Apathy is passionless living

by John Piper

Apathy is passionless living. It is sitting in front of the television night after night and living your life from one moment of entertainment to the next. It is the inability to be shocked into action by the steady-state lostness and suffering of the world. It is the emptiness that comes from thinking of godliness as the avoidance of doing bad things instead of the aggressive pursuit of doing good things.

If that were God’s intention for the godliness of his people, why would Paul say, ‘All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim. 3:12)? People who stay at home and watch clean videos don’t get persecuted. Godliness must mean something more public, more aggressively good.

In fact, the aim of the gospel is the creation of people who are passionate for doing good rather than settling for the passionless avoidance of evil. ‘[Christ] gave himself for us…to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works’ (Titus 2:14). The gospel produces people who are created for good works (Eph. 2:10), and have a reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10), and are rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:18), and present a model of good works (Titus 2:7), and devote themselves to good works (Titus 3:8,14), and stir each other up to good works (Heb. 10:24).

And when they set about them, the word they hear form God is, ‘Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord’ (Rom. 12:11). The gospel does not make us lazy. It makes us fervent. The Greek for fervent signifies boiling. The gospel opens our eyes to the eternal significance of things. Nothing is merely ordinary anymore.

Christ did not pursue us halfheartedly. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the uttermost (John 13:1). His death gives the deepest meaning to the word passion. Now he dwells in us. How will we not pray for the fullest experience of his zeal for the cause of justice and love? ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith’ (Gal. 6:10).

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The scandalous cross

by Timothy Stoner at Kingdom People blog

May you glory in nothing but the scandalous cross and in no one but the mighty and merciful Christ.

May you rejoice in your deliverance from a cruel death, a deluded slavery; from a bleak and desperate wandering.

May you be at peace in your Father’s house.

And may you who’ve been chosen by Sovereign Love, choose to lay your lives down that others may live.

May you take up the weapons of deliverance, the prayerful instruments of justice and mercy.

May you live out and proclaim the reign of the King.

May you humbly submit to the rule of your faithful Father and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

May His grace so fill you that you overflow with the confident hope and joy His terrible and glorious death won for you.

And welcome all who hunger and thirst; who, willing to lose, will gain, who, willing to die, will truly live.

The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith

Some thoughts on the attributes of God

by Guy Davies at Exiled Preacher blog

First, I’m not sure that “attributes” is the best possible word to describe the characteristics of God’s being. Louis Berkhof argued that “perfections” might be a better term. The language of divine “attributes” suggests that it is we who attribute certain qualities to God. That leaves us wide open to Feurbach’s allegation that theology is merely the projection of human thoughts concerning the divine. In  reality however,  theology is an attempt  to reflect on who and what God is according to his self-revelation in Holy Scripture.


Second, the distinction between God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes (or perfections) cannot be easily maintained. What might be regarded as communicable properties, such as love and truth are properly incommunicable in their totality. God is infinite and eternal love and truth and we are but finite creatures. On the other hand, some of the supposedly incommunicable attributes such as omnipresence are capable of communication when shorn of their infinite and eternal aspects. The omnipresent God communicated presence to his creation – time and space.
Third, the divine perfections should not first of all be considered in terms of God’s relationship to the created order. God is not omniscient primarily because he knows all about the world he planned and made. Rather it is that in his infinite knowledge God plumbs the depths of his own being, and his omniscience is expressed in the full and complete knowledge that each person of the Trinity has of himself, and the other persons of the Godhead.
Fourth, the doctrine of the Trinity should not be tagged onto the end of a study of the attributes of God, almost as an afterthought. God is not love first and foremost because he loves us, but because of the loving union and communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Similarly, the divine omnipresence is not primarily to be defined in relation to the creation, that in his being God fills all things. Rather, it is that the persons of the Trinity dwell in the same divine space, each indwelling the other in loving communicative action (see here).
Fifth, the divine perfections primarily concern who God is in himself in the splendour of his being and in the fullness of the intertrinitarian relations. But the study of what are traditionally called the attributes of God should not be abstracted from the drama of redemption. The one Lord God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit disclosed his perfections in all their dazzling glory when Christ offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit to save us from sin, Hebrews 9:14, John 8:28, 12:32, 17:1-2, 4-5, 1 John 4:8-10. By the communicative action of the Triune Lord we have been incorporated in the theo-drama of redeeming grace. Prayerful reflection on the perfections of God will enable us to play our roles in the drama of redemption with greater faithfulness and authenticity. Knowing God better should move us to worship him more adoringly, serve him more sacrificially, and bear witness to the gospel with greater boldness and compassion, Daniel 11:32, Colossians 1:9-10.

Keep a fair-sized cemetery

by CS Lewis

Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.

The church – built to the Master’s plan?

by John MacArthur

 

In many respects, the contemporary church in America looks more like a large corporation than like anything described in the New Testament.

Even church leaders sometimes bear a closer resemblance to CEOs and corporate executives than to humble, tender shepherds. Sadly, the good news — that a sinner can find forgiveness for sins before a holy God by placing his trust in and committing his whole life to Jesus Christ — is often eclipsed by “success”-oriented programs and an interest in the bottom line.

As a result, many churches have become nothing more than entertainment centers, employing tactics that effectively draw people into the church, but are incapable of truly ministering to them once they come.

God never intended the church to be like that. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Notice the Lord’s one condition to that great promise: “I will build Mychurch” (emphasis added). Christ’s guarantee is valid only when He builds the church His way. When you follow His blueprint, you can be sure that He is doing the work through you and that nothing, not even the gates of hell, can stop Him.

So, what’s the blueprint? A logical place to start is at the beginning with the first church-the church at Jerusalem. It began on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled 120 believers who had gathered for a prayer meeting. The Lord added 3,000 souls later that same day (Acts 2:41). Those fledgling believers didn’t know anything about building a church. They had no precedent; they didn’t have a book on the church; they didn’t even have the New Testament. Yet it was built Jesus’ way, and as such it’s the model for the church today…

The central focus of the early church’s fellowship was the breaking of bread-the Lord’s Table. It was the most fitting symbol of their fellowship since it reminded them of the basis for their unity-salvation in Christ and adherence to apostolic doctrine. If you share those things as common ground with other believers, then the Lord’s table-communion-is the most appropriate symbol of your fellowship too.

We eat and drink in remembrance of Christ’s self-sacrificing love that took Him to the cross. In your fellowship, make it your habit to practice the same kind of love Christ demonstrated toward you. Practically speaking, you can always give your life to those God brings across your path. Do you habitually pray for fellow believers? Are you encouraging them, edifying them, meeting their physical needs? Do you love them enough to confront them when they are sinning? Those are the marks of true Christian fellowship. (Online source)


A Prayer for Those Suffering from Doxological Dementia

A prayer by Scotty Smith

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” Zech. 8:23

Gracious Father, every day, without exception, we need to be reminded of where history is heading. For we’re forgetful and fearful people, way too easily influenced by the spin of pundits and the banter of news-speak. We’re Cinderella with amnesia—forgetting who we are and Whose we are. We suffer from doxological dementia—able to recall the failures of others with more precision than the promises of redemption.

But a great promise you made through a minor prophet is the major headline we need to remember today and every day. History is the unfolding story of your commitment to redeem your pan-national family and make all things new through the work of your Son, Jesus. How could we ever forget such good news?

This outcome isn’t merely a great possibility or a grand probability but a covenantal certainty. For nothing will keep you from magnifying the excellencies of your glory through the work of your Son, Jesus.

Indeed, Lord Jesus, you are fulfilling everything in Zechariah’s vision. You are the “one Jew” of the Father’s promise. You are the faithful remnant of Israel. You are the second Adam—the only Nazarene in whom there was no guile; the Lord who became the Lamb; our substitute in life and in death. We lay hold of the hem of your robe only because you grasp us in the gospel.

Lord Jesus, in light of who you are and what you’ve already accomplished on our behalf, how can we not leap for joy? How can we not be moved to pray with great hope for our churches, communities, and cities?

Grant us renewal and revival. Send your Spirit to stir us up. How could we ever forget the glories of the gospel and the gospel of glory?

We long for a contagious gospel renewal to break out in our local congregations. We long for fresh rumors of your transforming presence to run through our cities—”We head that God is with you!” We long to have the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the religious and the irreligious, the washed and the unwashed, the found and the lost, the unrighteous and the self-righteous come together to hear, believe, and live the gospel. Do it Lord, indeed, bring it to pass.

Why not us, Jesus, and why not now? We’re tired of playing church. We’re bored with ourselves. Magnify your name in our midst and in this hour. So very Amen we pray, in your most majestic and merciful name. Amen.

When the Church was Young – book comments

from Called to Rebuild blog

Ever hear of a guy named Ernest Loosley? Me neither. Whoever he was, though, he wrote one heck of a good book. When the Church was Young was originally published in 1935 in London, England, then edited and revised in recent years by Seedsowers publishing house. In this little offering, not even 100 pages long, Mr. Loosley takes a refreshing look at the early church, setting her example over against the traditional church of his (and our) own day.

Before you stand back in fear, however, let me assure you that the author is no advocate of New Testament blueprint-ism. His aim is not to show us some cookie cutter pattern of first-century church life and demand that it be replicated in our day. As I said, his approach is wonderfully refreshing, even liberating, and bears not a touch of that “here’s how they did it, so we should too” mentality. All throughout the book his emphasis is not so much on form but on the indwelling Spirit who guided our spiritual ancestors, with a call for us to abandon ourselves to follow that same Spirit. In the foreword Mr. Loosley states,

The experience of the early church was very much like that of a young and growing child. There was newness and freshness in her. She knew exploration, experiment, discovery and wonder. ‘Some new thing’ had come into the world and those who found it were engaged for years in trying to understand and to explain what it meant.

He goes on to quote from Dr. Streeter’s book, The Primitive Church:

It is permissible to hint that the first Christians achieved what they did because the spirit with which they were inspired was one favorable to experiment. Perhaps the line of advance for the church today is not to imitate the forms but to recapture the spirit of the primitive church.

A fitting introduction to what turns out to be a very insightful look at first century Christianity. Read this book and you will be challenged to confront the shallowness of your own walk with Christ, as well as the glaring differences that exist between the quality of church life shown in scripture and the kind most of us know today. In chapters 1-7 Loosley examines the startling fact that when the church was young, she had

no buildings,

no denominations,

no fixed organization,

no New Testament (!),

no vocabulary of its own,

no dogmatic system,

and no day of Sabbath rest (not in the Gentile world).

He then goes on in chapters 8-10 to to consider what the church did have when she was young, which was

an experience,

a store of teaching from Christ,

and a gospel.

These final chapters are short, but they are the cream of the crop. Read them for yourself. Then along with Mr. Loosley, let us “get back to first things.”