Monday, January 2, 2017

Turning Your Gaze Away From Yourself

The following words written some 66 years ago by the last of the great Princeton theologians J. Gresham Machen couldn't be more relevant to our moral therapeutic culture and gospel-light churches (and to the men to whom we minister:
Turning Your Gaze Away From Yourself

If you want health for your souls, and if you want to be the instruments of bringing health to others, do not turn your gaze forever within, as though you could find Christ there. Nay, turn your gaze away from your own miserable experiences, away from your own sin, to the Lord Jesus Christ as He is offered to us in the gospel. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Only when we turn away from ourselves to that uplifted Savior shall we have healing for our deadly hurt.

It is the same old story, my friends—the same old story of the natural man. Men are trying today, as they have always been trying, to save themselves—to save themselves by their own act of surrender, by the excellence of their own faith, by mystic experiences of their own lives. But it is all in vain. Not that way is peace with God to be obtained. It is to be obtained only in the old, old way—by attention to something that was done once for all long ago, and by acceptance of the living Savior who there, once for all, brought redemption for our sin. Oh, that men would turn for salvation from their own experience to the Cross of Christ; oh, that they would turn from the phenomena of religion to the living God!

That that may be done, there is but one way. It is not found in a study of the psychology of religion; it is not found in “religious education”; it is not found in an analysis of one's own spiritual status. Oh, no. It is found only in the blessed written Word. There are the words of life. There God speaks. Let us attend to His voice. Let us above all things know the Word. Let us study it with all our minds; let us cherish it with all our hearts. Then let us try, very humbly, to bring it to the unsaved. Let us pray that God may honor not the messengers but the message, that despite our unworthiness He may make His Word upon our unworthy lips to be a message of life.

(J. Graham Machen, “The Importance of Christian Scholarship,”
What Is Christianity? [Eerdmans, 1951])

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Best Way to Begin a New Year

I look forward to the day we own our house free and clear. We have been making payments on the mortgage since the day we moved in, but the end is finally in sight and four or five years from now we should be done at last. (An advantage of buying a small house and staying in it!) The moment the bank withdraws the final payment, we’ll be free and clear: free from further financial obligations and clear of all liens or other encumbrances. It will be ours all the way. We trust this will put us in a good position to transition into the second half of life—the half when we need to devote attention to our children’s education, marriages, and independence. And, of course, the time when we may finally be able to upgrade that worn parquet flooring that was installed before we were even born.

A new year is coming, and the best way to begin a new year is to know that you are free and clear. This morning I was reflecting on the great words of Isaiah 43:25, where God says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Here is a great promise about the extent of God’s forgiveness. God blots out our transgressions so he can forget our sins. He deliberately erases from his accounts every record of what we have done wrong. As the records disappear, so too does his memory of the misdeeds. Ray Ortlund points out that “God locates his very identity in blotting out our sins and remembering them no more” and then, by way of illustration, works up a helpful little scenario:

Satan, the accuser, comes before God and says, “Look at that Christian down there. Why do you still love him? Don’t you remember what he did to you last week, and again on Tuesday, and then again yesterday?” And God says, if you’ll allow me to put it this way, “No, I don’t remember. Gabriel, where does that believer stand with us? Check the database.” Gabriel logs on, but the only information that comes up on the screen is the righteousness of Christ freely credited to that sinner, because that’s how God honors himself as God. “I blot out your transgressions, I splice your bad plays out of my game film, for my own sake.” So God says back to Satan, “I’m not saying your facts are wrong, but you’re not telling the whole story about that Christian. What matters most to me, for my own sake, is not that person’s record but Christ’s record for him.” That is grace. That is God.

That is God, indeed. And why does God do this? He does this for his own sake. In fact, he must do this for his own sake, for there is no other reason to do such a noble deed. He cannot do it for our sake, for we have no right to such grace, we have no righteousness to plead. No, it must be done for God’s sake and God’s glory. God loves to display his glory before us, his people, so we can direct our praise, our adoration, to him.

If you have turned to Christ in repentance and faith, you are free and clear. You are free of all the burden of the sins you’ve committed, clear of all record of wrongdoing. You are now free to live for God’s glory, clear from the need to earn your own righteousness. There is no better way to begin a new year than with the knowledge of your freedom and the desire to live for the glory of the one who has extended such grace. Christian, you are free and clear.

Tim Challies serves as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and is a co-founder of Cruciform Press.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Christmas Matters

If Christmas is true, then it makes all the difference.

We sing it every year in our Christmas carols, especially in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” when we cry out: “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity.”

The Apostles’ Creed doesn’t use it, but it teaches the doctrine of it when we read, “Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.”

Incarnation. If you understand the word, you’ll understand what Christmas is about.

Christmas is, frankly, doctrinal. The invisible has become visible, the incorporeal has become corporeal. In other words, God has become human.

This is not only a specific doctrine, but it’s also unique. Doctrine always distinguishes you. One of the reasons we’re afraid to talk about doctrine is because it distinguishes us from others.

Here’s why the doctrine of Christmas is unique. On one hand, you’ve got religions that say God is so immanent in all things that incarnation is normal. If you’re a Buddhist or Hindu, God is immanent in everything. On the other hand, religions like Islam and Judaism say God is so transcendent over all things that incarnation is impossible.

But Christianity is unique. It doesn’t say incarnation is normal, but it doesn’t say it’s impossible. It says God is so immanent that it is possible, but He is so transcendent that the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is a history-altering, life-transforming, paradigm-shattering event.

Christmas is not just frankly doctrinal; it’s also boldly historical. The manger, the resurrection, the story of Jesus is not just a story. It’s true.

Christmas is not just frankly doctrinal; it’s also boldly historical.

This goes completely against what the average person believes. The average person says they’re parables. They’re legends. They didn’t happen.

The point of Christmas is that Jesus Christ really lived, and He really died. It happened in history. He did these things. He said these things.

You may think, What’s the big deal? You’re being doctrinaire here. No. People say, “I like the teachings of Jesus. I like the meaning of these stories—to love one another, serve one another. I like that. But it doesn’t matter if these things really happened. Doctrine doesn’t matter. What matters is you’re a good person.”

The great irony is, that is a doctrine. It’s called the doctrine of justification by works. What they’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that Jesus actually lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died; all that matters is that we follow His teaching. That is a doctrine that says, “I’m not so bad I need someone to come and be good for me. I can be good. I’m not so cut off from God, and God is not so holy that there has to be punishment for sin.”

The Gospel is not that Jesus Christ comes to earth, tells us how to live, we live a good life and then God owes us blessing. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died—so when we believe in Him, we live a life of grateful joy for Him. If these things didn’t happen, if they’re just parables, what you are saying is that if you try hard enough, God will accept you.

If Jesus didn’t come, the story of Christmas is one more moral paradigm to crush you. If Jesus didn’t come, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble, we need to be loving. All that will do is crush you into the ground. Because if it isn’t true that John saw Him, heard Him, felt Him, that Jesus really came to do these things, then Christmas is depressing.

First John 1:3 says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” “Fellowship” means that if Jesus Christ has come, if Christmas is true, then we’ve got a basis for a personal relationship with God. God is no longer a remote idea or a force we cower before, but we can know Him personally. He’s become graspable.

If Jesus Christ is actually God come in the flesh, you’re going to know much more about God. You’re seeing Him weep. You’re seeing Him upset. You’re seeing Him cast down. You’re seeing Him exalted. If Jesus is who He says He is, we have a 500-page autobiography from God, in a sense. And our understanding will be vastly more personal and specific than any philosophy or religion could give us.

Look at what God has done to get you to know Him personally. If the Son would come all this way to become a real person to you, don’t you think the Holy Spirit will do anything in His power to make Jesus a real person to you in your heart? Christmas is an invitation to know Christ personally. Christmas is an invitation by God to say: 

Look what I’ve done to come near to you. Now draw near to Me. I don’t want to be a concept; I want to be a friend.

By Tim Keller
December 10, 2011
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons.  For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over ten years they have helped to launch over 250 churches in 48 cities. More recently, Dr. Keller’s books, including the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages.

Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

Dr. Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Does a Husband Have the Authority To...?

Central to my teaching and counseling ministry to men is the gospel, exhorting them to live in light of it's power, grace, truth and freedom, and reminding them of their identity in Christ. We live in the most confused and compromised generation in our history about what it means to be a man. Therefore, the most critical message to them is that authentic manhood - real masculinity - is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and modeled by Him in His 33 years on earth.

One of my continual reminders to men about their God-given roles, responsibilities and privileges is this: A husband has no right to force his wife to do something against her will or to rule over her. Rather in emulation of Christ, he is to love her unconditionally and sacrificially, to cherish her, to shepherd her and to cause her to flourish in faith and practice. Mary Kassian puts this blessed biblical truth well when she writes, “It is not the husband’s right to force or coerce his wife to submit. Submission is voluntary on a wife’s part, and her choice entirely.” Read more from Mary below:

Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s phone away, preventing her from making calls?

Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s car keys? House keys?

Does a husband have the authority to physically prevent his wife from leaving the home?

Does a husband have the authority to physically force his wife to accompany him when he leaves the home?

Does a husband have the authority to lock his wife out of the house?

Does a husband have the authority to keep financial documents away from his wife?

Does a husband have the authority to take the wife’s personal property without consent?

These are not theoretical questions. They were posed to me by Ruth Tucker, a woman whose ex-husband claimed the Bible gave him the right to do these things. I share them here with her permission.

All of Ruth’s questions pertain to the issue of whether a husband has a right to force his wife to do something against her will. I believe that the Bible teaches that a husband’s position as head of the home does not give him the right to rule, but rather the responsibility to provide loving oversight. A husband is not imparted with privilege; he is entrusted with obligation—the obligation to love, cherish and shepherd, in emulation of Christ.

Though complementarians have consistently upheld this view, this truth deserves to be stated and restated with clarity: It is not the husband’s right to force or coerce his wife to submit. Submission is voluntary on a wife’s part, and her choice entirely.

A Radically Different View of Authority

Culture upholds authority as the right to rule and lord it over others, but Scripture paints a radically different picture about the true nature of authority. It teaches that:

Authority is not self-appointed; it’s delegated by God.

Authority is not personally owned; it merely stewards and manages that which belongs to God.

Authority is not about rights; it’s about responsibility.

Authority is not about seeking prominence; it’s about giving prominence.

Authority is not domineering and dictatorial; it’s humble and gentle.

Authority is not about getting; it’s about giving.

Authority is not about selfish gain; it’s about selfless sacrifice.

Every authority is accountable to a higher authority, and all are accountable to God the Father, who is the ultimate authority.

Godly authority is motivated by love and commitment. Godly authority builds up; it doesn’t tear down. Godly authority serves as a channel of God’s protection and blessing. Godly authority watches over the well-being of others. Godly authority works with them, and for their joy. Godly authority doesn’t glorify self; it glorifies God. It puts His character on display.

It Must Not Be Like That Among Us

So my answer to Ruth’s questions—and the answer I would expect from all my fellow complementarians—is a clear and resounding “no.”

No. A husband does not have the right to take his wife’s phone away, preventing her from making calls.

No. A husband does not have the right to take his wife’s car keys or house keys.

No. A husband does not have the right to physically prevent his wife from leaving the home.

No. A husband does not have the right to physically force his wife to accompany him when he leaves the home.

No. A husband does not have the right to lock his wife out of the house.

Jesus condemned a personal-power view of authority. He condemned men who exercised authority in a selfish, domineering manner. He said, “It must not be like that among you!” (Mark 10:43-45)

The misuse/abuse of authority is an abomination to God. He wants leaders to be shepherds after His own heart.
(Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-4; Zechariah 11:17).

Some of the Bible’s most scathing condemnations are directed toward leaders who fail to exercise authority in a godly manner. The Lord’s anger burns hot against them (Zechariah 10:3).

According to the Bible, a wife’s submission is her choice alone. A husband does not have the right to force or coerce her to do things against her will. He does not have the right to domineer. He does not have the right to pull rank and use strong-arm tactics. He does not have the right to make his wife submit. No. According to the author of our faith, it must not be like that among us!

Mary Kassian is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and a distinguished professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). She has published several books, Bible studies and videos, including: In My Father's House: Finding Your Heart's True Home, Conversation Peace, and Vertically Inclined. At home in Alberta, Canada, Mary watches lots of sports! Three teenage sons play ice hockey, and her husband, Brent, is chaplain for the local professional football team. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family's black lab, General Beau. Read more about Mary at her personal web site: