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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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Small God, Small Calling – Big God Big Calling (via Jen Oshman)

Jen Oshman writes about the product of a tendency to desire a comfortable, easy to manage life – a comfortable easy to manage God.
From the article:

There’s a destructive cycle often lived out in Western, wealthy Christianity – and in my own heart. Here’s the cycle:

We Christians believe we have a small calling, so we call on a small god, and we grow a small faith. Our small faith fuels our small calling, which in turn perpetuates our belief that our god is small and asks us to do small things.

I’m attracted to this cycle as much as anyone. Messages to pursue safety and comfort engulf me. The dominant goals in my community are health, good education for our kids, a strong retirement account, and plenty of sports on the weekends. We’re all pursuing these goals, even in our churches. We’re cheering for one another as we chase our small dreams and claim it’s what our small god would want.
The calling is small because we can do it in our own power. We’re neck deep in self-help theology, and we applaud one another when we look within ourselves, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and do whatever it takes to self-actualize. If the God of the Bible doesn’t fit our small calling, we rewrite or misinterpret what he says.
Many churches in America have exchanged God’s true calling, God’s true character, and the true faith for a manageable, small cycle. But Jesus destroys the small cycle when he calls us to follow him and die.

Big Cycle
“If anyone would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34–35). This call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus is not small and manageable.
Scripture calls us to live out a big, risk-taking, self-denying cycle. To answer this call we need a huge God capable of doing huge things. We need a faith that’s robust and doesn’t reject hard things but acknowledges that the hard things are, in fact, what God has designed for our good and his glory. This cycle – the opposite of the small cycle – acknowledges our calling is big, our God is big, and he will give us a big faith to carry out our big calling.

Read the rest here.


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The Beauty Of Churchgoing (via Trevin Wax)

Treven Wax offers an observation about how to nurture an appreciation for corporate worship in an individualistic culture:

In an individualistic age, many people come to church for therapeutic reasons. Does my church help me through my week and give me inspiration and strength? We should not dismiss these reasons for coming to church, but we want people to discover a beauty that goes beyond finding personal fulfillment. We want their ultimate satisfaction to be found in the God whose beauty is life-giving.
For this reason, we pray that people will see how churchgoing fits into the wider lens of God’s redemptive work. God wants to change us. But how?
Virtuous habits in response to God’s grace play a role here. Churchgoing is a spiritual habit, a beautiful one. We should not lift up the occasional visit to church, in which we expect to be awestruck by our experience with God, to change us. Instead, we need to recognize the power of frequent and regular visits to church, the ongoing habit of singing praise to God and hearing him speak through his Word. It’s not the one sermon that changes your life, but the 1,000 sermons you hear over a decade. It’s not the one worship experience that forms you, but the weekly rhythm of refocusing your heart and mind on the God who made you as you praise the Savior who redeemed you and sense the Spirit who indwells you. As James K. A. Smith writes:

We are creatures of habit, that God knows this (since he created us), and thus our gracious, redeeming God meets us where we are by giving us Spirt-empowered, heart-calibrating, habit-forming practices to retrain our loves. This is the means of the Spirit’s transformation, not an alternative to Spirit-shaped sanctification. If we don’t take this seriously, we will, in effect, be giving ourselves over to all of the rival habit-forming practices of our culture.

The beauty of churchgoing is something that happens over time. We long to grow as worshipers who know and love Jesus.

source


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Only Half of Our Friends Actually Like Us (via Aimee Byrd)

A short reflection by Aimee Byrd on an article she read that referred to a study that claimed that when people were asked to rate the strength of various friendships only about half of those indicated felt the same way.
What does that teach us about the way we feel about others, and how our relationships really are?

Byrd writes about the nature of friendship, and the great friendship that Christians experience (and which should define our own friendliness) in salvation.
This is all the more important in a time where social media can suggest we have more friends than actual relationships.

I imagine friendship as a commodity has always been an issue, but it is so much more apparent with the advent of social media. One thing is for sure: high-quality friendships are a blessing. And they are something worth investing in.

Read the whole post here.


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Some Questions About ‘Tiger Pastoring’ (via Peter Ko at Gospel Coalition Australia)

Peter Ko explains that ‘tiger parenting’ is what happens when parents push their children hard to succeed.
He goes on to add that church leadership could fall into ‘tiger pastoring’ and create, either directly or indirectly, thoughts in a congregations minds that they constantly have to strive hard to grow.
Usually in a pattern of activities established by the church leadership.
Apart from issues of busyness, he wonders if the model really stacks up biblically:

Does healthy Christian growth require us to apply our model of ‘tiger pastoring’? Or is God powerfully at work by his Spirit, through his Word, so that if his sheep are fed and taught well, and are guarded and cared for by good shepherds, they will grow?
Back to the analogy of parenting, isn’t it healthier to assume that if a child is given his or her basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, security, schooling, friendships etc., that child will naturally grow and flourish? Could it be that in our well-motivated desire to shepherd our people well, we’ve stopped trusting that Christ will help his people and his body to grow and flourish if the basics are given to them? Corporate worship, faithful teaching and preaching, a church community, and leaders who will guard the truth and fight error. Is there much more that’s needed for healthy Christian growth?

Read the whole article here.


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A Place Where Love Comes True (via Jon Bloom)

Jon Bloom writes about the nature of the church at Desiring God.
Church is never an extension of our agenda.
It’s the place where our agendas yield to the purpose of growing like Jesus.
Jesus did not design the church to be a place where our dreams come true. Actually, it’s where many of our dreams are disappointed and die. And this is more of a grace to us than we likely realize, because our dreams are often much more selfish than we discern.
Our personal expectations easily become tyrants to everyone else, because everyone else fails to meet them. When we are more focused on how others’ failings and foibles obstruct the ideal community we want to pursue than we are on serving those others and pursuing their good and joy, our expectations can kill love, which impedes the real mission.
Jesus designed the church to be a place where love comes true, where we lay our preferences aside out of deference to others. It is meant to be a living laboratory of love, a place where there are so many opportunities, big and small, to lay down our lives for each other that the love of Christ becomes a public spectacle.
That’s why when it comes to church in this age, the picture of community we should have in our minds is not some utopian harmony, but Golgotha. In living life together, we die every day (1 Corinthians 15:31). We lay down our lives for each other (1 John 3:16).

Read the whole post at Desiring God.