sanctification

What’s the main thing you need to be a pastor?

This both encourages and challenges me: the main qualifier for ministry is steady growth in love for God and others. Paul Woodson writes,

There is no one style of ministry that is productive and no one type of personality that represents good pastoral ministry. The sheer diversity of personality types among ministers is surely a sign that any particular personality type has little to do with the building of the Church. But the pastors whose ministries I particularly applaud (whether successful in the eyes of the world or not) are those whose love for the Lord Jesus is transparent and growing, whose ability to expound the Scriptures with devotion, clarity, practical application, and real unction is increasing, and whose love for people is not artificial or sentimental but self-denying and perceptive (this is essential to what is often called “pastoral care”), and whose desire to proclaim the gospel and work out its implications dictates the focus and priorities of their lives.

You can download this book, “Letters Along the Way” by D.A. Carson and Paul Woodson for free as a pdf by clicking here.

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Is Sanctification Simple or Complex?

David Powlison answers that question in the video below. “… you often get these fads that try to put sanctifcation in a one-liner. If you just [ do this ], if you just [ do this ] then all your problems will go away…”

A Truly Wide Taste in Humanity

face in a crowd

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.

The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet everyday. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there.”

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 37.

How do Hobbies Glorify God?

Three excellent questions that John Piper encourages people to ask about their hobbies:

  1. 3:13 Do your hobbies feed your soul with God-exalting experiences? Do you see God in them? Or are they leaving you more distant from God and more in love with the world?
  2. 3:42 Do your hobbies refresh you (emotionally, spiritually, physically) so that you when you get to the other parts of your life where you must glorify God (vocation, family, ministry), you are able to do so? Or is it depleting and weakening you?
  3. 4:06 Do your hobbies involve others so that they’re pointed to the glory of God? Is it a means of drawing others into your life for the sake of authentic relationships that will lead to a knowledge of Christ?

A Loving Life by Paul Miller

A Loving Life - Paul Miller

My wife and I are going to begin reading this book together in the evenings. After watching Justin Taylor interview the author, I’m really excited. Here’s what two men, Scotty Smith and David Powlison, whom I deeply respect, have said about Miller’s book:

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the most honest, timely, and helpful book I’ve ever read about the costly and exhausting demands of loving well. And at the same time, A Loving Life is the most faithful, alluring, and encouraging presentation of God’s love for us in Jesus I’ve fed on in years. …
— Scotty Smith

“The word love is often either a vague sentiment or just another four-letter word. But in Paul Miller’s hands, the quiet, compelling reality emerges. You will witness how love is thoughtful, principled, courageous, enduring, and wise—all the things you know deep down it should be. And even more than those fine things, you will be surprised and delighted at how true love is grounded in God.”
— David Powlison

Memorizing the Bible: why and how

The 8th chapter of Romans has been called the “Mount Everest” of the Bible, the pinnacle, the high point. According to Christians both old and new (read: dead and alive), it’s the place where the truths of Christianity shine most brilliantly and clearly.

And so at the beginning of this year I begun memorizing Romans 8. It was awesome. I loved having verse 1 remind me all day long, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I kept going. Verse 2. Verse 3. And things got less clear. I don’t know if you’ve read Romans 8 recently, but verse 2 and 3 begin talking about the “law of the spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death,” and it confused me. I memorized them, but with less fervor. And eventually (about two weeks ago) I trailed off and abandoned the whole thing.

Just last night though I was catching up on John Piper’s podcast and heard him talk about bible memorization. His points about the lost spiritual discipline of memorization were so encouraging and refreshing that I decided to pick it up again. This is part of the normal Christian life, I suppose: resolving by God’s grace to do something, doing it, becoming discouraged, encountering your fallibility, and picking it up again by God’s grace.

The Why:

The How:

Get Started with This:

http://www.fbcdurham.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Scripture-Memory-Booklet-for-Publication-Website-Layout.pdf

Some Examples:

 

Why Being A Christian Is Hard

Our experiences today do not reflect God’s inattention or unfaithfulness, but his jealous love. He is exposing our wandering hearts and foolish minds and the way we trust our passions more than the principles of his Word. He is calling us to forsake our own glory for his, and teaching us that the idols we pursue will never satisfy us. He is making us wise to temptation and aware of a lurking enemy. He is teaching us to live for treasure that moth and rust can’t destroy and that thieves can’t steal. He is teaching us to live open, approachable, and humble lives.

We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations so that we will be holy.

Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Handspg 241.

Personality and Ministry: Perspectives

In this “personality and ministry” series, I’ve sought to provide my own answer to the question, “how do I fulfill my duties in ministry in a way that is (primarily) faithful to the gospel and (secondarily) faithful to the kind of person I am?”

The question hints at my priorities. I want, most of all, to be faithful to the gospel. On the last day, I want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Don’t we all? But I realize that I’m living out this faithfulness with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Everyday I have to deal with me.

Thankfully, other people have worked through these issues before me. I’m not the first person to ask that two-fold question. In this post I’ll be pointing your attention away from my little blog and toward some articulate and thoughtful men who have wrestled with this issue.

1. Gavin Ortlund: We Shouldn’t Moralize Strengths and Weaknesses

In his article, “Why I find the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Helpful,Gavin Ortlund makes a really helpful observation about the relationship between personality and morality:

No personality trait has any moral superiority to any other; God simply makes people differently. And yet it seems to me that we all tend to think that the way we operate is the “normal” one. … while the disputes that can occur between a J [judging personality type] and a P [perceiving personality type] can touch upon moral issues, they are not necessarily moral issues. The line between “personality” and “wisdom” or “personality” and “right/wrong” is not always crystal clear. … They remind us that not all of our differences are moral differences, and thus help us not make unnecessary judgments. They help us leave room for God-given differences, and thus learn from others where we might be tempted merely to criticize, and be cautious to assume our way is always the right way.

Do you see what he’s saying? The ways we operate as extroverts and introverts, perceivers and judgers, or whatever, are not always moral issues; though they can be. This is an area where discernment and caution can save us a lot of trouble.

Orltund makes two other helpful observations, and the rest of the article is worth your time if you’re interested in this subject.

2. John Piper: Awareness does not excuse complacency

John Piper I’ve had about seven Jiminy Crickets (Pinochio’s “official conscience”) walking around on my shoulders while writing these posts. They’re reminding me that I like, love my comfort zone, and that I better not slack off in my areas of weakness simply because I know they’re areas of weakness. I can’t let myself say, “I’ll leave those things (I’m not any good at) to other people.”

John Piper would agree. There is no reason for any sensible person called to ministry to settle for what they find themselves with. Piper, the man who has had more influence in my life than almost any other, wrote about this issue early in his days at Bethlehem Baptist:

When I came to this church I knew that I was not gifted in evangelism and personal witnessing. I have never been very good at turning a conversation with an unbeliever into a serious spiritual discussion of his condition before God. I suppose I could content myself under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and say that he has called me to be a pastor-teacher, not an evangelist. … [but] unless the Lord makes it very clear to me that I must, I am not going to accept my lack of giftedness in evangelism. I have been praying and will go right on praying and ask you to pray with me that God will give me the gift to win people to Christ, one-on-one and through my preaching.

3. Justin Taylor (observing John MacArthur and John Piper): God does not create all pastors equally

Justin TaylorAt a conference in 2007, Justin Taylor led a discussion with John Piper and John MacArthur about a range of subjects related to ministry. In the video below, Taylor asks the two men how they deal with depression. Their responses are as different as is possible:

MacArthur: I don’t get depressed.

Piper: I get really depressed really often.

God uses the ministries of both these men to bring the truth of his Word to lives all around the world, but he does so through their black-and-white different personalities. I’m filled with hope when I realize that personality is not an obstacle to God’s grace — it is a conduit of God’s grace.

Conclusion

I begun by saying that I approach this whole issue with two goals, 1) I want to be faithful to the gospel, and 2) I want to be faithful to the person God made me to be.

These goals are not equally weighted. Like Paul, I am a servant of Jesus Christ. He has bought me with his blood and I am belong to him. Jesus begun his public ministry by telling people: repent and believe. Both of these are self-effacing actions. They both require that I look to Another. My most important calling is to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ — to repent of my sins and believe in the Good News.

But I’m daily submitting to Jesus’ kingship as the person he made me. Which means that my “repent and believe” will look slightly different when compared to yours. I daily have to repent (per point 1) of judging people for not being organized and self-disciplined, daily believe (per point 2) that God is intent on transforming me by his grace and not content to leave my in weaknesses, and I’m daily reminding myself (per point 3) that God will use me in whatever place I am. It’s never that neat and tidy. But it happens. There are moments of repentance. Sweet moments when I’m aware of God’s grace and his ability to use me wherever I am.

What have you heard people say about this issue?

What are your thoughts about the call to this two-fold faithfulness?

What we really believe about sanctification

One of the best things I can think of to do on this blog is regularly post links to videos/posts/quotes that will challenge you and prompt good thinking. This post did that for me. Still mulling over the temporarily-hurting but long-term-healing implications: 

http://www.ccef.org/blog/what-church-really-believes-about-sanctification

We believe in the victorious life: healthy, wealthy, prosperous and sin-free.

Lord have mercy on us.”