The Competitive Christian Athlete

“Competition, rightly understood and ordered, is not simply about the individual competing; it is about the God who created him and the opportunity to be challenged to greater achievement because we live in community with other image bearers.

Thus, the appropriate way to compete in sporting activities is to fight self-sacrificially to win the contest with all of your might, but having done so, to respect and admire your opponent for having done the same.

In other words, the Christian should understand that his or her opponent is not the enemy; he or she is a friend whom God has provided to help him or her grow and develop and to cultivate God-magnifying excellence. The Christ honoring competitor will be more competitive–not less.

Nevertheless, the Christ-honoring competitor will not get his or her identity and self-worth from his or her performance because to do so would turn God’s gift into an idol. Christian competitors thank God for the ability to compete, but they also thank God for their opponent’s ability as well.”

–David E. Prince, In the Arena, 25-26.

In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship

David E. Prince
B&H Books, 2016

I Can’t Live Without You

“[B]elievers look on Christ as the only one who gives the Spirit and the one who gives all grace necessary for sanctification and holiness …. The natural man tries to spin out a web of holiness from his own fleshly efforts. Such men begin with great determination and follow this with vows, duties, resolutions and self denials. In this way, they continue for a while, their hypocrisy, for the most part, ending in apostasy.

The saints of God, on the other hand, as they begin to walk with God, realise their need of these things.

  1. Saints see their need of the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them.
  2. Saints see their need of a habit of holiness to be infused into them.
  3. Saints see their need of actual assistance to enable them to do the good works which God had planned for them to do.

Saints know that if these three things are lacking, they can never, with all their might, power and efforts, do one act of holiness before the Lord.

They know that without Christ they can do nothing. Therefore they look to Jesus, and this is their communion with him in their life of sanctification and holiness.”

— John Owen, Communion with God, 151-52.

What Did Christ’s Death Accomplish?

“What did Christ’s death accomplish?

It redeemed us to God–purchased us at a price, that is from captivity to sin for the freedom of life with God (Titus 2:14; Rev 5:9).

How did it do that?

By being a blood-sacrifice for our sins (Eph 1:7; Heb 9:11-15).

How did that sacrifice have its redemptive effect?

By making peace, achieving reconciliation, and so ending enmity between God and ourselves (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Eph 2:13-16; Col 1:19-20).

How did Christ’s death make peace?

By being a propitiation, an offering appointed by God himself to dissolve his judicial wrath against us by removing our sins fro his sight (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10).

How did the Savior’s self-sacrifice have this propitiatory effect?

By being a vicarious enduring of the retribution declared due to us by God’s own law (Gal 3:13; Col 2:13-14)

–in other words, by penal substitution.”

— J. I. Packer, “The Atonement in the Life of the Christian,” in Hill & James eds., The Glory of the Atonement (IVP, 2004), 416.

Why You Should Pursue Ministry Preparation

“The call to ministry is a call to prepare, and ministry preparation is as old as the church itself. The apostle Paul received personal instruction from Christ, and he exhorted Timothy to ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul’s exhortation to Timothy rings through the ages, challenging every generation of gospel ministers to be maximally prepared for ministerial service.

“A ministerial amateur is not one who lacks formal training or advanced degrees from reputable institutions. An amateur is one who lack the knowledge base, skill set, and experience for a particular task–in this case, Christian ministry. This means that one can still be an amateur though holding an earned degree, and one can be a faithful minister though lacking one [….]

“There is an alarming inverse correlation between the seriousness of the ministerial task and the casualness with which it is often approached. We would not let an untrained mechanic rebuild our transmission or permit an unlearned pediatrician to diagnose our children. Yet churches often place individuals with the lowest levels of preparation in the highest office.

“Why would one knowingly receive soul care and biblical instruction from an amateur? And why would a minister be content as one? Souls hang in the balance. There is a heaven to gain and hell to shun. There is fixed truth to defend and proclaim. Satan is serious about his calling, ministers must be serious about theirs. The ministry is too consequential to be taken casually.”

— Jason K. Allen, Discerning Your Call to Ministry, 134-137.

Discerning Your Call to Ministry: How to Know for Sure and What to Do About It

Jason K. Allen
Moody Publishers, 2016

 

 

Should We Come to Jesus Daily with Our Sins?

“Q: Shall we daily come to him with our filth, our guilt, our sins? Will he not tell us to keep them ourselves? Shall we always be giving him our sins and taking his righteousness?

A: There is nothing that Jesus Christ is more delighted with than that his saints should always hold communion with him by giving him their sins and receiving his righteousness. This greatly honours him and gives him the glory that is his due. What a great dishonour we do to Christ to try and get rid of our sins in any other way.

‘Lord, this is your work. This is what you came into the world to do. You call for my burden which is too heavy for me to carry. Take it, blessed Redeemer, and give me your righteousness.’

Then Christ is honoured. The glory of his mediation is given to him when we walk with him in this way.

This greatly endears the souls of the saints to the Lord Jesus and constrains them to value him highly.

‘I have been with the Lord Jesus.
I have left the burden of my sins with him.
He has given me his righteousness and in this righteousness I can come with boldness to God.
I was dead and am alive, for he died for me.
I was cursed and now am blessed, for he was made a curse for me.
I was troubled but have peace, for the chastisement of my peace was upon him.
I did not know what to do, nor where to take my sorrow. But by him I have joy unspeakable and full of glory.
If I do not love him, delight in him, obey him, live to him, die for him, I am worse than the devils in hell.’

It is Christ’s great aim in this world to be esteemed highly by his people. And how could he be more highly esteemed than to be acknowledged as the one who takes our sins and gives us his righteousness?”

— John Owen, Communion with God, 144-145.

An 18th Century Charge to a New Pastor

We ever ought to remember that the law of God as it was first given to man, discovers nothing of a Mediator, nor of pardon and renewing grace for sinners. This can only be known by pure revelation from God; and we should take all our ideas concerning salvation from his written word, by the teaching of his Holy Spirit.

 

And you are to administer the ordinance of Baptism to such subjects as only appear to be believers in Christ, and in the manner which he hath appointed–even to those who give evidence that they have been made dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Upon which our Apostle says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

 

You also are to administer the Lord’s Supper to those who have been thus baptized, and joined to some regular church of Christ. Both of these ordinances have reference to his death as past event, and to the great obligations which we are laid under to love and obey him. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 

Heavenly motives should ever govern our hearts and all our conduct in this life–And, dear Brother, if thou are faithful in this great work thy reward will be that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, thou shalt receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away; which may the Lord grant for Jesus’ sake. AMEN.

–Isaac Backus, “The Charge,” in Mr. Baldwin’s Ordination Sermon, (Boston, 1795).

Slaughtered Yet Standing

Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne. (Rev 5:1-5 HCSB)

As important as messianic titles indicating rule are in Revelation, the most important title for the Lord Jesus in the book is “the Lamb.” … God held in his hand a scroll, but nobody was found who was worthy to unseal it. The scroll represented the progress of universal history and the end of the churches. When John realized no attendant was worthy of approaching the divine throne to reveal the eschatological progress of all things, he was overcome with staggering sorrow (5:4).

 

John was intensely aware of the historical nature of Christianity; in his Gospel and letters, he adamantly maintained the necessity of connecting heaven and earth through the flesh of the Son of God. One of the elders, the representative of the elect elders, admonished him to stop crying, for there is one who has conquered who will open the scroll, “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” (5:5). Turning and expecting a ruling king, the Messiah who would ascend the eternal throne promised to David, John encountered instead a Lamb.

 

And the Lamb was “slaughtered” yet “standing.” No wonder John was emotional. The multivalent delicacy of this moment, which vividly captures the eternal-historical structure of Johannine Christology, ought not go unnoticed. If the John of the Apocalypse is also the John who learned intimately on Jesus’s breast (John 13:25; 21:20), and if was the John who could never get over the fact that he had touched with his hands and seen with his eyes the one who derived his eternal being from the Father yet took on our human flesh (1 John 1:1-2), then perhaps we may begin to understand the spiritual and physical depth of this event.

 

John knew human suffering, and John knew spiritual subtlety; and the slaughtered Lamb who stood in the place of eternal honor between the throne and creation and in the place of suffering flesh between all the elders, all of reality reached its finale. The Lamb “slaughtered” is the Word (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1; Rev 19:13), who became flesh (John 1:14; 1 John 4:2; Rev 1:15) and died to propitiate the eternal Father through his human blood (John 19:34; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Rev 5:9). And this same person, “like a slaughtered Lamb,” was now “standing” as the resurrected One before him in eternity (John 20-21; 1 John 5:11; Rev 1:18), right there, between the throne and the living creatures and between the elders.

 

With the gift of the Apocalypse, John was able to advance epistemologically further than he had ever seen before. The one who had handled the incarnate God in the flesh had now entered in the Spirit through an open door into eternity. While he knew beforehand that the historical sacrifice of Christ had eternal consequences, here he could see with his own eyes those eternal consequences.

— Malcolm B. Yarnell III, God the Trinity, 208-209

God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits

Malcolm B. Yarnell III
B&H Academic, 2016

Have Gospel, Will Travel

When Jesus Christ ushered in the kingdom of God, announcing this gospel of life, death, and resurrection to bring it to bear and make it available, he did so not just for his Jewish countrymen but for the non-Jew as well. This is something that the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, made his life’s ambition to pursue–mission to the Gentiles.

 

It is God’s goal, projected even in the Hebrew Scriptures, to unite every tongue, tribe, race, and nation under the banner of his sovereign glory revealed in Jesus Christ. And so it is the mission of the church to take this message everywhere, announcing the availability of forgiveness of sins and the eternality of life in Christ to people all over the globe, in every kind of nation, regardless of their ethnicity, their class, their religion, or their gender.

 

Over the last two thousand years, what we’ve discovered is that Christianity is remarkably good at this. And it is divinely well suited for it.

 

Islam has been making inroads into the West and in Africa, but it is still largely dominant only in the Middle East. Buddhism has an affiliate office in Hollywood, obviously, but it is still chiefly localized in the Far East. Ditto Confucianism. Hinduism mainly resides in India and Nepal. There are more Jews in America than Israel, but they are only 2.2 percent of the American population. They are 75 percent of the population of Israel.

 

Only Christianity–begun by Jews localized in Jerusalem, later dominated by Greeks in the Mediterranean world, then centralized in Europe, then North America, and now, in terms of sheer numbers, “centralized” in China, Africa, and Latin America–has corporately gone on a global walkabout.

 

How can this be?

 

I think it is primarily because only Christianity teaches works-free justification.

 

There are religions in the world that compel a woman to travel hundreds of miles to kiss a statue, a man to walk across a wilderness to bathe in a sacred river, and men and women alike to crawl on their hands and knees. Every Muslim who is able must visit Mecca once before they die. It is required.

 

But there are no compulsory pilgrimages in Christianity, no far-flung hoops to jump through. The pilgrimage has been made: God incarnated in man. He comes to us in Spirit. Every religion, beside the true one, bids travel for power. In Christianity, power travels to us. The kingdom is not “out there.” It is “in here.” The temple is not “there.” It’s “here,” because Christ tabernacles with us. The gospel that goes into the world and grows and bears fruit goes into the world when we do.

 

Because every real Christian has the true gospel, every real Christian is equipped for mission work at the time of their salvation. Have gospel, will travel! Christ goes where we go.

— Jared C. Wilson, Unparalleled, 204-206.

Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes it Compelling

Jared C. Wilson
Baker Books, 2016

Repeating Pentecost–L. R. Scarborough’s Impassioned Evangelism

We ought to major and master in a constructive, impassioned evangelism. This is where Christ put the emphasis. That is the explanation of the missionary triumphs of Paul and the apostolic group. Christ’s commands, commission, aim, essential purpose, and program for his churches was to be evangelistic, heartfully and soulfully winning the lost all the time—not merely to pride themselves upon a dignified evangelism. We need to win men to Christ rather than glory in a holy name.

 

“The son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Christ’s first command to his disciples was, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Paul said, “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means same some.” Paul and Christ were great teachers and trainers, but they were also great winners. They practiced evangelism—church evangelism, teaching evangelism, domestic, personal, outdoor, indoor, highway, outside, well-side, pressing evangelism. So ought we!

 

Our evangelism must not be merely a campaign. It must be a perpetual crusade if we override the foes of the world and win lost men everywhere to Christ.

 

And in connection with this, and as a part of it, we must give great emphasis and perpetuity to the doctrine of the presence, and the necessity of the presence, of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in our evangelism and church work. We must go back to Pentecost and learn the emergencies of Pentecost, the extraordinary things of Pentecost. We must learn that it was Christ’s church that the Spirit used as the center of that mighty movement. We must learn that they had extraordinary praying, remarkable preaching, preaching based on the cross and the empty tomb, and unusual personal work; every man had the flame of the power on his head and heart and was a personal soul-winner.

 

And after Pentecost they went afield and everywhere—into desert roads, through the hearts of the cities and the countrysides, tackled hard and difficult men—the Nicodemuses, the scarlet women at the well, the dying thieves on the cross. They majored in great outdoor evangelism. We must learn their spiritual compassion was as deep as the meaning of Christ’s death and as agonizing as his Gethsemane experience. They had their souls in it, like Paul when he said, “I warned every man night and day for three years with tears and supplications.”

 

Their passion was extraordinary, and their power was from heaven. You cannot think of Pentecost without thinking of extraordinary power, and if we are to repeat and perpetuate Pentecost, we must rely on the Holy Spirit of God. He was the Father’s gift to Christ and Christ’s gift to us, to convince sinners of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He is our promised power today.

–L. R. Scarborough, Presidential Address to the Southern Baptist Convention, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1939.

C. S. Lewis: Poet Companion

In 1939 Lewis published an essay title “The Personal Heresy in [Literary] Criticism.” He argued that it was wrong to view a poem as about the poet’s state of mind. “The poet is not a man,” he wrote, “who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him.” …

 

So, granting that there is an aura of prestige around Lewis himself, one of the greatest sources of the lasting vitality of his presentations is that he very deliberately points the listener or reader toward an object beyond himself. As others have observed, he does not simply present arguments; rather, he acts more like a friendly companion on a journey.

 

To expand on that image: he is like a companion on a hike who is a learned but companionable naturalist and who points out all sorts of flora or tiny flowers or rock formations that you would have missed on your own. When you see these wonders you are duly impressed with your guide as an intermediary, but, particularly if he leads you around a bend where you encounter the most astonishing mountain peaks set against stunning lakes that you have ever seen, your attention is overwhelmed by the beauty of the objects themselves. You are deeply grateful for your guide, but that is not the essence of your unforgettable encounter with that luminous beauty.

 

So Lewis points his audience toward seeing Christianity not as a set of abstract teachings but rather as something that can be seen, experienced, and enjoyed as the most beautiful and illuminating of all realities.

— George M. Marsden, C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”, 187-188.

C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”: A Biography

George M. Marsden
Princeton, 2016