Keller: Speaking About our Opponents

“I’ve been asked why it is especially wrong for Christians to speak of their opponents in a demonizing and dehumanizing way. Historic Christians believe that our sin has made us worthy of condemnation and hell.

From those living respectable lives to those leading criminal lives, all of us fall infinitely (and therefore equally) short of loving and serving God in the way that is due him. Therefore, we can only be saved through Christ by sheer grace.

The Westminster Confession of Faith 15:4 say “As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” (Rom 6:23; Gal 3:10; Is 55:7; Rom 8:1)

So Christians can never feel morally superior to any one else at all. That means (MAIN POINT) when we call out evildoing in others, as vital as that is, we can never imply by our attitude or language that they deserve God’s condemnation, but we do not.

Therefore: “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Right now our very social fabric is tearing apart because of, among other things, increasing, mutual demonizations ON BOTH SIDES. Christians must not contribute to this in any way.”

-Tim Keller,

Vroegop: Highlights from Weep With Me

Matt Smethurst recently read Mark Vroegop’s timely new book, Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation (Crossway, 2020). The following 20 quotes caught his attention.

The church at Antioch wasn’t Jewish. It wasn’t Gentile. It was both. That was new. Regardless of ethnicity, these believers united around their common belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unity in the gospel flourished in the church. Culture and ethnicity no longer separated them. Their allegiance to Jesus and love for one another created a countercultural community. The world had no category for them. (20)

I’m sure you’ve heard that “the most segregated hour in America is 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.” Tragically, the effects of hundreds of years of slavery and the legacy of segregation created canyons of pain and distrust. Additionally, the political, social, and media landscape fossilized our divisions, creating echo chambers of information and opinions. Instead of building bridges toward one another, it feels as if racial fissures are growing wider and deeper—even within the evangelical church. On the whole, churches in America don’t look like Antioch. If we’re honest, it’s hurt our witness. Our culture is not marveling at our brotherhood across ethnic fault lines. No one feels the need to create a new name for Christians because of our otherworldly unity. (21)

John Perkins, civil rights activist and author of One Blood, believes the church is the best place for racial reconciliation. He writes: “There is no institution more equipped and capable of bringing transformation to the cause of reconciliation than the church. But we have some hard work to do.” . . . Lament is where we can begin. (24)

When Christians from majority and minority cultures learn to grieve together, they reaffirm their common bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. Lament enters into the deep emotions of sorrow, hurt, misunderstanding, and injustice. When it comes to racial reconciliation, I think we should approach the conversation as we would if a dear friend experienced a deep loss. Our first step should be to sit beside the grieving individual. Love the person. Listen. And lament with him or her. (33)

Race, in American history, is a social construct. In other words, our society created the term and defined it. Race deconstructed ethnicity (European, African, Asian, etc.) into two categories merely related to the color of one’s skin: white and black (“colored”). White became an all-encompassing category based on the color of one’s skin—not ethnicity. What’s more, the creation of the term was associated with superiority and white supremacy. (35)

The church is a great place for racial reconciliation because we have an identity underneath the most painful categories in our culture. (37)

When it comes to loaded subjects like racism or ethnic tension, too often believers fall into the familiar ditches of denial or despair. Some people think that talking about racial reconciliation only makes things worse. . . . There are others who are weary and feel hopeless. . . . But lament offers a way to vocalize frustration and sorrow that is not only helpful but also biblical. Lament provides a place to go with the pain of racism and prejudice. It’s a prayer path for talking to God and to one another about the brokenness of the world. Lament gives us a way to vocalize the complicated emotions connected to racial reconciliation. (49)

I’m sure every kind of church—both majority- and minority-culture—needs to grow in lament. But I think it’s helpful to know that there is a significant difference in American church history related to lament. The experience of the African American church is marked by this sorrow song in ways that many of us might miss. (59)

For reconciliation to happen, we have to acknowledge that the problem is not that we’ve talked about racial reconciliation too much. We’ve not expressed our love, taken time to listen, embraced the language of lament, or put ourselves in a position to learn from our minority brothers and sisters. If we’re honest, too often white evangelicals are known for retreating from the conversation— sometimes even spiritualizing disengagement. It’s part of the reason for the deep division that still exists in the church. (95)

Lament is how people to talk to God and one another when pain or indifference tempts them to be silent. . . . Lament could be a way to end our silence. (97)

The reasons behind the silence of majority, white Christians are not clear to our minority brothers and sisters. They wonder which issue creates the silence. . . . As I’ve engaged my minority church members, I’ve learned that silence on the part of the church is not just deafening; it’s deeply hurtful. It raises legitimate questions that are painful and loaded. This is the trap the enemy has laid for us. It’s why the discussion about race is so hard. And it’s why change is so slow. (100)

While we cannot repent of others’ sins, we also must not ignore our own. Rather than bear others’ burdens, we blame them for having burdens. We would rather ignore evil that does not harm us than help those who are being harmed. We are selective with the sins we grieve over. We gloss over attitudes, assumptions, and prejudices that grieve you. Far too often we have been unlike Jesus. He entered into others’ pain, yet we flee from it. (123)

It’s one thing for a member of the majority to feel lonely, struggle with relationships, or experience isolation regarding taste in music or some other issue. But it’s another thing to feel “other” when both history and society tend to reinforce that painful isolation. And it’s hurtful when church isn’t a refuge from the sense of racial inferiority. (130)

Lament humbly expresses the pain of exile, lovingly protests injustice—in whatever form it appears—and prophetically calls people to love, listen, lament, learn, and leverage. (143)

Psalm 94 acknowledges that our depravity is more than an individual concern. Injustice can be framed by statute. Sin slithers its way into the halls of power, legislation, and our culture. (153)

Asking boldly moves from “what is wrong?” to “what is true?” . . . Lament drops an emotional anchor in the character of God. (155)

Lament helps with perspective. This is part of the reason why Sunday services in the African American church have been so important and lively—a tradition that remains to this day. Sunday is a refuge from the unfairness of the culture. Perhaps you grew up in a traditional church where services were long, dressing up was the norm, and titles (“Deacon Jones”) were important. Sunday in the African American church meant dignity, worth, and value—a time to reconnect with the truths underneath the hard experiences. (155–56)

The enemy desires the church to remain divided. He’s working to create new misunderstandings and hurts. It takes courage and godliness to pursue reconciliation, especially if you are the one mistreated. And while lament doesn’t fix everything, it can help. (159)

Lament isn’t a destination. It moves you from where you are to where you need to be. Lament is necessary, but it is never enough. Isaac Adams, the host of the United? We Pray podcast, says, “When it comes to racial reconciliation, we must do more than pray; but we cannot do less.” (182)

We don’t need to wait until heaven for unity. (185)

Originally posted here:

Owen: Bring Your Sinful Desire to the Gospel

“Bring your lust to the gospel—not for relief, but for further conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom you have pierced [Zech. 12:10; John 19:37], and be in bitterness. Say to your soul:

‘What have I done? What love, what mercy what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace?

Do I thus [repay] the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit has chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust?

What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust’s sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great a salvation?

In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation—I have despised them all, and esteemed them as a thing of naught, that I might harbor a lust in my heart.

Have I obtained a view of God’s fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements?

Shall I endeavor to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?’

Entertain your conscience daily with this treaty. See if it can stand before this aggravation of its guilt. If this make it not sink in some measure and melt, I fear thy case is dangerous.”

-John Owen

Be Killing Sin or It Will Be Killing You

“Be killing sin or it will be killing you”

“There are two great things that are suitable to humble to souls of men. The first is due consideration of God. And the second is a due consideration of yourself. Of God, look at His greatness, his glory, His holiness, His power, His majesty and His authority, and of ourselves, to understand our mean, lowly, insignificant abject sinful condition.”

-John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, 282

Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints Doubting and Questioning –Part 4

Satan’s Devices to keep saints in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition. –Part 4

7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against:

For remedies, consider that

A. Many scriptures show that such relapses have troubled saints
B. God nowhere promises that such relapses will not happen
C. The most renowned of glorified saints have, on earth, experienced such relapses
D. Relapses into enormities must be distinguished from relapses into infirmities
E. Involuntary and voluntary relapses must be distinguished
F. No experience of the soul, however deep or high, can in itself secure the soul against relapses

8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound :

For remedies, consider that

A. The best of Christians have been most tempted by Satan
B. All the saints temptations are sanctified to them by a hand of love
C. Temptations cannot harm the saints as long as they are resisted by them

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.

Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints Doubting and Questioning –Part 3

Satan’s Devices to keep saints in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition. –Part 3

5. By suggesting to saints that the conflict that is in them is found also in the hypocrites and profane souls:

For remedies, consider that

A. The whole frame of a believer’s soul is against sin
B. A saint conflicts against sin universally, the least sin as well as the greatest
C. The conflict in a saints is maintained for several reasons
D. The saint’s conflict is constant
E. The saint’s conflict is within the same faculties
F. The saint’s conflict is blessed, successful and prevailing

6. By suggesting to the saint who has lost joy and comfort that his state is not good:

For remedies, consider that

A. The loss of comfort is a separable adjunct from grace
B. The precious things still enjoyed are far better than the joys and comforts lost
C. The glorified saints were once in the same condition
D. The causes of joy and comfort are not always the same
E. God will restore the comforts of His people

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.

Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints Doubting and Questioning –Part 2

Satan’s Devices to keep saints in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition. –Part 2

4. By suggesting to saints that their graces are not true, but counterfeit:

For remedies, consider that

A. Grace may mean either the good will and favor of God, or the gifts of grace
B. There are differences between renewing grace and restraining grace, between sanctifying and temporary grace

1. True grace makes all glorious within and without
2. The objects of true grace are supernatural
3. True grace enables a Christian, when he is himself, to do spiritual actions with real pleasure and delight
4. True grace makes a man most careful, and most fearful of his own heart
5. Grace will work a man’s heart to love and cleave to the strictest and holiest ways and things of God, for their purity and sanctity, in the face of all dangers and hardships.
6. True grace will enable a man to step over the world’s crown, to take up Christ’s cross; to prefer the cross of Christ above the glory of this world
7. Sanctifying grace, renewing grace, puts the soul upon spiritual duties, from spiritual and intrinsic motives
8. Saving grace, renewing grace, will cause a man to follow the Lord fully in the desertion of all sin, and in the observation of all God’s precepts
9. True grace leads the soul to rest in Christ, as in his ‘summum bonum’ –chiefest good.
10. True grace will enable a soul to sit down satisfied and contented with the naked enjoyments of Christ.

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.

Satan’s Devices to Keep Saints Doubting and Questioning –Part 1

Satan’s Devices to keep saints in a sad, doubting, questioning, and uncomfortable condition. –Part 1

1. By causing saints to remember their sins more than their Savior, yea, even to forget and neglect their Savior:

For remedies, consider that

A. Though Jesus Christ has not freed believers from sin’s presence, He has freed them from its damnatory power
B. Though Jesus Christ has not freed believers from the vexing and molesting power of sin, He has freed them from the reign and dominion of sin.
C. It is needful to keep one eyes on the promise of remission of sin, and the other eye on the inward operations of sin
D. Believers’ sins have been charged to the account of Christ as debts which He has fully satisfied
E. The Lord has good reasons for allowing His people to be troubled with sinful corruptions
F. Believers must repent of their being discouraged by their sins

2. By causing saints to make false definitions of their graces:

For remedies, consider that

A. There may be true faith, even great faith, where there is no assurance
B. The Scriptures define faith other than Satan tempts the saints to define it
C. There may be true faith where there is much doubting
D. Assurance is an effect of faith, not faith itself

3. By causing saints to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence:

For remedies, consider that

A. Many things, through contrary to our desires, are not contrary to our good
B. God’s hand may be against a man when His love and His heart are set upon him
C. Cross providences are sent by God to work some noble good for saints
D. All the strange and deep providences that believers meet with further them in their way to heaven

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.

Satan’s Devices to Keep Souls from Holy Duties – Part 4

Satan’s Devices to keep souls from holy duties, to hinder souls in holy services, to keep them off from religious [activities].

7. By casting in vain thoughts while the soul is seeking God or waiting on God:

For remedies, consider that

A. The God with whom we have to do is great, holy, majestic, and glorious
B. Despite wandering thoughts it is needful to be resolute in religious service
C. Vain and trifling thoughts that Satan casts into our souls are not sins if they are abhorred, resisted and disclaimed
D. Watching against, resisting and lamenting sinful thoughts evidences grace and the sincerity of our hearts.
E. We must labor to be filled with the fullness of God and enriched with all spiritual blessings
F. We must labor to keep up holy and spiritual affections
G. We must labor to avoid multiplicity of worldly business

8. By tempting Christians to rest in their deeds:

For remedies, consider that

A. Our choicest services have their imperfections and weaknesses
B. Our choicest services are unable to minister comfort and aid in days of trouble
C. Good works, if rested upon, will certainly destroy us as the greatest sin we commit
D. God has met our need of resting place in Christ Himself

-Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1652.