Posted 3/7/14 at 2:13 PM | Tim Challies
From a small home in a Los Angeles neighborhood, we now travel clear across the continent to Morningside Heights in New York’s Upper Manhattan. At the corner of 120th Street and Riverside Drive, looking out on the Hudson, is a massive stone building called Riverside Church. Built in the Neo-Gothic style, its spires reach 392 feet into the air, making it the tallest church in America. Riverside Church was the product of a collaboration between industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the controversial preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. In the twentieth century Fosdick emerged as a central figure in the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy and one of the leading liberal preachers and theologians. Because liberalism was, and remains, such a powerful force in Christianity, Riverside Church stands as a symbol of its enduring influence. It is the next of the twenty-five objects through which we are tracing the history of Christianity.
Harry Emerson Fosdick was born in New York on May 24, 1878 and had a conversion experience at the age of 7. Even as a teenager he rejected Calvinism and fundamentalism, trusting instead in personal spiritual experience. In 1903 he was ordained a Baptist minister and subsequently served as both a pastor and a seminary professor (at Union Theological Seminary). In 1919 he settled in New York City and became associate pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, though he remained a Baptist by conviction. It was at this church, in 1922, that he preached his most famous sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” FULL POST
Posted 3/7/14 at 9:03 AM | Tim Challies
Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day seven:
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
We are at war. Our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil—are forever opposed to us. A constant battle rages inside us, outside us, and all around us. As men we’ve been created to be brave and bold, to stand firm and fearless in battle. All throughout the New Testament we are told to stand, to stand strong in this fight. And yet there is one area where we are commanded to flee: “Flee youthful passions.” We are to flee lust, to run fast and far from the desire and the opportunity to commit sexual sin. “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched” (Proverbs 6:27-28)? Of course not. Only a fool would even try. FULL POST
Posted 3/6/14 at 11:17 AM | Tim Challies
I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received a veritable mountain of books and, in sorting through the pile, here are the ones that have risen to the top because they appear the most noteworthy.
Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, & Josh Chatraw. It’s not difficult to see how this book matters. “Here is how leading experts describe our church kids today: They are unarmed and incapable of defending their faith. They possess a faith that cannot withstand the scrutiny of trials or intellectual questions. They have a shallow belief system. They lack a robust faith. They haven’t learned how to think. They are embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. Easy to read yet loaded with meat and substance, this book is a level-headed reaction to those who equate Christian faith with ‘blind faith,’ even those whose subtle or stated goal is to separate students from their religious traditions. Readers will discover the kind of historical information and thinking skills that build a sturdy backbone of confidence in high schoolers and young adults, making them able to defend by ‘reasoned faith’ what the Bible claims as truth.” (Amazon) FULL POST
Posted 3/6/14 at 9:19 AM | Tim Challies
Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day six:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Every sin that you have ever committed has been put on record. Every sexual sin. Every lustful thought. Every shameful action. Every dark secret. Everything. And just one one of those God-belittling sins is sufficient to cast you into hell for eternity. This is your record of debt. What a sobering, terrifying thought!
Yet it is equally true that if you are among those whom God has “made alive together with Christ,” the record is no longer yours. That record of debt that stands against you is cancelled. You are no longer in debt. You will not endure even the smallest measure of the wrath of God against you, because Jesus already endured it all. He paid your debt in full. There is not one sin on your record of debt (past, present, or future!) that has not been paid by Jesus. Rest in that today. Rest in that every day. FULL POST
Posted 3/5/14 at 12:01 PM | Tim Challies |
Criticism is inevitable. At certain times we will all face another person’s analysis or rebuke of our behavior. The best kind of criticism comes from friends, from those who know us and love us best. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6). In his little book True Friendship, Vaughan Roberts offers three tips for responding to criticism, and especially this kind of criticism—the kind that comes in the context of friendship, of iron sharpening iron.
We should expect criticism. We should expect criticism because we are sinful, so far from the holiness God requires and so far from the holiness we desire. If anything we ought to be surprised that we receive so little criticism. We should also expect criticism because friendships—especially close friendships—invite it. Criticism may arise from a negative spirit, but it can also arise from love. Our best friends must have an open invitation to offer criticism of our lives. Is there no one in your life who offers you critical feedback? Then it may be that you have chased off your friends by responding poorly and pridefully in the past. Expect to be criticized from time to time, and give your friends an open invitation to do so. FULL POST
Posted 3/5/14 at 9:16 AM | Tim Challies |
Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day five:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-5)
It took God’s heavy hand of discipline for David to understand a simple truth: we need to confess our sin to God. We do not confess our sin so God will know what we have done—he already knows every deed, and even every thought and intention of the heart. We confess that sin for our own benefit, to acknowledge it before him and to seek his forgiveness. Though God assures us that at the moment of our salvation all of our sin is forgiven—past, present, future—still we need to confess our sin before the Lord as an acknowledgement that every sin is ultimately directed at him, that every sin stems from a lack of delight in what he promises, and that we have knowingly, willingly, damaged our fellowship with him. FULL POST
Posted 3/4/14 at 1:11 PM | Tim Challies |
I grew up in a Christian tradition that emphasized the continuity between the Old Testament and the New. These Christians held, among other things, that the Old Testament Sabbath commands—given to observe the fourth commandment—carry into the New Testament Lord’s Day. This meant that the whole day was consecrated to the Lord. A whole twenty-four hours out of every week was to be protected from interference from life’s workaday responsibilities.
Though I continue to have a great deal of respect for those churches and that tradition, my views have changed a little bit. I no longer believe that observing the fourth commandment requires refraining from all work on Sunday. But I haven’t abandoned sabbath altogether. Life as a Baptist has forced me to see this: It’s not just sabbatarians who need sabbath. It’s not just sabbatarians who need a day set apart. FULL POST
Posted 3/4/14 at 10:06 AM | Tim Challies
Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day four, and today we have a guest writer: Dr. Joel Beeke (whose preferred translation is the KJV) who, with his love of Puritan writers, is particularly well-equipped to write on putting sin to death.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. -Romans 8:13
Every Christian finds himself living out two realities: what he is in Christ, and what he is at present, wherever he happens to be in his earthly pilgrimage. The one reality is the fact of his justification “by faith alone in Christ alone” from the guilt of all sin and his personal union with Christ crucified, risen again, and received up into glory. The other reality is the Christian’s degree of personal sanctification. Unlike justification, sanctification is never complete in this life. A substantial first step is the regeneration of the heart that marks the beginning of all true Christian life. But the way forward is rife with difficulties. We can go backward as well as forward in this way; and we all pass through seasons of stagnation and declension. FULL POST
Posted 3/3/14 at 12:05 PM | Tim Challies |
Family is under attack. As Christians we are accustomed to hearing about divorce and pornography and gay marriage and so many other moral issues. Have you ever considered how many of these moral issues relate directly to family? If you look, you will see that the very notion of family—family as the Bible describes it—is under sustained and heavy attack. This means that your family is under attack.
We know that a distinctly Christian notion of family is crucial to raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But there is more at stake than raising the next generation of Christians. Family is crucial in at least two other ways: It teaches us fundamental truths of the Christian faith and it serves as an important kind of ministry. Allow me to explain.
God uses family to teach us. There are several areas of Christian life and doctrine that God chooses to explain to us through metaphor, and one common metaphor is family. There are parts of Christian life and doctrine we can only rightly understand if we first understand family as God creates and intends it.
God Uses Family to Teach About His Nature. The relationship between parents and children is a distant glimpse of the relationships within the godhead, and, in particular, the relationship of the first person of the Trinity to the second—God the Father to God the Son. We can only describe and understand the relationship of God the Father to God the Son if we understand the relationship of earthly fathers to earthly sons. If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our ability to understand God’s triune nature. FULL POST
Posted 3/3/14 at 10:22 AM | Tim Challies |
Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day three:
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
We are all familiar with the ugly pattern of sin. You have just sinned again and you feel the weight of what you’ve done. You promise yourself you will never engage in that kind of sinful behavior again. You wake up in the morning with new resolve, but you just can’t shake the nagging feeling of guilt. But still, over time those feelings of shame and guilt begin to dwindle and fade, and as they do, so too does your resolve. Before you know it you have sinned again and the cycle starts anew. It is just like the Proverb says: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Apart from the grace of godly sorrow this cycle will continue. It is only when we are granted a godly grief—a grief that hates sin more than its consequences—that we will pursue lasting change. FULL POST