What Is Reformation Day All About?

reformation day

[Today], much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Tomorrow is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.

This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.

Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.

~

Editors Note: This post is copied and published, with permission, courtesy of Robert Rothwell from Ligonier Ministries. For more outstanding Reformed resources check out Ligonier Ministries.

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Don’t Let Someone Else Define Your Narrative

Christopher Wright in his magnum opus, ‘The Mission of God’, writes, “we live in a storied universe”.

Stories have a profound effect on us.

Image by Mo Riva
Image by Mo Riva

From the oral stories told in traditional cultures to the bed time stories our parents told us at night when we were young and the plethora of ancient, classical and modern fiction available to us via Amazon.

These stories shape how we think about life. They tell us how we should view the world and the people we meet in it. They inform our values.

Stories exert a subtle yet powerful influence on the most important aspects of our lives.

When we tune in to the newest season of our favourite television show or pick up the latest novel we are entering into a story.

Someone else’s story.

Someone else’s world.

A world they have created and over which they are the Creator but a world with rules, nevertheless. When we enter someone else’s world, or story (narrative), we allow them to set the agenda and the rules. They govern what can and will happen. These rules shape the way the characters think and act. As we follow the heroes stories we come to care about them (if the author has done their job well!) and so we become sympathetic to their worldview and in doing so we open ourselves to adopting their worldview (or parts of it) into our own.

Their narrative begins to define our own.

This is because the best way to persuade someone of a particular worldview or belief is to tell a story about someone who holds that particular worldview or belief.

We can have the best arguments for what we believe but facts will only convince a certain minority. The majority of us won’t be persuaded by articulate arguments (on their own). What most of us need is to have our story reshaped and redefined by the gospel story.

An excellent example of this happening occurred on the Nolan Show several weeks ago when they discussed abortion. At no point in the discussion did they talk about the real issue: When is a foetus a human being? Instead they focused exclusively on one woman’s story of having to go to England to obtain an abortion and the effect the whole experience had on her, the anxiety, stress and cost of travel and accommodation. What happened was one person’s story being told at the expense of the other, namely her unborn child. A person unable to speak for themselves. Their story was not told so of course the audience was sympathetic to the woman’s plight (I think only 2 out of 200 people thought what she did was wrong).

Our world is brimming with stories, overflowing even. All of them offering a different perspective on what’s gone wrong in our world (conflict) and how we can make it better (resolution). As Christians we are a part of, and possess, the greatest story: the gospel.

The best stories in our world are those which reflect, though imperfectly, the gospel story.

This means we cannot and should not immediately dismiss these clashing narratives straight out of hand because they often possess some measure of truth and in so doing they reflect some of the truth of the gospel story. We should take the time to critically assess the various stories that are competing with the gospel story and in understanding the good, as well as the bad, we can use them as ways of telling the greatest and truest of all stories.

So let’s engage with the other stories, other narrative and other worldviews. Let’s consider them critically and use them as opportunities to tell the greatest story of all: the gospel story.

The gospel story of how God stepped out of heaven. Who in taking on flesh, entered into the dirt and dust of this world. The world he made. The world we ruined. In a world of violence and cruelty he not only showed compassion and concern to the downtrodden but absorbed that violence and cruelty into himself in order to forgive it. Who died to kill death forever. Who rose from the dead to prove it and who has promised to come again and make all things new, to right all the wrongs, to undo injustice and establish eternal justice under his everlasting reign.

~

Wright, C.J.H. (2008) The mission of God : unlocking the Bible’s grand narrative. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press. (p56).

My Top Five Books on Marriage…

Let me begin by saying that reading these books won’t guarantee a perfect marriage!

Nevertheless, reading well informed, Christian books on marriage can aid preparation immensely and also help already married couples to make necessary adjustments.

Below are my top five reads on marriage (so far):

1) Tim Keller – The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God, (2011).

Image by Ella's Dad
Image by Ella’s Dad

For those of us who have read anything by Tim Keller we will know he is well worth reading.  This book on marriage is no different.  The excellent features of The Meaning of Marriage include a great sense of humour, an insightful exposition of the meaning of marriage, helpful (and practical) discussion on gender roles and decision making and most surprisingly a superb chapter on singleness.  The chapter on singleness I found particularly good as it not only addressed the issues and struggles single people face but also challenged the church and married couples to involve single people in their lives.

2) John Piper – This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, (2009).

The selling point of This Momentary Marriage is the theological robustness that is present in all of John Piper’s writings.  Again, John Piper argues that marriage’s greatest purpose is the glory of God and that by living for the glory of God in God-given marriage we will find joy.  One of the special features of this book is that Piper draws out the implications not only for those thinking about marriage, or married already, but for those who are single, remarried and divorced.

3) Christopher Ash – Married for God: Making your marriage the best it can be, (2007).

Married for God has the great benefit of not being written from an American point of view – it is written by an Englishman (which may be better or worse for an NI context).  Ash gives an authentically biblical view of marriage and by doing so he displays effectively not only the purpose of marriage but of sex, intimacy, children and the institution of marriage.

 4) Andreas Kostenberger – God, Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the biblical foundation, (2004).

God, Marriage and family is a book that you are unlikely to sit down and read cover to cover.  It is 350 pages of well researched, biblically informed, professionally tried and tested, and thus invaluable, information.  As is perhaps evident from the title the benefit of this book is not only its discussion of marriage, but also family in light of God’s Word.  The exegetical work undertaken in this book is second to none.  And, while this may appear an intimidating read it is an excellent reference book which offers biblical answers on almost any issue related to marriage.

5) Amelia & Greg Clarke – One Flesh: A practical guide to honeymoon sex and beyond, (2001).

One Flesh is an intensely practical book.  Given the nature of the content the suggestion would be that this book is only for those who are getting married in the immediate future or are already married.  The focus of the book is sex and so there is not the theological robustness of Piper, nor the exegetical prowess of Kostenberger present – yet it is full of wisdom and down to earth help in the area of sex in marriage.

 ~

There are two other books which I would like to mention.  These two books do not belong to the same class as the books above.  Their biblical, theological and exegetical work is not as clear cut as Ash, Piper or Kostenberger.  However, they tackle practical issues with straight forward talking and honest answers – well worth a read for married couples.

Mark Driscoll – Real Marriage: The truth about sex, friendship and life together, (2011).

Douglas Rosenau – A Celebration of Sex: A guide to enjoying God’s gift of sexual intimacy, (2002).

What is “Gospel Convergence”? Part 8

The purpose of Gospel Convergence is to provide:

“Meditations on the Life of Jesus in the Mission of His Church for the Glory of God”

converging arrows vimeo

This encapsulates our Theological Vision which can be broken down into three complementary points:

  • Christ-Centred
  • Mission Orientated
  • Doxologically Driven

Doxologically Driven

We believe the driving force behind our Christ-Centeredness and Missional Orientation has to be Doxology.

What is Doxology?

The word doxology comes from two Greek word: doxa and logos.

The Greek word doxa (δόξα) means glory. When Hebrew scholars began translating the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek (giving us what is now known as the Septuagint or LXX) they had to choose a word that could convey the same meaning as the Hebrew word kavod which conveyed heaviness or weightiness. Originally, the word doxa described a person’s opinion and in the Hebrew scholar’s translation process it adopted the decidedly positive nuance of a good opinion or reputation. To speak of the kavod or doxa of God then came to refer to God’s greatness or glory which was always spoken of as praiseworthy while still maintaining its sense of weightiness because to the Hebrew scholar who is great except God? The English word glory captures the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words well, emphasising the praiseworthiness and weightiness of God. It is, therefore, not unusual that we have come to link doxology with praise.

The Greek word logos (λόγος) means word.

From these two Greek words we get the Latin word doxologia which means “words of praise (to God)”. It is from the Latin we have received our English word doxology which refers to a song or hymn in praise of God.

When we hear the word doxology our minds are often drawn to the idea of worship in songs and hymns, perhaps most notably the Doxology:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thomas Ken, “Awake, my Soul, and with the Sun

Songs and hymns of praise to God are a crucial part of worship, however, worship is more than songs and hymns alone.

A Greater King

In his novel, The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson includes a scene in which the newly appointed king, doubting his ability to rule, discusses with his advisor what it means to be a king. She tells him,

crown

“You simply need to do what is expected.”

“And that is?”

“To make everything better.”

In this scene Sanderson taps into one of our deepest desires as the people, we want someone who will make everything better.

We all long for someone who can make things better, who will right the wrongs in our lives and our world, who will fight for justice in the face of injustice. Someone who can make us better by their mere presence. We all want a king.

We all long for a king.

This is the heartbeat of humanity.

Tim Keller comments on this heartbeat, this longing in us, he says,

“We need a King, we were built for a King… The reason we adore kings… is because there is a memory trace in the human race… of a great King, an ancient King who did rule with… power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory… we were built to submit to that king, we were built to give ourselves to that king, we were built to stand before and adore and serve and know that king. That’s what the Bible says.”

Today the future king of the British Empire will be christened. One day he will be crowned. People will celebrate. Joy will sound in the streets because of this momentous occasion. But it will all be a farce. He won’t be a real king. He won’t be the king we long for and need. He won’t be the Great King who will rule with power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory. He won’t rule at all.

Our longing will go unfulfilled.

But there is a Greater King

Leo Tolstoy in his mammoth work, War and Peace, describes one character’s worshipful experience upon seeing a real king, the king of Russia, Tsar Alexander I:

“[Nikolai] Rostov, standing in the front ranks of Kutuzov’s army, which the sovereign [the king] rode up to first, had the same feeling that was experienced by every man in that army – a feeling of self-forgetfulness, a proud awareness of strength, and a passionate attraction to him who was the cause of this solemnity.”

Here is a real king who inspires his people.

Here is the kind of king we long for.

But he is not the Great King.

The Great King, the Greater King, has already come and we missed him because he wasn’t what we expected him to be. Even now as he rules and reigns we don’t recognise his rule, as the writer of Hebrews has said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (2:8b ESV) However, by God’s grace, “we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9 ESV).

Jesus is our Greater King.

Jesus is our Greater King who does rule with power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory. He will make everything better. He will undo and put right all the wrongs in our lives and  in our world, “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will pass] away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

As we live in anticipation of that day when all is finally and fully made right he has left us with three life changing realities:

1. A Feeling of Self-Forgetfulness

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians the gospel has released him from his need to find approval from others and even himself because his King has already approved of him (cf. Romans 8:1-4) and his approval is all he needs:

“with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)

2. A Proud Awareness of Strength

Our King has not abandoned us. He has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to love and serve him (Acts 1:8).

3. A Passionate Attraction to Himself

Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesians captures the passionate love he felt for his Great King, Jesus, that all Christians have access to by grace through the Holy Spirit:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

~

Brandon Sanderson (2009), The Well of Ascension : Mistborn Book Two. London: Gollancz. (p.234)

Leo Tolstoy (author), Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator) (2009), War and Peace. London: Vintage Classics. Volume 1, Part 3: 8 (p.245)

Timothy Keller (1993), Jesus our King : Psalm 2. Sermon. http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/jesus-our-king

Don’t stop here…

In September past my wife, Tracy, her sister, Julie, her mother, Margaret, and I spent a week together in Donegal.

waterfallWe had been told, by some of the locals, about a picturesque waterfall in Clonmany and being a short drive from where we were staying we jumped in the car to go see it for ourselves.

When we reached Clonmany we found we had to park the car and continue on foot to reach our destination.

After walking for a few minutes we came across a waterfall.

However, contrary to what we had been told, it was a bit pathetic. There were a few rocks protruding from the hillside and a tiny trickle of water flowed down into a stream below.

I am sure many others have felt as we did: disappointed at the lacklustre waterfall and irritated by a wasted trip. But just as we were about to turn around and head back to the car we noticed a signpost.

It simply read ‘WATERFALL’ and pointed up the path beyond the ‘waterfall’ we were looking at.  In essence, what this signpost was saying was ‘Don’t stop here, keep going, there is something better’.

The Bible is full of signposts just like this.  Signposts which say ‘Don’t stop here, keep going, there is something better’.

One of these signposts is the book of Ecclesiastes.

This is one of my favourite books in the Bible.  It is a book of intrigue and is unique within Scripture.

This is what the Teacher in Ecclesiastes says “’Meaningless!  Meaningless!’ says the Teacher.  ‘Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.’” (Ecc. 1:2 NIV).

The Teacher proceeds to explain sweeping statement.  He notes that relationships (2:8), money (6:2), food (5:17), fame (4:13-16) and knowledge (1:18) are all meaningless.  In effect he says that absolutely everything is meaningless – completely meaningless, empty, futile, vain, transitory.

The reason why everything is meaningless is because we all die (2:16; 3:20).  We all die and when we die we don’t get to take any of these things with us, they all stay here on earth once we are gone.

What the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is essentially saying is ‘Don’t stop here, keep going, there is something better’.  Don’t stop here on this earth, keep going, because there is something better.

That something better isn’t fully developed within the book of Ecclesiastes.

But, when we get to the Gospel of John, Jesus explains ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn. 10:10 NIV).  However, Jesus isn’t saying he has come so that we may enjoy relationships, money, food, fame and knowledge to the full.  Well, not necessarily.

No!  When Jesus says ‘life’ he is speaking of eternal life – not a transitory life here on this earth but an eternal life, a life everlasting – a life that will not end.  And when he says ‘life to the full’ he is speaking of life scarcely imaginable – a life better than you can believe, a life beyond your imagination – a life you couldn’t create.

Ecclesiastes is a signpost pointing us to eternal life.

This is the something better that the book of Ecclesiastes is pointing to.

We must take heed of this warning, of this signpost unless we miss out on the something better.

Too many of us get caught up with the things of this world.  We invest time, effort and money in relationships, earning money, consuming food, chasing fame and gaining knowledge.  Unfortunately though, we often invest too much effort, time and money in these things.  Unfortunately these things often begin to rule us.

Now, this is not to say that we should neglect these things.  No, these things are a gift from God and should be enjoyed (2:24).  But they need to be enjoyed with the knowledge that they will remain on this earth when we die.

After we followed the signpost and continued on the path for about a kilometre we came across a much more picturesque waterfall.

A constant, dense flow of water plummeted over the edge falling about 10 metres and crashed into the deep pool beneath. This waterfall didn’t create a stream, but a river. It was better by far than the first waterfall, and well worth the drive and the walk.

In the end we were glad that we had seen the signpost and travelled further to see the something better.

Will we do the same with the signposts in Scripture – there is something better than this world, there is something that comes after, there is something worth holding out for.

So, don’t stop here…

Note:  The ideas and language concerning John 10:10 have been borrowed from D. A. Carson’s commentary on John in the Pillar New Testament series.

What is “Gospel Convergence”? Part 7

The purpose of Gospel Convergence is to provide:

“Meditations on the Life of Jesus in the Mission of His Church for the Glory of God”

converging arrows vimeoThis encapsulates our Theological Vision which can be broken down into three complementary points:

  • Christ-Centred
  • Mission Orientated
  • Doxologically Driven

Mission Orientated

We believe that to be aligned with God in being Christ-Centred necessarily results in being Mission Orientated. That is, we do not want our love for Jesus to terminate on itself but rather to overflow in service to him and others.

Mission begins and belongs to God; the mission is his, he started it and he has graciously invited us to join with him in it through faith in Jesus.

The Church Exists for Mission

In the interim, we live in the overlapping of the ages: the old is passing away and the new is coming but has yet to fully arrive. In his life, death and resurrection Jesus inaugurated the new age. When he returns he will usher in the new age bringing the new heaven and new earth with him in all their fullness.

Presently, the world we live in is still fallen and remains in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21), nevertheless,

if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ESV)

As partakers of this new creation, members of Christ’s body: the Church, we share in Jesus’ mission as he makes all things new.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21 ESV)

Like Jesus our mission as the church is to herald the coming of the new age in which Christ reigns bodily and triumphantly over all of his renewed creation. This means we tell the gospel story in all its breadth and depth. The gospel is deeply personal in its application and vastly cosmic in its scope. Accordingly, the gospel impacts how we live as members of both Jesus’ Kingdom and our respective cultures and societies because it gives us direction for seeking the greatest good for ourselves, our neighbours, our towns and cities. It is our desire to bring the gospel to bear in word and action where we live in contextually appropriate ways for the glory of God and the joy of all people.

We do this in the power of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent to indwell and empower us to carry out his mission on the earth.

We want to learn how to engage with our various cultures so we can communicate the gospel well and by God’s grace see people reconciled to God and communities transformed by the power of the gospel.

We want to learn what it means to be all things to all people that we might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

And we want to see the gospel take deep root in our own lives and the lives of the people in our churches.

Mission Accomplished

This is a daunting task, one which we are powerless to accomplish in our own strength. We freely confess that it is a mission beyond us but it is not beyond God who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).

“And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

It is God alone who saves. God alone who raises the dead and transforms hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He is our confidence, our refuge and our strength. God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit will accomplish his mission through his church for his own glory and our joy in him. Then Christ shall come, with the new heaven and the new earth in tow, and as it once was so it will be again, ““It is finished,”” (John 19:30).

8 things I’ve learned about personal devotions

1. There is no “one size fits all” devotional plan.

As much as I’d like this one to be true it’s simply not that simple. Every year, around New Years, the internet is replete with lists of Bible reading plans to get you through the Bible in a year (most of them basically the same). One of the amazing things about Christianity is that it is about unity, not uniformity. Jesus brings unity in diversity. We’re all different; we think differently, we enjoy certain things more than others, we have different gifts (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). So it makes sense that one way of reading the Bible won’t work for all of us, and it shouldn’t (how boring would that be?). What this means is that God is endlessly creative in how he made each of us in the way we function and we should thank God for that and prayerfully work out how we can best spend time with him in his Word and in prayer. One size does not fit all. Praise God.

2. I shouldn’t divorce the emotional from the intellectual.

Image by Sias van Schalkwyk
Image by Sias van Schalkwyk

For a long time my personal devotions were nothing more than me reading a study Bible: one chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, along with the corresponding study notes at the bottom of the page. Truthfully, I really enjoyed this and I learned a lot but there is more to spending time with God than just learning some facts about him. I find it very easy to enjoy learning about God without enjoying God himself; there is a difference. There is an experiential joy when we see God in his Word as the Holy Spirit opens our hearts, not just our minds, to comprehend on an emotional level who God is for us as well as who he is to us.

3. I shouldn’t divorce the intellectual from the emotional.

Some years after this I sort of went through the opposite. I’m a thinker so it’s difficult for me to shut that down altogether but at this time I was not in an emotionally good place and all I wanted, all I needed, was to experience God and to have him satisfy me emotionally. Being an idiot, and in a bad place, I had stopped reading the Bible (there were a number of reasons, such as 1. above). However, what I found in the darkest times was that actually spending time with God in his Word brought me the solace I sought. Sometimes the best remedy for emotional problems includes an intellectual stepping back from our problems to see who God is to us as he has revealed himself in his Word. For another perspective on this idea check out what Don Carson has said in The Scholar as Pastor, specific quote here.

4. Prayer is an admission of weakness and I’m not good at it.

This is really more of a confession than anything else. Paul describes the upside-down economy of God’s Kingdom best when he says, “But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV)

5. Personal devotions are not about ticking something off my sanctification list but spending quality time with God.

I have wrestled with this issue for years, and still do. For a long time I felt like God’s favour towards me was dependent on my devotional time with him: If I had a good devotional time then God was going to bless me that day and if not I could expect a pretty lousy day. Grace is so foreign to our relationships. Most of them are dependent (or feel like they are) on how well we do in different areas of our lives but this isn’t how our relationship with God works. Our relationship with God is founded, sustained and carried forward on his grace toward us in Jesus. God wants to spend time with us because we are his adopted children. He sent his Son to die so we could come to know him personally while we were still his enemies (Romans 5:10) That is life changing (see 7. below).

6. The whole Bible is ultimately about Jesus, not me.

When I read the Bible I want to know how it connects to Jesus, who he is and all he has done, whether I’m in Leviticus or Obadiah because in looking to Jesus, trusting in him, I find that the Bible is for me but it’s not about me because Jesus is all I need. For more on this check out the Christ-Centred section of our Theological Vision.

7. Jesus had the perfect devotional life because I can’t and his righteousness is credited to me on that account too.

A friend recently asked me, “Since Jesus was God, and He and the Father were one, why did Jesus need to spend time away from the crowds?” In response I sent this short answer:

Jesus is 100% God AND 100% human therefore he, like us, needed to spend time alone with God. As the perfect human being he also needed time alone to recharge, just as we often do, not just for his own personal benefit but also as an example to us.
In doing this in his life he fulfilled “all righteousness” for us because we often fall short in our private communion with God so when we trust in him and repent of our sin his perfect righteousness is imputed to us so we can stand before God as perfectly righteousness in Christ because he was perfectly righteous in our place for our sake.
In those times when private devotion and communion is difficult we can look to (trust in) Jesus who, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the power to seek God in his Word and in prayer.

8. God loves me.

This one seems obvious but I know that I often forget it or fail to believe it. It’s almost as though we’ve heard it so often that we’ve become inoculated to its truth. As we spend time with God, in his Word and in prayer, looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), who he is to and for us and all he has done for us (in love!), the Holy Spirit pours out God’s love into our hearts and we receive a fresh experience and knowledge of God’s deep, abiding love for us in Christ.

What does the Bible say about…

Have you ever found yourself asking, “What does the Bible say about…”

question mark

Predestination

The end of the world

Bacon

Or a plethora of other topics.

So have we.

Which is why, beginning in the New Year, we plan on starting a new series entitled:

“What does the Bible say about…”

We want to hear from you. We want to know what questions are burning in your mind. What keeps you up at night and sparks endless debates among your friends.

All questions are welcome, no topic is off limits.

These questions will be passed on to a Pastor, theologian or someone with in depth knowledge of the subject.

Names will be changed to protect identities.

If you have a question you can submit it below.

Yours in Christ,
The Gospel Convergence Team

Am I at the right church for me?

Ever found yourself sitting on a Sunday evening wondering – am I at the right church for me?

Allow me to offer one consideration that should help us answer our question.

churchMark Dever, pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, defines a healthy church as: ‘a congregation that increasingly reflects God’s character as his character has been revealed in his Word’ (What Is a Healthy Church, pg. 40).

In his estimation, and I believe he is right, that means the Bible must be central to everything the church does.  Therefore, Dever is correct in stating ‘If a healthy church is a congregation that increasingly displays the character of God as his character has been revealed in his Word, the most obvious place to begin is to call Christians to listen to God’s Word’ (pg. 63).

When we consider what the Bible has to say about itself it is hardly surprising that it must be central to everything that we do in church.  Nor is it surprising that Christians should be called to listen to God’s Word.

The Bible is described as words breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16).  It is living and active (Heb. 4:12), more precious than gold or silver (Ps. 119:72) and it is life giving (Mt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).  This is further supported by Romans 10:17 and 1 Corinthians 1:21 – both of these texts tell us that it is through the proclamation of the Word that people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

All of this is subsumed into the grand storyline of the Bible, God revealing himself through his redemptive acts in history to his creation.

So, back to our question – am I at the right church for me?  This question must be answered in part by asking is the Bible central to all the church does.

Let’s take for example a Sunday morning service.  Is the Bible opened and read by those at the front during the service?    Does the pastor let the Bible speak for itself? Is the Bible prayed during the service?  Do the prayers offered during the service reflect the language and prayers of the Bible?  Is the Bible sung on a Sunday?  Do you literally sing Scripture (for example the Psalms)?  Do the songs that are sung reflect accurately the words of the Bible?

Does the Bible saturate the Sunday morning service?

Now obviously this is not the only factor in answering our question.  However, if the Bible is featuring prominently in the life of our church we must consider again our questioning of whether this is the right church for us or not.

Dever continues, ‘…the church finds life as it listens to the Word of God…God’s Word, and God’s Word alone, gives life’ (pg.55; 66).

God’s Word does give life.  Therefore, we must be very wary of leaving a church which holds God’s Word front and centre.  Because, not only does God’s Word give life to the community, but it also gives life to the individual – ‘God’s Word is the Christian’s life’ (Mark Talbot, For the Fame of God’s Name, pg. 76).