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How To Kill A Church (via Mark Dever)

Mark Dever on the destructive influence of not having the Gospel preeminent and clear in the preaching.

…Martin Luther, when once asked why he was preaching on justification by faith alone for the twentieth time, he said it was because people didn’t remember it after the nineteenth.
Keep preaching the gospel. We need to persevere in the truth and be sure we persevere in the truth and not let our preaching be subtly transformed into a different gospel. This can be subtle. We might not overtly deny the gospel, but we might so ignore it. We might assume, “Well everybody here has heard the gospel. They’ve understood it. Even the ones who aren’t Christians have heard it a thousand times. I’m going to go on and preach on more interesting things.”
Oh, brother, if that’s your spirit before you preach, when you plan a sermon series, or when you’re working on a sermon, check your heart and check your Bible. Confess honestly to your fellow elders you’re facing that, and call it what it is. It is a temptation. And it is a temptation which will do no good to the congregation the Lord’s called you to shepherd.

Source.


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What Do You Need To Do To Go Backwards In The Christian Life? Nothing. (via Sinclair Ferguson

Words from Sinclair Ferguson posted on the blog Tolle Lege.

“Hebrews is all about persevering in sanctification. Without holiness, writes the author, ‘no one will see the Lord.’ We must therefore ‘strive’ for it (Hebrews 12:14).
He uses vigorous language. His verb (διώκω, strive) appears regularly in the New Testament with the sense of ‘persecute.’
Such strong language was needed here because these Christians were facing hardship and opposition. They therefore needed to pay careful attention to the gospel, to digest what they had heard, so that they would not drift away.
What do you need to do to slow down and go backwards in the Christian life? Hebrews’ answer is: ‘Nothing.” Drifting is the easiest thing in the world.
It is swimming against the tide that requires effort. And the Christian life is against the tide all the way. Spiritual weariness, being ‘sluggish,’ is one of our great enemies. The author is all-too-familiar with its tell-tale signs.
Christians then, as now, were confronted by many pressures. Some of them had suffered deeply for their testimony to Jesus Christ. We might think that anyone who has withstood trials would be in no danger of failing to persevere.
But the battle to be holy is fierce, the opposition is strong, and the obstacles are many. Even those who have won great victories in the past can become weary. Spiritual lethargy can set in, and we begin to drift.
We constantly need to be encouraged to keep going (Hebrews 3:12-13).”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 191.


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Growth In Godliness Is Not Measured By What Already Comes Easily To You (via David Murray)

David Murray asks “Why do we take our individual, personality, character, gifts, or calling and make that the sum total of godliness for everyone else?”
After numerous examples of what he means, he sums up:
“Godliness should be measured not so much by what comes easiest to us but by the progress we’re making in areas we’re weakest in.”

Read the whole post here.


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Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 38

Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 38

Chapter 22 – Of Lawful Oaths and Vows (Cont.) (Paragraphs 4-7)
IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It can not oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt: nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.
V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.
VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it maybe accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for obtaining of what we want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.
VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.


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Producing Fruit (preparing for MGPC 17/9/17)

Order of Service

Song: One True God
Welcome:
Call to Worship
Song: The Saving One
Prayer Of Confession
Song: Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat
Affirming our Faith: The Apostles’ Creed
Song: Now To Him Who Loved Us
Bible Reading: Amos 7:1-17 – Amos tells of four visions of Israel’s destruction, after the third of which there is an attempt to force Amos to stop his pessimistic and (perhaps) unpatriotic prophesies.
Bible Memorisation: Mark 3:35
Song: Nearer, My God To Thee
Bible Reading: Mark 4:1-20
Sermon: Producing Fruit
Song: All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name
(Tithes & free will offerings will be
taken up during this song.
Guests are not obligated to give an offering.)
Announcements: Mark Lewis
Pastoral Prayer: Mark Lewis
Closing Blessing
Song: This Is Amazing Grace


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Six Symptoms Of Spiritual Heart Failure (via Stanley Gale)

The joys of advancing years include a more necessary interest in personal health.
Stanley Gale observes that, by contrast, an individual’s spiritual health can be in jeopardy at any age, and that there are a number of commonly observable conditions that precede a breakdown in faith.

From Gale’s post:

What are the signs of spiritual heart failure? We can note at least six symptoms.

  1. Attendance in weekly worship becomes optional and irregular. This is pretty serious. God designed us to be worshipers. He sought us to be worshipers. And He turned our hearts from idols to worship Him as the true and living God. You can be sure that neglect of corporate worship is a sign of a heart that is not given over to God in everyday life.
  2. A spotty prayer life. Like shortness of breath and struggle for oxygen, irregular prayer does not breathe in the oxygen of God’s grace in continual awareness of Him and dependence upon Him. This condition often takes in shallow breaths of periodic prayer that fail to fill the lungs or hyperventilate in panic prayer in times of great distress.
  3. Gospel habituation. Habituation is where you tune something out after a while, like you might not notice the loud ticking of a clock in your home but a visitor hears it loud and clear. We can do that with the gospel. It can become familiar, ordinary, and unamazing. God has given us ways to keep that from happening, like hearing Christ preached and celebrating the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but our diseased heart doesn’t take it in.
  4. Poor appetite and inadequate diet. God has given us a rich banquet in His Word, all the nourishment we need for our growth in grace. But we rarely partake. We don’t feast on it. We content ourselves with snacking on a nugget every now and then. But even then we don’t savor it. We don’t chew on it through attention and meditation, drawing out its flavor and absorbing its nutrients of truth.
  5. Inactivity. A healthy heart has blood flow in and blood flow out. Heart failure affects this circulatory system. It becomes enlarged for lack of exercise. It doesn’t spread nutrients throughout its own body or the body of Christ. It does not look to serve but to be served, unlike the One whose heart was in perfect health. With no sense of sacrifice or suffering, it becomes weakened and ineffective.
  6. Spiritual Listlessness. Indifference to the things of God and tolerance of what dishonors Him are signs of arterial sclerosis, hardness of heart. One contributing factor to this condition is isolation from fellow believers. Without them in our lives to stimulate us to love and godliness, our hearts can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Separated from the body of which we are a part, our fire grows dim and our enthusiasm wanes.

How do we address spiritual heart failure? Prescription for each symptom is found in the Word of Life. But it begins by approaching the Great Physician, asking Him to “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24)

Read the whole post here.


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Overcommitted Churches (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer writes about how churches can find themselves with so many programs and activities that they become ineffective at discipling Christians and sharing the Gospel.

From Rainer’s post:

So how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them:

  1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. And busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are deemed to be Christians of value.
  2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means. I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23 participants. “Because,” he said, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble.
  3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose. Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons.
  4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.” Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Others leaders simply lack courage to say “no.”
  5. Fear of eliminating. Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program killing business.
  6. Church is often defined as an address. As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so busy at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology.
  7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture. A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers. But once the church built its own gym and recreation center, the church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In an attempt to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective reaching those in the community.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s blog, which also promises a follow-up which deals with churches that have de-programmed and become more effective.