In the previous entry, we considered Paul’s willingness to give up “whatever” in order to gain a right standing before God, a standing only attainable by faith in the risen Christ (Philippians 3:7-12). Now we consider the reason why Paul and every other believer in history is brought by God’s grace into that standing. Contrary to the impression unintentionally given by popular approaches to evangelism, gaining a proper standing before God is not the culmination of a person’s spiritual journey; it is the beginning. After all, the purpose of standing is not to stay still. We stand in order to walk. Paul’s having gained Christ prepared him for his pursuit of Christ, and made him willing to walk right into and through…whatever.
What do you desire most in life? And how much are you willing to give up in order to gain it? Is there anything about which you’d say: “I would give whatever it takes, without condition, without exception. To get that, I would give, and I would give up… whatever.”
In the Reformed Presbyterian Church where I serve, over the last decade or two we have seen congregations adding multiple pastoral staff. For instance, nearly twenty years ago the congregations in the state of Indiana where I was located all had just one pastor per congregation for the most part. Today as I write, two-thirds of the organized congregations there have more than one man serving in the pastorate. Many other denominations have been experiencing similar trends.
Though we long for empty pulpits in congregations to be filled; we recognize not every context or occasion calls for or can sustain more than a singular pastor; and certainly there are difficulties and dangers that can arise in congregations where there is more than one pastor, overall this is a good trend. As Martin Bucer said in Concerning the True Care of Souls, “Therefore, since the pastoral office involves such a great and important work, and one which so long as we live here is unending, that of presenting the church of Christ in all its members without fault, without stain or wrinkle, this office requires many sorts of ministry and work.”
Christian young people in North America who sense a long-term call to the mission field in developing countries are often ready and willing to give up most of their material possessions. They are willing to go with the clothes on their back and eat beans and rice to tell about Jesus. The problem is that the citizens of those developing nations might be eating only beans or rice. Thus, the native people often perceive that the most materially advantageous job to have is one connected with Christian ministry.
I usually like short blog titles. But I wanted this one to stand out a bit.
You see, I was surprised (though I should not have been) about something I saw. It occurred while doing a survey of historical pastoral theology works for a class I am teaching at the seminary. I found that in reading each of these men they all stressed, in one way or another, one aspect regarding the nature of the church above many others that is vital for pastors and elders to grasp. The simple truth they stress is that the church is a varied body.
Here is a short sampling of three men from different times stressing this, with an application from each one that pastors can and should make in the church.
The preaching of the gospel is a profound aspect of Christian worship. Some see preaching merely as a teaching time. Some see it as a time for outreach. Some see it as a time to justify paying the pastor! But at the core of preaching is this- preaching is an act of worship. Through preaching, fallen humanity is able to encounter the holy Triune God of the Bible in a powerful way.
How does the Bible view preaching? The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.“
To the non-Christian: Preaching is foolish.
To the Christian: Preaching is the power of God.
Have you ever had a burden so heavy on your heart, a duty you knew you had to perform, that its weight altered your view of the rest of life and of those who surround you? Suddenly, every song you hear taunts you. Every gust of wind against your cheek is a slap in the face. Every smile aimed your way provokes not a grin, but a growl: “Put that smile away! If you knew what I’m facing, you’d weep!” And has that pressure forced from within you feelings of envy and even bitterness toward people whose burdens seem so light compared to what’s crushing you? The Apostle Peter received news from the Lord Jesus which surely could have made him feel this way.
To Christian college students who are settling into your dorm rooms: you can find ideas for dorm room set-up in places like this or learn about the cost here. But, those won’t necessarily help you think about how to make your new abode a place where people find grace. Students all around you are thinking, and their thinking is changing, and they are often open to spiritual truth in ways they never have been before. Often, that transformation begins through relationships where they live. The Apostle Paul was well pleased to impart to the Thessalonians not only the gospel of God, but also his own life – so is your room arranged to impart grace?
Every experience is different; I only have my own, which was with a Christian roommate on the campus dormitory of a large, public university. However, the nature of humanity remains the same across different campuses. The attached picture is a floor plan of my dorm room at Purdue that the university gave incoming students so we could plan (just rediscovered in an old file). In our two years together at Cary Quad East 331, my roommate and I prayed that the Lord would give us great […]
This morning, we drove past a business sign that said: “Enjoy the Summer.” The irony is that we were on our way to school for the first day of classes. While it is still technically summer for more than a month, summer break is ending for students across the nation. Schools in our area on the so-called “balanced” schedule began in late July, others are starting now, and some in other states will begin after Labor Day.
Thus, God’s people embrace a new season of prayer for students and teachers. For me, it is helpful to have mental hooks – little devices to organize my prayers for specific situations like this. One such hook is the mascot for our classical school: The Achaeans.
Years ago my wife and I sat down next to my seminary professor of New Testament, Dr. Renwick Wright, and his wife for an evening service. Looking around the sanctuary, he expressed a bit of disappointment that not more people were there. Then he said something that has always stayed with me. “I always want to be at the evening service. For that was when Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, and if the Lord chooses to show Himself again tonight by the Spirit I sure want to be here.” An excellent teacher of the Scriptures, Dr. Wright was referring to John 20:19, which says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Dr. Wright was emphasizing the importance of the evening service as being another time on the Lord’s Day for the church to experience her Savior. Sadly, the situation over two decades ago seems not to have changed much, as the evening service of the church often is dismally attended. Though the above proof text alone […]