What is a Christian?

Here is a sound definition from James I. Packer in his classic book Knowing God in the chapter “Thy Word is Truth:”

“A person who acknowledges and lives under the Word of  God. He submits without reserve to the Word of God written in ‘the Scripture of truth’ (Daniel 10:21), believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. His eyes are to the God of the Bible as his Father, and the Christ of the Bible as his Savior. The Word of God has convinced him of sin and assured him of forgiveness. He aspires to have his whole life brought into line with it. The promises are before him as he prays, and the precepts are before him as he moves among others.

He knows that in addition to the Word of God spoken directly to him in the Scriptures, God’s Word has also gone forth to create, and control, and order things around him; but since the Scriptures tell him that all things work together for his good, the thought of God ordering his circumstances brings him only joy. He is an independent fellow, for he uses the Word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to him, and he will not touch anything which he is not sure that Scripture sanctions.”

J.I. Packer asked back in 1973: “Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians these days?” He concludes: “You will find it profitable to ask your conscience, and let it tell you.”

A Pastoral Charge to Young Men Everywhere

Not long ago, a friend of mine had a son who was turning 14 years of age. He asked me to give him a brief charge. Below is the letter I wrote to this young man.

You may not remember me, but I know your dad and he asked me to share with you what the Lord might want you to think about as you reach this important milestone in your life of turning 14 years of age.

You are in the midst of a most important transition from boyhood to manhood. It’s hard to know exactly when you stop being a boy and become a man. But, I do think the Bible reveals that a man is one who… rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects a greater reward. (From Raising a Modern Day Knight)

First of all, reject passivity. As you grow up, you will find that the proverbial wheels fall off the wagon in all of our relationships when men are passive. If you’ve ever read about Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, you know that what got them in trouble in the beginning was the passivity of Adam. Adam should have taken the initiative to protect Eve from the seduction of the devil. He carelessly exposed and left her alone to face the tempter. Let me encourage you to reject passivity at every turn. Pray that the Lord would make you into a loving and servant leader like your Lord and Savior, Jesus. The Bible tells us that he is the second Adam who obeyed His Father perfectly and always resisted the advances of our adversary. In fact, he laid down His life to absorb the curse of sin and death brought about by Adam’s fall.

Secondly, accept responsibility. Most folks have a big problem with this. We naturally gravitate towards blame shifting and shaming others when something goes wrong and unravels in our lives. Again, you see this in Genesis 3 when the man blames the woman and then the woman blames the serpent. No one wants to take responsibility for what went dreadfully wrong in the Garden of Eden. One sure sign that the gospel cure has begun in our hearts is that we are able to admit when we are wrong and apologize and ask forgiveness. Growing as a Christian doesn’t mean that we sin less. Yes, we might not succumb to certain overt sins, but we face more and more the deceitfulness of our own idolatrous hearts and we are continually aware of our need of God’s grace.

Thirdly, lead courageously as Christ’s servant. At times the Arctic chill of loneliness will blow into a leader’s life when you have to take a stand for Christ. I would encourage you to secure a copy of my favorite biography. It is entitled Borden of Yale. It chronicles the life of a young man named Bill Borden. He went to Yale University as an undergraduate and afterward became a missionary candidate to China. Heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was a millionaire by the time he graduated high school. As a gift on the event of his graduation, Borden was sent on a trip around the world. Traveling throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, he experienced a growing concern for the hurting and lost of the world. He wrote home to say, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ After making this decision, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Reserves.’ 

From there Borden went on to Yale University with purpose and determination. During his first semester he began a campus-wide student movement to meet regularly, read the Bible and pray. By the end of his first year, 150 fellow freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible studies. By the time he was a senior, 1,000 out of Yale’s 1,300 students were joining together in these groups. Beyond the campus, Borden founded the Yale Hope Mission to reach out to the under-resourced and under-privileged on the streets of New Haven, Connecticut. All of this was set in the context of his call to foreign missions, which soon focused on Muslims in China. After graduation, Borden was offered numerous high-paying jobs, but all were declined in order to pursue the mission field. At this point, he wrote down two more words in the back of his Bible: ‘No Retreats.’  He committed to hold nothing back in serving Christ.

Borden next went to graduate school at Princeton Seminary, where he was ordained to the ministry. After he finished his studies, he set sail for China through the China Inland Mission, stopping first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted meningitis. In less than a month, William Borden was dead. He was twenty-six years old. But before his death, knowing that the steps of his life would take him no further, he had written two more words in his Bible; beneath ‘No Reserves’ and ‘No Retreats’ he had written ‘No Regrets.’ I hope that you’ll adopt his motto as your own: No reserves, no retreats, and no regrets.

Here’s a brief poem that was given to Bill Borden by his mother when he was young boy. Make this poem your prayer during the days of your youth. Don’t wait to follow hard after Jesus.

 

Just as I am, Thine own to be.

Friend of the young, who lovest me,

To consecrate myself to Thee –

O Jesus Christ, I come.

In the glad morning of my day,

My life to give, my vows to pay,

With no reserve and no delay –

With all my heart, I come.

I would live ever in the light,

I would work ever for the right,

I would serve Thee with all my might –

Therefore to Thee I come.

Just as I am, young, strong, and free,

To be the best that I can be,

For truth and righteousness and Thee –

Lord of my Life, I come.

Fourthly, expect a greater reward. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 reminds us of the ultimate reward: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

How wonderful to one day hear from your Savior’s lips “well done my good and faithful servant. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.” I hope that this ultimate reward will be more real and beautiful and wonderful to you than anything else in your life. It won’t be always. Thus, keep running to the cross and experience anew the Lord’s pardoning grace found there.

Let me close with the simple challenge from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” You are transitioning to manhood. Act like one. The best way I know to learn more about what that looks like is to commit yourself to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Your friend,

Dick Cain

 

Why Read Your Bible? Eight Reasons from J.C. Ryle

One of my favorite authors and pastors from a previous generation is John Charles Ryle. He was a pastor in Liverpool, England back in the 1800s. Here are a few excerpts from a book entitled Practical Religion that I am presently reading. This chapter is simply entitled “Bible Reading.”

There is hardly any discipline more important to our faith then Bible reading. 2 Timothy 3:15 says that the Scriptures are ” to make us wise to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” Yet, one sweeping charge that can be brought against the church throughout the ages is it’s neglect and abuse of the Bible. We have Bibles by the thousands but to actually take time to read them is quite another thing. If you can hear for yourself, you should value the Bible highly, study it regularly, and thoroughly acquaint yourself with its contents.

Why read your Bible?
1.  There is no book existence written in such a manner as the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 set forth profoundly the unique nature of this book.

2. There is no knowledge absolutely needful to a man’s salvation, except the knowledge of the things which are found in the Bible.

All the education a person’s head can receive will not save his soul from hell, unless he knows the truths of the Bible and believes the Gospel.

3. No book in existence  contains such important matter as the Bible. It sets forth God’s grand plan of salvation and the way by which our sins can be forgiven. How precious are the promises which the Bible contains for the use of those who love the Lord. How blessed are the hopes which the Bible holds out to the believer in Jesus Christ. How striking is the light which the Bible throws upon the character of man (Heb. 4:12).

4.  No book in existence has produced such wonderful effects on mankind as large as the Bible.
This is the book whose doctrines turn the world upside down in the days of the apostles. In a few generations they entirely changed the face of society by the doctrines of the Bible. They emptied the temples of heathen gods. They famished idolatry and left it high and dry like a stranded ship. They raised the character and position of women. They altered the standard of purity indecency. They put an end to many cruel and bloody customs, such as the gladiatorial fights.

The Bible is the book that  turned Europe upside down in the days of the great Protestant Reformation.

This is the block on which the well-being of nations has always hinged and with which the best interest of every nation at this moment are inseparably bound up. See second Kings 22:8, Matthew 15:6

This is the book to which the civilized world is indebted for many of its best and most praiseworthy institutions.

5. No book in existence can do so much for everyone who reads it rightly as the Bible.

It can show you the way that leads to heaven. It can show you the great giver of pardon, peace, and grace, the Lord Jesus Christ. From every part of the Bible, you can see the majesty, the beauty, and the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit is the grand instrument by which souls are first converted to God. The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit is the chief means by which men are built-up and established in their faith.

6. The Bible is the only rule by which all questions of doctrine  and duty can be tried.

A man must make the Bible alone his rule. He must receive nothing and believe nothing, which is not according to the word. Make it a leading principle of your life never to act contrary to God’s word.

7. The Bible is the book which all true servants of God have always lived on and loved. For biblical examples of this, see Job 23:12 and Psalm 119:97

8. The Bible is the only book which can comfort a man in the last hours of his life.

I have never seen anyone enjoy what I would call real solid calm reasonable peace on their deathbed who did not draw their peace from God’s word. The man who thinks to go to his deathbed without having the Bible for his comforter, his companion, and his friend, is one of the greatest mad man in the world.

Resolve to Read the Bible Through This Year

Only 16 percent of Christians recently polled said they read their Bibles daily. Now, reading your Bible daily will not gain you brownie points with God, but it will change your life. For all of us, reading the Bible completely through is a bit intimating. We get bogged down in the book of Leviticus and never seem to recover.

We know that God’s Word makes us wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-15). We concur that it is the means by which we are born again (1 Peter 1:23). God’s Word thoroughly equips us to serve the Lord (2 Timothy 3:17). God’s Word is a weapon we weld in the raging spiritual battle we encounter every day of our lives (Ephesians 6:17-18). God’s Word is basically His love letter to us by which we cultivate a friendship with God. Yet, we struggle to give it it’s rightful place in a our daily schedules.

In light of that, let me encourage you to resolve to read through the Bible this year by picking one of the methods for Bible reading. I really like the Discipleship Journal method from the Navigators since it gives you days in the year to catch up on your reading when you have fallen behind. Nathan Bingham of Ligonier Ministries has collected on one webpage various methods for reading the Bible.

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans-2012/

May the Lord bless you and yours in the coming year and may 2012 be a year of unprecedented spiritual growth for us all!

Pastor Cain

CT – Verses most quoted after the death of Osama bin Laden

‘Do Not Gloat’ vs. ‘Joy to the Righteous’

Editor’s note: President Barack Obama’s news that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed after a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan, sparked one of Twitter’s heaviest usage periods ever, with more than 4,000 tweets a second. The event was even reported live on Twitter, with Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff reportedly announcing the death to his followers before mainstream media outlets broke the story (though he credits “a connected network TV news producer” as his source).

Among Christians, social network streams were full of debate over whether to rejoice in bin Laden’s death, with Bible verses quoted by both sides. Stephen Smith, whose OpenBible.info collects realtime data on Bible verse quotes on Facebook and Twitter, compiled this list of the most popular verses in the 12 hours after the news broke. (Links go to the most recent posts of those quoting that verse; quotes are from the 2011 edition of the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

1. Proverbs 24:17 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”

2. Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will make PERFECT the things that concern me”(KJV). (NIV: “The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.”) (Unrelated tweet by Rev Run.)

3. Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Rick Warren started this one):

4. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

5. Ezekiel 18:23 “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

6. Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

7. Proverbs 11:10 “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

8. Proverbs 24:18 ” … or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” (The popularity of this verse is due to it finishing the sentence begun by the #1 most popular verse.)

9. Proverbs 24:1 “Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company;” (probably an effort to quote Proverbs 24:17)

10. Proverbs 28:5 “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

11. Ezekiel 18:32 “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”

12. Romans 8:31 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

13. Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

14. Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

15. Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

16. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (This verse is usually one of the most-popular verse on Twitter.)

17. Romans 10:15 “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'”

18. Romans 13:4 “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Mark Driscoll accelerated this verse’s popularity via his Facebook post.)

19. Psalm 68:5 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (An unrelated tweet by Matt Redman.)

20. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (This is also a consistently popular verse on Twitter.)

21. Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

22. 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

23. Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (related to Alabama storms, also tweeted by Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber)

24. Proverbs 11:7 “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth” (KJV). (NIV: “Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.”)

John R. Mott – Missionary Statesman

John Mott - Americas MIssionary Statesmen of the 20th Century

In 1891, Kynaston Studd was booked to speak at the YMCA at Cornell University. A rather indifferent Midwesterner student was invited that night to this gathering of college students and only at the last minute decided even to go. Entering late, he was riveted when he heard Studd quote three short sentences from the Bible: “Young man, do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. Seek first the kingdom of God.”
John Mott became THE missionary statesman of the past century. He was the prime mover in the Student Volunteer Movement from 1888-1921.
Here are his own words about God’s call on his life during his college days at Cornell.
“But since I came to Cornell, I have not been contented with my plans and there has been a constantly increasing impulse in me urging me to devote my whole life and talents to the service of Jesus.”
His creed was simple and bold:  The Evangelization of the World in This Generation
As a result, over 20,000 students went overseas.

Reflections for Palm Sunday Worship

Spurgeon near the end of his life.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word interference. And the Bible placed at the center what seemed to me a Transcendental Interferer.
—  C.S. Lewis

Glorious as Jesus is in Himself, as a conqueror over death, and hell, and the grave, the Son of God is still ‘meek and lowly of heart.’ How can we who are too much devoted to wealth and splendor derive any advantage from this narrative of the triumphal entry? Consider the prophecy from Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!” The Prophet shows that the coming of Christ yields to believers a full and complete ground of joy… What can there be, apart from him, that is fitted to cheer men and women ruined by their sins and oppressed by troubles?
—  J. C. Ryle

Oh the joy of Christ’s presence with his people. Oh, that we might have it! Bickerings soon cease, murmurings come to an end, complaints against one another, and against God’s providence are all hushed; the sense that Jesus Christ is with his people drowns every note of sorrow, and every heart is tuned to loudest notes of thankfulness.
—  Charles Spurgeon