Albert Simpson, 1843-1919
“Where sin abounded–grace abounded much more!”
God loves to take the worst of men–and make them into the most magnificent monuments of His redeeming love and grace! He loves to take the victims of Satan’s hate and the most fearful examples of his power to destroy–and use them to illustrate His divine mercy.
He loves to take the things in our own lives that have been the worst and the most vile–and to transform them so that we shall be the opposites of our former selves. The sweetest spirits–are made from the most stormy and self-willed; the mightiest faith–is created out of the wilderness of doubts and fears; the divinest love–is transformed out of stony hearts of hate and selfishness!
The grace of God is equal to the most uncongenial temperaments and to the most unfavorable circumstances. Its glory is to transform a vile sinner into a holy saint, and show to men and angels of ages yet to come, that where sin abounded–grace abounded much more!
1) I Hate Porn
I hate porn for the fear it induces in the hearts of parents everywhere that their child could stumble upon a sight and get addicted.
But I love Jesus.
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.” That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity: an impatience with the Word of God.
Theology in story is a genre that comes and goes in Christian writing and one that, in the past, has been used for good and for ill. I am grateful to see Wax both attempting it and succeeding well at it. Clear Winter Nights is a book, a story, that will encourage the Christian and provide answers to the skeptic. I highly recommend it.
Money given to a stranger in need, a meal cooked for a friend with a new baby, a note of encouragement written to a good friend: rags. Even my time spent studying the Bible, praying, and tithing: still rags. Not one of those things—not one—can earn me the right to be the adopted daughter of the King. All of my actions earn me nothing, except for this: I can choose to believe by faith that Christ died on the cross and in power rose again, defeating sin and—in the ultimate and perfect demonstration of grace—offering me new life in Him. It’s a gift I can never, ever repay, but one I should earnestly desire to share with everyone I meet.
…Father…help me trade my petty frustrations, however valid I think they may be, for peace and gentleness toward those who frustrate me. Jesus, forgive me for my pettiness, and help me to live out even the small things in your name. Amen.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and apart from being a good time to stock up on Logos or Kindle deals, it is also a great time to actually “Thank” your pastor and be reminded of all the hard work they are putting in on a week to week basis. When we think of reasons for thanking our pastors, it is often for reasons that are very transparent: leadership on Sundays, preaching, etc. However, there are so many things our pastors do behind the scenes that we should remember to thank them for. Below I’ve listed for reasons to thank our pastors that we may often neglect:
1) Your Pastor Prays for You
As a member of a local church, we can rest assured that our pastors are praying for us on a daily basis. Even when times are tough and you don’t think anyone is remembering you or knows you exist, your pastor is praying for the congregation. Your pastor is deeply committed to prayer, and prays daily for the church. I believe it might have been Hudson Taylor (but I have also heard it attributed to A.W. Tozer) who said that “the church moves forward on her knees.” What a blessing it is to have pastors who lead the way by praying for their people!
2) Your Pastor Reads. A lot.
It is necessary for the local pastor to remain sharp and dilligent in all of their works. This necessitates that they are a person wholly committed to reading and sharpening their knowledge and craft. How long does it take you to finish your average book? A week or two? A month? More? A local pastor will often sit down and read multiple books in a week. This is not for a general pursuit of knowledge and for the sake of a hobby, this is so the pastor will be better suited to serve the flock.
3) Your Pastor Spends Countless Hours With People
You might only see your pastor on Sundays and occasionally at church events during the week, but your pastor is continually in the trenches with people of your congregation during the week; serving them, praying for them, discipling them, or rebuking them. Your pastor is deeply involved in the lives of people who are struggling with disease, marital conflicts, or the death of loved ones. Perhaps you think of your pastor only as a leader, but this is only a half-truth. The role of a pastor is not only a leader, but a servant. What a blessing it is to have had Christ remind us, “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be slaveof all.For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).
4) Your Pastor Prepares
The average pastor spends around twenty hours a week prepping a sermon. Some spend upwards of thirty to forty. A pastor who is entirely committed to feeding the flock with solid preaching is a rich gift Christ gives to His Church. Thank God for solid preachers!
5) Your Pastor Thanks God for You
So thank God for your pastor!
Earlier this week I published a short excerpt and elaboration from Paul Tripp’s In the Redeemers Hands, a book on what it means for Christians to help apply the gospel to the lives of one another. It should be no secret that I love everything that comes from Paul Tripp’s ministry, and so to that end I am going to share another excerpt from this same book. This passage needs no elaboration from me. Allow this illustration to simmer, and reflect on the seriousness of sin.
A woman once approached me during a seminar on this material and asked, “If I have the Bible in my hands and the Holy Spirit in my heart, why do I need to be counseled by others?” How would you answer her? Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the Wonderful Counselor of the church. He enables us to understand God’s Word, convicts us of sin, works in us a willingness to obey, and enables us to do what we have been called by God to do. But does this mean that I no longer need one-on-one ministry? You could use the same logic to argue that you don’t need public worship and the public ministry of the Word. This woman was missing something significant, which is captured by a few short verses in Hebrews: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:12-13).
There is a lot packed into these two short verses. First, notice that the passage is written to “brothers,” that is, to believers. The writer us addressing issues that are part of the normal life of every Christian. He is not talking to those outside the faith or to some special class of believers. The writers is saying that there is something in each of us that places us in danger, and because of that, we need the daily ministry of others.
Next, look at the content of the warning: “See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving (i.e. turning away, ultimately hardened) heart.” The fact that there is a need for this kind of warning should get our attention. What is being described here is a process, one I have seen many times in people I have counseled.
It all starts with the person giving in to the sinful desires of his or her heart. A married man becomes interested in a woman at work. He thinks about what it would be like to get to know her better. He begins to spend way too much time studying the way she dresses, the look of her face, the way she keeps her hair, and the shape of her body. As he does this, his desires grow. He has not considered a physical relationship, and he is not thinking of leaving his wife at this point. He decides to talk to the woman. What harm could it do? After all, she is a colleague, so he ought to have a good relationship with her.
It isn’t long before they are having long lunches together and talking often during the day. One day he offers to take her home and spends forty-five minutes sitting closer to her on the couch. He touches her hand and tells her how much he appreciates their friendship. On the way home, for the first time he wishes he wasn’t married. When he arrives home he is careful about how he reports on his day. That night he lies in bed next to his wife, thinking about the woman at work. He is progressively giving in to subtle patterns of sin, but he doesn’t see them for what they are.
Yet there is something else going on inside him, the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He is uneasy. He feels a bit guilty. He doesn’t experience the joy he once did at seeing his wife at the end of a long day. He knows he is all too excited to go to work in the morning. He knows he has begun to be more critical of his wife and that he feels a unique kinship with this other woman. So he argues with himself, trying to quiet his conscience. He doesn’t see it, but he is responding to subtle patterns of sin with subtle patterns of unbelief. He tells himself that he hasn’t done anything wrong, that the Bible does not forbid a man’s friendship with a woman, that he is a faithful husband, and that he hasn’t done anything adulterous. He convinces himself that this relationship is a good thing, that he needs more of these kinds of relationships at work, that he has existed too long in the comfortable Christian ghetto, and that God is actually pleased he has reached out to someone.
Not only is he acting upon the sinful desires of his heart, he is subtly backing away from the interpretive authority of Scripture. Giving in to patters of sin has been followed by unbelief, and all the while the man and his wife are actively involved with their church. But underneath, he has begun to lose his spiritual moorings. A childlike trust in and obedience to the Word has been his moral anchor. He had been sensitive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But now he has cut the anchor chain and is adrift. And he doesn’t even know it.
Because he has lost his spiritual moorings, he drifts away further. Before long he and his coworker are leaving lunch and not returning. He begins to volunteer for business trips when he knows she is going. The relationship is increasingly physical. His relationship with his wife is disintegrating, but he doesn’t care. In fact, he wonders why in the world he married her. He is spending more time at work in the evenings and on weekends, and so he is less involved with activities at his church. He has quit reading his Bible and praying; he feels quite trapped by the whole “Christian thing.” His wife pleads with him to go with her for counseling, but he is not interested.
There are more evenings when he doesn’t even come home. Lies fill his conversations with his wife. His pastor pursues and pleads with him, but he is unmoved, no longer attentive to the Word or sensitive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. His heart has become hard. He is not sure he believes “that stuff” any more, and before long he is making plans to leave his wife.
Sinful -> unbelieving -> turning away -> hardened hearts. What a terrifying progression! Perhaps you are wondering, “How could this happen to a believer?” This passage answers the question with its detailed description of how things went wrong. Notice the words in Hebrews 3:13: “so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” This explains why we need the daily ministry of fellow believers.
-Tripp, In the Redeemer’s Hands, 51-53