Thoughts to ponder

“Those most passionate about the gospel of God’s free grace should be the most passionate about the pursuit of godliness.”

~ Kevin DeYoung

“If love does not mark your church, then it may attract spiritual hobbyists and theological accountants who like to play at religion and theology, but not people of real Christian love who inconvenience themselves for others.”

~ Mark Dever

“If we are desensitized to the horror of sin, we will be desensitized to the glory of righteousness.”

~ Thabiti Anyabwile

Don’t be hesitant

humble?

Selections from Mark Dever

Selections from the preface of a book I just started to read. I think it will be very profitable.

For too many Christians today, the doctrine of the church is like a decoration on the front of a building. Maybe it’s pretty, maybe it’s not, but finally it’s unimportant because it bears no weight. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The doctrine of the church is of the utmost importance. It is the most visible part of Christian theology, and it is vitally connected with every other part.

The church arises only from the gospel. And a distorted church usually coincides with a distorted gospel.

Perhaps the popular disinterest in ecclesiology results from the understanding that the church itself is not necessary for salvation.

As John Stott said,

The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history.” John Stott, The Living Church (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007), 19.

The church should be regarded as important to Christians because of its importance to Christ. Christ founded the church (Matt 16: 18), purchased it with his blood (Acts 20: 28 ), and intimately identifies himself with it (Acts 9: 4). The church is the body of Christ (1 Cor 12: 12,27; Eph 1: 22– 23; 4: 12; 5: 20– 30; Col 1: 18,24 ; 3: 15), the dwelling place of his Spirit (1 Cor 3: 16– 17; Eph 2: 18,22; 4: 4), and the chief instrument for glorifying God in the world (Ezek 36: 22– 38; Eph 3: 10). Finally, the church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to himself (Luke 24: 46– 48; Rev 5: 9).

To put it another way, Christian proclamation might make the gospel audible, but Christians living together in local congregations make the gospel visible (see John 13: 34– 35). The church is the gospel made visible.

~ Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In Praise of Low-Budget, Non-Professional Music Ministries

https://9marks.org/article/in-praise-of-low-budget-non-professionalized-music-ministries/

Prayer in the life of Jesus

By Mark Dever at The Briefing

The journalist Ambrose Bierce once defined praying as asking “that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy”.[1]

Whatever you make of that, according to one poll, Americans as a whole today have more faith in prayer than that definition would indicate Bierce had. We are a prayerful people—well, that is, about three quarters of us believe that prayer has the power to actually help heal an injury or illness (even if most people who say that to pollsters don’t really spend much time praying themselves).[2] People who were least likely to affirm that this is the case, the poll reported, were men, Democrats, white, under 35, making more than $50 000 a year, and those with college degrees. Lest you be encouraged by the faith of the nation, I should tell you that most Americans also believe that it doesn’t matter who you pray to.

But in Christianity, prayer isn’t quite that vague. Who you pray to is actually understood to make a difference, as is why you pray. Other matters, too, are significant, like where we pray, with whom we pray, and when we pray.

So where can we go to learn more about these things? I suggest that we turn to Mark, to two small, often ignored verses stuck in between the famous stories of the feeding of the 5000, and Jesus walking on the water.

Immediately [Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46)

I want us to consider what we may learn from these verses about prayer, and what we may learn about Jesus. You’ll remember the context of these verses: Jesus had originally called his disciples away on a retreat earlier in the chapter (vv. 31-32). There’s a cycle for Jesus and his disciples going on, a rhythm of spending and replenishing—so after the episode of feeding the 5000, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat bound for Bethsaida while he went off to pray.

Why would Jesus insist on his disciples going on ahead of him? Some have speculated that perhaps he was trying to separate them out from the crowd’s move to make him king. As we know from John 6, Jesus had just gone through a moment of supreme peril in his mission. After the feeding of the 5000, the crowd attempted to make him king (John 6:15). But Jesus refused, and in Mark’s account he successfully dispersed the crowd, perhaps preventing a messianic uprising in the desert. (As a side note, it’s exactly this kind of refusal to encourage political action which kept Jesus off the screen of secular historians.)

Whatever the reason, Jesus moved both the disciples and the crowds, and takes time to pray. He takes control of the disciples (“he made his disciples get into the boat”), the crowd (“dismissed the crowd”), and himself (“he went up on the mountain”). These verses are clear about who is in authority! But the main thing I want us to notice is where, with whom, and when Jesus prayed.

Continue at http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2014/05/prayer-in-the-life-of-jesus/

Being a member of a local church

by Mark Dever

Being a member of a local church should be made to seem normal for Christians.

  • Lives lived in regular love, fellowship, and accountability make the gospel clear to the world. Jesus said that Christians’ love for one another would enable the world to recognize Christians as those who follow Christ (John 13:34–35). In that sense a vigorous practice of church membership helps a congregation’s evangelism.
  • It also helps Christians gain a proper assurance of their own salvation. As Christians observe, teach, encourage, and rebuke one another, the local church begins to act as a cooperative that corroborates assurance of salvation.
  • Church membership is good for weak Christians because it bring them into a place of feeding and accountability.
  • Church membership is good for strong Christians because it enables them to provide an example for what a true Christian life is like. [Note 2: For more on why a believer should join a church, see Jim Samra, The Gift of Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).]
  • Committed church membership is also good for the leaders of the church. How will God’s work go forward if Christians do not organize together to serve him? And how will Christians receive the gifts God gives them in their leaders if there is no flock marked out for those leaders to steward?
  • Finally, practicing church membership glorifies God. As Christians gather together to form the body of Christ, his character is reflected and expressed.

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible

Our Churches Are the Proof of the Gospel

by Mark Dever

“Many Protestants have begun to think that because the church is not essential to the gospel, it is not important to the gospel.  This is an unbiblical, false, and dangerous conclusion.  Our churches are the proof of the gospel.  In the gatherings of the church, the Christian Scriptures are read.  In the ordinances of the church, the work of Christ is depicted.  In the life of the church, the character of God himself should be evident.  A church seriously compromised in character would seem to make the gospel itself irrelevant.

The doctrine of the church is important because it is tied to the good news itself.  The church is to be the appearance of the gospel.  It is what the gospel looks like when played out in the lives of people.  Take away the church and you take away the visible manifestation of the gospel in the world.  Christians in churches, then, are called to practice ‘display evangelism,’ and the world will witness the reign of God begun in a community of people made in his image and reborn by his Spirit.  Christians, not just as individuals but as God’s people bound together in churches, are the clearest picture that the world sees of the invisible God and what his will is for them.”

~ ‘The Church” in A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel L. Akin (2007), p. 836