Hath Satan any more friendly aim and intention towards thee, who is a sharer in every temptation? To beguile thee as a serpent, to devour thee as a lion, is the friendship he owes thee. I shall only add, that the sin he tempts thee to against the law, it is not the thing he aims at; his design lies against thy interest in the gospel. He would make sin but a bridge to get over to a better ground, to assault thee as to thy interest in Christ. He who perhaps will say to-day, "Thou mayst venture on sin, because thou hast an interest in Christ," will to-morrow tell thee to the purpose that thou hast none, because thou hast done so.
-- The Works of John Owen, vol 6, page 135.
In case the 9Marks Journal that got released last week happened to get misplaced behind a bag of turkey leftovers, allow me to set it on the table again. It's on lay elders--that is, men who help shepherd their churches while holding down a full time job.
Jonathan Leeman writes in the editor's note,
"I am talking about the men who remain in their careers, but who begin to shepherd anyway. These are the men I admire so much. They move from the big prestigious firm to the small peripheral firm; they take the pay cut; they let themselves get passed over for promotion. Why? Because they love the sheep, and they cannot help but spend the time it takes to shepherd sheep."
Also, after an unexpected delay, the version for Kindle is now available.
Keep an eye out for part 2 in this Journal series on lay elders, which will address the relationship between staff and lay elders, building unity and friendship among the elders, and other practical matters.
One of the best things about the Together for the Gospel conference is the singing. It's quite moving to worship God in song with thousands and thousands of other believers. There's something about having that many voices expressing praise at the same time that is more than the sum of its parts.
Today Sovereign Grace Music releases Together for the Gospel Live II, a new album with 16 songs recorded at the 2010 and 2012 conferences. If Bob Kauflin leading a choir of thousands in singing beautiful hymns of priase sounds like your cup of tea, then you should definitely check it out. My personal favorite is "I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow", with "Come Praise and Glorify" coming in a close second.
The United Nations designates yesterday, November 25, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. A number of friends have written comments on the matter.
How should a church respond to the case of a husband abusing his wife, or man his daughter? Decisively and quickly.
A church should start by helping to remove a woman from a place where she will be harmed. Elders may choose to assist a woman find different accomodations merely if there is a threat of violence. If a woman has actually been assaulted, they should involve the police. Crimes against the body fall within the jurisdiction of the state (Rom. 13:1-7), and Christians can thank God that we live in a time when the state actually takes interest in such matters.
As in other cases of clear and unrepentant sin, abuse can and often should be grounds for excommunication from the church. Rather than simply explain this, I thought it might be helpful to offer a sample of the kind of church discipline letter our church will send. (This particular letter does not refer to an actual situation.) No doubt, a letter like the following presumes that the elders have already been working with the individual, and for one reason or another they determine that the man's profession of faith is no longer credible by virtue of his actions.
Greetings on behalf of ------ Church.
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that last night, at the church's members meeting, the assembled congregation formally voted to remove you from the rolls as an act of discipline for violating your marital vows through acts of abuse toward your wife. As you know, the Scriptures call husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25-33), and Christ does not abuse his church. He protects and cherishes it. When a husband instead abuses his wife, he lies horribly about the character of God and the gospel of Christ.
----, by this letter we want to demonstrate our love for you by warning you of the seriousness of your sin and of your need to repent. We understand that only God can evaluate the human heart, but we must tell you that the decisions you have made are not consistent with how the Bible describes a Christian. Consequently, as a church, we can no longer with confidence call you our brother in Christ.
However, we long to be able to do so! Please know that you are always welcome to attend the services of our church. We would be delighted to have you here, and should you desire to repent, we would love to see you restored to full fellowship with us in the gospel. If there is any way we can help you pursue that repentance, including helping you to discern what repentance would look like, we are only too ready. ------, we love you, and even though it would be easier to do nothing, we hope that our actions will be seen by you as evidence of our love and concern for you, and of our love for the honor of Christ supremely.
May the Lord bless you with a sincere faith, a good conscience and a servant’s heart. Know that we long to welcome you back here.
On behalf of CHBC, I am
Sometimes, conversation about the gospel don't go very well. We might fumble our words or say things that don't make a lot of sense. The person that we're talking to might be totally disinterested or even take offense at the message.
For that reason, it is often far easier to share the gospel with casual acquaintances than with close friends and family. If I have an awkward conversation about Jesus with a stranger on the airplane or the dad who helps coach first base on my boys' little league team, no big deal. I don't have to see them on Christmas or go to their home for birthday parties. They won't take my faith in Jesus as a criticism of the way they raised me or evidence that I think I'm better than they are. There's just a lot more risk involved in evangelizing the people close to you.
If you will be spending time with family members who don't know Jesus this Thanksgiving, you may want to take a look at Randy Newman's book Bringing the Gospel Home. Newman has a lot of experience sharing the gospel, but he is sympathetic to the challenges that most Christians face when they open their mouth to talk about Jesus. The book is a good source of encouragement, advice, and motivation this holiday season.
Loyal 9Marks readers: I'd encourage you to check out the Gospel at Work conference, scheduled for January 11-12, 2013 at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD (just outside of Washington, DC). Speakers include Os Guinness, Mark Dever, Michael Lawrence, and Bob Doll.
- to help Christians think biblically and theologically about their work,
- to provide practical and pastoral wisdom on how to navigate the many workplace challenges arising from our secular culture;
- to hold up examples of godly men and women who can be role models and guides for others;
- and finally, to connect Christians in similar callings to encourage one another and to strategize together for evangelism.
Check out the just-released 9Marks Leadership Interview on contact evangelism with Mack Stiles, Jaime Owens, and Jeramie McClain!
They discuss Mack's books on evangelism, how pushy to be in evangelism, how to make evangelism a natural part of your life, and more. This is one of my favorite 9Marks interviews in a long time. I found it challenging, convicting, and deeply encouraging. I pray you will too. Listen here.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 ESV)
That’s a pretty good plan for pastoral ministry:
Study God’s word. Devote yourself diligently to understanding it.
Do it. Submit your own life to the text. Live it out daily.
- Teach it to his people. Help them to believe and obey the word of the Lord.
- Do it. Submit your own life to the text. Live it out daily.
A failure in any one of those three areas will prove disastrous over the long haul. Which one is the weakest link in your chain?
My friend Eric Simmons turned me onto this tidbit:
In 1911, Communist philosopher Paul Lafargue and Jenny Marx (daughter of Karl) took their lives together. Lafargue left behind the following suicicide note (italics mine):
Healthy in body and mind, I end my life before pitiless old age which has taken from me my pleasures and joys one after another; and which has been stripping me of my physical and mental powers, can paralyse my energy and break my will, making me a burden to myself and to others. For some years I had promised myself not to live beyond 70; and I fixed the exact year for my departure from life. I prepared the method for the execution of our resolution, it was a hypodermic of cyanide acid. I die with the supreme joy of knowing that at some future time, the cause triumph to which I have been devoted for forty-five years will triumph. Long live Communism!
As the Preacher put it:
And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18)
Here's Thabiti's primary hope for the book:
"My hope is that pastors and people will have a deepened or perhaps renewed love for the bride of Christ. I've come to think that problems in gathering with the church or objections to membership in the church are really affection problems. There's some defect in our appreciation of the beauty and splendor of the local church, so we don't love her as we ought. If I could ask the Lord to do one thing in this book it would be to open our hearts to love the local church more deeply."
May God use this book to open your eyes to the church's beauty and deepen your love for it as a result.