Archives For Empowered Living

From Eric Geiger:

A local church is on the planet to make disciples, not merely help people “make decisions” for Christ and then leave them alone and uncared for.

Sadly, in some churches people are led to “receive Christ” but are not challenged to grow in their new journey with Him. In these churches, leading someone to faith is treated like “the end,” as if the church has fulfilled her responsibility when someone becomes a Christian. But the moment of salvation is “the beginning” of new and eternal life, the beginning of living in a new kingdom and serving a new King, the beginning of knowing Christ.

Thankfully, the Lord continues to raise up leaders who are committed to shepherd people beyond the moment of salvation. They understand that the Lord uses the body of Christ not only in the moment of justification but also in the process of sanctification. There are two essentials for a local church to have effective ministry to new believers:

Read the rest.

An excellent article, well worth the read:

It seems that many churches will spend 10 weeks preaching on leadership, or 4 weeks on a sex series sermon, or 12 weeks on finances and 8 weeks on interpersonal relationships, all the while three quarters of their church members are theologically and doctrinally ignorant.

They can tell you all sorts of mystical, magical things about listening to the still, silent voice of God, but they have no conception of how to answer a basic apologetic question, like “where did we get the Bible from, how do we know it’s true, and who decided what books should be in it?”

They can probably tell you about the amazing way they felt during worship, and how God “showed up” this one time when the worship leader played “Let it rain” for 20 minutes, but couldn’t tell you how the Old Testament relates to the New, couldn’t name a single church father, and couldn’t tell you anything about the first 400 years of Church history or even why it matters.

They can tell you about how to narcissistically insert themselves in the Biblical stories as if somehow these stories are about them, but they would run for their lives if asked to explain the Trinity, or God forbid offer even a basic refutation to the theistic challenges of a Muslim, Oneness Pentecostal, or a Jehovah witness.

They can tell you about the awesomeness of the latest books from Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn,  “Open theist” proponents and any other spiritualish poision-spewing lunatic that comes around, but they can’t speak with authority on what the five solas [Fide, Gratie, Scriptura, Christus, Deo Gloria] are, why they matter, and how the relate to each other.

They can tell you about a lot of things, but can they articulate a clear presentation of the Gospel? Can they tell a person, in no uncertain terms, how men and women are justified and found to be at peace and no longer at war with God?

And we’re not speaking of mere ignorance here. How many of them would not only not know, but rather would actively argue against you? How many would push back on fundamental Christian doctrines like the exclusivity of faith in Christ for salvation, issues of biblical sexuality, the nature of God, the relationship between sin and mankind, and a host of other things? How many of them, when pressed, would reveal to have some really bizarre and idolatrous views of Christ and his work and his means?

Read it all.

“A right view of sin is the best antidote to that sensuous, ceremonial, formal kind of Christianity, which has swept over England like a flood in the last twenty-five years, and carried away so many before it.  I can well believe that there is much that is attractive in this system of religion, to a certain order of minds, so long as the conscience is not fully enlightened.  But when that wonderful part of our constitution called conscience is really awake and alive, I find it hard to believe that a sensuous ceremonial Christianity will thoroughly satisfy us.  A little child is easily quieted and amused with gaudy toys, and dolls, and rattles, so long as it is not hungry; but once let it feel the cravings of nature within, and we know that noting will satisfy it but food.  Just so it is with man in the matter of his soul.  Music, and flowers, and candles, and incense, and banners, and processions, and beautiful vestments, and confessionals, and man-made ceremonies of a semi-romish character, may do well enough for him under certain conditions.  But once let him “awake and arise from the dead” and he will not rest content with these things.  They will seem to him mere solemn triflings, and a waste of time.  Once let him see his sin, and must see his Saviour.  He feels stricken with a deadly disease, and nothing will satisfy him but the great Physician.  He hungers and thirsts, and he must have nothing less than the bread of life.  I may seem bold in what I am about to say; but I fearlessly venture the assertion that four-fifths of the semi-Romanism of the last quarter of a century would never have existed if English people had been taught more fully and clearly the nature, vileness, and sinfulness of sin.”

Holiness, p. 14

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 6, “Growth.” Following is a snip:

To every one who is in downright earnest about his soul, and hungers and thirsts after spiritual life, the question ought to come home with searching power. Do we make progress in our religion? Do we grow?

The question is one that is always useful, but especially so at certain seasons. A Saturday night, a Communion Sunday, the return of a birthday, the end of a year—all these are seasons that ought to set us thinking, and make us look within. Time is fast flying. Life is fast ebbing away. The hour is daily drawing nearer when the reality of our Christianity will be tested, and it will be seen whether we have built on “the rock” or on “the sand.” Surely it becomes us from time to time to examine ourselves, and take account of our souls? Do we get on in spiritual things? Do we grow?

The question is one that is of special importance in the present day. Crude and strange opinions are floating in men’s minds on some points of doctrine, and among others on the point of “growth in grace,” as an essential part of true holiness. By some it is totally denied. By others it is explained away, and pared down to nothing. By thousands it is misunderstood, and consequently neglected. In a day like this it is useful to look fairly in the face the whole subject of Christian growth.

In considering this subject there are three things which I wish to bring forward and establish:

I. The reality of religious growth. There is such a thing as “growth in grace.”

II. The marks of religious growth. There are marks by which “growth in grace” may be known.

III. The means of religious growth. There are means that must be used by those who desire “growth in grace.”

I know not who you are, into whose hands this paper may have fallen. But I am not ashamed to ask your best attention to its contents. Believe me, the subject is no mere matter of speculation and controversy. It is an eminently practical subject, if any is in religion. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the whole question of “sanctification.” It is a leading mark of true saints that they grow. The spiritual health and prosperity, the spiritual happiness and comfort of every true-hearted and holy Christian, are intimately connected with the subject of spiritual growth.

Read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 4, “The Fight.” Following is a snip:

It is a curious fact that there is no subject about which most people feel such deep interest as “fighting.” Young men and maidens, old men and little children, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all feel a deep interest in wars, battles and fighting.

This is a simple fact, whatever way we may try to explain it. We should call that Englishman a dull fellow who cared nothing about the story of Waterloo, or Inkermann, or Balaclava or Lucknow. We should think that heart cold and stupid which was not moved and thrilled by the struggles at Sedan and Strasburg, and Metz, and Paris, during the war between France and Germany.

But there is another warfare of far greater importance than any war that was ever waged by man. It is a warfare which concerns not two or three nations only, but every Christian man and woman born into the world. The warfare I speak of is the spiritual warfare. It is the fight which everyone who would be saved must fight about his soul.

This warfare, I am aware, is a thing of which many know nothing. Talk to them about it, and they are ready to set you down as a madman, an enthusiast, or a fool. And yet it is as real and true as any war the world has ever seen. It has its hand-to-hand conflicts and its wounds. It has its watchings and fatigues. It has its sieges and assaults. It has its victories and its defeats. Above all, it has consequences which are awful, tremendous, and most peculiar. In earthly warfare the consequences to nations are often temporary and remediable. In the spiritual warfare it is very different. Of that warfare, the consequences, when the fight is over, are unchangeable and eternal.

It is of this warfare that St. Paul spoke to Timothy, when he wrote those burning words, “Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life.” It is of this warfare that I propose to speak in this paper. I hold the subject to be closely connected with that of sanctification and holiness. He that would understand the nature of true holiness must know that the Christian is “a man of war.” If we would be holy we must fight.

Read it all.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 3, “Holiness.” Following is a snip:

The text which heads this page opens up a subject of deep importance. That subject is practical holiness. It suggests a question which demands the attention of all professing Christians—Are we holy? Shall we see the Lord?

That question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh—a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccles. iii. 4, 7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

That question concerns all ranks and conditions of men. Some are rich and some are poor—some learned and some unlearned—some masters, and some servants; but there is no rank or condition in life in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we?

I ask to be heard to-day about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and more profitable to our souls. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. xii. 14.)

I shall endeavour, by God’s help, to examine what true holiness is, and the reason why it is so needful. In conclusion, I shall try to point out the only way in which holiness can be attained. I have already, in the second paper in this volume, approached this subject from a doctrinal side. Let me now try to present it to my readers in a more plain and practical point of view.

I. First, then, let me try to show what true practical holiness is—what sort of persons are those whom God calls holy.

A man may go great lengths, and yet never reach true holiness. It is not knowledge—Balaam had that: nor great profession—Judas Iscariot had that: nor doing many things—Herod had that: nor zeal for certain matters in religion—Jehu had that: nor morality and outward respectability of conduct—the young ruler had that: nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers—the Jews in Ezekiel’s time 35had that: nor keeping company with godly people—Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that. Yet none of these was holy! These things alone are not holiness. A man may have any one of them, and yet never see the Lord.

What then is true practical holiness? It is a hard question to answer. I do not mean that there is any want of Scriptural matter on the subject. But I fear lest I should give a defective view of holiness, and not say all that ought to be said; or lest I should say things about it that ought not to be said, and so do harm. Let me, however, try to draw a picture of holiness, that we may see it clearly before the eyes of our minds. Only let it never be forgotten, when I have said all, that my account is but a poor imperfect outline at the best.

Read the rest.

This summer our staff will be reading JC Ryle’s book, Holiness.  The original book, written in 1877, had 7 chapters.  Ryle would update the text in 1879 adding an additional 13 chapters to the volume.  I chose this text as our summer reading project for several reasons, not the least of which is that Ryle remains one of my favorite Anglican bishops and writers.  Here are a few more reasons for my choice:

First, having read Sibbes (Bruised Reed) and Augustine (Treatise on Grace and Free Will) the two previous years, Ryle, standing in the same stream, brings us close to our own century.  and, while he wrote in and used the language of the Victorian era the challenges he faced are strikingly similar to those we face.

Second, Ryle was a clear, strong and discursive thinker who emphasized his points by cumulative effect.  Often, today, Ryle is excerpted.  I think it helpful to read him in context and in whole to feel the effect of his intellect and communucative skills.

Third, in this volume Ryle lays out afresh, biblically, systematically, and in practical terms, the true fundamentals of scriptural holiness.

Fourth, much of what Ryle has to say with regard to the interior aspects of personal holiness is of perennial importance and is uniformly relevant to Christian living here and now; challenging our own shallowness and superficialities.

We would love to have you read along with us this summer and I’d welcome your comments and questions.  I will post on my blog every Monday a link to the section of text we will be discussing.  This week, we look at chapter 2, “Sanctification.” Following is a snip:

What does the Bible mean when it speaks of a “sanctified” man?

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations “without the Word.” (1 Peter iii. 1.) The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man.

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification.” (1 Cor. i. 30.) Let us hear what 17the Bible says: “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified.”—“Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it.”—“Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”—“Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”—“Christ hath reconciled (you) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” (John xvii. 19Ephes. v. 25Titus ii. 141 Peter ii. 24Coloss. i. 22.) Let the meaning of these five texts be carefully considered. If words mean anything, they teach that Christ undertakes the sanctification, no less than the justification of His believing people. Both are alike provided for in that “everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure,” of which the Mediator is Christ. In fact, Christ in one place is called “He that sanctifieth,” and His People, “they who are sanctified.” (Heb. ii. 11.)

The subject before us is of such deep and vast importance, that it requires fencing, guarding, clearing up, and marking out on every side. A doctrine which is needful to salvation can never be too sharply developed, or brought too fully into light. To clear away the confusion between doctrines and doctrines, which is so unhappily common among Christians, and to map out the precise relation between truths and truths in religion, is one way to attain accuracy in our theology. I shall therefore not hesitate to lay before my readers a series of connected propositions or statements, drawn from Scripture, which I think will be found useful in defining the exact nature of sanctification.

From Spurgeon:

An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

Then again, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers .., for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt” (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy—something the world will spit out not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matt. 8:22) He was in awful earnestness.

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, “Run after these people Peter and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow.” Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, “Come out, keep out, keep clean out!” Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, “Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are.” If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God’s link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today’s ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

How many years have we been saying this at SAMP?

I’d put together a while ago a partial reading list of primarily old dead guys, with some newer, books here.

Here’s a snip:

My friends and most of my extended family are very tolerant of my antiquarian tastes. At best, it’s an eccentricity bordering on a waste of time. At worst, it’s a snobbery they’re willing to indulge. A few of the more well-meaning sort imply that I am able to digest such ponderous tomes through some exceptional mental capacity. “You’re so smart to be able to read that,” they say. “I wouldn’t be able to make it past the first chapter.”

What all of these responses have in common is that they are justifications – not just for why someone else would read an old book (eccentricity, snobbery, superhuman intelligence), but for why they won’t. My tastes are normal. I’m not a snob. I’m not as smart as he is. They’re reasons we give ourselves for not doing something. What I’d like to do in the remainder of this article is give you an antidote for this kind of thinking. You don’t have to be a snob or a literary wunderkind to enjoy “the Great Books.” What you do need to be is open to experiences beyond your time and culture.

In On the Reading of Old Books, C.S. Lewis says that one of the chief values of old literature lies in its ability to show us the blind spots of our own day and age—assumptions we take for granted at which earlier ages (and perhaps later ages) would have scoffed:

Read the rest.