a good day to honor 30 years of serious pastoring

I couldn’t be more thankful for the serious (see post below) preaching and pastoring of Pastor John Piper.

Don’t miss this wonderful telling of the story by Justin Taylor of how Pastor John went from professor to pastor.

It’s worth clicking over just to see the cross-bling picture.

I’m thankful to the Lord for the way His Word is explained and revered and loved by my pastor.  It has made me love and fear God and His Word more.  As God has been exalted over and over in the mouth of Pastor John, I have tasted over and over His goodness, His sovereignty and His grace.

How are you thankful for your pastor?  Today would be a good day to honor them for 30 days, 30 months or maybe even 30 years of faithful ministry.

autumn resolutions

I’ll let Pastor John say it better than I could:

“God approves of New Year’s resolutions. And mid-year, and three-quarters-year, and monthly, and weekly, and daily resolutions. Any and all resolutions for good have God’s approval—if we resolve by faith in Jesus.

I would like to encourage you to make some autumn resolutions. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, theexamined life is not worth living either if the examination produces no resolutions. What examination and experience teach us is that the unplanned life settles into fruitless routine. The drifting life—the coasting, que-sera-sera, unreflective life—tends to be a wasted life.

The opposite of this is self-examination—life-examination, routine-examination, schedule-examination, heart-examination—followed by “resolves for good.” That’s what I encourage you to do. Here’s why I think God will be pleased when you do this by faith in Jesus.

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12,

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I find this extremely encouraging. Paul prays for us—and I pray for you even as I write this—that God will “fulfill every resolve for good” that we have. This means that it is good to have resolves. God approves of it. It also means that our resolving is important, but that God’s enabling us to “fulfill” the resolves is crucial. Paul wouldn’t pray if God’s help weren’t needed. “The heart of manplans [resolves!] his way, but the Lord establishes [fulfills!] his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

But it matters how we resolve. When Paul says, “every resolve for good and every work of faith,” he is not describing two different acts. He is describing one act in two ways. It is a “resolve for good” because we will it. It is a “work of faith” because we depend on Jesus to give us power to fulfill it. That’show we resolve—by faith in Jesus.

So Paul says that the fulfilling of the resolve is “by his power.” That’s what we are depending on. That’s what we are looking for when we resolve. We are looking to Jesus who promised to be with us and help us. “I know that through . . . the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).

This explains the words “so that” in Paul’s prayer: “…so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” When you resolve something good and trust in the power of Jesus to help you do it, then “the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified.” If you depend on your willpower, your name will be glorified.

So Christian resolutions are different from the world’s resolutions. We believe that by grace alone we have been “called”—that is, captured by the truth and beauty of Christ. We resolve things not to make God be for us, but because he is already for us—that’s what his call makes plain. He opens our eyes to see and trust Christ. He shows us, in the cross, that he is totally for us. All our resolves are to walk more worthily of this calling.

They are faith resolves—faith that we are loved and called and justified. And faith that therefore Jesus will help us do what we resolve to do. When we resolve like that, the name of our Lord Jesus is magnified.

So pause sometime soon. Pause and examine your life this autumn. Examine what is missing that should be there. What is there that should be removed? What new dreams for ministry might you venture? What new habits do you want to build into your Fall schedule?

Remember: God will be pleased with new resolves for good if you resolve by faith in Jesus. I am praying for you “that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.'”

Are you making any resolutions this fall?  I’ll leave mine in the comments.

free will: before the fall, after the fall, and after the new birth

Pastor John has a great post at Desiring God called, A Few Thoughts on Free Will.  

Here’s his scriptural analysis of free will pre and post fall and post new birth:

“Before the fall of Adam sinless man was able to sin. For God said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

As soon as Adam fell, sinful man was not able not to sin, since we were unbelieving,and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

When we are born again, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to not sin, for “sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).

This means that what Paul calls “the natural man” or “the mind of the flesh” is not able not to sin. Paul says this in Romans 8:7-9

The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (See also 1Corinthians 2:14).”

So, we are children of wrath if we have not been born again.  We are unable to do anything but sin.  I have heard so many objections to this truth of the Bible.  For instance, “What about my friend who is a really good person and cares about others and does all these good works?”  

My only response is to say that the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?”  Only God can know the extent of the wickedness of the heart.  

And when He says that anything that does not proceed from faith is sin, I believe Him.  My own conscience condemns me enough to know that all “good deeds” done for reasons other than Christ are vain and sinful.

Pastor John continues with this:

“How then shall we think of free will?

It is not a saving power. In his freedom to will, fallen man cannot on his own do anything but sin. Such “free will” is a devastating reality. Without some power to overcome it’s bent, our free will only damns us.

We could stop here and turn with joy to the gospel truth that God overcomes our resistance, gives us life, wakens our dead inclination for Christ, and freely and irresistibly draws us to himself (John 6:4465Acts 13:48Ephesians 2:52 Timothy 2:25-26).

But it sometimes helps to answer objections. One common objection is that, if we “cannot” do what is right, and “can only” do what is sin, then we are not acting voluntarily and cannot be praised or blamed.

Here is part of John Calvin’s answer to this objection:

The goodness of God is so connected with his Godhead that it is not more necessary to be God than to be good; whereas the devil, by his fall, was so estranged from goodness that he can do nothing but evil.

Should anyone give utterance to the profane jeer that little praise is due to God for a goodness to which he is forced, is it not obvious to every man to reply, “It is owing not to violent impulse, but to his boundless goodness, that he cannot do evil?”

Therefore, if the free will of God in doing good is not impeded, because he necessarily must do good; if the devil, who can do nothing but evil, nevertheless sins voluntarily; can it be said that man sins less voluntarily because he is under a necessity of sinning? (Institutes, II.3.5)”

Good stuff.  And how much more am I willing to praise and give glory to a God who is the “author” of my faith.  Not just a God who makes my faith possible and then depends on my “free will” to enact it, but He Himself makes it happen.  I give Him all the glory.  

Ephesians 2:4,5: But [2] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”

the rich young man and the widow's mite

I listened to Pastor John’s message to the graduating seniors at Bethlehem, given a couple weeks ago. 

It was the title that caught me (simply, Remember the Rich Young Man) and I am glad I went ahead and listened to it.  I think it would be a good sermon to give to young marrieds, or mid-lifers.  Call it a course correction sermon, rather than a launching pad one.

If you want a vision cast for your life that values what’s valuable: CHRIST; and is able to let go of what’s not: money, listen to this message.  

At the end of this sermon I felt great fear.  Fear that money could be holding my affection in ways I’m not aware of, or in ways that I think I’m “over.”  I should be afraid to be rich.  Not that being rich is wrong.  But I think the quickness with which I understand wealth as reward rather than as a minefield of ego-puffing danger is revealing of my heart.

I’m thankful to have some great examples around me of what it’s like to have wealth without having a grasp on it.  One example is Pastor John, who takes no royalties or money from Desiring God ministry.  Another is a good friend and elder who owns successful businesses, but only takes a certain amount in income and gives the rest away.  

He also gives away his time in serving at the church; he works four days a week at “work” and devotes his other time to ministry.  Finally, my parents are a good example as they share all they have with others and are quick to give to let possessions pass through their hands.  

But the examples to the contrary are more numerous than can be counted.

 It is our whole culture.  Wealth is status; nice things are addicting, and Christians compete on these levels more than we could possibly recognize.  So, I’m thankful for Pastor John’s message.  I might just go get some sh-lack, a dollar bill and a piece of wood.  (That will make sense if you listen to it).

Here’s sermon jam with a related message:

And, finally, I got a “widow’s mite” sent to me in the mail.  It came to me with my homeschool curriculum.  It is to be a reminder of the sacrifice that a mother gives (meaning all she has, just like the poor widow) to instruct and love her children in the ways of the Lord.

I want to love and instruct my children in a way that makes Christ appear as valuable as He is.  And I am willing to give it all to that end.  I want to live all of life that way.  

Oh that I could bring glory to God in some small but significant way, I would have more than the richest man in the world and my widow’s mite would be multiplied a million times over.

does your pastor preach?

This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, our pastor gave a poignant intro to his sermon.

In this intro, he explained what he means by “preaching”.  I found it to be very helpful and foundational.  So many post-moderns aren’t used to being preached to.  To be sure, preaching has a very negative association attached to it.  But God has ordained and commanded preaching for the advancement of the Gospel and the growth and sanctification of His church.

We’re so much more used to lectures or talks or a series or even a testimony.

Here’s what Pastor John had to say:

So what do you think?  Does your pastor preach?  Or would you rather hear a relevant* 15 minute “talk” on how to… improve your finances, sex life, parenting, or productivity?

*Relevant is a subjective term.  I’m using it loosely, as I believe preaching the Word is much more eternally relevant than a how-to talk.