How To Find God’s Will

 

 

Two resources to help you find God’s will in your life.

Here is a snippet from Kevin DeYoung’s book from last year, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc

“Simply put, God’s will is your growth in Christlikeness. God promises to work all things together for our good that we might be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). . . . God never assures us of health, success, or ease. But He promises us something even better: He promises to make us loving, pure, and humble like Christ. In short, God’s will is that you and I get happy and holy in Jesus.

So go marry someone, provided you’re equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it’s not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God’s sake start making some decisions in your life. Don’t wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God’s will, so just go out and do something.” (pg 61)

Secondly, here is a sermon by John MacArthur which gives you biblical guidelines on finding God’s will in your life. As DeYoung, MacArthur’s sermon is also a very liberating understanding on this issue. It is worth listening.

Knowing God’s Will Listen | Download | Read

via Theoblogy: How To Find God’s Will.

Einstein+Sex=God.

As a backslidden atheist, I was fascinated by a recent interview with Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) and world famous philosophical atheist-turned-creationist, Anthony Flew (to watch, see LeeStrobel.com). After watching this 83-year-old Oxford professor, a fun apologetic equation popped into my mind that has proven effective with skeptics.

Plain and simple — top atheist, Anthony Flew, has changed his mind about God. He said that Albert Einstein was right when he felt that there must be intelligence behind the integrated complexities in the natural world. In simple English, that means that Einstein said that dead things like rocks, metal, plastic, light, and air are made up of such complicated systems that depend on each other to exist, that there must be some intelligent being that put them together. “Mr. E=MC2” said that.

Anthony Flew said that with the huge discoveries in biological science since Einstein’s day, its even more obvious there must be a God. Flew said, “If that is a sound argument, the integrated complexity of the organic world is just inordinately greater — all the creatures are complicated pieces of design. So an argument that is important about the physical world is immeasurably stronger when applied to the biological world.” In simple words, he was saying that if non-living things like rocks proved that God exists, then living things (like human beings and animals) with their much more complex and interdependent systems, make it a no-brainer that there must be an Intelligent Designer. “Mr. Ex-Top Atheist” said that!

Einstein and Flew’s point is very simple. Think of it like this. You’re in high school. Your science teacher tells you that for your final exam you can choose to either build a rock or a human being. Which would you choose? Of course, the rock would be much easier because a human being is much more complicated. If Einstein says that rocks are made of stuff so complicated that it proves there must be a God, then human beings make it even more obvious because they are much more complicated than rocks!

Try it yourself. Build a baby from scratch (no cheating with pre-manufactured humans). Baby building is very complex. You need an ovary, an egg, fallopian tubes, a uterus, a hormone called estrogen, an umbilical cord, a placenta, and countless other womanly things that all work hand in hand to make a baby. Not only that, you’ll also need the necessary information-packed sperm, and tubes to transport them to the egg. Each of these very delicate systems must work in perfect harmony to make a baby. And if it doesn’t happen successfully over and over again, the human race will disappear.

Could you build each one of these complex systems, time them to work together in perfect sync, and produce a brand new human in 9 months that will grow, think, walk, talk, sing, do the electric slide, play basketball, AND…be able to reproduce more humans with these same capabilities and complex systems? Could you do that?

Now think what the atheist is saying. He says that all this happened without a Creator. There was no “mind” behind creation. So imagine if I sucked the brain out of your head and then told you to build what we have just talked about. Could you do that? It’s obvious why the thinking atheist has to admit there must be a God.

So the next time you’re speaking with a skeptic, remember this little equation: Einstein + Sex = God. And use it the next time someone asks you for proof for a Creator.

(article used with thanks to http://www.bethinking.org)

The Importance of Christian Thinking

7 quick points on Christian thinking…………

(1) Do you ever engage your brain to think, study your bible, or stop and have BIG thoughts about God, Jesus, the gospel, your salvation? You should…..: “The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is prerequisite to Christian ACTION.”- Harry Blamires

(2)Why?–> “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

(3)God’s opinion on learning in the school of Christ—> “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

(4)How? –> “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”-James 1:5 (NLT)

(5) Get This —-> “ We need to understand that Jesus is a thinker, this is not a dirty word but an essential act” Dallas Willard

(6) But! —-> “We need to ask ourselves “What do i intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I’ve got it? For the fact that we have to face is this: that if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians ‘knowledge puffs up…the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to. [Our] supreme desire should be to know God’s truth in order that [our] hearts might respond to it and [our] lives conformed to it. [To know God better is to enjoy God more- thats why so many Christians dont enjoy God…they haven’t yet begun to KNOW Him” J.I. Packer

(7) Recommended Reading:

1)The Christian Mind- Harry Blamires

2) The Gospel and the Mind- Bradley G Green

3)The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind- Alister McGrath

4) Think! The Life of the Mind and the Love of God- John Piper

Bedtime Ponderings

 

Have you ever found yourself reading in bed at night when you suddenly come across a quote that makes it feel like the ground beneath you just shook? If so then you will be able to relate exactly to how I feel about the two excerpts below. The first is by Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and co founder of Together For the Gospel alongside Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney and Ligon Duncan. Despite admitting to being the briefcase kid in high school, Al has proven himself to be no woose when it comes to taking a stand for the truth of the Bible. In the quote he touches on authentic christianity and what he says struck me because I have been thinking quite a bit recently about what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. To be honest I am often wearied by my own hypocrisy in this area because I know that all too often I pay lip service to things that I should be passionately living out. I think of some of the things that Jesus said like “sell all your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33), “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22), and “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Unquestionably, Jesus was 110% serious about the call to follow him. Yet my western, materialistic, selfish, sinful heart all too often tries to suppress the call of Christ to fully surrender my life for the glory of God. And it really gets to me, or as we say in Northern Ireland “It does my head in”. Too often I make excuses for myself because my indwelling sinful nature is so alluring at times. During these times I don’t want to be challenged with, or rebuked by the truth. I am very comfortable with where I am in my ‘Christian’ walk thank you very much. I’m not alone though am I? We have churches full of people who want nothing more than a superficial, almost superstitious faith. Worse yet we seem to have a growing number of churches who have pastors that seem happy to tickle their audiences ears with self-help, pop psychology and comedic sermons so long as the tithes keep coming in.

Truly though, if we were to stop and examine ourselves for just 1 minute out of the 1440 minutes that make up a day, we would soon see that we fall frighteningly short of the the biblical mandate for what a Jesus follower should be. In fact it probably wouldn’t be wrong to suggest we have more in common with the Pharisees. We possess a “form of godliness but [deny] its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). We love ourselves and our little ‘clubs’ more than we do God. We pat each other on the back and say well done when what we really need is a solid rebuke like Jesus gave to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mathhew 16:23). We hold on to our little unbiblical traditions and refuse to be open and listen to emerging generations. Or, if we are part of the emerging generation, we refuse to learn from the past because we are, as C.S. Lewis termed it, “Chronological snobs”. Who needs the past? They’ve had their say! Their message is outdated and irrelevant for our culture we say! En masse church, as Mohler puts it below, is becoming, or worse yet has already become, “the refuge of the faithless seeking the trappings of faith without the demands of revealed truth”.

God Deserves More

God deserves so much more than that does he not? The Bible calls us to live lives that magnify God not shrink Him. This is to be done in both word AND deed. Not one at the expense of the other. Jesus says in John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The Liberals and emergent church are big on these deeds but not on the preached word. They seem to follow St Francis of Assisi’s mantra to “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words”. However that stance ignores the clarion call of scripture to “Preach the Word [at all times]” (2 Tim 4:2) and only serves to undermine the fact that we are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, apart from our works. I did a word search for preach in the New Testament and it pulled up 76 passages that talk about preaching the gospel and the good news of the kingdom; 76!! How can that be ignored? Note also that Jesus says in the passage above that we “BEAR FRUIT”. A tree cannot bear fruit if it is dead. Nor can a branch bear fruit unless it is attached to the tree. Likewise we cannot bear fruit, proper fruit, fruit that is more concerned with glorifying God than it is mere social change, if we are not first joined to the tree that is Jesus Christ. But how do we become joined to the tree?! Luke records in the book of Acts,

“….when they heard this [the gospel] they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38 ESV)

So by focusing on the fruit the Liberals forget the root!! They forget that the gospel is first and foremost a call to repentance and faith in the good news that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It is through believing the gospel that men and women become attached to the tree of life, Christ, which will then result in the fruit of good deeds. If the gospel is not first then what distinguishes the deeds of the Muslim from the deeds of the Christian?!

Equally as guilty though are we who deem ourselves to be evangelical conservatives. How often do we pass the homeless person on the street without even saying hello because “they are filthy and stink of piss”? We sing our lovely hymns about going and answering the call, proclaiming salvation in Jesus’ name, yet we can’t even pluck up the courage to share the gospel with our friends and neighbours because we are more concerned about offending them, than we are in glorifying God. So we leave them right there where they are; on the path to hell. We need to be careful that we do not become like the liberals and ignore the fact that we are to live it out as well as preach it (Matt 23:3, 1 John2:4-6).

How are we to live then? That brings me to my second quote. It comes from a sermon preached by John Piper. In the extract Piper asserts that it is the Christian’s duty to live a life that magnifies God. In typical Piperesque passion he says, “The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God…” I really can’t say anything more about this quote because it leaves me speechless and amazed at my total and utter dependance upon the grace of God and Jesus Christ. Read the whole quote and perhaps you will be left feeling the same.

 

Albert Mohler

“Spirituality is what is left when authentic Christianity is evacuated from the public square. It is the refuge of the faithless seeking the trappings of faith without the demands of revealed truth. Spirituality affirms us in our self-centeredness and soothingly tells us all is well. Authentic faith in Christ calls us out of ourselves, points us to the Cross, and summons us to follow Christ.”- Albert Mohler

John Piper

“When David says, ‘I will magnify God with thanksgiving, he does not mean: ‘I will make a small God look bigger than he is. He means: ‘I will make a big God begin to look as big as he really is.’ We are not called to be microscopes, but telescopes. Christians are not called to be con-men who magnify their product out of all proportion to reality, when they know the competitor’s product is far superior. There is nothing and nobody superior to God. And so the calling of those who love God is to make his greatness begin to look as great as it really is. The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God…

We are called to be telescopes: people who make the greatness of God seem as great as it really is. This is what it means for a Christian to magnify God. But you can’t magnify what you haven’t seen or what you quickly forget. Therefore, our first task is to see and to remember the greatness and goodness of God. So we pray to God, “Open the eyes of my heart,” and we preach to our souls, ‘Soul, forget not all his benefits!’

…There are only two groups of people in the world whose differences from each other are of any eternal significance: those who love to magnify God and those who love to magnify themselves. At the root of all ingratitude is the love of one’s own greatness. For genuine gratitude admits that we are beneficiaries of an unearned bequest; we are cripples leaning on the cross shaped crutch of Jesus Christ; we are paralytics living minute by minute in the iron lung of God’s mercy; we are children asleep in heaven’s stroller. Natural man hates to think of himself in these images: unworthy beneficiary, cripple, paralytic, child. They rob him of all his glory by giving it all to God. Therefore, while a man loves his own glory, and prizes his self-sufficiency, and hates to think of himself as sin-sick and helpless, he will never feel any genuine gratitude to the true God and so will never magnify God, but only himself.”

Andy Naselli Explains Zotero

Zotero is an amazing new research tool that every pastor or studious Christian should have installed on their computer. I was completely unaware of it until I came across a video by Don Carson’s research assistant, Andy Naselli on his blog. The above video is Zotero’s official Intro to the tool, however to see just how powerful it can be for the Christian scholar, pastor or student click on the link below to see Naselli’s video. I highly recommend installing this tool. I have just recently installed it myself and it is fantastic!

Andy Naselli-Zotero Video

Download Zotero here

Belgic Confession 24: On Sanctification

In this series we had previously looked at Articles 21,22 and 23 of the Belgic Confession. These 3 articles surveyed the Atonement, the Rigtheousness of Faith and the Justification of Sinners respectively. It may well be worth having another look at those articles to reaffirm in your head what they state. All 3 have come under attack by members of the emergent community such as Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. The great thing about these articles is that the authors fully submitted themselves to the authority and teaching of the Bible. Cultural pressure and the desire to be accepted can lead us into many errors so it is extremely important that we continue to look to the Bible to see what it says about particular doctrines. Today we look at sanctification. Louis Berkhof states that,

“Throughout his life, from the moment of his regeneration and conversion to the moment of his final elevation to heavenly glory, the Christian, by virtue of his union with Christ’s death and resurrection and through the power of God’s word and Spirit dwelling within him, will necessarily experience progressive sanctification, this process to be understood negatively in terms of putting to death the deeds of the flesh which still remain in him and positively in terms of growth in all saving graces” (Berkhof, Sytematic Theology, 533)

 

So God’s sanctifying work is seen in the growing Christlike character, increasing love for God and people, and the fruit of the Spirit (John 14:2; 15:1-16:33; Gal 5:22-25; James 2:18). “The best evidence of true salvation is not having raised a hand or prayed a prayer, or having been baptised or christened. Instead, the true test of an authentic work of God in one’s life is sanctification as God continues the moral transformation he began in regeneration.” (Grudem et al, Bible Doctrine: An Overview, ESV, 2533) Sometimes this progress is slow….very slow. Other times it is fast…instant. God works differently in each person. His work is DEFINITIVE yet PROGRESSIVE. Where sanctification is entirely absent in a person’s life it must be asked whether that person has truly been born again. I’ll hand you over the Belgic Confession now to see what it says!

Belgic Confession: Article 24

We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,”^57 causing him to live the “new life”^58 and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”^59 which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” ^60– thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ “^61

Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.

^57 2 Cor. 5:17 ^58 Rom. 6:4 ^59 Gal. 5:6 ^60 Phil. 2:13 ^61 Luke 17:10

The Art of Divine Contentment

“Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body: it puts it out of temper and much hinders its regular and sublime motions heavenward”. So said the English Puritan author Thomas Watson.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the idea of Christian contentment. Just what exactly is it and what should it look like? How important is it in the Christian’s life and what effect does true contentment have upon the Christian? I have chosen “The Art of Divine Contentment” by Thomas Watson as the text for this series as it is one of the best available on the subject.  Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson share this view, stating in their mammoth ‘introductory’ book “Meet the Puritans” that, “Godly contentment is a theme missing from many pulpits today. A serious reading of this treatise…..would do much to fill this void”.

Before we begin to think about Christian contentment, let’s learn a little bit about Thomas Watson.

Watson was born in Yorkshire, England (c 1620), had a pretty normal upbringing typical of that era and eventually went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1642 from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was a dedicated scholar, who wrote many books. Some of his best works, alongside our chosen text, include,

–          All Things for Good– A work based on Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of the Christian. “If someone asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “How can I know if I am called by God?,” offer them this book. Its chapters on the love of God, effectual calling, and the purpose of God are especially helpful in understanding Romans 8:28.” (Beeke & Pederson, Meet the Puritans)

–          The Beatitudes–  An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

–          A Body of Divinity– This is Watson’s magnum opus; his most famous work. In this book Watson follows the question and answer format of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and offers up 176 sermons on the essential teachings of Christianity. One reviewer on Amazon.com says “This book needs to be bought, understood and appreciated. My hope is that it will soon sell like wild-fire spreads.” I couldn’t agree more with that assertion! Buy this book and read it!!

–          The Godly Man’s Picture– In this book Watson describes 24 marks of a godly man including “moved by faith,” “fired with love,” “prizes Christ,” “loves the Word,” “is humble,” “is patient,” and “loves the saints”.

–          The Great Gain of Godliness– Despite having a catalogue of 12,000 books in His library, this is one that Spurgeon wished he had. “This volume would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors.” The book is Watson’s exposition of Malachi 3:16-18 and in it he aims “to encourage solid piety an confute the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness.” A  fantastic little volume which combines rich spirituality, nourishing doctrine, and sane practical wisdom coupled with fascinating illustrations and a very pleasant style.

–          The Lord’s Prayer– Initially this was a companion to ‘A Body of Divinity’ but can be read alone without it. Watson continues the question and format method of ‘A Body of Divinity’ in an attempt to explain the petitions of Jesus’ model prayer.

–          The Ten Commandments– Watson’s third volume on the Shorter Catechism which examines the 10 commandments and the moral law as a whole. An extremely valuable work.

Watson was a Presbyterian and expressed his strong Presbyterian views during the Civil War. He was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy to the throne however was released and reinstated in 1652. In 1662, due to the Act of Uniformity (a parliamentary act which made all churches adhere to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Church of England practices) he was ejected from his pastorate. However, Watson continued to preach in private- in barns, homes, and woods- whenever he had the opportunity.  He then ministered alongside a fellow Puritan giant, Stephen Charnock, at Bishopsgate, until Charnocks death in 1680. He continued to labour until his health failed. He died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer.

His depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. This has made him one of the most popular and accessible Puritan writers for the modern reader. Do yourself a favour and get some of his books. You will be enriched and encouraged in your faith if you do so.

Next in the series: An Introduction to Christian Contentment

Thinking and Faith- Martin Lloyd-Jones

Although he may overstate the case a little—thinking is not the essence of faith—he is right that thinking is essential to faith.

 

Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph [Matthew 6:25-34], is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him.

That is the real difficulty in life. Life comes to us with a club in its hand and strikes us upon the head, and we become incapable of thought, helpless and defeated. The way to avoid that, according to our Lord, is to think. We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction.

 

The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them.

 

The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask, What is going to happen to me? What can I do? That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord, here, is urging us to think, and to think in a Christian manner.

.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 399

What should we look for in a church??

In the consumer-driven age in which we live it is the customer who has all the power. I mean, think about it. We can choose what TV we want to watch, when we want to watch it, how we want to watch it (High Definition or standard definition). We can choose what radio stations we want to listen to, what electrical products we want to buy, what magazines we want to read, what food we want to buy, what friends we have on facebook and on and on we could go. The “customer is always right” is the marketing ethos of the 21st century, however is the customer always right when it comes to church, or rather is the layperson always right?

You see we naturally imbibe certain mindsets/worldviews from the society and culture that we are immersed in and I am wondering if this “consumer is always right” thing is becoming a sub conscious mindset of us Christians? I’ve heard stories of new pastors being told by laymembers “remember who pays your cheque” when they tried to implement biblical changes to the organisation and running of the church. What the church member meant in saying this was basically “if you do something i don’t like i’ll not be giving the money in to pay your wages mate”. This is a classic example of a church member thinking they have some sort of superior choice over the pastor/elders in relation to how the church should be run. There are many mumblings and grumblings today about how people want church to “be done”. Some of these are justified, for there are churches out there that are dying who continue to insist upon holding to the unbiblical traditions of men, pushing away the younger generation in the process. However, there are also churches who are trying so hard to be hip and relevant that they have completely abandoned the New Testament teaching about what a church should be. They almost act as if the New Testament is completely silent about how church should be done.

In his book ‘The Paradox of Choice- Why More is Less’ Barry Schwartz highlights this consumeristic phenomenon sweeping through our churches today. He observes,

“We are unwilling to regard religious teaching as commandments, about which we have no choice, rather than suggestions, about which we are the ultimate arbiters. We look upon participation in a religious community as an opportunity to choose just the form of community that gives us what we want out of religion

If our mindset as Christians is focused on the self, what we want out of Christianity, the only thing that will happen is that we will grow more and more discontented with our churches and with our walk with Christ. God does not exist for us….we exist FOR HIM. He has given us his word, the Bible, whose authority we are to sit under, not twist or ignore to suit our own sinful desires. So when it comes to “doing church” just what does the Bible teach about how we should do church? Well, to be sure, there are some grey areas, areas which the Bible is silent on, such as what clothes to wear, what instruments to use, what programmes should be run etc. However there are certain areas that the Bible is clear about. The guys at 9 Marks Ministries have, in my opinion, hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to this issue and below is a list of the 9 aspects or duties that they believe are vital for a church to be a healthy New Testament church. Have a look and see what you think…..

  1. Expositional preaching. Does the pastor preach God’s Word, or his own ideas? Does he allow Scripture to set his preaching agenda, or does he pick topics by some other criteria?
  2. Biblical theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine?
  3. A biblical understanding of the gospel. Does the church clearly proclaim the good news about what Jesus Christ accomplished for sinners in his death and resurrection? Consistently?
  4. A biblical understanding of conversion. Does the church teach that people must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8)? Does the church teach that in order to become a Christian, a person must repent of sin and trust in Christ, both of which are ultimately gifts of God?
  5. A biblical understanding of evangelism. Does the church preach the gospel to non-Christians and encourage its members to do the same? Does it understand that it’s our responsibility to preach the message of salvation yet God is the only one who can do the saving?
  6. Biblical church membership. Does the church take membership seriously by seeking to ensure that its members faithfully attend? Does it encourage members to fulfill the biblical “one-anothers” with each other?
  7. Biblical church discipline. Does the church lovingly, patiently practice church discipline?
  8. Biblical discipleship and growth. Does the church expect and equip its members to grow spiritually? Does the church encourage its members to disciple one another? Growing as a Christian should be normal, not exceptional.
  9. Biblical church leadership. Is the church led by godly, qualified men? Does the church look to Scripture to determine its leadership structure?

CCEF- Biblical Counselling for the Downcast

Leave me alone, I just want to be by myself. What’s the point in going on any longer? Why me? Why do I have to be the person to be treated like dirt? Why can’t I find somebody to love me? Why did God make me this way, I mean couldn’t he have made me better looking, more athletic, more funny, more likeable, more desirable? I don’t want to live any longer but I don’t have the guts to kill myself. I’m lonely, afraid, heartbroken. Why God why?! These are but a few of the statements people make when they are depressed, hurting or seeking to overcome addictions. Having gone through periods of depression myself I can relate all to well to those who feel this way. All seems hopeless, as if the circumstances of life will never change. It has become almost burdensome rather than enjoyable to live so the logical conclusion for many is to end their life to make the pain and sadness go away.

I have a deep concern for many in the church today who suffer in silence as I have done in the past. There appears to be few options that are readily available for Christians to receive sound, biblical counselling. Who should carry out Biblical counselling? The church? Parachurch organisations? If the answer is the church then who in the church? The pastor? Elders? Members of the congregation? Of all the things I would like to see become more prominent, more visible in the church is is the availability of regular biblical counselling. There is still a lot of taboo, shame and embarassment surrounding the idea of attending counselling and I believe it is one area that the local church needs to work to improve upon because there are many people out there suffering in silence and nobody should have to suffer in silence.

Thankfully I am not alone in my concern. The Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) is a Christian counseling and educational ministry located in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who are attempting to restore Christ to counselling and counselling to the local church. They state that,

“CCEF exists to Restore Christ to Counseling. We have a passion for personal change that is centered in the person of Christ. We have seen him bring significant change to individual lives. This passion is our heritage and heartbeat, and it leads us to constantly revisit the question, “How do the riches of the Gospel impact my life and my efforts to help others?” Everything we do flows from our desire to equip Christians to live and love in a Christ-centered way.”

“CCEF also exists to Restore Counseling to the Church. We believe that the body of Christ is God’s primary context for change, the community God uses to transform his people. CCEF’s mission is to equip the church to be this kind of transforming community. We see ourselves as an extension of the local church, and we want to serve and promote its ministry.”

I highly recommend checking out the CCEF website (click on the link above) to view some of their resources but for now why not watch the two short videos below on Addictions and Depression by Dr Ed Welch, one of CCEF’s leading counsellors. If you feel you cannot talk to anybody in your local church then the CCEF website is a great place to start the healing/counselling process. You don’t have to suffer alone.