So, Ya Wanna Be Happy, Eh?

Well, according to John Owen, you’d best be about the business of killing the power of indwelling sin in your life or it won’t happen.

Well, almost.

Let me explain. Tim Challies invited his blog followers to join in reading a classic work of Christian literature. This time round, we’re reading John Owen’s work on killing sin. In Chapter 4 of Owen’s classic work, ‘Of The Mortification of Sin in Believers’, we are taught that if we want ‘joy, real joy, wonderful joy’ (as the old gospel chorus goes), then we must be killing sin in our life. But…(I knew you were going to say that), Owen makes it clear that joy & life & vigor are not necessarily connected to mortification. In other words, you may be killing indwelling sin (pride, selfishness and so on), and yet find little joy. He cites Heman, of Psalm 88 fame, for an example. No, what is the true root of our joy is our justification, our adoption through Christ Jesus.

And yet, with all that said, the ordinary relationship of joy & life & vigor depends upon the killing of sin (envy, jealousy, gossip, to point out just three) in our lives. Owen then goes on to give several reasons why we must be about this responsibility:

  • Mortification prevents sin from weakening the soul and depriving it of its strength. It does this by:
    • untuning, unframing and entangling the affections of the heart
    • filling our thoughts with ways we can sin (and, perhaps, not be caught in it)
    • breaking out and hindering our spiritual duty to God
  • Those sins left alone darken the soul and keep comfort and peace from it.
  • Putting sin to death clears room in our heart for more of God’s grace and its benefits

One of the pieces of assurance I tell people they can have, that God is doing a work in their life, is this: you’re fighting against your sin. So…

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You can join in the conversation here, or over at Tim’s place.

You’re So Common and Ordinary

Chinese symbols for ordinary and common

Chinese symbols for ordinary and common

They both uttered the words. ‘I will.’ Adoringly, they each repeated the phrases, ‘I take you…’ The joy of pronouncing them husband and wife was received and given. Nearly dancing down the all-too-narrow aisle, light on their feet, the couple rejoiced at having just been married.

Following all the ceremony and in the wake of the reception, I was leaving the mirthful scene and bidding farewell to a few familiar faces. One older gentleman, whom I had never met before, greeted me, thanked me for leading the lovely ceremony and then gave, what I know was a compliment. It was just one I’ve never received before…and in retrospect, almost wish that I had heard it years ago. He said, ‘You made us all feel at home; like we belonged. You’re so common and ordinary.’

So common and ordinary.

I realize there are pastors who are anything but those two words. They preach to 100s, if not 1,000s each week. They write books. Conferences frequently feature their faces on their posters and names as the ‘Big Draw’ to their particular gathering. More people than what sit in their sanctuaries (or auditoriums) each week may consider them their pastor. Some are truly very pastoral. Others are quite stand-off-ish, distant from the ‘average’ man in the pew. For some, this is a protective reaction to the numbers of people they serve in their teaching. For others, it is a major flaw in their character, seeking to serve as or be called ‘pastor.’

However, the vast majority of pastors in churches scattered all over this land, do not stand out like these few. They serve in relative obscurity. No one in the next county knows them, let alone parishioners in the next state. Common and ordinary. It’s an apt description. Week in and week out, they serve their flocks. Preaching, teaching, leading, visiting, praying with, praying for, sharing with the souls God has entrusted to their care. Hopefully, for most, their congregations love them, even more than they respect them. No books get written by them. Articles for journals in their fields of interest do not contain their name in the by-line. Radio programs go on without their name, title, places of education or list of authored books ever being mentioned.9781433501999

So common and ordinary.

D.A. Carson wrote a memoir of his father, Tom Carson back in 2008 entitled, ‘Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.’ If you’re a pastor, I highly commend it to you. Are you a member of a local congregation? Again, I recommend it to you. It is perhaps one of the most encouraging books I could ever have read, having served three different small churches over the past 24 years.

It was I aspire to be as a pastor.

So common and ordinary.

It’s a Daily Workout

No, I don’t mean whatever it is you’re doing for exercise (or not doing, as the case may be). I’m referring to what a Christian must do if they are to be living as a Christian: killing sin every single day of their lives. Hear this from John Owen:

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you.

I missed last week’s installment of walking through ‘Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers’ by John Owen. Tim Challies and several of his readers (myself included) are reading through this great work (again for many of us). It is a breath of fresh air, taken in gladly and necessarily, in our world today.

Chapter 2 explains why ‘Believers ought to make the mortification of indwelling sin their daily work’ (page 49). Here’s Owen’s outline:

  • Indwelling sin always abides; therefore it must always be mortified
  • Indwelling sin no only abides, but is still acting
  • Indwelling sin is not only active, but will produce soul-destroying sins if not mortified
  • Indwelling sin is to be opposed by the Spirit and the new nature
  • The results of neglecting the mortification of indwelling sin
  • It is our duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God and grow in grace every day

The following are a few select quotes from chapter 2:

He that is appointed to kill an enemy, if he leave striking before the other ceases living, does but half his work (Galatians 6.9; Hebrews 12.1-2; 2 Corinthians 7.1) (Owen, ed. Kapic & Taylor, page 51)

When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone (page 51)

If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? (page 52; and of course, to spoil the rhetorical nature of this inquiry, I’ll shout an enthusiastic, ‘NO!’)

There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, would fall into as many cursed sins as ever did any of his kind. (page 53)

…when poor creatures will take blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil, and never rouse up themselves to a vigorous opposition, can they expect anything but to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that their souls should bleed to death? (page 54, under the heading, ‘The results of neglecting the mortification of indwelling sin’)

This chapter hits particularly hard within my soul. I recognize far too much neglect, simply too much laziness in the killing of indwelling sin within me. Sin is a harsh master, and far too often, I have become, unwittingly or no, too comfortable with it. As Andy Dufresne once said (The Shawshank Redemption)…

Tickling Your Ears…Eyes? Mind? on Tuesday

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re ready for a trip over a variety of topographies today. Several things I’ve come across and wanted to point you toward for your enjoyment, for your betterment, for the expansion of your thinking. Here goes…

I Need A Miracle, I Need A Blessing, I Deserve the Best…

As you can probably tell, my thought is about the same as the song…no; you really don’t.

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Okay, maybe what I really, really need is a…COFFEE NAP!

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Actually, seeing this is rather remarkable…black-and-white-portraits-of-faces-painted-black-and-white-8

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And just when I thought I was doing and being SO-O-O Good!

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Dan Phillips has this amazing ability to hit it out of the park just about every time…like this one.

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Well, that ought to keep you busy for at least five minutes. See y’all later!

Worshiping the Lord

penguin_loadYesterday’s Lord’s Day was truly delightful, for me, at least. It had been a somewhat heavy week. We have an elderly man who is dying, most likely to go home to be with the Lord quite soon. I’ve known him for at least 15 of the 18 years I’ve ben at Cornerstone. He’s a dear brother and is so ready to go to be with his Lord and Savior. Personally, some other matters have been weighing heavy upon me. So, coming into this Lord’s Day, my heart wasn’t quite ‘feelin’ it’.

Yet God is good…all the time. I cried out to Him and He heard my cry. ‘Meet with us, this day, O Lord. Soften our hearts so we might worship you aright.’ I used some of the words from Keith Green in one of the prayers:

The people who assist in selecting our songs of worship always do a wonderful job at their task. We began with an old Horatius Bonar song, rendered ‘new’ by Matt Richley, ‘Nothing That My Hands Can Do’, an excellent reminder, right from the very beginning of worship, that we come with empty cups, holding them up and asking God to fill the cup of our salvation.

This was followed by ‘Cornerstone’, a Hillsong tune that incorporates old hymn lyrics (‘The Solid Rock’) with a new refrain. When we acknowledge that we bring nothing, but Christ brings all and upon Him we stand…well, the work on our hearts was begun.

After time for prayer, we came back with our hearts’ longings: ‘Take My Life & Let It Be (Consecrated, Lord, to Thee)’ with a segue into ‘Sanctuary’. Here’s our version from yesterday at Cornerstone (it’s not a professional recording; just a digital recorder set out to catch all the voices):

After preaching from Proverbs 5.1–23 and 6.20–35, about ‘The Myth of Greener Grass’, we ended with a heart’s cry to run to the cross, flee to Christ, and have Him be our refuge and shelter. Again, here’s our version of the hymn, ‘I Am Resolved’:

God is good and gracious, His mercies were certainly new to us that morning. May His name be praised.

Biblical Portraits of Creation – a review

Biblical Portraits of CreationAbout the Book – A faithful and edifying exposition of key chapters or sections of the Bible that speak of the glories of creation. It represents an ideal resource for pastors who want to preach a series on creation. And with its use of study questions, it can be used with profit for group Bible study.

About the Authors –

Walter Kaiser, JrWalter C. Kaiser Jr. is president emeritus and Colman Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has written numerous articles more than 30 books, including Recovering the Unity of the Bible  (Zondervan), Toward an Exegetical Theology  (Baker), and Hard Sayings of the Old Testament
(IVP).http://www.walterckaiserjr.com

Dorington G. LittleDorington G. Little is the Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Hamilton, MA. Prior to moving to Boston in 1997, he pastored in Boone, Iowa. He is a graduate of Wheaton College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

 

My Review – I’ll begin by saying I highly commend this book to you. Written by a pastoral scholar (Kaiser) and a scholarly pastor (Little), the authors do a masterful job of something Dr. Kaiser used to remind his students of again and again when I had him as a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: ‘Keep your finger in the text.’

While acknowledging that the issue of creation and science – literal six days, intelligent design, theistic evolution, or something else – can be complex, they do not allow that to keep them from the task of showing how the biblical text – God’s very words – show forth His creativity, His power, and His sovereign power over all things which He has created. One won’t have to read far to discover where the authors fall on this issue, they consistently let the Bible speak for itself, rather than imposing their views and understanding upon the text.

This book, however, is not meant to be an apologetic against some non-biblical form of teaching about creation as much as it is an apologetic in exemplary form of how the Scriptures display God and His glory in His creation – both in nature and in man, especially the redeemed. Any read may benefit from this volume, but pastors, teachers and bible study leaders will find themselves exceptionally benefitted by the format of each chapter. Following a concise, clear introduction of the text’s theme and relevance, a brief homiletical tool is given so one can easily see the focal point in the text presented, the homiletical keyword from that text, as well as the homiletical interrogative (what question do we ask the text to answer). Next comes an outline of the passage, completed by the presentation of the text, using this outline. For a young pastor, just coming into ministry, this can prove advantageous in setting into place an expositional style of preaching/teaching that always shows the parishioner/listener/student where the truths and principles are coming from in the selected text.

As I mentioned, I had Dr. Kaiser as a professor while at seminary and I am so glad to see he has not lost his way in handling the Scriptures nor in presenting them. I’ve known Dori, as a friend and as a pastor for many years as well (we once, and sadly, still do, share the same hairline!). Both of these men do an admirable job in their respective chapters. However, I’ll have to say I found Little’s chapter on Matthew 1.1–17 (‘Jesus and the New Genesis Advent’) as well as ‘Our New Creation Confidence for Proclamation and Living’ (2 Corinthians 4.6; 5.17) to be the most uplifting of all. Kaiser ends the book with a great and necessary challenge. Then, an appendix includes an article Dr. Kaiser wrote some years back for the ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) on the literary genre of Genesis 1, arguing for a close literal interpretation.

Get yourself a copy of this book and dive right in. Better yet, buy one for your pastor or bible study leader and encourage them to use it in their preaching or teaching.

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Biblical Portraits of Creation may be purchased at:

Amazon.com

Weaver Book Company

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”