Keeping Ourselves in the Love of God

The idea that professing Christians may not be true Christians is something not easily acknowledged in the present climate of the church. One finds it even more difficult to believe that ministers, with acknowledged gifts and abilities, whose teaching may have been blessed to many, could after all be devoid of true grace themselves. The fact that error and apostasy appeared so early on in the history of the New Testament church was to be a solemn warning to the church in later ages. We find that in a very short time after Pentecost error was creeping in, for example, to the church in Corinth and to the churches of the Galatians. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are full of warnings of the readiness of some to apostatise from the truth. The Epistles of John and the Epistle of Jude warn Christians of the danger of falling away. The threat of apostasy is highlighted in the letters to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation chapter 2 & 3. How frequent the promise there is made “to him who overcometh”.

Satan is behind apostasy

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Know Your Doctrine

~ Tim Challies

“Doctrine divides,” the young man explained. “Of course it’s important, but God cares far more for our deeds than our creeds. Doctrine divides, but love unites.” Could he be right? Is doctrine a force for division meant to bow before the primacy of love?

“I find doctrine boring,” the husband confessed. “I don’t have any interest in hearing about theology. Just tell me what God wants me to do, and I’ll do it. I’m a doer, not a learner.” Could he have it right? Is doctrine a drab discipline fit only for the halls of academia?

As it happens, the Bible has much to say about doctrine and only ever commends it as something that is of great importance to every Christian. In fact, we cannot rightly consider ourselves faithful followers of Jesus Christ unless we thoroughly know our doctrine, staunchly cling to it, and faithfully defend it. Though the Christian faith is far more than knowing doctrine, it is never less. And yet many who profess to be Christians have only the most rudimentary knowledge of Christian doctrine.

Many who claim to love the Bible have only the barest knowledge of the doctrines it contains. Many who have received the sacred deposit of the gospel are unequipped to guard it. And for men, who are called to lead their homes in devotion to God, the pursuit of doctrine often takes a back seat to easier, more comfortable pursuits. With the spare time before and after work, relaxing with television sounds far more appealing than laboring over the doctrine found in Scripture. But there is great cost to neglecting the study of doctrine, just as there is inestimable gain in a deep knowledge of it. To rightly pursue God for a lifetime, we must know who he is and how he calls us to live.

In this series “Run to Win,” we are taking an extended look at the kind of life God calls Christian men to live. Through the Apostle Paul, he challenges you to understand life as a race and pleads with you to run it in such a way that you win. Are you running aimlessly, loping along at a plodding pace? Or are you, like Paul, applying the kind of self-control an athlete needs to train successfully and run victoriously? If you are going to run to win, you must train yourself to know your doctrine.


Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ

The Redeeming Christ

Our Spiritual Gifts Have an Expiration Date

If you want to really know yourself, start by knowing God


Almost all the advice we’re given today starts with some version of being true to ourselves. We should know our personality types, our strengths, and our gifts. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, of course. In fact, it’s quite helpful. But if it’s where we start, aside from subscribing to a self-help methodology, we’re missing out on the bigger picture.

One of the reformers described that bigger picture this way: “Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”1 This is the right starting point. If we really want to know ourselves, it starts by knowing God. When our attention is focused on ourselves, we can easily become puffed up or vain. We might see our strengths, but we struggle to see our weaknesses. We only get half a picture, and a distorted one at that. Instead, we need to start with God, with his goodness, with his character, and his glory, because this helps us to get a better picture of ourselves. Know the One in whose image we have been made. Know God so we can know our need for him. Know God to know the character of the One who sacrificed all to meet our need.

This is what protects us from pride and folly. It’s what helps us to live as we were meant to. If you really want to know yourself, start with knowing God.

  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion.

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A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:1-8

Paul transitions from the high exaltation of God’s glory in election and preservation in Romans 11 to the implications of following God in Romans 12. Christians are marked by how they live. They don’t live like people on their way to death; they live like people on their way to life. The body may wear down but the spirit soars to new heights as the gospel comes to bear.

Paul begins by appealing to us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. In verse 1 he says, “I appeal to you.” That’s interesting. Paul is an apostle. He could command us. But he doesn’t. He urges us. The gospel he just proclaimed provides the platform from which he can urge rather than command. Obedience is a response to grace, and Paul knows the love of Jesus will inspire a new way of living. The law and its commands creates outward obedience but inward ugliness. The gospel and its grace creates inward obedience and outward beauty.

So, what is he urging us to do? “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What we believe shows up in what we do, even in our bodies. How we live is a statement on what we believe. Paul is helping us see how to live the Christian life. It is one of sacrifice, but not of the Old Testament kind. We don’t offer our lives up to God so that he can slay us, but so that he can empower us. We are taking our hands off our life so that God can put his hands on our life.

We’re called to be a living sacrifice. But the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. As Tim Keller says:

See, the old sacrifices were no problem. You killed it, and then that was it. They burned and it was over. A living sacrifice means every day, every hour, every moment, right now you have to deliberately, consciously, continually, and perpetually offer yourself to him. It’s constant. It’s never over. It’s intense… You’re not living the Christian life unless you put to death the idea that you have a right to live as you choose. I can’t believe I’m saying this in the middle of America. I can’t believe I’m actually pointing out to you that there probably has never been a culture in the history of the world more averse to the very essence of what it means to live a Christian life. Do you hear that?

What it means to live a Christian life is that you put to death the right to live life as you choose. You put to death the idea that you belong to yourself. You put to death the idea that you know best what should happen in your life. You put that to death, and you give it to God. It feels like a death to really say, “You know best, and I just trust you. Here’s what you say in your Word, and I don’t like it, but I’m going to do it. I don’t choose anymore.”

It feels like a death, but on the other side it’s life. That’s why it’s a living sacrifice – it’s a sacrifice that leads to life.

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