If you’ve spent any time in the Reformed community, you have come across the term “Cage-stage Calvinist.” Essentially, a “cage-stager” is a person who has newly discovered the Doctrines of Grace and insists on telling everyone around him how right Calvinism is and how wrong everything that isn’t Calvinism is. They are so persistent and so annoying that everyone around them wishes he or she would be locked up in a cage until they stop foaming at the mouth.Read More
This mindset, that humans have a free-will that is entirely independent of God’s sovereignty and that God has purposely limited his sovereignty in the name of upholding absolute human freedom, is called libertarian freewill. It dominates the evangelical landscape and to argue against it is to commit a cardinal sin.Read More
Because of our sinfulness, we have heaped up an infinite amount of guilt on the divine scale. Evil thought after evil thought, sinful action after sinful action, we pile guilt on that scale until it is horribly tilted in the wrong direction.Read More
Which means, in all of Stephen Hawking’s brilliance – in all of his understanding of black holes and quantum physics and the inner workings of the vast universe – he never discovered anything, never knew anything, that God did not already know.Read More
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Christian walk lately and I’ve noticed that most of us would like to think of it as an ever-ascending line to Heaven; when, in reality, it’s more like a staggered roller-coaster ride through the ebbs and flows of nominal Christian life.Read More
Today, I want to begin a series called Theology Thursdays in which one Thursday a month I lay out a doctrine of the Bible and explain it in simple terms. It is my hope that through these simplistic explanations of Bible doctrine, you will be encouraged to deeper study of God’s Word. We begin today with the doctrine of electionRead More
I don’t know about you, but lately I have struggled in my prayer life. When I pray, it seems as if I am talking to thin air – that my requests go into the void and return to me empty. It’s like I am calling out into a great chasm only to be greeted by the sound of my own echo.Read More
Maybe it happened when you were a baby. Maybe it happened when you were an adult. Maybe you were in college, or freshly into your first year of retirement. Or you were a gangly, awkward middle schooler who only vaguely understood the magnitude of what you were doing.
No matter how it happened, or when it happened, if you are a Christian living in obedience to the Word of God, you have been baptized. There has been a moment in your life when you, either through sprinkling or immersion, received the ordinance of Christian baptism.
And if you’re anything like me, the memory of that occasion rarely crosses your mind. If you were baptized as a baby, you probably don’t even have memories of your baptism. Even if you were baptized as an adult, the event happened, stuck with you for a week or two, and then faded to the recesses of your memory like most events do. Sure, you think about it a time or two – especially when your church has a baptism service – but it doesn’t cross your mind during your typical week.
But today, I want to challenge that regular pattern for believers. I want to encourage you to remember your baptism and to remember it often.
I know that probably sounds strange – I don’t think you hear many pastors preaching from the pulpit for their congregations to remember their baptisms. But, consciously remembering your baptism to encourage yourself in the Christian life was something the Westminster Divines called “improving your baptism.” And it’s something that the church is all but silent on today.
But contrary to that attitude, writer Bryan Holstrom says, “God did not provide His people with a covenant sign that was intended to be of significance for them for only one brief moment of their lives and then forgotten about.” But that’s how most of us view it, isn’t it? My baptism was significant to me for about a week after it happened – then it was only a memory and an old video on my iPhone.
But that isn’t how God meant it to be! Remembering your baptism is a vital part of the Christian life and there are two big areas that I think it can help in.
Here they are: (1) remembering your baptism can aid in your fight against sin and (2) remembering your baptism can help heal the heart of a doubting, anxious Christian.
First, remembering your baptism aids in your fight against sin. In Holstrom’s book on baptism, he talks about how when Martin Luther faced temptation, he would often tell himself, “I am a baptized man!”* For Luther, when he remembered his baptism and his identification with Christ through it, it made him think twice before engaging in sin.
Think about that for a second. When you are consciously pondering your union with Christ through baptism, it makes it a little harder to click on that website or yell at your spouse.
So, remembering your baptism can help you resist temptation.
Not only that, remembering your baptism can reassure you of your standing with Christ. I am attempting Tim Challies’ 2018 reading challenge this year and the first category on the list is a biography. So I am reading Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey – a kind of autobiographical memoir. In it, he tells of a professor he had in college that would often encourage them to remember their baptisms – especially if they had fallen into patterns of sin.
He says, “If you are in the shadow of God, if God is silent, if God seems to be absent, remember your baptism, in which it was confirmed that you were indeed of God’s own and held safely.”
Wow. What an encouragement! If you are doubting your salvation, or in a pattern of sin, remember your baptism! Yancey again says (paraphrasing his professor) that, “remembering our baptism is remembering that there was a moment in which we affirmed, without question, that the good work of the Holy Spirit had begun in our lives.”
Consciously thinking back to that moment in time - that concrete, real, feelable moment - in which you identified with Christ and received His ordinance of baptism can help in times of darkness when God feels far away. It reassures us that His seal is upon us and we are united to Him in His death and resurrection.
So, remembering our baptism aids in temptation and gives us a source of assurance rooted in the person of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. I hope that today you take a few moments to ponder your baptism and meditate on the many practical applications it has in your everyday life!
Have you ever heard a pastor tell you to “remember your baptism”? Do you ever consciously think about your baptism to aid in resisting temptation or to encourage yourself? Do you think about it for any other reasons? Let me know in the comments below! Or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter! And don’t forget to subscribe below, you’ll get more content like this delivered right to your inbox!
Sources: Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament by Bryan Holstrom, Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey
*Holstrom is citing the author Strange in this section
Are you fighting to overcome pornography addiction, but find yourself failing continually? Do you fall prey to the hidden sin of pride on a regular basis? Is hate towards a particular brother and sister in Christ pent up in your heart, even though you don’t want it there? Is there some sin that you have asked God to take away from you time and time again? Are you met with silence each time? It’s because God isn’t ready for you to overcome that sin yet. He wants you to struggle.Read More
I think that many of us, myself included, haven’t stopped to think deeply about why exactly we are required to treat all other people, no matter who they are or how they treat us, the way we want to be treated. At least, we haven’t thought much further than, “Jesus tells us to.”Read More
It saddens me to be writing another post about a shooting. It seems like just a few days ago that I addressed the Las Vegas shooting. Now, a local church in Texas is grieving after 26 people – 4 percent of the population of the small town of Sutherland Springs – were killed after a man with a rifle opened fire on the little congregationRead More
While I vigorously defend the sufficiency of Scripture to provide believers with everything they need and to bring the unbeliever to salvation, I betray my heart’s fickleness with my daily struggles and doubts.Read More
Oftentimes in life, the answers to our most pressing questions can be found right in front of us. In that way, life functions a little bit like a riddle. In Stephen King's third Dark Tower novel, The Wastelands, a group of friends must banter with a talking computer to win a ride on his train that will take them to their next destination. Once they win the ride, the computer reveals that unless they can stump him with a riddle, he will run the train off the tracks, killing them all.
The group takes turns riddling the computer, but he has an answer to all of them. Finally, with moments to spare, Eddie, the sidekick to the main character and the "class clown" of the bunch, who is often ridiculed for his lack of seriousness, steps up to the plate again.
Instead of using long, complicated riddles like his friends, he begins a series of silly riddles that they had just hours before called "children's riddles" because of their humor and simplicity. However, it is because of this simplistic nature that the computer eventually gets stumped and the group wins their freedom.
Eddie said that the key to riddles is "thinking around the corner." Good riddles are phrased in such a way that their meaning is hidden in plain sight. Oftentimes, the answers to riddles are so simple that we feel silly after someone tells us the answer. And that's how Eddie was able to fool the computer - he used riddles that were so simple that the answers hid in plain sight.
Sometimes we treat our spiritual lives like the computer treated the overly simplistic riddles. We tend to overthink things. Instead of seeing the answer in plain sight, we complicate everything!
It seems like whenever we hit a spiritual rut - when we are struggling with sin, or not reading our Bibles like we should, or we feel far away from God - we try to overcomplicate things. We buy a new book that we think will tell us all the answers. We download a new Bible reading plan that we swear we will keep up with this time. We get a new prayer app that we believe will help us be more diligent. We watch a few Paul Washer sermons to make us feel guilty so we will finally shape up.
But friends, that isn't what the Bible calls us to do! Our relationship with God isn't a set of do's and don'ts. It isn't a complicated riddle that God is laughing at us attempting to solve. We only make it out to be that way! What does the Bible tell us to do - whether we are in a good place spiritually or struggling? Let's look at the book of Hebrews to find out.
Shortly after the author of the book of Hebrews warns his readers about neglecting the faith, he says this:
Hebrews 3:1: "Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession." [CSB]
Consider Jesus. After a heavy warning about apostasy and its very real possibility, the only thing the author tells his readers to do is to consider Jesus. You would think that with these people's very salvation on the line, the author would launch into some kind of 12 step program to spiritual recovery. Instead, to this troubled group of Christians who were on the verge of renouncing their faith, he tells them to consider Jesus. It's that simple!
So my challenge to you today is to consider Jesus. Too often we get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of Christianity. Sometimes it is best for us to stop and just consider the Author and Finisher of our faith.
No matter where you are spiritually - whether you are walking closely with God or struggling to maintain fellowship with HIm - I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day to consider Jesus. Here are 3 ways you can do that.
1. Consider His Life
Later in the book of Hebrews, the author says this about Jesus:
Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin." [CSB]
No matter what we are going through in life - Christ has been there. There isn't a temptation out there that Christ cannot sympathize with. What does this mean? It means that your Savior understands. He has been there. When you cry out to him in temptation, you aren't crying out to a deity that is detached from reality. You are crying out to the God who became flesh and lived a life on this dusty little planet we call home. Take comfort in that!
2. Consider His Death
In chapter 10 of Hebrews, the author lays out why Christ's sacrifice was superior to the sacrifices under the Old Covenant. He says that,
Hebrews 10:12: "But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." [CSB]
This man is referring to Jesus and here it is said of him that he made one offering for sins, in contrast to the sacrifices that had to be repeated time after time in order to atone for the sins of those under the Old Covenant. And then, He sat down. In other words, He accomplished His mission of paying for the sins of all who would believe in Him.
If you are a believer, Christ accomplished your salvation at the cross when He laid down His life for you! He made a once and for all sin offering that atoned for all of your sins - past, present, and future. Furthermore, through that perfect sacrifice we have, "our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water." [Hebrews 10:22 CSB]
That is something that was not possible under the Old Covenant and is made possible only through the perfect death that Christ died for His people. That means you, Christian!
3. Consider His Ongoing Ministry on Your Behalf
Finally, look at this final verse in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 7:25: "Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them." [CSB]
Right now, Christ is in Heaven interceding for the ones He died for. Hebrews says he always lives to intercede for them. There is not a moment in Heaven in which Christ is not actively working in Heaven for His people. That means He is interceding for you. You are never alone in your struggle, because your perfect priest is in Heaven pleading your case before the Father. Always. That is a comforting thought!
We have now considered Jesus' life, His death, and His ongoing ministry on our behalf. Hopefully, after considering your Savior, you are no longer puzzling about your spiritual walk like a riddle. Instead, I pray you are considering Jesus, who the writer of Hebrews calls, "the source and perfecter of our faith." [Hebrews 12:2 CSB]
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I have been doing much of my daily Bible reading in the Old Testament lately, particularly in the book of Genesis. At times, it is a challenge. While much of the Old Testament is exciting narrative, some days it’s just a little difficult to get much spiritual application out of a chapter of genealogies. I know, we’ve all been there.
But, sometimes, something jumps out at me and grabs my attention. And I can’t help but take notice. Recently, that something came from the story of Jacob.
Jacob, after having served Laban for over 14 years, loses favor with Laban and his sons. It’s pretty clear that he must pack up camp and move on before things turn sour. The Lord, in His mercy, tells Jacob as much. He commands him to return to the land of his fathers. But God says something to Jacob that stuck with me. Look at what Genesis 31:3 says: “And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.” Read that last statement again: I will be with you.
I read that and I thought, “Man, what did Jacob have to fear? God said He would be with him!” There are some moments in life, when faced with difficult circumstances or uncertainty, that I wish God would say that to me. I wish God would cry out from above, “Caleb! Take the job offer, I’ll be with you!” or “Caleb, don’t worry about it, I’ll be with you!”
I found myself thinking these things when it hit me – He did tell me that He would be with me. Maybe not directly, but Jesus said as much to his followers before He ascended into Heaven. At the end of one of the most famous verses of the Bible, Christ tells his disciples that He will be with them, “even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). It’s right there after the part about going and making disciples. We tend to focus so much on that aspect of the verse (which, don’t get me wrong, is hugely important) that we miss the gigantic promise that Jesus makes to us here. He promises us that He will be with us until the end of the age. We get all that Jacob was promised, plus more. God promised Jacob that He would be with Him in his flight from Laban, but Jesus adds that He will be with us, “until the end of the world.”
Furthermore, Jacob wasn’t indwelt with the Holy Spirit like we are. JD Greear has a whole book built around the concept that, “the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you.”* Christ quite literally told His disciples that they would be better off if He left them and the Holy Spirit came instead.
Think about that for a second. Jesus thought that his followers would be better off if He left Earth. As believers, we have the same God that promised Jacob he would be with him, and the same God that promised He would be with us, “even unto the end of the world” inside of us.
That means wherever we go, whatever we do, no matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulty or uncertainty, we have a Spirit inside of us that whispers, “I will be with you.” Rejoice in that today, Christian. You are indwelt by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Live like it!
*Jesus, Continued by JD Greear
What is the first passage of Scripture that comes to mind when you think of the Resurrection? Something from the book of Revelation? Paul’s famous defense of the doctrine in I Corinthians 15? What about Job 19? Anybody?
Most of us wouldn’t even consider an Old Testament book, let alone the book of Job, if we wanted to read about the resurrection. But right there in the middle of one of the oldest books in the Bible, we find the future hope of the believer’s resurrection. It comes in Job’s reply to Bildad and here is what it says:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
On my first read-through of this passage a few days ago, I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally flipped open to the New Testament – because here Job sounds like the Apostle Paul as he staunchly stands on the comforting doctrine of the resurrection. These words come on the heels of what was undoubtedly the world’s worst day – in a moment, Job had lost everything he ever loved or cherished. And here he is, just a few chapters later, laying out the hope that he still has in His Redeemer.
I think we tend to downplay this a bit. Job lost – literally – everything he had. But it says in Job 1:22 that, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Just a few weeks ago, my car was giving me trouble and by the end of the ordeal, I was angry – actually angry – that God would allow me to have car trouble. If I had been Job, I likely would have taken my wife’s advice and “Cursed God and died.” But Job did not do that. Instead, he says things like he says in 1:21: “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” What? Most of us are ready to give up if we drop our iPhone and it cracks – how does Job so gracefully handle his tragic situation?
How does he, looking at our passage again, say with confidence, “For I know that my redeemer liveth” and “I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another”? And joyfully declare that even after worms have devoured his flesh, he will somehow see God? The answer isn’t a complex one. But it’s one that I fear flies over the heads of a lot of our church-goers today.
Job was able to handle his tragedy with grace because his hope was not in this life. Job’s hope was not in his children, or his cattle, or his money – his hope was in God. Job could handle his difficult (but God-ordained, remember) life for the same reason Moses could face the Pharaoh without fear. Job could watch his livelihood disappear and say, “So be it” for the same reason Abraham could pack up his entire family and move to a land he had never seen. It’s because they were nothing more than sojourners in this life. Their hope was planted firmly in, “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10)
Their hope was planted in resurrection. It was rooted in redemption. Job stood firmly on the conviction that his Redeemer lives and that one day He would see him face to face. Job said that his heart longed for that.
Does your heart long with Job’s? Do you desire the heavenly city? Do you dream of the day when your body, that is wearing down even as you read this post, will be redeemed and made new? Or are you content to put down your roots here on earth? Are you at peace with your inherently earthly mindset, with thoughts that never find their way past the present? If so, it’s time to rise to a new level of thinking – one that transcends this life and breaks into the new creation that God has promised for those who love Him. It’s time to long for resurrection, when we will finally be restored to the image God always had in mind for His children. Long for that, just as Job's heart longed for it.