Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Fruit of The Spirit is...Joy...

What comes to mind when you hear the word, "Joy?" You might thinking the classic Christmas song, "Joy to the World," which is not really a Christmas song. You might be equating joy with the word, "Happy."

What does it mean for the work of the Holy Spirit to give joy to the believer? Is joy like happiness? R.C. Sproul writes:

This joy is not the joy we encounter for a moment when our favorite team wins the Super Bowl. It is not that “happiness of a warm puppy”. Like transcendent agape love, the Christian's joy is a transcendent joy, a joy born of blessedness. An unbeliever experiences positive emotions that evoke smiles, but no unbeliever has ever experienced the beatific joy of salvation.

The joy of the Spirit is permanent. This year's Super Bowl winner may not make the play-offs next season. Warm puppies grow cold in the grave. The joy of salvation is forever. The victory Christ has won for us is not seasonal. The Savior never has a bad year.

The joy of the Spirit is as stable at it is exhilarating. It is the joy that abides in the midst of suffering. It has depth. It penetrates the soul. It sends despair into exile and banishes pessimism. It produces confidence without arrogance, courage without bravado. Jesus of Nazareth was able to weep. Yet His tears could not dissolve the joy He knew in His Father's house.

We rejoice in our hope. Our hope is not the fantasy of the dreamer but the assurance of the redeemed. It is the joy of those who have ears to hear the Savior's command, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Joy is knowing we have been saved by God and it cannot be taken away. Joy is knowing that no matter what happens in this world, God has not abandoned us. Happiness comes and goes like, to use Sproul's illustration, when our favorite team wins. Even when we have a bad, we can have joy knowing that God's grace is greater than all our bad days whether it is because of sin or not.

The Bible tells to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4). What reasons do we have to rejoice? Because God has saved us, He has given us eternal life through His Son. He has given us good things that we may enjoy life and treasure Him while on this earth. Tony Merida wrote, "The Spirit produces a life of satisfying joy, while living in the flesh only leads to constant dissatisfaction."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Fruit of the Spirit is Love...

The Fruit of the Spirit is the work of God to confirm us to the character of Christ. It is one big package that believers received upon the moment of conversion as the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts to follow God. We see in Galatians 5:22-23, the first fruit is love.

To many, love seems to be the greatest attribute of the Christian faith. In the famous love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), the Apostle Paul wrote, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Paul says in his letter to the church in Colossae:

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14).

The most famous verse in the Bible tells us how much God loves us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Romans tells that God shows his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and the result of that love is to show love for one another as 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because he first loved us." Love is also the evidence that we know God:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Fruitful Life, wrote, "Devotion to God is the only motivation acceptable to God for the development and exercise of Christian character. But devotion to God finds its outward expression in loving one another." We show the fruit of love by our loving one another. Yes, even those believers who may annoy you at times. Yes, it does include that child in your church that gives you raspberries just for the heck of it (then show mutual affection by giving one back).

1 John tells us that not loving one another is sign that you may not be a believer:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:9-11).

God's work through His Holy Spirit produces love in the believer for one another. Love will cost us something whether it be time, money, or, at times, reputation. Jesus hung out with sinners and the religious leaders of His day thought He was a glutton and sinner just like them.

Love can be difficult at times especially if someone sins against you. 1 Peter 4:8 says, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." Christian, if you know someone you have a hard time loving because they have sinned against you, ask the Lord to forgive you and repent. Church keep on loving one another even if you may not agree with one another on secondary issues.

Believers, love those who do not know Jesus. God showed His love to mankind by sending His Son. We can show His love by being a friend to them and love them like Jesus would that we share the gospel with them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Befriend by Scott Sauls

What comes to mind when you think of the word, "friendship?" What makes a good friend? Do your friends stick with you when times are good and when times are tough? Do your friends hold the same values you do? Do you have friends that may not vote the same way you do in elections?

We are created for community. As Christians, we have brothers and sisters in the Lord who share a common fellowship with Jesus. Many of those brothers and sisters would be considered friends to most people. Christians even have friends outside the church they get along really well even if they don't agree on everything.

Scott Sauls asks this question, is real friendship too risky? Is real friendship just an illusion? Sauls takes a biblical approach to friendship in his book, Befriend. In the book, he does answer the question, friendship is risky. True friendship can be a beautiful thing while knowing the ugliest parts of another person.

Friends applaud one another and challenge one another. They agree and disagree. In the book, Sauls makes the case for friendship with various types of people in brief chapters and supporting it using Biblical passages.

Sauls says we should be friends with those with a different economic status, those who are far from God, those who are religious, and those of a different race. He also mentions being friends with different sexual preferences, those who are hurting, and even those who have a different political affiliation. One think that Sauls says is that while digital friendship (social media) can be friendship is not real. Granted, I have met people through social media that have become good friends yet we should not trade people we chat with on Twitter and Facebook for the real, raw one-on-one friendship.

There are not many good resources on friendship with a biblical point of view. I recommend Scott Sauls's new book for all who long for true friendships. I recommend churches read it together in a group and talk among one another about the things Sauls has written about.

Thanks Tyndale for letting mew review this book.

Podcast Wednesday: Heresy, Election, Church Leadership, and more

The Reformed Roundtable on heresy

The Reformed Pubcast speaks with Scott Oliphint on the authority of Scripture

What is the sin that leads to death? from Word Matters

A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry with Heath Lambert and Equipping You In Grace

The doctrine of election from Doctrine and Devotion

Christianity Is A Bookish Community with Calvinist Batman and the Bible Project

The Acts 29 podcast returns with Tony Merida talking with Kevin Peck on church leadership

Can I Be Sure I’m Saved If Persevering Is the Proof? with John Piper

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Fruit of The Spirit

If you have been in the church as long as I have, you know what the fruit of the Spirit is. I am sure you have it done by memory in the correct order which is easier than to remember the order of the minor prophets in the Old Testament. We find in the fruit of the Spirit in the book of Galatians, which says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

The context to this passage starts in Galatians 5:13, where it says we should not use the freedom we have in Christ to indulge the flesh. The Bible tells us that we ought to walk in the Spirit and not the desires of our flesh. The flesh is the term used in reference to our sinful nature. Paul writes that the desire of the flesh and Spirit are always in a constant fight. The flesh wants us to disobey God while the Spirit, whom each believe has received upon the moment of conversion, guides us to follow God.

The Bible says, the works of the flesh are "evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19-21). Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit following this passage which are polar opposites of the desires of the flesh.

My simple definition of the fruit of the Spirit is simply this:

The work of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of the believers that leads to holiness.

When I think of the word, "fruit," I think of the result of the work one has in a project. What is the fruit of a construction worker? A well built structure. The fruit of the Spirit is conformity to the image of Christ which brings holiness.

Notice the Bible says, "the fruit of the Spirit," not "the fruits of the Spirit." If your translation have fruits of the Spirit, you have an incorrect translation. The Greek for fruit is a singular perfect predicate. Simply put: the fruit of the Spirit is one big package the Christian receives from the Holy Spirit. This is completely different than the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in various places in the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

The gifts of the Spirit are given to each believers as the Spirit determines, but not all have the same gifts. The fruit of the Spirit is given to each believer to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, which is what all believers are called to do (I wrote a similar post of the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit a couple of years ago).

Over the next few weeks (Lord willing), we will be looking at each fruit of the Spirit in a more theological and practical way. I am looking forward to see what the Lord will do in you and me as we study the fruit of the Spirit.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Book Review: Discerning Your Call To Ministry by Jason K Allen

Paul told Timothy that those who desire to be an overseer is a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). James said those who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). The call to ministry is one that should be taken seriously but also one not to be taken lightly. Many feel they are called, but they are not qualified which has nothing to do with seminary, which with some churches that is the case. It has everything to do with what the Bible teaches in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Jason K Allen, the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a book to help those who feel the call to ministry to help them determined if they are called or not based on the qualifications the Bible gives. Allen's book is titles, Discerning Your Call To Ministry. In the beginning of the book, Allen tells his readers that every Christian is called to minister and to ministry, but not all are called to the ministry. What he means is not all Christians are called to be pastors, shepherds, overseers, and elders. All are called to minister to one another and in ministry to glorify God in service to others.

The book contains 10 questions, which he separates into chapters, that everyone who feels the desire to go into the ministry should ask:

1. Do you desire the ministry?

2. Does your character meet God’s expectations?

3. Is your household in order?

4. Has God gifted you to teach and preach his Word?

5. Does your church affirm your calling?

6. Do you love the people of God?

7. Are you passionate about the Gospel and the Great Commission?

8. Are you engaged in fruitful ministry?

9. Are you ready to defend the faith?

10. Are you willing to surrender?

In each of these chapters, Allen goes back to 1 Timothy 3 and addresses why these questions are important to answer for those who feel God is leading them to the ministry. Allen gets to the point in each chapter without dragging the subject and speaks truth to those who desire to be in the ministry.

At the end of the book, Allen summarizes the questions and asks the reader on what he should do next. Allen knows that maybe those who read are sensing God is not leading them to ministry which is not a bad thing. He assures his readers who fall under this category that they are not second class citizens because they are not called. He also addresses those who could not answer all the questions accurately and those who feel they should not pursue ministry at this time.

When I was called to ministry, I was not given a book to help me discern if this is something I should really do or assist me in confirming my call to the ministry. I am delighted to recommend Discerning Your Call To Ministry to anyone who believes God is leading them in that direction. I think it would be wise for pastors and elders to have this book on hand and read along with someone who feels God is calling them.

Thanks Moody Publishers for letting me review this book.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Around The Web-September 16, 2016

Josh Buice on why he is preaching shorter sermons

When Evangelism Gets Bogged Down by J.A. Medders

What It Means to Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart by Brad Archer

Be Careful How You Read Your Bible by Joel Littlefield

Be Careful Not to Minimize Your Sunday by Erik Raymond

September Overstock Sale happening right now at WTS Books

3 Ways Spurgeon Conquered His Secret Sin by Christian George

Voddie Baucham on fighting addiction in a pornographic culture

Tim Keller's Sermon After 9/11

September 16, 2001 was the Sunday after the 9/11 terror attacks. Many people flocked the churches all across our country. Many sermons were preached that day. This video, which is all audio, is from Tim Keller:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Review: America At The Crossroads by George Barna

If you have read or watch the news, you see that America has a rapid change over the last eight years, if not more. Feelings about certain ideals have been looked upon with fury or favor. There are a number of cultural trends that have appeared in the United States that has made people wonder, what is the future of America?

George Barna said that "discovering and understanding cultural trends is both an assignment and a gift from God." Still not 100% sure if I totally agree with that statement, however, in his latest book, America At The Crossroads, he addresses cultural trends that are shaping America's future. Before we go any further, we need to understand what is a trend. Barna says, "trends are simply patterns of thoughts and behavior that provide insight into the lives of people and their society."

This book looks at what Americans think about and react to different elements in our country whether they fell hostile to it, nothing about it, or embrace it. Barna separates all of his findings into three parts, which is the book is divided into four parts. The first deals with the trends regarding faith and spirituality. How people look at the church, do they view themselves as a Christian, and what their thought are on the Bible.

The second part looks at the people's thoughts into government and politics. Are people satisfied with the government and how one should be involved in politics. The third deals with lifestyles and perspectives. Barna addresses the population growth in China and India while comparing it to the low birth rate in the United States. He also looks at how people view morality, political correctness, and their confidence in institutions.

The final chapter is a call for Christians to respond. The call is not to take America back. The call is to imitate Christ and love the people around us. We are called as Christians to be confident in God's plan because the future is in His hands.

Barna gives us some interesting insights into what ideals American have today. We may not agree with everything he says, but he does paint a picture as to where America is heading.

Thanks Baker Books for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: Home by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Ever been homesick? It is not fun. If you are on vacation, you tend not to think about it because you know once you set foot into your house, reality sets in. Kids get homesick when they go to some form of a summer camp because it is not home where they are surrounded by the people they love and love them back.

For Christians, we know this world is not our home, at least the state the world is in right now. We long for a better world where there is no death, wars, diseases, and the aches & pains of an aging body. We long for a world where there is no more death and suffering. We long for a world where Jesus is worshipped everyday and nothing stops us. We long for a world where there is no sin. You could say that Christians are homesick.

Elyse Fitzpatrick has written a book to reminds us of our future place where we dwell with the Father, simply titled, Home. She writes, "Christians are the most consistently homesick people in the world because they know this world (as it is) isn't their true home." If you have read the Bible as long as I have or even longer, you know that one day Jesus will set everything right in the Father's timing.

Fitzpatrick writes this book as an encouragement and reminder for all Christians that this world is not our home and it will be made right one day. She reminds us that Jesus has gone a prepared a place for us and will come and get us when it is ready. She also takes us through what the Bible describes what Heaven will be like (she did not claim to have taken a trip there as if it was an out of body experience).

Fitzpatrick continues on by stating our tears are a reminder that we long for a home. God never intended for pain and suffering to come, however, due to the Fall, it did. She reminds us that Jesus one day will wipe away every tear and there will be no more pain. She goes on to say Jesus will return (as the Bible teaches) and make this world as God intended. She concludes the book, in the Appendix, by sharing with her readers how they can have eternal life by sharing a simple gospel message through her writings.

I remember a friend of mine, who leads worship for his church, say they are not many songs about Heaven. There are not many books about Heaven either. Sure there are ones about someone going there but a few of them have been proven false. Fitzpatrick book should serve as a reminder and encouragement for all believers that this world is not our home. Christians should look forward to the day where we can truly say, "I'm home."

Thanks Bethany House for letting me review this book.