Robert Murray McCheyne – What Have I to Do with Idols?

“What have I to do any more with idols?” Hosea 14:8

When Christ came into the temple, He found those that sold “oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple” (John 2:14-15). So when the Holy Spirit comes into any heart, He drives out the buyers and sellers. If you have received the Spirit, you will be crying now in your heart, Lord, take these things hence; drive them out of my heart. What have I to do any more with idols? Some of the idols to be cast away are:

1. Self–righteousness. This is the largest idol of the human heart, the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God’s favor by thinking little of your sin; or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers; or by looking to your religious exercises, your feelings; or by looking to your graces—the Spirit’s work in your heart. Beware of false Christs. Study sanctification to the utmost, but make not a Christ of it.

God hates this idol more than all others, because it comes in the place of Christ: it sits on Christ’s throne. Just as the worship of the virgin Mary is the worst of all kinds of idolatry, because it puts her in the place of Christ; so self-righteousness is the idol God hates most, for it sits on the throne of Christ. Dash it down, dear friends. Let it never appear again.

It is like Manasseh’s carved image in the Holiest of all (2 Chr 33:1-15). When Manasseh came home an altered man to Jerusalem, would not his first visit be to the Holiest of all? With eager hand he would draw the veil aside; and when he found the carved image, he would dash it down from the throne of God. Go and do likewise. If you feel God’s love freely by the righteousness without works, then why would you go back to this grim idol? What have I to do any more with idols?

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Richard Baxter – 6 Ways to Know if you Love Yourself More than God

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“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

You hear ministers tell you of the odiousness and danger and sad effects of sin; but of all the sins that you ever heard of, there is scarce any more odious and dangerous than selfishness; and yet most are never troubled at it, nor sensible of its malignity. My principal request therefore to you is, that as ever you would prove Christians indeed, and be saved from sin and the damnation which follows it — take heed of this deadly sin of selfishness, and be sure you are possessed with true self-denial; and if you have, see that you use and live upon it.

And for your help herein, I shall tell you how your self-denial must be tried. I shall only tell you in a few words, how the least measure of true self-denial may be known. And in one word that is thus: Wherever the interest of carnal self is stronger and more predominant habitually than the interest of God, of Christ, of everlasting life, there is no true self-denial or saving grace; but where God’s interest is strongest, there self-denial is sincere. If you further ask me how this may be known, briefly thus:

1. What is it that you live for? What is that good which your mind is principally set to obtain? And what is that end which you principally design and endeavor to obtain, and which you set your heart on, and lay out your hopes upon? Is it the pleasing and glorifying of God, and the everlasting fruition of Him? Or is it the pleasing of your fleshly mind in the fruition of any inferior thing? Know this, and you may know whether self or God have the greatest interest in you. For that is your God which you love most, and please best, and would do most for.

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Dr. Andrew Fabich – The Dirt Is Alive: God’s Design for Soil Microbiome

God made dirt — before He cursed it along with the significant amount of life present in the soil. In one acre of land, there is an equivalent biomass of an octopus in terms of the microbial life. The life in the earth is so immense that it directly affects crop yields and the food chain. While it’s often swept under the rug, we shouldn’t dismiss the amazing design found in soil particulates.

Mud Pies and Microbes

I remember making mud pies as a child for my mom—she didn’t like them too much. Pie making was always the best just after a good rain, but I had no idea that I was covering my hands in germs. Though I now know there was probably other biomaterial present in the soil (e.g., the organic matter called humus), back then the combination always warranted washing my germy hands when I went inside. In terms of our overall health, there is a fine balance between all the germs in the dirt and all the other stuff that it is made of. Dirt is dirty, but not in the ways that we often think.

While earth is typically considered to be only rocks and dirt, life is also abundant in soil. But we cannot observe all the living things in the soil with our eyes—they require a microscope for us to see them.

We know that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); however, Scripture is silent on using words like bacterium, germ, or microbial ecology. Therefore, though no one can assertively determine which day God actually created bacteria, we have a pretty good idea when bacteria were brought into existence.3 There is no doubt that God created “everything” and called it “very good,” so that must also include bacteria. Since we find bacteria with a purpose in dirt and we know that God created the dirt, we know that God created the dirt with microbes as well.

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Jaquelle Crowe – How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years

A Life Transformed

The gospel changes everything. To live a life transformed by the gospel means that everything in life changes.

The first thing is our identity; who we are as people. We’re no longer teenagers defined by the world’s standards. We’re no longer defined by sin, by what we once wanted to do, but we are defined by the gospel, by God—our identity as children of God in Christ. That means the entire narrative of our lives is changed, so we are part now of the greatest, biggest story ever told. We’re actually a part of the story of the gospel, and of God’s people. We get to live in this story, which means everything in our lives and our circumstances changes.

It also changes our community, who we spend time with. It changes our love for God’s people, and makes us want to be a part of a local community of God’s people. It changes how we act, what we find funny, what we post on social media, what we read. Prior to the gospel, we thought a certain way, we acted a certain way, we had this ideology that directed us, and the gospel just flips it on its head and revolutionizes everything.

It means that our entire lives are now about the gospel and about Jesus — not about us, not about what we want to do, but about Jesus and what would honor and glorify him. How can I act today and tomorrow, and how can I plan my future, with the gospel in mind? How can I go to school, how can I read, how can I watch TV in a way that brings honor to Jesus, instead of me?

R. C. Sproul – Knowing and Doing What Righteousness Requires

Every so often, I run across a news story that’s emblematic of our times. Recently, I read of a case wherein a woman contracted with a man to be a surrogate mother. The man agreed to pay her to bear the children, who were conceived by in vitro fertilization using the man’s sperm and eggs donated from another woman. Triplets were conceived, but the man wants to abort one of them, and the contract he signed gives him the legal right to do so. The woman does not want to abort the child, so she has sued to prevent it and has offered to raise the unwanted child herself. But the man does not want that, and now thinks it would be better to put the child up for adoption himself.

The commodification of children, the nonchalant manner in which the man wants to get rid of one of the babies, and other issues raised by this case send chills down one’s spine. Here we see the logical results of what happens when human beings have no fixed, objective standard of right and wrong.

Modern science and technology have introduced questions that the church has never had to deal with before. When it comes to many biomedical issues, we don’t have the advantage of two thousand years of careful research, debate, and insight into complex and weighty problems. The availability of life-support systems, cloning, in vitro fertilization, and other technologies have introduced new dilemmas and pose new ethical questions.

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Tim Challies – How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine

It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelled “haters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings — so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.

A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.

Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemics—the practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.

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Horatius Bonar – God’s Way of Peace

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

There seem to be many in our day who are seeking God. Yet they appear to be but feeling “after him,” in order to “find him,” as if He were either a distant or an “unknown God.” They forget that he is “not far from every one of us,” for “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Act 17:23, 27-28).

That He is not far, that He has come down, that He has come near — this is the “beginning of the gospel” (Mar 1:1). It sets aside the vain thoughts of those who think that they must bring Him near by their prayers and devout performances. He has shown Himself to us that we may know Him, and in knowing Him find the life of our souls.

With some who call themselves Christians, religion is a very unfinished thing. It drags heavily and is not satisfactory, either to the religious performers of it or the onlookers. There is no substance in it and no comfort. There is earnestness perhaps, but there is no “peace with God” (Rom 5:1), and so there is not even the root or foundation of that which God calls “religion.” It needs to begin over again.

Acceptance with God lies at the foundation of all religion, for there must be an accepted worshipper before there can be acceptable worship. Religion is, with many, merely the means of averting God’s displeasure and securing His favour. It is often irksome, but they do not feel easy in neglecting it; and they hope that by it they may obtain forgiveness before they die.

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Michael Boling – Four Ways To Think on What is Pure, Lovely, Commendable, Excellent, and Worthy of Praise

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

I would venture to say that most believers are familiar with Philippians 4:8. In fact, it is likely a verse that comes to our minds, at least on a momentary basis, when ungodly thoughts rear their ugly head. But do we really grasp what it means to “think about these things”? Furthermore, what are these things that should be at the constant forefront of our thoughts and for that matter, our actions? Finally, what does it look like in a practical sense to be thinking on things above? I would like to address these three important questions in this post.

Defining “think about these things”

A great place to start when trying to understand what a word means is the dictionary. Now we must remember that behind the English translations we read is the original language in which the passage was penned. In the case of Philippians 4:8, we need to take a look at what the Greek word for “think” actually means. Think is the Greek verb logizomai meaning “to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on.” Gerald Hawthorne notes the Apostle Paul has asked the Church at Philippi (and by extension us as well) “continuously to focus their minds on these things, to give full critical attention to them, and so to reflect carefully upon them with an action-provoking kind of meditation. It was not his desire to ask them merely to think about such noble matters without putting them into practice in their lives.”[1]

We can quickly see that to “think on these things” requires more than just a passing thought or lip service. It demands active and continuous meditation, not the type of meditation where thought never quite translates into action. Conversely, this type of meditation requires the implementation of what is being pondered into every aspect of daily life. The truth of what we should be thinking about must make a difference in our speech, thoughts, desires, actions, ultimately leading to positive and lasting spiritual growth.

What is it We Should be Thinking About?

Now that we have a solid understanding of what it means to “think on these things”, we have to now take a look at and define what we are to be thinking on in the first place. The Apostle Paul assuredly did not ask the Church at Philippi to think on whatever floated their proverbial boat. We are provided with the parameters that form the fence line if you will for where are thoughts should be focused. Let’s take some time to examine what Paul tells us to think upon.

Whatever is true: There is little mystery to the definition of the Greek adjective alēthēs which is translated in English as true. It simply means true. With that said, there is the aspect of this word that speaks to what it means to think on whatever is true. Alēthēs also has an action element to its definition noting the need to love and speak the truth or to be truthful. Homer Kent states that true “has the sense of valid, reliable, and honest – the opposite of false.”[2] Anything that even remotely consists of falsehood or that has the traits of dishonesty are the complete opposite of truth and thus should not be what we dwell on nor should they find they way into our thoughts or actions.

Whatever is honorable: Next Paul notes that whatever is honorable should be what we think upon. Honorable, sometimes translated as noble or honest, is the Greek adjective semnos meaning something that is venerated for its character. Donald Fee suggests that in this passage, Paul is noting that which is worthy of respect.[3] Certainly there are many men and women of God who have noteworthy character, people in the body of Christ who demonstrate more often than not a dedication to the things of God. However, there is only One whose character is completely reputable. There is only One who is the very definition of holiness and righteousness and that is God. To think godly things is to seek after that which pleases God. It is to be holy as He is holy. That is a might task; however, it must be the goal of every thought and deed of the believer.

Whatever is just: This idea of justice finds its root in the same word from which righteousness is derived, namely the Greek adjective dikaios is that which aligns itself with the commands of God revealed in Scripture. In fact to be righteous, demands adherence to God’s perfect law. This is yet another lofty goal but a necessary one. Furthermore, to think on whatever is just requires the believer to read, understand, and put into practice God’s commands for righteous living provided in His Word. Only that which is worthy of the approval of God should be that which we think upon. Anything outside that framework is sin.

Whatever is pure: Purity connotes the idea of being without blemish, spot, or wrinkle. The Greek adjective hagnos means pure from every fault; immaculate. Now we must admit that our thoughts are often on that which could be considered filthy. Even the slightest speck of dust in our thought life and in our actions is considered filthy in the eyes of God. This is especially true given hagnos speaks to the idea of moral purity. In an age where all manner of sexual immorality is championed, we must dedicate ourselves to seeking after moral purity as outlined in God’s Word.

Whatever is lovely: Loveliness as used in this passage means something very specific. It is not whatever we choose loveliness to mean. That which is lovely is that which pleases God. The Greek adjective used in this verse that is translated as lovely is prosphilēs meaning pleasing or acceptable. This word has a very strict application to it. Hawthorne aptly notes “It has as its fundamental meaning “that which calls forth love”…Thus the Christian’s mind is to be set on things that elicit from others not bitterness and hostility, but admiration and affection.”[4] This type of action is what Paul described in Ephesians 4:29: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Whatever is commendable: Something that is commendable is worthy of praise. Kent notes that commendable or admirable as it is often translated suggests “what is praiseworthy, attractive, and what rings true to the highest standards.”[5] As with the other virtues listed by Paul in this passage, the only standard that matters is Gods as noted in His word.

How to “Think on these things”

As noted earlier, thinking in the sense Paul exhorts is far more than a passing thought or fancy. It involves a clear element of thought constantly borne into action which then shapes every aspect of our lives. We have discovered in our analysis of the things Paul says we are to think upon that each and every thing mentioned by Paul is related to nothing short of spiritual excellence. Anything short of such excellence falls short of what God expects from His people.

Does this mean that we will achieve such a level of holiness in this life or for that matter that we can attain a life of complete devotion to “these things” on our own effort? The response to both questions is absolutely not. In this life we will continue to battle with sin and with those things that grab our focus and attention away from the things above. There is no amount of personal effort that can lead to a life lived according to God’s perfect standard. What then are we to do given the pursuit of holiness remains God’s expectation of His people?

1. Have a passion for God’s Word. Meditating, reading, studying, and most importantly applying the truths found therein, is a fundamental key to uprooting and mortifying sin in our lives. As we engage in persistent and consistent study of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit takes his pick ax and starts to dig out those sinful desires which so easily entangle us, replacing those desires with a passion for the very things Paul notes in Philippians 4:8.

2. Devote yourself to a life of prayer. In Colossians 4:2, Paul exhorts believers to “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Praying without ceasing is a life lived in constant communion with God. An active prayer life focuses our attention on what God would have us do rather than the clamor and selfish desires of the world around us. Prayer is more than sending a few words heavenward at the dinner table and then moving on with life. Prayer is communication, a two way conversation between you and God. This means that prayer involves active listening on our part, letting our requests be made known to God and then doing what Paul noted in Colossians 4:2 – watching and being thankful.

3. Surround yourself with godly people. The old saying “bad company corrupts good morals” is as true today as it was the day it was penned. If you are not involved in a local body of believers, now is the time to find a place where God would have you establish roots. Part of how we spur one another towards love and good deeds is by not forsaking gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). God never intended the Christian life to be lived in isolation from fellow believers. The very sense of the people of God being called a body is rooted in the reality that we all play an important part in this thing called the Church. We need each other so that we may pray for one another, study God’s word together, and to come along side our fellow believers so that we may together strive to do that which pleases God and brings Him glory and honor.

4. Put on the new self. Finally, we must put on the new self. Paul exhorts us to do this in Colossians 3:1-3 – “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Cast off the old man with its fleshly desires and put on the new man, devoted to things above. This is a hallmark of a mature believer who is growing in the grace of God. By devoting yourself to the Word of God, living a life of prayer, and connecting with godly people within the body of Christ, we can begin to see the Holy Spirit work in our lives, ripping out that cantankerous old man and replacing it with a passion for truth. The new self is not a mask. It is a lifestyle that reveals a life devoted to God.

Let us think on these things not out of mere ritual or to appear holy, but rather out of a heart of love for God in thanksgiving for what He has done for us. Set your mind on these things!

References:

[1] Gerald Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 188.
[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr. “Commentary on Philippians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.11: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 152.
[3] Donald Fee, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Philippians (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1999), 179.
[4] Hawthorne, 188.
[5] Kent, 152.

Michael Boling – Parenting 101: Dealing with Lying Lips

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. (Col. 3:9)

YHWH detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Prov. 12:22)

In the interest of transparency, I want to begin by stating as a child, I had a tendency to lie. Usually it was a string of lies sometimes carefully and at other times haphazardly thrown together in an effort to avoid trouble. Typically, the repercussions of those lies being found out was far worse than if I had simply told the truth at the outset. One thing was certain – the truth, regardless of how well my plan of deceit had been through out, was found out.

The temptation to lie, especially to share the incorrectly described “little white lie” is one I submit we all face. While we may have matured from our childhood days of lying about who broke the lamp in the living room, the urge to stretch truth resulting in falsehood remains a challenge for us all.

As a parent, the battle against lying lips has from time to time taken place in our home. We have a teenage daughter. With that time of life comes the temptation to lie, to go behind the back of those in authority, the desire to do what one wants, and the impulse to lie in order to cover up the tracks of the deception.

A recent occurrence of this deception resulted in a prime teaching moment for our daughter. I will not go into the details of what took place; however, let’s just say it involved the use of technology, the agreement that certain elements of technology would not be installed, the installation of said technology despite the established rules, and finally, the discovery of the deception and unraveling of the web of lies.

I remember what it was like as a child. The rules set down by parents seem like such a killjoy. What is the big deal with doing what they told me not to do, especially if it is just for a quick second? Nobody will be harmed by my actions in this one instance, right? Unfortunately, this line of thinking does not recognize the fact established in Scripture, namely that YHWH detests lying lips (Prov. 12:22) and lying is a work of the flesh, something we should be casting off and mortifying (Col. 3:9).

At its core, lying and deception is the oldest trick in the enemy’s playbook. Deception was part and parcel of what took place in the Garden of Eden. Did YHWH really say? Can’t I just divert off the path of righteousness just a couple of steps? It won’t harm anyone will it?

One could suggest the wrongdoing by our daughter in the grand scheme of harmful activities arguably does not rise to the level of being that monstrous. I would respond to such a suggestion that since YHWH detest lying lips, falsehood exists near or right at the top of that which we should also detest. While all sin should be abhorred, lying lips are repeatedly noted as an abomination to YHWH. Lying is like a giant snowball. It begins with a seemingly innocuous fib but ultimately keeps rolling into a giant landslide of destruction. In the case of our daughter, her actions of falsehood were akin to tossing a log onto an already burning fire.

We shared with our daughter how great a fire a lie can set ablaze. The second and third order consequences of lying are what is often forgotten when deception is embarked upon. Lying breaks the sacred bond of trust, something that takes a great deal of time to rebuild once destroyed. What we often think is no big deal and harmless is in reality rebellion against authority, in this case parental authority, and ultimately, it is rebellion against YHWH.

For parents out there who are also dealing with this issue in their home, be sure you set the example to your children by embracing a policy of honesty. Even those supposed “little white lies” should not be tolerated. Instruct your children in the importance of truth and the harm that occurs by deception. As the people of YHWH, we are to always tell the truth. YHWH detest lying lips and we should as well. Helping our children understand the importance of truth at the earliest age possible and addressing the urge and practice of lying with the power of Scripture is vital.

Michael Boling – Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Feast of Pesach (Passover)

Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Feast of Pesach (Passover)

In the previous post, Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Pesach, we explored the scriptural mandate for this observance to include how a typical Passover Seder is conducted today. In this post, we are going to see how the Feast of Pesach was fulfilled by the pure, spotless, unblemished Passover Lamb, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will begin by analyzing each aspect of the Passover Seder noting how this service is replete with signs pointing to Christ and the Renewed Covenant through his blood.

The Feast of Pesach is often described as the Feast of Salvation or the Feast of Freedom. This is not surprising given the fact Pesach was first established as a remembrance of God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in the land of Egypt (Mitzraim). God saved His people from slavery delivering them to the Land of Promise just as He had covenanted with Abraham. Pesach is to be “a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.” (Ex. 12:14) As we walk through the Passover Seder identifying each element a bit further, paying special attention to how each aspect points to Christ and his sacrifice, we shall begin to see why Passover was to be an everlasting ordinance. It was to be celebrated in perpetuity and whether we realize it or not, we will be celebrating throughout eternity the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb and the penal substation provided through the cross. This eternal celebration can be seen in Revelation 5:12 which declares “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

As noted earlier, Passover is largely a celebration of salvation, redemption, and freedom. For Israel, that salvation from was slavery and the sacrifice of the lamb represented the price that was paid to redeem and free them from bondage. Thus, each aspect of the Passover Seder brings to the mind of the celebrant what God did for His people long ago. Additionally, the promise of the Messiah can also be seen in the Passover Seder, One who would come in the spirit of Elijah to for all time bring peace to the land and to forever save God’s people. To properly understand the significance of Pesach requires one to understand Pesach as a time of remembrance and a time of longing. For the Jew who does not believe Jesus was the Messiah, it is a time of remembrance and a time of longing as they are still longing for his coming. For those who affirm Jesus is the Passover Lamb, it is a time of remembrance of the deliverance provided through the cross from sin and death and a time of longing for the return of the spotless Lamb who will one day return for His people to deliver them for all eternity from sin, death, and the grave. With that as a background, let’s begin to examine the Passover Seder observance in more detail. But wait, there’s more!