Thomas Watson – How May We know Whether We Love God?

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He who loves God desires His presence. Lovers cannot be long asunder, they soon have their fainting fits, for lack of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him. David was ready to faint away, when he had not a sight of God. “My soul faints for God.” Psalm 84:2

He who loves God, does not love sin. “You who love the Lord—hate evil.” Psalm 97:10. The love of God—and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God. He who loves God, has an antipathy against sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against sin. By this try your love to God. How can he say he loves God, who loves sin—which is God’s enemy?

He who loves God is not much in love with anything else. His love is very cool to worldly things. The love of the world eats out the heart of piety; it chokes holy affections, as earth puts out the fire. He who loves God—uses the world but chooses God. The world engages him—but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, “God, my exceeding joy!” Psalm 43:4. “God is the cream of my joy!”

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Vern Poythress – 3 Reasons to Obey Jesus

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Why should we endeavor to obey Christ comprehensively? Why should we serve him in every area of life? There are many reasons. I will mention a few.

1. Christ Is Universal Lord

The first and most obvious reason is that Christ is universal Lord. If he is Lord of all, he is Lord over business and work and education and science and home life. The business owner is not an absolute owner but a subordinate owner, a steward. God owns all things. He has given gifts to human beings, as a trust. We are managers of God’s estate, so to speak. This also means we are managers of Christ’s estate, since he is God and, as man, he has inherited the world: “. . . but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2). Each worker is to be working at the tasks assigned to him by the Lord, within the context of God’s providence: “. . . he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).

The obligation to serve Christ is even more obvious when applied to Christians. Genuine Christians are those who have trusted in Christ. Because of that trust, they have submitted themselves to his lordship. They have confessed that “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). Consequently, they are “servants” of Christ or “slaves” of Christ (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:22). The key word in Greek for servant or bondservant or slave is doulos. In its ordinary use in the Roman Empire, it describes those who were legally bound to serve their masters until their release.

Of course, with a human master the position of being bound to serve could be onerous. Servants suffered under oppressive masters. By contrast, Christ’s lordship is entirely good. His servants can and should delight to serve him.

We need to consider seriously the depth of obligation involved. When anyone becomes a follower of Christ, he gives up his own life completely (Luke 14:25–33). He no longer has a life “of his own.” He is never off duty: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

The follower of Christ must be a follower all the time. Of course the meeting in church on Sunday is particularly important. We meet to celebrate the Lord’s goodness, to hear his Word, to meditate on his character, to give thanks to him, to confess our sins, to receive forgiveness, to receive his power through the Holy Spirit, and to recommit ourselves to serving him. But our service to the Lord continues all week long. The Christian who works during the week is serving Christ.

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Michael Boling – “House Rules”

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I recently completed a Netflix binge watching journey through all 8 seasons of the medical drama called House, M.D. I am not quite sure what drew me into watching this program. Perhaps it was the allure of the drama itself, specifically the medical aspects of the show. Maybe it was also the fun of watching Dr. Gregory House and his team of diagnosticians solve the mystery of why their patient was suffering from whatever malady all other doctors were unable to cure.

One thing is certain about Dr. House. He plays by his own set of rules, both medically and personally. His excuse for playing by a fast and loose standard of medical guidelines is so that he can solve the medical puzzle. Whatever it takes to solve that puzzle is the road he will go down often regardless to the consequences of those around him. His personal rule set is rooted in his belief there is no God. When patients and families of those patients referred to faith or a belief in a higher power to cure them or to give them strength, such a belief was viewed with scorn by Dr. House. It seems this personal struggle with God led to his lack of bedside manner, let alone his difficult relationships with co-workers, friends, and family.

As I reflected on this 8 season adventure, I was reminded of the reality that as believers, we have a set of “House Rules” to abide by, ones provided to us by God in His Word. While Dr. House played by his own personally established “House Rules”, they were just that, something he created for his own use based on his perspective there is no God. If there is no God, there is no standard of behavior, no loving God and others that defines how you live.

We often try and live by our own “House Rules”. Even believers, those who declare they have a relationship with God, often reject the established rules of living provided by God. We seek our own path because for some strange reason we believe we can figure out the puzzle of life better than God. This was the pretense of Dr. House in his exploration of the weekly medical puzzle. His method seemed to work so he was allowed by the hospital leadership to lead a personally destructive lifestyle regardless of how it impacted the hospital or the general working environment. He saved lives so the “House Rules” were allowed.

How many times do we fall prey to that same perspective on life? Surely Scripture cannot be applicable to what we are going through today? Does God really mind if I forge just a little small footpath that diverts just a tiny bit from the straight and narrow? I will get back on the right path in just a bit, but if I take this shortcut, I can do something good for myself or someone else. Sounds familiar right? It is Dr. House rule set and not the God’s house rules that drive such a thought process.

Being a child of God means by definition that the Father has given us His rules for behavior. We can kick against them all we want, but disobedience to those rules never brings about a good end. It may seem like a good result was had, but the result is noted in Scripture as the path to destruction and wickedness. We may think we know better as to how to live our lives, but we really do not. God, as the Father, knows what is best for His children. This is why He has established His “House Rules”.

Scripture repeatedly declares that if we love God, we will keep His commands, His “House Rules”. If we say we love the Father, as His children we will be obedient to that which He has declared are the boundaries by which we are to live. Those boundaries are the very definition of what it means to love God and our neighbor. Stray outside those fence posts and we enter the realm of rebellion and ego driven actions, the world where Dr. House resides.

Which set of “House Rules” are you living by? Are they the ones adhered to by Dr. House, namely the do whatever I want and whatever it takes to save the patient despite the reckless and feckless nature by which those actions take place? Or are they the rules God has established which truly save and which truly provide safety, comfort, and healing? I trust as a child of God it is the latter. While the “House Rules” of Dr. Gregory House may make for some interesting television watching, ultimately they are not the rules we as the people of God are called to live by or embrace.

The law of God is perfect, restoring the soul. God’s “House Rules” give life and they are a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Why? Because as the Great Physician, God knows what is good for His people and He is a much better diagnostician of the human heart than Dr. Gregory House.

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Samuel Bolton – Legal vs. Evangelical Obedience: Nine Differences

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Samuel Bolton, in his book The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, lays out nine differences between legal obedience and evangelical obedience. He writes:

1. Slavish spirit vs. Childlike spirit

“In one case the man does things in a legal spirit, either hoping to get rewards by it, or fearing punishments if he omits the duty. The godly man, on the other hand, goes about duty for the sake of obtaining communion with God, and knows it to be his reward and happiness to have that communion, while the lack of it is the greatest punishment he can endure.”

2. Burdensome vs. Delight

“To the man who has to do with nothing but duty while he is performing duty, to him duty is tedious; but to those who have to do with God, with Christ, in their duties, to them duty is a delight. . . . The godly man has to do with God. He labours, he breathes, his heart gapes for him. He it is who he has in his eyes, and whom he labours after in prayer, even if he cannot enjoy Him.”

3. Conviction of conscience vs. Necessity of nature

“With many, obedience is their precept, not their principle; holiness their law, not their nature. many have convictions who are not converted; many are convinced they ought to do this and that, for example, that they ought to pray, but they have not got the heart which desires and lays hold of the things they have convictions of, and know they ought to do. Conviction, without conversion, is a tyrant rather than a king; it constrains, but does not persuade; it forces, but does not move and incline the soul to obedience. It terrifies but does not reform; it puts a man in fear of sin and makes him fear the omission of duty, but it does not enable him either to hate sin or love duty. All that it does is out of conviction of conscience, not from the necessary act of a new nature. Conscience tells a man that he ought to do certain things, but gives him no strength to do them. It can show him the right way and tell him what he ought to do, but it does not enable the soul to do it. Like a milestone by the roadside, it shows the traveler the way, but does not give him strength to walk in the way. On the other hand, where there is the principle of the Gospel, where there is grace, it is in the soul as a pilot in a ship who not only points the way but steers the vessel in the way which he appoints.”

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A. W. Pink – Evangelical Obedience

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This article is designed chiefly for the enlightenment and comfort of those of God’s people who are deeply exercised over their own obedience, and are often cast down by the defectiveness of the same. There is a real need for a Scriptural opening-up of this subject, for there are very few pulpits today — even in the most orthodox circles — where anything clear and definite is given out thereon; in fact, we doubt if half of our readers have ever heard or read the term, “evangelical obedience.” It is also a subject which needs the most careful handling; and if a comparative “novice” attempts to deal with it, he is likely to do more harm than good. The difficulty involved in it, is to maintain on the one hand the high and holy standard of obedience, which God has set before us in His Word; and to show on the other hand — the gracious provision which He has made for the relief of those who honestly endeavor — yet sadly fail, to measure up to that standard. The path between the two is a narrow one.

No matter how cautiously one may deal with this theme, if he is to be of any service to the real people of God, his efforts are sure to be put to a wrong and evil use by hypocrites, for they will “wrest it, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Such is the perversity of human nature. When a discriminating sermon is preached — the particular design of which is to draw a clear line of demarcation between genuine and nominal Christians, and to “take forth the precious from the vile” (Jeremiah 15:19) — the graceless professor will refuse to make application of the same and examine his own heart and life in the light thereof; whereas the possessor of divine life is only too apt to draw a wrong deduction and deem himself to be numbered among the spiritually dead. Contrariwise, if the message is one of comfort to God’s little ones, while too many of them are afraid to receive it, others who are not entitled will misappropriate it unto themselves. But let not a realization of these things prevent the minister of the Gospel from discharging his duty; and while being careful not to cast the children’s bread unto the dogs — yet the presence of such is not to deter him from setting before the children their legitimate portion.

Before developing our theme, we will define our terms: “Evangelical obedience” is obviously the opposite of “legal obedience” — and that is of two sorts:

First, the flawless and constant conformity unto His revealed will — which God required from Adam, and which He still demands from all who are under the Covenant of Works — for though man has lost his power to perform, God has not relinquished His right to insist upon what is His just due.

Second, the obedience of unregenerate formalists, which is unacceptable unto God — not only because it is full of defects — but because it issues from a natural principle — is not done in faith, and is rendered in a mercenary spirit, and therefore consists of “dead works” (Heb 6:1; 9:14).

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Richard Phillips – What Is Legalism?

rp_RickPhillips.jpg Last Sunday I taught a lesson in the New Members’ Class on Law and Gospel in the Christian life. This is an important subject for all of us, and it has been made more important in recent years because of the large amount of erroneous teaching on it within Christian and even Reformed circles. It occurred to me this week that it would be good to review these matters with the entire congregation. I therefore intend to cover several topics, starting this week with the question, “What is legalism?”

The question of legalism is important for two reasons. First, there is such a thing as legalism and we need to know how to avoid it. Second, there are many false accusations of legalism that are hurled against the Bible’s actual teaching, and these too are to be avoided. So, what is legalism? I would define legalism in three categories: 1) seeking to be justified before God by our own works; 2) adding human laws to the actual laws of the Bible; and 3) an approach to sanctification that is excessively reliant on human effort and forgetful of God’s grace.

The first, and classic, form of legalism is to seek justification before God by your own works. This is the universal approach to salvation apart from Jesus Christ. Most people think they just have to be “good enough” and they will be accepted by God into heaven. Their problem is an ignorance of God in his holiness and perfect justice, coupled with a denial of their true sinful condition and a false conception of sin’s offense before God. The true situation is that God is perfectly holy and his standard is nothing less than perfect holiness in the creature. He says, “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). Not only are we not perfectly holy but we are thoroughly corrupted by sin. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” This is true both with respect to our guilt – we have actually violated God’s holy law and are guilty of it – and of the condition in which we were born as part of a fallen race: “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3). Moreover, whereas we tend to downplay sin, God says, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). When you add this up, there is not one single person, apart from Jesus Christ, who is able to be justified before God on the basis of his works. As Paul explained in Romans 3:20, “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

This is why the very heart of the gospel is justification not by works but through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul explained: “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Christians are justified not by their own works but by Christ’s work, which we receive in faith. Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and Christ lived a perfect life before God that fulfilled on our behalf the demands of God’s law. The Bible therefore teaches an “imputed righteousness.” This means that through faith we are justified because Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed, or credited, to us before God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states this classically: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

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Andy Johnson – Scripture Memorization: Great Tool or Old School

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I admit it. I’m pretty stupid…spiritually speaking, that is. I’ve been a Christian for over 19 years now, and I daily amaze myself by the amount of spiritual stupidity my own soul is able to harness. I mean, how could I have been on this journey for more than half my life and still be so far from being conformed to Christ? As I stroke my chin and recollect on the past ten years, I know that my spiritual “dumbness” has been curbed by the Holy Spirit’s work through the discipline of Scripture memorization. However, the goal here is not to motivate you to memorize via a life changing testimony but to craft an argument that leads you to recognize that diligent efforts at Scripture memory can bring huge spiritual payoffs.

Perhaps you do not see yourself as spiritually stupid. Interestingly, God does. Seriously. Take a look at Isaiah 55:8-9. Seriously. Go read it now. We often don’t do things God’s way because we’re not internally aligned to the desires, passions, purposes, and motivations of God, hence the logic behind our spiritual stupidity. There are a variety of tools to align yourself and the people in your ministry to God’s “thoughts” and “ways,” but I think the single greatest one is His Word. Internalizing God’s Word is a sure fire way to align your life to the heart and character of God.

I am a firm believer that Scripture memorization has a place in your ministry, and I do not mean just with kids. It is not what a curriculum should be built around; however, it is a deeply valuable tool that regular believers and ministry leaders are often quick to jettison. It has a host of benefits, but I want to outline nine of them here. From pre-schooler to senior citizen, these benefits transcend age or level of spiritual maturity.

Obedience

Part of the Christian life is obeying. Knowing the specific commands of God’s Word eases the task of obedience because it cancels out any excuse for disobedience. This is especially applicable when memorizing the imperative aspects of Scripture like the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount.

Conformity to Christ

God’s desired outcome when He saves someone is that he begins conforming his life to the life modeled by Christ (Romans 12:1-2). It is by memorizing Scripture that one’s worldview changes, and the way one speaks, thinks, and acts moves closer in line with who Jesus is.

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Michael Kruger – Why Do (Modern) Christians Rarely Talk about Rewards in Heaven?

When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven? I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done. And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation. But is it the only motivation?

The New Testament writings suggest it is not. For those who faithfully endure persecution, Jesus makes it clear, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Paul states it plainly, “But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8). The author of Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was motivated by rewards, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb 11:26).

But, if rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits? I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter. While we are rightly told that only Christ’s obedience can secure our justification, and that he has kept the law perfectly for us, our own obedience receives far less attention in the pulpit. Justification is center stage, and sanctification is peripheral.

No doubt, the downplaying of Christian obedience is borne out of good motives—some think Christ is glorified the most when we disparage our own obedience. Our good works are just “filthy rags” (Is 64:6), we are reminded.

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Tedd Tripp – The Power of Presentation

It was one of those conversations that embarrass everyone in earshot. A young mother was desperately trying to explain to a demanding three-year-old why he could not have any of the candy the store had placed at his eye level. As the child became more insistent, the mom became more shrill. Suddenly, perhaps as much in frustration as in humiliation, she abandoned her groceries, grabbed her son, and shot out of the store, a torrent of words spilling from her mouth.

Teaching children, especially young children, to see the importance of obeying Mom and Dad is not an easy task. Presentation is important. Here’s what I mean. If you go to a fine restaurant, the food will be presented attractively. It won’t be thrown on the plate as you might expect in an army mess hall.

The way we present obedience is equally important. We should never come to our children in a demanding tone with words like these, “Look, I am your dad. I put a roof over your head. I buy every morsel of food you put in your mouth. As long as you live in my house, you will do what I say.” While each of those things is true, this presentation misses the beauty and goodness of God’s ways.

In a biblical vision you might revise the presentation this way. “God is good. He has made you and me and all things for His glory. In love and kindness He has given you a mommy and daddy who love you, who have maturity, wisdom, and life experience. And God says that you should obey Mommy and Daddy. We insist on your obedience because we love you and we know that is good for you.”

Think on what is being communicated to the child. God is good. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things. He has communicated how we should live. God has shown great love in giving you parents who love you and care for you. Walking in God’s ways is the pathway of blessing.

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