Why We Love the Amish

By Tim Challies

We’ve got an Amish community not too far from here. It is the place to go when you need to stock up on produce, farm-grown foods, or heirloom-quality furniture. It is also known as the place to go if you really just need to see some Amish people doing what they do. And a lot of people like to do just that—to go and look, to go and gawk.

Even though we’ve got an extensive group nearby, we recently found ourselves in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, North America’s best-known Amish community. (Full disclosure: Our actual travel objective was Harrisburg and the overrated Civil War museum there, but every hotel in the city was completely full.) We did not stop on the road outside Amish farms to watch them do their work, and did not go on a bus tour, but we couldn’t help but see horses and buggies around town, and, of course, plenty of the distinctive Amish clothing.

As we headed north, back toward our home, I started to think about the Amish and why we find them so endlessly fascinating. Though they are small in numbers, everyone knows who they are and everyone knows at least a few of their unique customs; though so much of their religious practice appears insufferable, they are regarded as Christians who love and practice grace. They are the heroes of a million stories, the subject of a thousand documentaries. Why are they so fascinating? I have a few ideas.

The Amish challenge so many of our deeply-held beliefs and assumptions.

The Amish challenge us.

In a world where we are so completely dependent on our high-tech devices, the Amish somehow manage to survive without them, and even appear to thrive without them. Where we are convinced that newer is better and that we are only ever one innovation away from joy, the Amish seem plenty happy to do without. If you spend time around the Amish, or if you begin to learn about their ways, you necessarily find yourself asking questions like: Do I really need my smartphone? Are all of these devices really bringing happiness? What have I lost in all of this innovation? The Amish challenge so many of our deeply-held beliefs and assumptions.

We want to figure out the Amish.

We are fascinated by the Amish because we so badly want to figure them out. Where they proclaim that they have great uniformity in their lives and laws, we see great contradictions. Their faith appears contradictory: They speak about the grace of Christ but live by law; they extend grace to those who harm them, but shun those who leave them; they rejoice in their salvation, but do not share Christ with others. Their laws appear contradictory: The men can have buttons, but the women must use straight pins; connecting to a phone network attaches them to the world, but connecting to a road network does not; they rely on doctors and lawyers, but will not allow their own children to be educated beyond eighth grade. When I see the Amish, with all their strengths and weaknesses, all their grace and legalism, I look for a key that unlocks it all. I look for knowledge that makes it all make sense.

The Amish recall a simpler time.

Where life today is marked by endless complexity, the Amish are known for their quiet simplicity. As they go about their lives, they draw us to a simpler time. In some ways the Amish live in the best of both worlds—the world today and the world of centuries ago. They live their day-to-day lives in that simpler world, that quieter world, that slower world. But, when necessity dictates, and law permits, they take advantage of modern innovations. They use horse-drawn buggies to get to their worship services, but hire drivers to take them to the store. They have no electricity in their homes, but give birth and die while connected to modern medical equipment. Their simplicity attracts us. It draws us.

The Amish recall a purer time.

The Amish call us to a simpler time, but also a purer time. This purity is an illusion, I think, but it still captivates us. Even though we love our modern technologies, we can’t deny that they have changed us. We tend to think that they have polluted us. Marshall McLuhan was right when he said that we create technologies in our own image and, soon enough, they return the favor. We are products of our technologies, dependent upon them, and shaped by them. When we look at the Amish, unshaped by radio and television, cell phones and web pages, we see something that looks pure by contrast.

We admire the Amish.

We admire the Amish for their stubborn refusal to change and to adapt. We are amazed that they continue to live in this high-tech, always-on world in the way they do. Yet they live in it unabashed, unembarrassed by their eccentricities. They don’t allow external pressure to shape their deepest beliefs. With the modern world pressing in around them, they don’t only survive, but thrive. Their communities continue to grow, their land holdings continue to expand, their businesses continue to thrive. We admire them in many ways, but perhaps most deeply simply for being, and remaining, who and what they are.

Surprisingly, They still Exist

So I suppose the most fascinating thing of all about the Amish is that they still exist. When they first came to national attention in the early twentieth century, prognosticators gave them a generation or two before they were gone. They thrived. When they received close study in the middle of the century, sociologists and anthropologists once again decreed that they would soon surrender to the world around them. They grew. And as the technological distance between them and us deepens and widens, they seem to be thriving all the more. Their very existence is a marvel; their practices are a challenge. We love the Amish because, in some ways, we long to be the Amish.

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/articles/why-we-love-the-amish

Pornolescence

By Tim Challies

It is going to take time—decades at least—before we are able to accurately tally the cost of our cultural addiction to pornography. But as Christians we know what it means to tamper with God’s clear and unambiguous design for sexuality: The cost will be high. It must be high.

We all know the cost will be high in fractured families and heartbroken parents, husbands and wives. Already we are seeing far too many of these and each one is its own tragedy. We know the cost will be high in the countless thousands of women who are used and abused in front of cameras so they can be violated for other people’s pleasure. That is a sickening tragedy as well.

But an overlooked cost, and one that will only become clear in time, is that porn is stealing the best years from a million young Christian men and women.

Porn is dominating their lives during their teens and twenties. It is controlling their lives during those years when energy is high and responsibility is low, when the world lies open before them and the possibilities are endless, when they are charting the trajectories for the rest of their lives. Their dreams and their abilities are being hampered and squelched by a reckless commitment to sin.

So many young Christians have stunted their spiritual growth through what I call pornolesence. Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it.

Pornolescence is that period where he feels the guilt of his sin, but still enjoys it too much to give it up.

He may make the occasional plea for help, or install Covenant Eyes (but keep a workaround for when he’s really burning up), or ask for an accountability partner. But he doesn’t really want to stop. Not yet. She may phone a friend on occasion or plan to speak to one of the older women in the church, but in the end her internal shame weighs heavier than her desire for holiness. So she continues on, night after night.

This is pornolesence, that period between seeing the sin for what it is and actually putting it to death, that period between the deep soul conviction of immorality and the stubborn commitment to purity.

For some people it lasts days, but for many more it lasts for years. A lot of young people—too many young people—are growing up too slowly today. Their sexual awakening is coming far too early and amidst all the wrong circumstances, and it is delaying every other kind of awakening and maturing. It is especially delaying their spiritual maturation.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 makes it as clear as day: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” A Christian’s growth in holiness and his development in Christian maturity is directly and inextricably tied to sexual purity. A person cannot full-out pursue God while also full-out pursuing porn. It’s either/or, not both/and. God will not be mocked.

God will not allow you to soar to spiritual mountain tops while you stoop in pornographic filth.

God will not allow you to grow in Christian maturity while you wallow in your incessant pornolesence.

And I think time will prove that this is one of the gravest costs of pornography: It is stealing the best years from so many young Christians. It is stunting their spiritual growth and delaying their entrance into Christian ministry and service. These are the people who represent the future of the church—future elders, future deacons, future women’s ministry leaders, future youth leaders, future children’s workers, future mentors, future missionaries, future seminary professors, future defenders of the faith, future denominational heads, and on and on.

But with each click, with each video, with each unblushing exposure to what God deems abhorrent, they choose to worship a god in place of the God.

And all the while they delay their entrance into maturity, into leadership, into who and what God calls them to be.

If this is you, hear my plea: For the sake of Christ’s church, and out of love for Christ’s church, put that sin to death. Do it for Him, and do it for us.

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/christian-living/pornolescence

8 Ways Satan Convinces You To Question Your Salvation

Tim Challies quotes Thomas Brooks

Though Satan can never steal the Christian’s crown, though he can never snatch him away from the hand of the Father, he is so envious and malicious that he will leave no stone unturned in robbing the Christian of comfort and peace, in making their life miserable, in giving them reason to live in constant sorrow and mourning, doubt and questioning.

Thomas Brooks once identified eight ways in which Satan keeps Christians—Christians like you!—in this sad, doubting, questioning, condition.

1. He causes you to think more about your sin than your Savior.

He wants to so fill your mind with thoughts of the sin you’ve committed in the past, or temptations to sin you face today, that all thoughts of Jesus Christ and his finished work are displaced and erased. His desire is that you would think so much of your sickness that you would neglect the remedy that is close at hand.

2. He works in you to wrongly understand God’s graces.

Just as falsely defining sin will lead a person astray, so too will wrongly defining God’s graces. In particular, Satan labors so a Christian will define saving faith only in such a way that it includes full assurance of salvation; he can then use that too-expansive definition to cause the Christian to make his doubt proof of his lack of justification.

3. He leads you to make false inferences from harsh providences.

He whispers to you that providence appears to contradict your prayers, desires, tears, hopes and endeavors. Once he has shown you this he says, “Surely, if God actually loved you and delighted in you, he wouldn’t deal with you in these ways…”

4. He suggests to you that the evidences of grace in your life are counterfeit rather than genuine.

He wants you to believe that what you call faith is actually just a fleeting fancy, that what you see as zeal is just natural and unsanctified enthusiasm, that you are not actually evidencing any true evidences of grace, but just natural ability.

5. He convinces you that the kind of battle you have with sin is a battle that marks only unbelieving hypocrites.

As you battle against sin, and while the same old sins continue to rise up against you, Satan tries to make you believe that these very battles are evidences of hypocrisy rather than a universal Christian condition.

6. He suggests to your soul that the fact that you have less joy in Christ now than you once did proves that you have not been saved.

He may bring to your mind a time when your heart was overflowing with joy in him, when you felt the tangible comfort of the Holy Spirit. And then he will have you contrast that to your present condition and use it to convince you that you must not be a Christian.

7. He works within you to make you believe that relapses into sin—even sins you have labored to overcome—are evidence that you are not a believer.

He may whisper to you that you are a fool and a hypocrite to believe that God could ever love someone who battles sin, overcomes it, and then later succumbs to that same old sin.

8. He convinces you that only an unbeliever could face the manner and the weight of temptation you face right now.

First he will weary you with constant temptations perfectly suited to your weaknesses and desires. Then he will try to convince you that the very fact that you face these temptations must mean that you are not a Christian at all.

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

http://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/8-ways-satan-convinces-you-to-question-your-salvation

 

How Many People Go To Your Church?

by Tim Challies

“So how many people go to your church? This is question nearly every pastor faces at just about every conference he attends. I’ve written about the question before but, having spent the week at Together for the Gospel, and having been part of many conversations, it seems like a good time to revisit it. It usually doesn’t take long for a conversation with a pastor to progress to that point. For the pastor this can be a moment of pride or humility, freedom or shame. And somehow it is a question that always seems to come up. And it comes up for those who are not pastors as well; you begin to talk about your church and the other person inevitably asks that same question. So how many people?

I’d like to make the same two-part proposal I made a few years back: Let’s stop asking, “How many people go to your church?” And when someone asks us that question, let’s not feel obliged to give a direct answer. …”

“…I wonder, what would happen if we found better questions to ask and better ways to answer them. Instead of going to the easy question of, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we ask things like this:

  • How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in your church?
  • What evidences of the Lord’s grace has your church experienced in the last few months?
  • What are you excited about in your church right now?
  • Who are you excited about in your church right now?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you?
  • Who have you been discipling recently? Tell me about some of the future leaders at your church.

When asked, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we consider answering something like this:

  • As many as the Lord has determined we can care for at this time.
  • Enough that we are actively working toward planting a church.
  • I don’t know, but let me tell you about a few of them…

-Tim Challies, read the full article here: http://www.challies.com/articles/how-many-people-go-to-your-church

The Discipline of Adversity

By Tim Challies

“Over the past couple of months, I have been writing a series of reflections on Jerry Bridges’ book The Discipline of Grace. This is such an important book—a true contemporary classic—that teaches the centrality of the gospel in the life of the Christian. Bridges was writing about gospel-centeredness long before gospel-centeredness was all the rage.

All throughout the book Bridges has shared a series of disciplines the Christian must develop as he pursues holiness. “We have seen that we must behold Christ in the gospel, we must learn the proper relationship of dependence and personal discipline, we must make a commitment to holiness, and we must develop Bible-based convictions. In the everyday application of Scripture we must learn to make the right choices, to mortify sin, and to watch against temptation.” These are all things we must do if we are to make progress in the pursuit of holiness. Though we maintain dependence upon the Holy Spirit to grow in holiness, still we must act and still we must discipline ourselves.

But there is one discipline that we do not undertake ourselves. Instead, the Lord imposes it upon us as  a means of spiritual growth. This is the discipline of adversity. In the final chapter Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:4-13, a classic passage on how the Lord disciplines us for our good. It is noteworthy that a passage on the Lord’s discipline begins with an encouragement. The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages the recipients of the letter by telling them that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, just as a father lovingly disciplines his own children. Says Bridges, “We should realize that God’s discipline, which comes to us in the form of adversity or hardship, is an indication of His loving care, not a token of His disfavor.”

When we find ourselves under the Lord’s discipline, there are two ways that we may react wrongly—we may make light of it (or, to say it another way, we may despise it), such as when we count it as little value and something that is to be endured rather than something that is for our benefit. Alternatively, we may also lose heart under it, believing that the Lord is disciplining us out of anger rather than out of love. Bridges offers this warning:

In times of adversity Satan will seek to plant the thought in our minds that God is angry with us and is disciplining us out of wrath. Here is another instance when we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. It is the gospel that will reassure us that the penalty for our sins has been paid, that God’s justice has been fully satisfied. It is the gospel that supplies a good part of the armor of God with which we are able to stand against the accusing attacks of the Devil (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

All of this raises a question: How do we know when the Lord is disciplining us? Bridges looks to Hebrews 12:7-8 and says, “The writer instructed us to ‘endure hardship as discipline.’ There is no qualifying adjective. He did not say, ‘Endureall hardship’; neither did he say, ‘Endure some hardship as discipline.’ In the absence of a qualifying adjective, we must understand him to have meant all hardship. That is, all hardship of whatever kind has a disciplinary purpose for us. There is no such thing as pain without a purpose in the life of a believer.”

It is important to realize that this does not mean that every instance of hardship is necessarily related to a particular instance of sin. However, it does mean that all hardship is meant to bring us to greater conformity to Christ. “It is true that we often cannot see the connection between the adversity and God’s purpose. It should be enough for us, however, to know that He sees the connection and the end result He intends.” Are we ever able to tell if there is a connection between our adversity and a specific sin? He says, “It is my own belief that the Holy Spirit will bring such a connection to our attention if we need to know in order to deal with a particular sin.”

What, then, is the goal of all of this discipline? Hebrews 12:10 tells us that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” The highest good to which the believer can aspire is just this: to be conformed to the likeness of Christ and to share in God’s holiness. “This is the design of God in all of the adversity and heartache we experience in this life. There is no such thing as random or chance events in our lives. All pain we experience is intended to move us closer to the goal of being holy as He is holy.”

Thus discipline, difficult though it may be, is a means the Lord graciously uses as he calls us to grow in holiness. Sometimes Christians try to explain away 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says to give thanks in all circumstances. But we see that we truly can rejoice in all circumstances when we know that the Lord is using them for our good and his glory.”

-Tim Challies,  http://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/the-discipline-of-adversity

When Should My Children Be Baptized

By Tim Challies

Every Christian parent longs for his children to trust in Christ and to make this profession public. In Baptist churches such a profession is made public through baptism. One of the ongoing discussions among Baptists relates to the age at which children can or should be baptized. Many children raised in a Christian home—perhaps even most of them—profess faith at a young age. Many parents then ask, Should my child be immediately baptized? Here is my attempt to answer this question.

Defining Baptism

Baptism is an ordinance of God given to the New Testament church. It symbolizes that the recipient has been buried and resurrected with Christ and serves as public profession of faith and admission into the local church community. It precedes both membership and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and as such, is the gateway to full participation in the life of the church.

Three Premises

Here are three premises related to the age of baptism.

Premise #1 – Those who make a credible profession of faith are to be baptized. 
Without exception, the New Testament pattern for baptism is that it follows a credible profession of faith (see Acts 8:12, Acts 9:36, Acts 16:29-34). What makes a profession of faith credible? I look for credibility to be displayed in knowledge and maturity.

Knowledge. For a person’s profession of faith to be credible, he must display at least a basic knowledge of the gospel and of the meaning of baptism. Baptism is not a rite performed upon a person, but an ordinance in which he is a full participant. Therefore the one who is baptized must have knowledge of what is being done and why.

Maturity. Maturity displays itself in autonomy and in counting the cost. The mature person is autonomous in that he has the ability to make independent decisions. He is also one who counts the cost, who has seen some of what a decision may cost him in terms of relationship, prestige or suffering, yet still desires to proceed.

Premise #2 – Children may, and often do, become believers at a young age.
We must be careful never to communicate to children that they are too young to understand the gospel or respond to it. Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” God calls us to share the gospel with our children and to call them to repentance and faith. God graciously allows many children to come to a saving faith, even at a very young age. For this reason every member of a church ought to be active in sharing the gospel with every child in that church, calling on them to respond to it and trusting that God does work in the hearts of young children.

Premise #3 – This is a matter of wisdom and conscience.
The New Testament contains no clear example of a child receiving baptism; neither does it contain a clear example of a child being refused baptism. In the absence of clear commands, the leaders of each church must prayerfully exercise charity and wisdom as they seek to determine whether or not they will make it their practice to baptize children who profess faith.

The Age of Baptism

With these premises in mind, I believe there is wisdom in waiting until children are older before baptizing them. My reasoning is primarily grounded in the second test of credibility: maturity.

At some stage children are too young to make a credible profession of faith.

Imagine that you are listening in while a father has a conversation with his two-year-old son:

Dad: “Do you love Jesus, Johnny?
Boy: “Da!” (That’s his sound for “yes.”)
Dad: “Do you trust Him with all your heart?”
Boy: “Da!”
Dad: Do you think your sins make you bad?”
Boy: “Da!”
Dad: “Do you give Jesus your whole life?”
Boy: “Da!”

Is it possible that God just saved that boy? Absolutely! Can we have any degree of certainty that this is a genuine conversion? No, we can’t. The age of that child calls into question his ability to understand and respond to the gospel. His cognitive abilities and his self-awareness have not yet developed to the point where we can be certain that he can understand what it is that he is agreeing to. It is not unlikely that the same boy would answer “Yes,” when asked if storks deliver babies and if Santa Claus delivers gifts.

I use this illustration to display what all Christians affirm: There is evidently an age at which a child is too young to make a credible profession of faith. Though that child may be genuinely saved, he lacks the maturity, the autonomy and the ability to count the cost that will give us confidence that his profession is credible. Therefore, it would be unwise of us to baptize him until we can establish the validity of his profession. The question is, When does a child reach that level of maturity?

It is wise to wait to baptize a child until he has reached a certain level of maturity.
I believe that a person should be baptized when the credibility of his conversion becomes naturally evident to the church community. This will normally be when the child has begun to mature toward adulthood and is beginning to live more self-consciously as an individual. At this time he is able to understand that there will be a cost to being a Christian; he is able to anticipate this and to count it all joy. At this time he is also developing autonomy. In the process of leaving behind his child-like dependence on his parents he begins to make more and more of his own choices. Such independence and maturity will allow him to relate to the church directly and as an individual rather than being primarily under the authority of his parents. I believe that such criteria typically correspond to the teen years, and more typically, the mid-to-late teen years.

Delaying baptism does not mean we should consider childhood conversions or baptisms invalid.
While I believe it is best to delay baptism until a child’s knowledge and maturity offer substantial evidence of true conversion, this by no means negates the possibility or likelihood of childhood conversions. Neither does it render invalid the baptisms of those who are baptized as young, believing children.

Pastors ought to take every opportunity to meet with children to speak to them about their souls.
Even if it is not a pastor’s practice to baptize young children, he should always thrilled to meet with children to speak to them about their souls. When a child expresses a desire to be baptized, it presents a pastor a wonderful opportunity to spend time with that child, to hear how the Lord has been working in his life, and to encourage him to continue to seek the Lord.

What are the benefits of waiting to baptize children?
Delaying the baptism of children who profess faith offers several benefits:

  1. It allows membership in the church to proceed logically from baptism so that every baptized believer can immediately serve as a fully-functioning member of the church. This avoids the confusion of whether young children can be members of the church or whether they can be baptized but not members.
  2. It accounts for the uncertainty that may attend childhood conversions. Often a child professes faith, then retracts or doubts his profession, and then affirms it again. This model allows the child to proceed through much of this turbulence before he is baptized, thus preventing doubt about whether he was truly saved before his baptism.
  3. It calls on parents to lead their children and to understand that their children are not being disobedient in waiting for baptism. Their obedience in this area comes in submitting to their parents and the elders of the church.
  4. It esteems baptism as a one-time act to be anticipated as a public, credible, mature profession of faith.

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/articles/when-should-my-children-be-baptized

An Angry God

by Tim Challies

“What makes you angry? We all have triggers, don’t we? We all have certain contexts and situations, certain affronts to our dignity or pride that stoke the anger within. I know a lot about anger, as Aileen can no doubt attest. When she and I talk about God’s grace in our lives, and evidence of it, she will often point this out—that God has mellowed me, taken away that anger that often bubbled within and occasionally boiled over. When I moved out of my parents’ home on the day I got married, I left behind a hole in the wall that I had punched in a fit of anger a few months before. At one of the first homes Aileen and I lived in I cracked a door frame when I tried to smash it shut, once more in a fit of stupid anger. My immature anger just sometimes boiled over and got me into trouble. I always felt like an idiot after acting out, but in the moment my anger got the better of me; I often surrendered to it. I am profoundly grateful that God, in his mercy, has blessed me and blessed my family by taking away much of the immaturity, the irrationality, the lack of self-control that caused me to lash out like an angry toddler. I still known what it is to be angry, but no longer tend toward violent reaction.

According to one dictionary, anger is a strong feeling of displeasure, a kind of belligerence aroused by a wrong. And from experience I can say it is equally likely that it is anger aroused by a perceived wrong. If someone truly wrongs me, I may well express anger and do so with some justification. If someone slights me or otherwise damages my pride, it may also cause me to act angry but with no justification at all. Anger is inherently reactive, awaiting a trigger and then waiting to react in accordance with my nature.

We have all met angry people, haven’t we? People who react to tough situations with anger and people who often act out in this anger. Such people may react in surprising, unexpected and terrifying ways. They act as they do out of emotion. Anger is not one of those enjoyable emotions. It may channel a strange, sick kind of pleasure for a moment or two, but like all sin, it very quickly loses its luster. There is something scary about seeing a person act out in anger. And the bigger that person, the more powerful his position, the greater the fear. If my three year-old gets angry and lashes out, I am bothered but not afraid. But if I were to become angry and act out in anger, she would rightly be terrified because of what I could, I might, do to her in my rage.

It is little wonder that man fears an angry God. If we believe that God is so much greater than we are, so much stronger, so much more powerful, and if we believe that God is capable of anger and wrath, then we have little choice but to fear him as a child may fear a parent. And, indeed, man’s history with deity, whether with the true God or with any number of idols, has often been a position of terror, seeking by deed or sacrifice to appease his wrath. And so often, I think, we confuse human anger with divine wrath, imposing our own sinful, irrational, emotional anger upon God’s just, perfect, holy wrath. No wonder, then, that we seek to appease him, to assuage our guilty consciences and to hope against hope that we may have turned aside his wrath for another day.

And here it strikes me just how different the wrath of God is from my anger, from what we see in most human anger. Charles Leiter has said it well: “God’s wrath is not a temporary loss of self-control or a selfish fit of emotion. It is His holy, white-hot hatred of sin, the reaction and revulsion of His holy nature against all that is evil.” God’s wrath is revulsion. It is not mere emotion and is not at all irrational. It is so much more than emotion. You may know what it is to feel revulsion. Some time ago I heard of a woman who, upon finding out that her husband had been cheating on her, immediately vomited. It was as if her whole body was so affronted, so repulsed by her husband’s sin that it acted all on its own. Revulsion may be our reaction to a lukewarm sip of water when we were expecting ice cold or piping hot. We spew it out, repulsed. And this is sin to God. God’s wrath is a holy reaction, it is a holy and white-hot hatred of all that is evil. This is a good and just and fair reaction to something that is absolutely, fundamentally opposed to God’s very nature. Sin is against all that he is and all that he wants us to be.

God’s reaction to sin is the good and necessary, the absolute best and perfectly just reaction. He will not act rashly in anger but will act justly in wrath. He willexpress this wrath against all sin. He must express this wrath against sin, because sin opposes all that he is as the perfectly holy creator of all that exists. How good it is, then, when we ponder God’s wrath, to know that his wrath has already been satisfied for those who trust in him. There on the cross, Jesus Christ took that wrath upon himself on behalf all those who were his own. There God required the just penalty due for that sin. And there the Father found perfect, eternal satisfaction for his wrath. And there you and I can turn our eyes and turn our hearts and trust and believe and know that Jesus Christ has paid it all.”

-Tim Challies,  http://www.challies.com/christian-living/an-angry-god

Prayerlessness

by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

“In her book A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy Leigh DeMoss includes several chapters on prayer. In a chapter titled “The Privilege of Prayer” she discusses a period of prayerlessness in her life and her growing conviction that she had to get to the root of it. “As God opened my eyes to this matter of prayerlessness, I asked Him to let me see it from His point of view. Here is what I wrote in my journal one day when God first began to deal with my heart.” She does not attempt to provide a doctrine of prayer or prayerlessness as much as a reflection on what prayerlessness means in her own life. I found it very helpful.

Here is what she says:

I am convicted that prayerlessness …

  • is a sin against God (1 Samuel 12:23).
  • is direct disobedience to the command of Christ (“watch and pray,” Matthew 26:41).
  • is direct disobedience to the Word of God (“pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • makes me vulnerable to temptation (“watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” Matthew 26:41).
  • expresses independence—no need for God.
  • gives place to the Enemy and makes me vulnerable to his schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20; Daniel 10).
  • results in powerlessness.
  • limts (and defines) my relationship with God.
  • hinders me from knowing His will, His priorities, His direction.
  • forces me to operate in the realm of the natural (what I can do) versus the supernatural (what He can do).
  • leaves me weak, harried, and hassled.
  • is rooted in pride, self-sufficiency, laziness, and lack of discipline.
  • reveals a lack of real burden and compassion for others.

 

-Nancy Leigh DeMoss, via Tim Challies,  http://www.challies.com/quotes/prayerlessness

What is “The Fall”

by Tim Challies

“What do Christians mean when we talk about “the Fall” (note the capital F)?

“The Fall” refers to a specific, historic event which occured in the lives of the very first human beings in the Garden of Eden. It has forever changed creation and the human race.

The event is described in Genesis 3 and its effects are seen throughout Scripture and the rest of human history. Bruce Waltke provides a helpful summary of what occurred:

Adam and Eve were created in a state of righteousness (accepted with God) and innocence (a state of untested righteousness). They would have continued in a state of blessed sanctity with God and of enjoying life in the garden if they had obeyed God and not eaten the forbidden fruit. … By Adam and Eve’s failure to trust the goodness of God’s character and the truthfulness of his word, they disobey and instantaneously “fall” from their state of bliss in the garden into a tragic state of irreversible sin and death and banishment from the garden.

Much more could be said about how this “fall” introduced the human race to original sin and total depravity, how it led to the cursing of all creation, and how it set the stage for the glorious redemption of all things in Christ Jesus. But in its essence “the Fall” refers to the loss of man’s righteousness and bliss before God, his newfound bondage to sin, the inevitability of death, and banishment from the presence of God. All of this came as a consequence of man’s disobedience and his distrust of both the character and word of God. Fall is a small word with a great depth of meaning.”

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/resources/the-essential-fall

Defining Man

“Surprisingly, attempting to define man in simple terms is not an easy task. There are many things that could be included in the definition and a line has to be drawn somewhere. I’ve chosen to define man according the very first use of the term in the Bible.

In Genesis 1 we find at least four defining characteristics that teach us whatman is:

1) As most English Bibles make clear in their footnotes, the term man in Hebrew (adam) is very closely related to the Hebrew word for earth or ground (adama). This is an intentional and ongoing reminder that God formed man “from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7), which teaches us that man is an integrated, natural member of God’s created world.

2) Man is created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27); which means that, along with being a natural member of God’s creation, he is also a supernatural being. Having been made in the image of God, he carries the imprint of the supernatural Creator, the God who exists and operates in ways that exceed the natural order he has created. James 3:9 affirms that this divine image has not been removed even after man’s fall from his original state of sinlessness.

3) Man has dominion over creation. God makes this clear in his original mandate to man: “let them have dominion over [everything else I’ve created]” (Genesis 1:26). One of the main implications of being created in God’s image is that we share in his dominion over other created things. But note how our first point affects this: since we are also a member of creation, we serve ourselves best when we steward the rest of creation well.

4) Man is male and female. “In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This verse teaches us that a central component of what God intended when he made man is that we would exist as two intentionally distinct sexes.

In summary, then, Genesis 1 teaches us that man is the one creature made male and female, from the earth, in the image of God, with dominion over the rest of creation.”

-Tim Challies, http://www.challies.com/resources/the-essential-man