Month: May 2014

Jesus Could Have Quoted 1 Chronicles 2, But He Didn’t

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In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God… Ephesians 6:16-17

The title to the sermon I preached last week was “111 Hebrew Names to Aid You in Sanctification” and I was dead serious that the 111 names listed in Ezra 10:18-44 could help you fight sin. I don’t always recommend a list of Hebrew names to help someone fight sin, but when I do, it’s usually Ezra 10. If you struggle with worldliness or improper relationships, then I might tell you to memorize a few names like Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jareb, and Gedaliah. I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to memorize a genealogy like 1 Chronicles 2 in order to fight sin, but I’d direct you to Ezra 10:18-44.

It isn’t that 1 Chronicles 2 is not worth memorizing, because verse 7 actually might help you fight sin. But all the names in 1 Chronicles might not necessarily help you battle lust. If you’re battling lust, I’d go with Colossians 3:5. If you struggle with worry, I’d suggest Matthew 6:25. My point is that we need to memorize specific verses that apply to how we are tempted. Even Jesus Himself quoted very specific verses out of Deuteronomy to battle very specific temptations (see Matthew 4). Jesus could have quoted 1 Chronicles 2 when Satan told Him to turn stones into bread, but instead He quoted a very specific verse to combat a very specific temptation.

So what do you struggle with? Where are you easily tempted? You know what it is- and so does the devil. Satan doesn’t know everything, but he knows where you struggle with temptation. And that’s why he shoots fiery darts at you. Hywel Jones says, “Our flesh and our connection with the world provide him {Satan} with combustible material.” That means that the devil’s fiery darts are tailor-made for you. So the weapons (verses) that you use to resist him need to suit the temptation. Your flesh and your connection to the world provide Satan with plenty of combustible material. And that’s why you need to extinguish his fiery darts with very specific verses and promises out of God’s word.

You know where you struggle. You know where you are often tempted. And so does the devil. So why not have a battle plan? Why not dig into God’s word and pull out a few very specific promises? You know the fiery darts are coming. And you know they are tailor-made just for you. Now go get a few very specific verses and do battle.

Physicking Yourself By Repentance

In his book The Doctrine of Repentance Puritan pastor Thomas Watson says, “True sorrow must be habitual. O Christian, the disease of your soul is chronic and frequently returns upon you; therefore you must be continually physicking yourself by repentance.” You probably don’t use the word “physicking” much in your vocabulary, but the idea is one of healing, medicinal, or therapeutic. Watson is saying that repentance brings healing to us, so we should be repenting of sin often. This is what David means when he says-

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” Psalm 51:7-8

True repentance brings healing. True repentance brings healing because we turn to Jesus, our great Healer. Watson said, “I shall next show what gospel repentance is. Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients:

1. Sight of sin. “Sin must first be seen before it can be wept for.”

2. Sorrow of sin. “Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income or profit or delight.”

3. Confession of sin. “True confession leaves heart-wounding impressions on a man… It is one thing to confess sin and another thing to feel sin… Our hearts must go along with our confessions… Confession gives glory to God…humbles the soul… purges out sin… endears Christ to the soul…makes way for pardon…”

4. Shame for sin. “It is a great shame not to be ashamed.”

5. Hatred for sin. “A true penitent is a sin-loather. If a man loathe that which makes his stomach sick, much more will he loathe that which makes his conscience sick… Sound repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin.”

6. Turning from sin. “Dying to sin is the life of repentance… Turning from sin is like pulling the arrow out of the wound; turning to God is like pouring in the balm… In true repentance the heart points directly to God as the needle to the North Pole…

If any one is left out it loses its virtue.

Since the disease of our soul is chronic, may our sorrow for sin be habitual.

Benji

It’s a Trap!

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And he (the younger brother) arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… But he (the older brother) was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him… Luke 15:20, 28

I think most Christians function regularly like the younger brother or the older brother (in what has commonly been called The Parable of the Prodigal Son). Some of us think like the younger brother and we feel that our sin keeps God from us and actually incites His anger. Some of us think like the older brother and we think that our obedience actually gains us favor with God. And some of us actually act like both brothers at different times.

In his book The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Jerry Bridges warns us of the dangers of this kind of thinking-

One of the dangers of [obedience-based Christianity] is that it can lead people to think God owes them a reward for their obedience. Their perspective in life is, “If I do certain things, I expect God to come through for me.” And when He doesn’t, they think, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t He doing something to help me, and what can I do?” In the opposite direction, some people live in fear that because of their sin, God will punish them…This is a trap. If we think we earn God’s favor by our obedience or disfavor by our disobedience, we will expect God to come through for us or, at the other extreme, will always be living in fear that “the other shoe will eventually drop.”

This is exactly what is happening with both brothers in Luke 15. They both have a skewed understanding of what God the Father is like. They both have fallen into a joy-killing trap. I don’t want that for any of you. Today, you can take a deep drink of the Gospel and see that God always moves toward you… because of what Jesus has done for you, not what you’ve done or haven’t done for Him.

Benji

I Triple-Dog-Dare You!

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“…by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…” 2 Peter 1:4

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

Because of Jesus, all of the promises in the Bible are ours to claim. But it goes deeper than that. It’s not so much that we claim God’s promises, but that God’s promises claim us. That changes everything! But there is still an element to us making the promises our own. Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan pastor, wants you to know just how confident you can be when it comes to believing that all of God’s promises find their yes in Jesus, and therefore, are yours for the taking-

Therefore when you look into the book of God and find any promise there, you may make it your own; just as an heir who rides over a lot of fields and meadows says, This meadow is my inheritance, and this corn field is my inheritance, and then he sees a fine house, and says, This fine house is my inheritance. He looks at them with a different eye from a stranger who rides over those fields. A carnal heart reads the promises, and reads them merely as stories, not that he has any great interest in them. But every time a godly man reads the Scriptures (remember this when you are reading the Scripture) and there meets with a promise, he ought to lay his hand upon it and say, This is part of my inheritance, it is mine, and I am to live upon it. (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, p.83).

When you look into the Book of God and find a promise there, make it your own! When you open God’s word, there is a treasure trove of “precious and very great promises” for you to make your own. As Kevin DeYoung recently tweeted:

How should we read the Bible? Look for promises and fight to believe every last one of them.

So I triple-dog-dare you to find a promise in God’s word and make it your own. I triple-dog-dare you to find a promise in God’s word and fight to believe it. Then, go tell someone this week what promise you are clinging to. Think about how the culture of our churches would change if we started sharing “our” promises with others? I think that would be pretty awesome. So I will say it again: I triple-dog-dare you to find a promise in God’s word this week, “own” it, and then share it with others. You might be surprised how things will change in your life, the lives of others, and the life of your church.

Benji

Getting Rid of That “To Revenge” List

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I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. Isaiah 63:7

If you’re like me (and chances you are), then you’re good at keeping a record of wrongs. If you’re like me (and chances you are), then forgiveness does not come naturally or easy. If you wrong me, chances are I’ll dwell on it quite a bit (chances are real good that I’ll do that!). I’ll probably rehearse how you wronged me, what you said/did, and how I can get revenge. Oh, I may not seek revenge like Psalm 3 and ask God to break your teeth, but inside my heart I just might entertain the thought. I’m good at wanting God to exact justice… as long as it’s on my enemies and not me.

How do you keep from letting bitterness set in? How do you keep from dwelling on hurts? How do you keep from replaying scenes and scenarios over and over in your head? How do you keep from having “imaginary conversations” where you drum up just the right words to get back at the people that have hurt you? The answer is simple. Let Isaiah, an old Testament prophet, tell you how to do it:

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD…

We live in a fallen world where we will be hurt by fallen people. How do we cope? Recount God’s goodness to you in Christ. Rehearse the Gospel. Recounting God’s forgiveness of your sins will strengthen you to be able to forgive others. It is a strange thing when we say thank you to God as he wipes our record clean and then we refuse to clear our “to-revenge” list. Richard Allen said, “Purposeful looks to the cross dispels the desire for revenge.”

Want to get rid of that nagging, venomous, cancerous, and deceptive “to-revenge” list? You do it by recounting the steadfast love of the Lord. You do it by purposeful looks to the cross. You do it by repeated and repeated and repeated looks Jesus.

May we be a church who fills up the trash cans scattered around the cross with our crumpled up “to-revenge” lists.

Benji

mortifying your darling sins

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Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) is a Puritan that you need to read (you can find many of his works online here). Unlike many pastors, he stayed in London during the Great Plague of 1665, faithfully tending his flock. He lost his first wife, Martha Burgess, a godly woman whom he greatly treasured, in 1676. He wrote of her, “She was always best when she was most with God in a corner. She has many a whole day been pouring out her soul before God for the nation, for Zion, and the great concerns of her own soul.” He later married a young God-fearing woman named Patience Cartwright. They were described this way: “she spring-young, he winter-old.” I love that! Brooks died in 1680 and John Reeve, who preached at the funeral, said Brooks had “a sweet nature, great gravity, large charity, wonderful patience, and strong faith.”

In his book Heaven on Earth, Thomas Brooks describes the sweetness and joy that can be ours when we kill sin, particularly those “darling sins” that we love so much-

The fourth motive to provoke you to the mortifying of your darling sins, is, solemnly to consider, that the conquest and effectual mortifying of one bosom sin, will yield a Christian more glorious joy, comfort, and peace— than ever he has found in the gratifying and committing of all other sins. The pleasure and sweetness which follows victory over sin, is a thousand times beyond that seeming sweetness which is in the gratifying of sin. The joy which attends the subduing of sin—is a noble joy, a pure joy, a special joy, an increasing joy, and a lasting joy. But that joy which attends the committing of sin—is an ignoble joy, a corrupt joy, a decreasing joy, a dying joy. The truth is–if there were the least real joy in sin, there could be no hell-torments, where men shall most totally sin, and be most totally tormented with their sin.

Ah! doubting Christians, as ever you would have good days, as ever you would walk in the light, as ever you would, like the angels, have always harps in your hands, and hallelujahs in your mouths—be restless, until in the spirit and power of Jesus, you have brought under control, that sin which sticks so close unto you. Remember this, nothing below the conquest of bosom sins can make a jubilee in the heart. It is not a man’s whining and complaining over sin—but his mortifying of sin, which will make his life a paradise of pleasure.

Here’s to our churches becoming a paradise of pleasure!

Benji

The Milk of Faith

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Life in this fallen world can be hard. You know that. And so do I. So how do we stay afloat when “sorrows like sea billows roll?” I’ve been reading All Things for Good by Puritan Thomas Watson and he teaches us how-

Are we in great trouble? There is a promise that works for our good, ‘I will be with him in trouble’ (Psalm 91:15). God does not bring His people into troubles, and leave them there. He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting. And there is another promise, ‘He is their strength in the time of trouble’ (Psalm 37:39). ‘Oh,’ says the soul, ‘I shall faint in the day of trial.’ But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us. Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger…

Question. How do the promises work for good?

Answer. They are food for faith; and that which strengthens faith works for good. The promises are the milk of faith; faith sucks nourishment from them, as the child from the breast. ‘Jacob feared exceedingly’ (Genesis 32:7). His spirits were ready to faint; now he goes to the promise, ‘LORD, thou hast said thou wilt do me good’ (Genesis 32:12). This promise was his food. He got so much strength from this promise, that he was able to wrestle with the Lord all night in prayer, and would not let Him go till He had blessed him. (pp. 16-17)

We can stay afloat when “sorrows like sea billows roll” because God is our strength. We can know that we will not faint because God joins His forces with us. We can endure whatever it is that we are going through because God will either make His hand lighter or He will make our faith stronger. And He does all of this through His promises. We get strength through the promises because they are the food of faith, the milk of faith.

So find a promise in God’s word and suck nourishment from it. Like a fussy, nursing child, find a promise in God’s word and let it settle you, let it calm you. The promises of God in Scripture are the milk of faith. Find one and let it nourish you.

Benji