts.

Pursuing spontaneity isn’t simply about breaking our routine or being creative. We want the Spirit to manifest his power through us in as many ways as possible so people’s hearts and lives can be affected. Spontaneity can be a means to that end.

Spirit-directed spontaneity

From passages like 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we see that the early church exercised spontaneous spiritual gifts that were “manifestations of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Martin Lloyd-Jonesencouraged preachers in such Spirit-directed spontaneity, and his comments can easily be applied to those who lead congregational worship:

    Do you expect anything to happen to you when you get up to preach in the pulpit?… [S]eek His power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when this power comes, yield to Him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let Him loose you, let him manifest His power in you and through you. (As quoted by Tony Sargent in The Sacred Anointing, 57)

Freedom to Respond

Spontaneity give us the freedom to respond to present needs and promptings and can increase our awareness of the Spirit’s active presence. This could include an unplanned comment, a prayer, a Scripture reading, or a prophecy. Smaller churches may be able to do this more frequently, but even in a large church we can make room for unplanned moments. Whether your church is big or small, it’s important that contributions are evaluated by a pastor. Valuing spontaneity doesn’t negate the need for wise leadership.

Charles Spurgeon shared these wise thoughts about spontaneous impressions:

I have been the subject of such impressions myself, and have seen very singular results. But to live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you. ~ (From Sermon #878, A Well Ordered Life)

However, “to live by impressions” is different from simply being receptive and responsive to them. If our feet are firmly planted in the sufficiency of God’s Word, we are then more prepared to benefit from listening for the voice of the Spirit as we lead.

Here are a few practices and principles that have helped me grow in spontaneity, both spoken and musical, over the years:

  1. Don’t plan to do too much. Too many items on the agenda limits interaction with the Spirit and the congregation. If this happens, we can’t repeat songs or parts of songs for emphasis, and we certainly can’t expect anyone to have time to actually think about what we’re singing.
  2. Practice musical spontaneity alone. Sing your prayers or Scripture, make up a new melody to familiar words, or make up new words to a familiar melody. Break out of your routine.
  3. Practice spontaneity with your team.  That sounds like a paradox, but it’s helpful to work out with your band how and when to listen for your direction. Some musicians do this naturally, others don’t have a clue.

Spontaneity isn’t an end in itself. But it can open doors that will enable us to regularly experience a fresh awareness of the Spirit’s presence when we gather.

Little decisions are of infinite importance

by C.S. Lewis

Good and evil increase at compound interest. That’s why the little decisions we make every day are of infinite importance.

The Ironies of the Cross

by D.A. Carson

1) The man who is mocked as king – is king.

2) The man who is utterly powerless – is powerful.

3) The man who can`t save himself – saves others.

4) The man who cries out in despair – trusts God.

~ Scandalous: the cross and resurrection of Jesus, p.36

 

If you are right with God

by C.S. Lewis

If you are right with God you will inevitably be right with all your fellow-creatures.

The justification and vindication of believers

by Cornelis Venema

[T]he resurrection of Christ represents the justification and vindication of believers. Since Christ bore the consequences of sin on behalf of his people on the cross, his resurrection was God’s declaration of both his and his people’s righteousness. The great and complex event of Christ’s death and resurrection constitutes the basis for the positive verdict of justification for all who are in union with him through faith. In the death of Christ, the trespasses of his people were punished; in the resurrection of Christ, the justification of his people was declared. The justification of believers occurs by virtue of their participation in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection on their behalf.

– The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ: An Assessment of the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul, 44

 

Missing Jesus in your Bible

Here is a blog that fits exactly into our small group study of Jesus Manifesto by Dave Dorr

Two opposite errors exist in approaching the Bible. One is not to read it. The other is to know it so well that you miss Jesus. Jesus pointed out this error: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Are you surprised to believe this error exists? We constantly talk about reading and studying the Bible as an unqualified good. But clearly, the way we read the Bible is just as important as reading it.

Missing Jesus

So how can you know if you might be reading the Bible, looking for life, but missing Jesus completely? Here are a few clues:

  • You read the Bible to reinforce what you believe, not challenge what you believe.
  • You imagine yourself as the type of person who believes the things you read about.
  • You think the things you read are especially applicable for people you know, but not for you.
  • You imagine yourself as the hero of the story, not the person or people who are unbelieving. You frequently ask in your heart, “How could these people be so unbelieving?” For instance, when you read the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert you might say, “How could those Israelites grumble about food and drink when they just saw God part the Red Sea?” But you are completely blind to how you grumble at work or home when you’re afraid of losing something.
  • You love the attention garnered from your knowledge of the Bible, but give little thought to how you have applied what you have read.

Maybe the Bible should come with a warning label: “Beware: reading this book incorrectly will make you twice as fit for hell as when you began.”

Don’t miss Jesus. Go to him and find life.

Fight Sin Well: Belief Before Behavior

by Yancey Arrington

Everyone knows we are in a fight with sin. Everyone understands what it’s like to get in the cage with a sin that “owns” you and find yourself face down on the mat, time and time again. There is no question sin is a very tough and incredibly strong opponent. But did you know the gospel liberates believers in Christ from the power of sin? Do you realize that sin does not have to be your master anymore?

Sin Doesn’t Own You Anymore

In the past we did sin’s bidding no matter what, but as a follower of Jesus, sin does not own us any longer. This is the gospel’s beautiful work in us through Christ, of which the great hymn Rock of Ages proclaims:

Be of sin the double cure,

cleanse me from its guilt and power.

It is also why the gospel is critically important in trying to defeat any sin we struggle with in life. Christ’s work on the cross is not only significant for those who are seeking Jesus, but also those who have found and are trying to follow him.

The Gospel Isn’t Elementary

Unfortunately, many promote the idea that while the unbeliever needs to receive the work of Jesus on the cross (i.e., the gospel), what one needs most after conversion are the spiritual disciplines of discipleship. The gospel was elementary, now it’s time to “do the disciplines” and employ other means in order to grow spiritually. Now, are the spiritual disciplines bad? Not at all! Indeed, they are critical to fighting sin and growing in Christ! There is, however, something that should precede them and give them their rightful context: the gospel.

You Can Defeat Sin with the Gospel

The gospel is not only what we need most before coming to Christ—it is what we need most after coming to Christ! Romans 6 teaches us that at the cross Jesus freed us from the penalty and power of sin. That means we have not been defeated by sin! On the contrary, the gospel makes it possible for us to win against any sin we face.

The gospel is not only what we need most before  coming to Christ—it is what we need most after  coming to Christ!

Think about that one sin which owns you—the one to which you easily and repeatedly submit. The gospel says not only do you not have to listen to its soul-shrinking temptations, but you can actually defeat it. You can tap it out in the cage of your life more often than it does you! That is the gospel’s glorious work when it comes to fighting our sin. It is the essential belief we must have in the forefront of our mind!

Belief Before Behavior

Thus, defeating sin is not first about doing things but believing truths—belief before behavior. We must grasp this! Without it we will not have lasting victory over the sins that pin us to the mat. We must believe and trust in what God has done through Jesus at the cross before we attempt any behavior to try to grow in holiness. For all who desire to tap out sin well, it is necessary to begin with the “double cure” of the gospel. The key is belief before behavior.

You can learn more about fighting sin well in Yancey Arrington’s new book Tap: Defeating The Sins That Defeats You.

 

Trying to Keep this Good Taste in my Mouth

by Erik at Irish Calvinist

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34.1)

If you spend any time at all in this Psalm you will see that David is clear about why he is intent on blessing the LORD at all times. As a quick sampling you have God’s nearness (vs. 4, 8, 9, 18), his help (vs. 4, 7, 8, 17, 22), and his sufficiency (vs. 2, 5, 6, 8). The blessing of the 34th Psalm is God himself.

Living on the other side of the cross how much more should our mouth be flavored with the sweet delight of God himself? David and the other Old Testament saints knew of God’s kindness, nearness, help and sufficiency to them and they rejoiced. However, all of these blessings that were enjoyed were but hazy prefigurements of the once anticipated, now realized blessing of having God in Christ!

God could not be any more near to you believer than he is in his beloved Son. Indeed we are united to Christ; we who were far off and alienated have been brought near by the blood of the Savior.Furthermore, God has been a help not just in rescuing us from earthly difficulties but from reaching down and pulling us from the depths of the pit. And what can we say about sufficiency and delight?To know Christ Jesus is to know the incarnation of sufficiency and he is the very meaning of delight.

In Christ the very deepest cravings of my soul are filled and satisfied. The ability to hunger for delight is a result of God’s design in creation, but it is the blessing of satisfaction that is God’s doing in his recreation! I am able to forge my innermost longings, insecurities, pains, joys, hopes, and regrets, all upon the Savior. I may fellowship with him and know that sins are forgiven, that his presence awaits me, and evermore encroaching is the day of his appearing. So my soul, when thinking rightly, makes its boast in the LORD (Ps. 34.2).

Therefore it is evermore incumbent upon us as believers to plunge ourselves at the foot of the cross to rediscover our identities. This practice cannot be too often repeated. It is here at the cross where the reality of my humble King’s death for me melts away my pride. It is here at Calvary where I see the only one who could endure to completion the undiluted, unmitigated artillery of heaven’s wrath. I see him with a victorious cry, “It is finished!” I helplessly look on with my head bowed in shame. I am there and I am humbled.

The Muslims pilgrim to Mecca to gather for prayer and find themselves assured in their religion by their work. The Christian is to daily pilgrim to Calvary, but not to be assured by our work but by the work of Christ. O’ that we might wear a path in our minds to the cross and have ourselves (mind, will, affections) calibrated by reality: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim. 1.15).

It is when we are truly fixed upon the realities of Calvary that we find ourselves engaged in the business of valuing our Savior. It is only then that we will find ourselves truly humbled and God exalted. So pull up a seat close to the cross friends, that you will have his praise continually in your mouth (Ps. 34.1)