Do You Know “Talkative”?

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“Talkative” is one of the characters in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. In a fine blog post today (here), Pastor Chris Braun says he is someone you should know. In fact, you might just be talkative.

His main points state:

Talkative looks better from a distance than near at hand.
• Talkative enjoys talking about Christianity.
• Talkative knows the Bible.
• Talkative’s hypocrisy shows in his home life.
• Talkative is self-deceived. His prayer life does not match what he says.
• Christians should speak plainly with Talkative so that he cannot easily continue in being self-deceived.

Take a look at his post for yourself. It includes some Bunyan quotes for each main point, and the actual dialogue from the original book.

Sadly, many will discover on Judgment Day
that their name is merely “Talkative.”

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Spiritual Self-Watchfulness

“There is need of constant watchfulness on the part of the professors of Christianity, lest under the influence of unbelief they depart from the living God, said Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858), commenting on a passage in Hebrews.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
Hebrews 3:12-13 esv

Passages such as this ought to arrest a presumptuous believer, and make him immediately more prayerful as he clings more closely to Christ.

Brown continues, There is nothing, I am persuaded, in regard to which professors of Christianity fall into more dangerous practical mistakes than this. They suspect everything sooner than the soundness and firmness of their belief. There are many who are supposing themselves believers who have no true faith at all — and so it would be proved, were the hour of trial, which is perhaps nearer than they are aware, to arrive. And almost all who have faith suppose they have it in greater measure than they really have it. There is no prayer that a Christian needs more presently to present than, “Lord, increase my faith” and “deliver me from an evil heart of unbelief.” All apostasy from God, whether partial or total, originates in unbelief. To have his faith increased — to have more extended, and accurate, and impressive views of ‘the truth as it is in Jesus’ — ought to be the object of the Christians most earnest desire and unremitting exertion.

Mocking Muhammad Vs. Mocking Christ – A Deep Difference

The headlines are full of the violent reprisals of the defenders of Muhammad.

David Mathis asks, what, then, does it mean when Muhammad’s followers begrudge him the kinds of mockery Jesus embraced, and taught his followers to likewise embrace?

In a briefly and timely article, which gleans from the wisdom of John Piper’s writings, Mathis reminds us of a deep — and beautiful — difference between Jesus and Muhammad: Jesus definitely intended to be mocked, humiliated — and killed.

Jesus is unique. And Christians believe there is a divine beauty in the mocking that he willingly subjects himself to by becoming man — because it’s a mocking and reviling and bruising and dying that is for us and for our salvation.

There is also significance to our (non-violent) response when our Savior is despised: “Jesus’s uniqueness and beauty is on display if his followers respond with grace when he is reviled.”

Read the whole thing at the Desiring God blog.

Your spiritual default mode

Tim Keller has written a profound and insightful book, THE PRODIGAL GOD. Near the end he makes this observation [emphasis added]…

Religion operates on the principles of “I obey — therefore i am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ — therefore I obey.” As we have seen, believing the gospel is how a person first makes a connection to God. It gives us a new relationship with God and a new identity. We must not think, however, that once believing it, the Christian is now finished with the gospel message. A fundamental insight of Martin Luther’s was that “religion” is the default mode of the human heart. Your computer operates automatically in a default mode unless you deliberately tell it to do something else. So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode. [pp. 114-115]

There’s a God-shaped void within you…

…which only God Himself can fill.

This famous phrase, reportedly coined by Blaise Pascal (philosopher, scientist & author), referring to “the God-shaped vacuum” in everyone, may actually be (according to Dr Douglas Groothuis), a paraphrase from one of Pascal’s Pensées

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
(Penguin ed., 148/428).

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Love the church…

Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…

“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”

Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, 1187054_hdr_churchto the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).

I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.

Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?

Worship without God?

Some secular groups like the Boy Scouts are still “religion friendly” and allow for various degrees of religious expression. That can be a good thing, and I’m glad for it, but culture’s view of ‘pluralism’ and demand for tolerance(!) typically overrule any biblically-faithful practices (such as preaching or praying or explicitly speaking of ‘Jesus’).

At BSA summer camp this past week, they scheduled a brief time for “chapel” in a beautiful place near the waterfront late on Thrusday afternoon. I’ve attended their chapel services in the past and found it little more than a bland religious exercise.

This past week, I overheard how some adult leaders explained the chapel time to scouts who’d asked about it. Let me paraphrase a few of the comments I overheard….

No, chapel is not required, but it’s good for you.
[Yet that adult did not attend chapel that day]

It’s non-denominational, and not just one religion, so anybody can go.

It’s generally about good ideas and values we should think about.

They sometimes sing, or do readings and such, but it’s pretty short.

What dominates the rationale for chapel here is a self-improvement mind-set: It’s good for you, it’s not too demanding, it can make you better…. Interesting to note the absence of any talk about God, or giving to Him the worship He deserves — even as we enjoy the great outdoors He has made! My sense of this was intense (sadly) as the service was underway that day. Lots of nice thoughts, and even a few generic citations from the Bible woven into the principles of scouting — but nothing of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, sin or salvation by grace. We did sing “He’s got the whole world, in his hands” but with nothing explicit about who HE was or is. There was nothing solid here; no ultimate foundation for the behaviors being commended.

Yes, religion can make one “better” in the eyes of the world, but it is really just moralizing and positive peer-pressure (all the while giving false assurance and temporal comfort to these folks). We know from the Bible that such man-made righteousness falls short of what God demands — which ONLY JESUS CHRIST can supply! That is why the gospel is such good news, since it speaks of our obtaining such from Jesus….

Christian Cross

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” [Romans 1:16-17, esv]

Oh, that these religious scouts could hear this good news, and meet the one true and living God, and experience the great joy and soul-satisfaction of worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.

Pray with me to that end.
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Respecting other religions?

It seems to me there is public pressure to respect (and tolerate) just about everyone and everything. In recent headlines the Roman Catholic Pope was being challenged to declare some “respect” for Islam — a worldwide religion, but a false religion. In an online article, Dr Al Mohler discusses this.

mosque5079792thbLet me raise the question here for individual Christians: should we ‘respect’ Islam — or how should we properly respond to Muslims? Here is an excerpt from Dr Mohler that I find most helpful….

In this light, any belief system that pulls persons away from the Gospel of Christ, denies and subverts Christian truth, and blinds sinners from seeing Christ as the only hope of salvation is, by biblical definition, a way that leads to destruction. Islam, like every other rival to the Christian gospel, takes persons captive and is devoid of genuine hope for salvation.

Thus, evangelical Christians may respect the sincerity with which Muslims hold their beliefs, but we cannot respect the beliefs themselves. We can respect Muslim people for their contributions to human welfare, scholarship, and culture. We can respect the brilliance of Muslim scholarship in the medieval era and the wonders of Islamic art and architecture. But we cannot respect a belief system that denies the truth of the gospel, insists that Jesus was not God’s Son, and takes millions of souls captive.

I’m so thankful for Dr Al Mohler, and the clarity of his writing and thinking (and the abundance of it). If you do not check his online postings — especially to gain a biblical view of news and events — you should.

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Meadow or Marsh? (a favorite Manton line)

I have read a lot of puritan writings, and Manton is among the best. One little phrase i read almost a decade ago (see boldface line in quote) has been very useful in pastoral counselling and has personally helped me greatly.

Thomas Manton (from his sermon on Psalm 119:3):

A man is known by his custom, and the course of his endeavors… If a man be constantly, easily, frequently carried away to sin, it discovers a habit of soul, and the temper of his heart. Meadows may be overflowed, but marsh ground is drowned with the return of every tide. A child of God may be carried away, and act contrary to the bent and inclination of the new nature; but when men are drowned and overcome with the return of every temptation, and carried away, it argues a habit of sin.

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Tuesday: Manton on the goal of worship

God will be sought in his own ordinances. Christ walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. If you would find a man, mind where is his walk and usual resort. …

To serve God is one thing; to seek him another. To serve God is to make him the object of worship, to seek God is to make him the end of worship. …

It is not enough to make use of ordinances, but we must see if we can find God there. There are many that hover about the palace, that yet do not speak with the prince; so possibly we may hover about ordinances, and not meet with God there. To go away with the husk and shell of an ordinance, and neglect the kernel, is to please ourselves because we have been in the courts of God, though we have not met with the living God, that is very sad.

…So a formal person goes from ordinance to ordinance, and is satisfied with the work; a godly man looks to … go away from God with God.

— on Psalm 119:2

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