Eat This Book

Most meals are just O.K. Not great. Not memorable. Just O.K. And that’s O.K. Because, most importantly, meals are about survival. Food sustains us through the labors of the day.

It should be the same with Bible reading. We don’t live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. Bible reading is food for the Christian. It’s spiritual sustenance. And, in the same way that every physical meal isn’t memorable, neither should we expect every Bible reading to be memorable.

Too often, modern Christians have succumbed to pure emotionalism. We want every time we read the Bible to fill us with emotions of rapturous joy and utter delight. And, when we don’t get those feelings we think something’s wrong with us, or worse, something’s wrong with the Bible.

But nothing is wrong with the Bible. It’s food. And whether it makes you feel good, eating it will sustain you. So eat it. You’ve never said, “Unless I get a 5 course meal prepared by a chef, I’m not eating dinner.” Treat the Bible the same way. Eat the meal that God has placed in front of you with gratitude for the sustenance it will provide.

In a few days, we’ll begin the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. I’m encouraging you to read through the New Testament with me. Download the plan here. Join the Facebook Group here.

Also… I originally heard this illustration from either Doug Wilson or Rachel Jankovic. Can’t remember which.

Sermon Manuscript: Gospel Community

Yesterday we continued a sermon series called RESET. As we reopen the church over the coming weeks we are asking and answering some of the basic questions of Christianity. This week we focused on how the gospel calls us into community.

Below you can access the link to my sermon notes:

Romans 12.3-8 Gospel Community

Wine and Wineskins

In the preface to his masterful book on revivals, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace says the following:

Concentration on reformation without revival leads to skins without wine; concentration on revival without reformation soon loses the wine for want of skins.

He’s dead on. Spiritual vigor (revival) apart from the truth (reformation) isn’t spiritual. Truth (reformation) apart from spiritual vigor (revival) is dead. Even the demons believe and they tremble. (James 2:19)

I came across this quote as I was thumbing through my notes on his book while searching for sermon material, and I want to add something to the quote: reformation must precede revival. The altar must be built according to God’s commands before he will honor the altar with his fire. By reformation, I don’t mean you need to hold to the specifics or Reformed theology. No, I simply mean that you need to preach what was the central doctrine of the reformation– justification by faith. This is one of the common threads through all true revivals. Regardless of the denomination (pentecostal, presbyterian, baptist). True revival is built on justification by faith– a focus on faith in what God accomplished in the cross of Christ.

If there is to be any wine of the spirit it will only be contained in the wineskin of a true understanding of justification.

Also, buy Lovelace’s book. It’s hefty but rich.


Is Fear Always Sinful?

In the past 2 months, I’ve had more conversations about fear than I had in the previous decade. As we have all wrestled with the unknowns of the Coronavirus crisis afflicting the world many Christians have also wrestled with fear. We can all point to Bible verses that command us to be strong and full of courage (Joshua 1:7). Likewise, we know that Paul tells us to “not be anxious about anything.” (Phil. 4:6) Do these passages mean that all fear is sinful?
Last week I read a short book by the Puritan, John Flavel, entitled Triumphing Over Sinful Fear. You can buy it here. In the book, Flavel distinguished between 3 types of fear found in the Bible: natural, sinful, and religious (or Godly). In understanding these three kinds of fear we are better helped to think about and process our own individual fears.
Natural Fear
Everyone experiences natural fear. It is the trouble or agitation of mind that arises when we perceive approaching evil or impending danger. It is not always sinful, but it is always the fruit and consequence of sin. – John Flavel
Natural fear is the fear we experience when we’re standing on a ladder or walking through a dark room. Because we are created and finite beings we have an awareness of our own frailty. Falling from a ladder may result in injury. There may be hidden dangers in dark rooms. Notice that this fear is not always sinful. There is a healthy fear, not of the ladder itself, but of falling. But, also notice, that natural fear is always the fruit and consequence of sin. Because of sin we live in a world where people fall off ladders and are injured or even die.
Sinful Fear
Sinful fear arises from unbelief—an unworthy distrust of God. This occurs when we fail to rely upon the security of God’s promise; in other words, when we refuse to trust in God’s protection.
The sinfulness of fear lies in its excess and immoderacy when we fear more than we ought. – John Flavel
For example, sinful fear says, “God can’t protect me from falling.” Sinful fear dethrones God, ignores his sovereignty, and devalues his love. Sinful fear questions God’s goodness.
Religious Fear
There is a holy and laudable fear, which is our treasure, not our torment. It is the chief ornament of the soul—its beauty and perfection, not its unhappiness or sin. Natural fear is a pure and simple passion of the soul. Sinful fear is the disordered and corrupt passion of the soul. But the awful, filial fear of God is the natural passion sanctified—changed and baptized into the name and nature of a spiritual grace. – John Flavel
The fear of the Lord, says Flavel, “is not, therefore, a natural product of our heart, but a supernatural infusion and implantation.” This fear gives us the resolve to trust and obey God. It strengthens us to avoid what God forbids and to do what he commands regardless of the opposition.
So, as you consider your own fear, you ought to ask yourself a few questions:
Is my fear causing me to question God’s power, sovereignty, wisdom, or goodness?
Is my fear causing me to disobey God’s Word or my own conscience guided by the Spirit?
Not all fear is sinful. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov. 9:10)
All quotations of Flavel from: Flavel, John. Triumphing Over Sinful Fear (Puritan Treasures for Today Book 3). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.