Pursue Your Joy Through Repentance

On November 30, 1745, missionary David Brainerd wrote in his diary after he had preached to the Indians of Crossweeksung, New Jersey:

Luke 16:19-26 – The Word made powerful impressions upon many in the assembly,  especially while I discoursed of the blessedness of Lazarus “in Abraham’s bosom”.  This, I could perceive, affected them much more than what I spoke of the rich man’s misery and torments. And thus it has been usually with them . . . They have almost always appeared much more affected with the comfortable than the dreadful truths of God’s Word. And that which has distressed many of them under convictions, is that they found they wanted, and could not obtain, the happiness of the godly.”

And on August 6, 1746 – “It was surprising to see how their hearts seemed to be pierced with the tender and melting invitations of the Gospel, when there was not a word of terror spoken to them.”

On August 9 – “There were many tears among them while I was discoursing publicly, but no considerable cry: Yet some were much affected with a few words spoken to them in a powerful manner, which caused the persons to cry out in anguish of soul, although I spoke not a word of terror, but on the contrary, set before them the fullness and all-sufficiency of Christ’s merits, and his willingness to save all that come to him; and thereupon pressed them to come without delay.”

Can you recall a time in your life that you were sad because you realized that you missed out on something truly enjoyable?

This is what it means to see clearly our sin – it means that we see what joys we are missing out on, and the awareness of that loss of joy and nearness to our heavenly Father is what drives us to repentance. Is this not what the prodigal son realized as he came to his senses (Luke 15:7, 17), that he had forfeited all the enjoyment of his father? Is this not what David realized also (Psalm 51:7-12)?

Genuine evangelical contrition – as opposed to legalistic, fearful sadness simply owing to threats – is a sorrow for not having holiness. But now you have to be careful here, many a criminal will weep when his sentence is read, not because he has come to love righteousness, but because his freedom to do more unrighteousness is being taken away. The only true sorrow for not having holiness comes from a love for holiness, not just from a fear of the consequences of not having it . . . true repentance, must be preceded by a falling in love with the all-satisfying God. To weep at not having holiness, you must long for holiness as a precious experience and reflection of God . . . You must fall in love before estrangement truly hurts . . . Until God is our treasure, we will not grieve over our falling short of being satisfied in Him and begin living in a way that shows that satisfaction . . . evangelical repentance is grounded in an appealing sight of the holiness of God.” John Piper, Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals

One of the best motives for confessing our sin is to enjoy unbroken fellowship with God. What promises does Paul refer to in 2 Cor. 7:1, to lead the Corinthian church to cleanse themselves from defilement? (see 6:16-18). Why was Paul happy that they were grieved? (7:8-9) Because they were grieved to repentance. This is godly grief that produces a repentance that leads to salvation – without regret! (vs. 10).

So what do you think Paul means in context, saying that there is no regret, if you are so grieved over your loss of close fellowship with God that you would repent? In other words, if you are truly saddened over the loss of joy and fellowship with God, and that leads to repentance, why does Paul say there will be no regret having gone through this? Because your heart loves fellowship with God – And You Can Have It Back.

Paul was broken over their loss of fellowship with God. How does this help you in helping others to see their sin? How does all of this affect the way you see God (Eph. 4:30)?

Contemplate that Jesus was the happiest of all humans because of unbroken fellowship with his Father. His saddest moment was on the cross when His Father turned away from him because of our sins. This is the most grievous thing about sin – it separates us from that which brings us the greatest joy – fellowship with God in Christ! Oh what a great gift of love that we have from God – the gift of repentance through Christ our mediator.

The War Within is Proof That You Are Alive

One of the ways that we can assure others of their salvation is to ask them, “Do you feel the war for holiness?” Meaning, do you want to be like Christ but find it, at times, to be your greatest battle – as if there is real opposition? When I then hear a reply that uses language of battle fatigue, I smile. Not because I’m happy that someone is weary in well doing, but that they are in the fight for holiness and that is a good thing.

J.C. Ryle put it this way:

“Sanctification . . . does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict. By conflict I mean a struggle within the heart between the old nature and the new, the flesh and the Spirit, which are to be found together in every believer (Gal. 5:17). A deep sense of that struggle, and a vast amount of mental discomfort from it, are no proof that man is not sanctified. Nay, rather, I believe they are healthy symptoms of our condition, and prove that we are not dead, but alive.” (Holiness, p. 21)

If the pursuit of godliness in Christ feels at times like a fight, then do not be discouraged into doubt about your salvation, but know that the Spirit within and your flesh are at war. Keeping in step with the Spirit’s fruit-bearing (Gal. 5:17-23) means doing the things that produce Love, Joy, Peace and so on. Keep up your prayers, your time in the Word, your worship with the saints, your good deeds to others and wait . . . wait on what the Spirit alone can produce through pruning and time.

Emotional & Verbal Abuse Against Women – post 2

Dear Bob: Abuse and the (Complementarian) Christian Response

By Mike Cosper

November 25, 2012

Today is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This is an issue on which the church needs to speak with both force and clarity. I want to join a number of other pastor-bloggers who are speaking on this issue.

A few years ago I found myself in conversations with a man who was verbally and emotionally abusing his wife.  He justified his anger by appealing to Ephesians 5, saying that his fury stemmed from her “unwillingness to submit to him.”

As a Biblical Complementarian, I believe that the Bible means what it says in Ephesians 5, but I also think we (complementarians) face two challenges related to that text: First – there is the husband who would use such a passage to justify being domineering (at the minimum) and abusive. Second, there are the egalitarians and non-Christians who would assert that such abuse is the natural result of a complimentarian worldview.

So with all of this floating in my mind, here is what I’d want to say to a man in my church (“Bob”) who was abusing his wife.

Dear Bob,

It’s come to my attention that you’ve been abusing your wife. As one of your pastors, I want to make a few things very clear.

First – your membership in this church offers you no shelter or comfort. I might come visit you – whether in jail or at your home – but it won’t be to reassure you of anything but a call to repentance. I am encouraging your wife to distance herself from you until you demonstrate repentance. Apart from that, I see no reason to encourage her to get anywhere near you. It may be true that some wife-beaters have sought the shelter of pastors and churches, calling abuse a private matter, and avoiding legal consequences. I have no intentions of allowing such shelter. The authorities will be involved.

Second – as a member in this church, you’ve signed a covenant that invites church discipline in this situation. This means that your pastors are committed to helping protect your wife from you, and we will instigate a process that – apart from demonstrable repentance on your part – will end with you being removed from membership. One who lives in unrepentant sin (like spousal abuse) should take no comfort from the gospel, because their life bears no fruit of the gospel. We’ll invite the church to treat you as an unbeliever, and to call you to repentance when they see you. As a whole community,we are united in believing that your sins are devastatingly dangerous for your soul and for the witness of the church in the world. These concerns are why we would carry out this discipline.

Third –many abusers justify their abuse with a list of their spouses “sins” – nagging, refusal to submit, etc. Some Christian men even attempt to justify domineering and abusive behavior with the Bible. I want to disabuse you of any such justification, starting with a Bible passage that might (at first glance) appear as part of your defense. Ephesians 5:22-28 says:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as 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.In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5 doesn’t appear out of thin air. It comes after a long discussion about God’s grace, his formation of the church, and a call to be compelled by the gospel to a life of love. It’s only after all of this dialogue (and a number of moral imperatives like “Don’t be foolish”, and “don’t get drunk”– all of which stand in stark contrast to a husband that abuses his wife), that the apostle gets to his discussion of marriage.

You see, Ephesians 5 isn’t a standalone defense for a husband that wants to rule over and dominate. All that Paul says in this passage is in the context of a life transformed by the gospel. A life ruled by love. A marriage marked by sacrifice and selflessness.

Do you see what I’m saying? To put it a little differently (and here I acknowledge that I’m borrowing a phrase from another pastor) an Ephesians 5 woman is married to an Ephesians 5 man. An Ephesians 5 marriage is an Ephesians 1-4 marriage. A submissive wife is married to a gospel-changed, sacrificial husband.

Have you demonstrated the kind of sacrificial love that Jesus has shown the church? Have you laid aside your rights and made yourself a servant? (Philippians 2:1-11) Have you worn out your knees interceding in prayer for your wife? (Hebrews 7:25) Have you laid down your life? Are you willing to die for your wife – not in some noble display of love, but in a shameful, cursed, miserable way? (Galatians 3:13) And have you been willing to do all of this even while your wife nags, pesters, throws tantrums, and in all ways otherwise sins against you? (Romans 5:8)

I suspect that the answer is no. Don’t you dare assume any biblical justification of your domineering and abuse – especially one that so corrupts the image of Jesus’ love for the church.

Anything less than that kind of selfless love is unchristian, and calls for repentance. Yes, Jesus leads the church, and husbands are to lead wives, but Jesus’ leadership is a leadership marked by love and sacrifice, selflessness, protection from harm, and mercy. Much abuse has been done in the name of “headship,” and all of it misses the point. Jesus leads his wife in such a way that she is stronger, safer, holier, and lovelier, and so should all Christian men love their wives.

The good news is that no husband can say they’ve accomplished all that Jesus has in loving his church. We all (myself included) fail to varying and sometimes spectacular degrees. My encouragement to you is allow yourself to feel crushed by the weight of this call. That pain is the pain of conviction, and it’s God’s way of reminding you that you need a savior.

This is a call for repentance, and repentance doesn’t simply mean saying, “I’m sorry” and getting the keys back to your home. Instead, you have consequences to face relationally and legally, and you’ll have to walk through those processes. You need help to deal with the emotional and spiritual roots of your abuse. You’ll need to get help from pastors, counselors, and peers who can help you change in a deep and meaningful way, and you’ll need to walk a long, slow, and at times lonesome road on the way to reconciliation.

Such is the consequence of sin. You’ve created deep wounds in the heart of a sacred trust. You’ve taken a lovely child of God, who married you and was told to expect the loving kind of leadership that Jesus shows, and she’s gotten a perverse, satanic corruption. Healing such a wound takes more than words. It takes time, grace, and miracles.

There is no guarantee that you’ll even end this journey reconciled. I’d encourage you to go ahead and start getting used to that idea. “But doesn’t the Bible say she’s supposed to forgive me?” Sure. But it also tells you to give up your “rights”. Don’t demand it. Don’t even expect it. Own the consequence of your sin – which might be that your relationship is broken until Jesus returns.

So yes, there’s no guarantee of reconciliation, but there’s also no other path. Apart from repenting, apart from turning away from your sins and towards Jesus, your future offers no comfort, and dire consequences.

So I appeal to you, Bob. Feel the weight of this. Repent of your sins.

If nothing else, I’ll say it again… Regarding your abuse: take no comfort, no sense of shelter, and no sense of justification in anything you’ve heard at this church or read in your bible.

And if you refuse to repent, know the consequences. The temporal ones involve separation from your wife and your church. The eternal consequences are far, far worse.

Emotional & Verbal Abuse Against Women – post 1

This post and the one following are cut and paste from two of my heroes of the faith. Both Owen Strachan and Mike Cosper use a hypothetical “Bob” in a letter, admonishing a church member to stop abusing his wife. Guys – This was good for me to read and I pray for you as well.

Why Abusive Men Repudiate True Manhood: Letter to an Abusive Husband

November 25, 2012  By Owen Strachan
Today, November 25, is The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  I do not normally blog on Sundays, as faithful readers know.  But this is a topic worth addressing, especially because I am on the record as being for manly leadership in home and church.Let’s address this awful subject this way: if I could talk with a man who was abusing his headship of his home, what would I say?  What follows is an attempt toward that end, and ultimately, toward the strengthening of Christian families.  This is no mere hypothetical, of course.  Abuse happens.  Here you see how I as a complementarian, Christ-driven head of home and church would handle it.******Dear Bob:It has come to my attention that you are abusing your wife verbally and physically.  Knowing this, I am trying not to tremble as I write.  There is nothing worse than the strong mistreating the weak.Please know this: your abuse of your wife in the name of Christian leadership is a direct repudiation of true manhood.  You think that the expulsive exercise of your strength is warranted by Scripture.  You think that it shows that you are a man.  Actually, it shows your depravity.

It shows that you are acting as and very well may be the opposite of what you claim.

Ephesians 5 teaches that a man is head of his wife.  There is no textually faithful way to take this verse other than to conclude that it teaches manly leadership in the home.  But this does not mean that a man can lord his God-given strength over his wife and family.  Hear Ephesians 5:29-31 again, perhaps for the first time in reality: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.””  Did you see that?  The godly man “nourishes and cherishes” his wife.  Is that what you are doing?  It most certainly is not.

As is obvious from both Scripture and the most rudimentary moral sense, you are not called to use your strength on your wife.  You are called to use it for your wife.  Your full manhood should be aimed at protecting and blessing and building up the woman God has given you in marriage.  As a husband, the Lord has commissioned you to stand in the gap for your wife.  This means that you will sacrifice your body for her, not lead her body to suffer.  You see a train coming and her in the way, and you know your fate.  A man menaces her, and you are a spring-loaded force acting in her defense.  Somebody whistles at your wife, and you stare back at them, fire in your eyes.  In these and other ways, you are not directing your prowess at your wife–you are using it for her good.

Your present pattern, Bob, looks like Satanic headship.  You are attacking and tearing down.  The biblical pattern is Christic headship, sacrificial, others-centered, offered in order that others might flourish and thrive.  If you do not cease your ways, the elders of your church will “deliver [you] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Cor. 5:6).  If you are bent on destroying your loved ones, you will face the prospect of a life outside the church, which places the soul in danger of eternal destruction if gospel repentance does not happen.

In our wickedness, we will use the Bible and Christianity to justify nearly anything.  The fact that you have justified your wicked abuse by Scripture does not for an instant reflect poorly on God’s Word.  It speaks to the depravity of the human heart.  The Bible nowhere enfranchises your behavior.  It holds up men like Boaz, who is a kinsman-redeemer for needy Ruth, even as it shames wicked men like Shechem who defiles Dinah (Ruth 3; Genesis 34).  Which kind of man will you be?

Repent of your sin.  It is a stench in God’s nostrils.  Were it not for your worth as an image-bearer, I would find it difficult not to threaten harm to you myself, and to bring many men with me.  As things stand, if you continue your pattern of abuse, I will indeed bring men with me, and we will rescue your wife and family, and we will not allow you to harm them.  We will bring the full force of the law crashing down upon you.  We are men of God; we are not weak; we are leaders and protectors of wives and children.  The Lord has saved us from our own wickedness and transformed us to be good to those he has given us.  As men of God, we are not scared of you.  We will surely stand up to you.  We urge you to stop your abuse, repent of your sin, and leave the pattern of destruction you have begun.

Know this, Bob–you will not for an instant longer be able to take advantage of this woman.  Those days, so help me God, are over.

Sincerely,

Owen Strachan.

I’m Giving Thanks

I’m giving Thanks to Jesus Christ for giving me another week to deer hunt with my son, and my mom and dad in WV. So I won’t be posting until the 26th. Before I take some time off, below is an encouragement for you to give thanks to God. Enjoy!

How to Become a Cynic  (the spirit of our age – lack of thanksgiving)

  1. Begin to thank God less and less for everything
  2. Make sure you perform all duties just as well
  3. Keep using Christian Language when appropriate
  4. Believe that most people are inferior and phony
  5. Develop a split personality (one for public and one for private, one for church and one for home, one for work and one for home, one for your church friends and one for everyone else)
  6. Never take the log out of your own eye – just keep harming others while trying to get the speck out of their eye.
  7. Never repent of self-righteousness
  8. Believe that I’m talking about someone else right now instead of you.

                   Why is saying thanks to God commanded for our good?

  1. Thanksgiving looks at reality in the face and is humbled that God would care so deeply.
  2. Thanksgiving defeats stinginess and protects a generous spirit. Tight-fisted people are not thankful. See Charles Dicken’s Scrooge.
  3. Thanksgiving defeats self-protection and fosters love that gives.
  4. Thanksgiving defeats pride and rebellion.
  5. Thanksgiving defeats an entitlement attitude.
  6. Thanksgiving defeats discontent.
  7. Thanksgiving protects humility in the face of suffering (when the temptation is to accuse God of injustice for your pain).

Thanklessness is the first sin to emerge from our rebellion against God:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him – Romans 1:21

Giving Thanks to God is Part of what it means to Pray:

  • First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you – Romans 1:8
  • I give thanks to my God always for you – 1 Corinthians 1:4
  • I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers – Ephesians 1:16
  • I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine – Philippians 1:3-4
  • We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you – Colossians 1:3
  • We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers – 1 Thessalonians 1:2
  • We also thank God constantly – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
  • For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you? – 1 Thessalonians 3:9
  • We ought always to give thanks to God for you – 2 Thessalonians 1:3
  • But we ought always to give thanks to God for you – 2 Thessalonians 2:13
  • I thank God . . . as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day – 2 Timothy 1:3
  • I thank my God always when I remember you  in my prayers – Philemon 4

And We are Encouraged to Pray and Pray and Pray

  • In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God – Philippians 4:6
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving – Colossians 4:2
  • Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances – 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

May the Lord protect your heart from cynicism by giving him thanks for all that he has done for you.

Admit that you are blind – and you will see!

Experience tells us that hunger pangs are relieved after an evening meal, that thirst is quenched after drinking from a pitcher of cold water, and that weariness is replaced with vitality after a good nights rest, but how does the heart of a child of God get replenished with the joy of the Lord? And how would a child of God know if his heart is being revived with the bread of heaven? The cause (lack of food) and effect (hunger pangs) that you and I are familiar with in the physical realm is not the same in the spiritual. In the physical world, hunger pangs is evidence of an empty stomach. But in the spiritual it is the opposite: Spiritual hunger pangs for God is evidence of a filled soul. Or using blindness and eye-sight as a metaphor, if you want to “see”  Christ, you must become blind – to know that you are spiritually blind is evidence that you can see the Lord.

After restoring sight to a man who was born blind (John 9), the Lord found him later in the streets because he had been rejected and tossed out of the synagogue by the Pharisees and yet they were driven with curiosity, hanging around him, asking cynical questions. Jesus then asked the man, as the Pharisees listened, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” He replied, “Who is He,  Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” Then he who had “seen” the Lord with spiritual eyes worshiped Him. At this point Jesus taught a remarkable mystery: “For judgment I have come into this world,  that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” In other words, if you admit your spiritual blindness, that is evidence of spiritual eyesight. But if you say, “I have no spiritual blindness – I can see clearly,” then that is evidence that you see nothing at all.

Offended at the implication, the Pharisees responded, “Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say,‘we see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” Since the Pharisees boasted that they could see spiritual things just fine, their sins remained, and so they remained in darkness. They could not see (admit spiritual blindness) their need of a Savior to take away their sins. But one who does see (admits spiritual blindness) has his sins removed.

Let’s ask the questions again: how does the heart of a child of God get
replenished with the joy of the Lord? And how would a child of God know
if his heart is being revived with the bread of heaven? Let’s hear C.H.
Spurgeon speak to this:

“My dear hearer, let me assure you for your comfort, that when you go down on your knees and say, ‘Lord, I groan before thee, because I cannot groan; I cannot feel; Lord help me to feel;’ why, you do feel, and you have got the repentance that you are asking for . . . The very grace which you are asking of God is speaking in your very prayer. It is repentance which asks God that I may repent more. It is a broken heart which asks God to break it. That is not a hard heart which says, ‘Lord I have a hard heart; soften my heart.’ It is a soft heart already.  That is not a dead soul which says, ‘Lord I am dead; quicken me.’  Why, you are quickened. That man is not dumb who says, ‘Lord I am dumb; make me speak.’ Why, he speaks already; and that man who says, ‘Lord I cannot feel,’ why, he feels already. He is a sensible sinner already. And when I say, “Whosoever will,  let him come,’ and you say, “I wish I were more willing, I want to be willing,’ why, you are the man. It is only one of Satan’s quibbles – a bit of hell’s infernal logic to drive you from Christ. Be a match for Satan now, this once and say, ‘Thou lying fiend, thou tellest me I do not feel my need of a savior enough. I know I feel my need; and inasmuch as I long to feel it I do feel it. Christ bids me come to him, and I will come – now, this morning. I will trust my soul, just as it is,  in the hands of him whose body hung upon the tree. Sink or swim, here I am resting on him, and clinging to him as the rock of my salvation.”

The New Park Street Pulpit 6 (1859). pg. 399.

David cried to the Lord, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your Law.” Even after salvation we still need to admit our blindness – and if we do, we joyfully see!

Dear child of God, Let your soul be filled with hunger pangs for God.

In your spiritual poverty, live on the riches of Christ.

Let your thirst for God be quenched with a confession of unworthiness from a parched tongue.

Be encouraged that a contrite heart for God is the healthiest one.

Admit your blindness and see the Lord!