Most everyone who thinks they are right about a particular theological issue believes they came to it through growing in the Lord, not just reading information. Both the Calvinists and the Arminians in your church think that. Both the premillennialists and the postmillennialists think that. Most every one of us believes that we came to our particular view in the midst of our spiritual growth. (And we’re all right about that, sort of.) Thinking this way is only natural. But the danger in this thinking is equating our particular view with progressive sanctification. Doing so means believing that because I believe ______, I am more sanctified than you. The reason you don’t yet subscribe to my view on this matter is because you are more immature in your faith. Suddenly we are creating first and second class Christians in the community. And that’s gross.
Gently but firmly rebuke doctrinal arrogance and root it out wherever you find it. Factions develop over devotion to secondary matters quite easily if left unchecked. Be careful in preaching against sin that you don’t have “favorite” sins, pet sins to rail against. People guilty of such sins may be convicted and repent, but more often they do not hear the message of grace when their sin is repeatedly singled out but that your church is a safe place to have any sin but theirs. And there is an inverse danger in having favorite sins to preach against: it implicitly tells people who don’t struggle with that sin that they must be holy because they don’t struggle with it. By singling out certain sins for special treatment, you are helping everybody else embrace the arrogance of the Pharisee in the temple who was proud he wasn’t the tax collector.
Remind your people often that the demons have impeccable theology, that demons can be Calvinists and Arminians, millenniarians and amillenniarians.
At Ashland we are preaching through 1st John on Sunday Mornings. On Wednesday Evenings, I am teaching through Galatians at our community Bible Study in Lexington. These letters are blasting away at the self-righteousness in my own heart. They help to display how self-righteousness kills unity in the church while continually distracting from our mission. I have often walked away from study and preaching overwhelmed with guilt thinking about the ways in which I have hindered growth in the body through my own selfish agendas. While I have often convinced myself of something different, my own theological and spiritual arrogance has never been for the good church.
As I continue to fight the self-righteousness in my own heart, I would like to share certain tendencies we should be aware of as we seek to protect ourselves from being a self-righteous hindrance to the mission of the church.
You listen to sermons primarily as a critic and not to be changed through application.
You hear sermons and study the Bible for the sake of others. (They really need to hear this.)
You are more irritated by the sins of others than broken for them.
You are more prone to doubt signs of repentance and obedience in the lives of others rather than rejoice with them.
You focus on secondary finer points of theology eventually making them the standard for maturity and fellowship in the body.
You zero in on specific Christians disciplines (those you like and/or have down) making them the standard of maturity and fellowship in the body.
You are drained when you leave church because you are overwhelmed by the ignorance and immaturity of others.
You begin to isolate from others Christians because of their ignorance and immaturity believing no one will ever get the truth you understand so well.
You study God’s word merely for theological debate and sloganeering.
You care more about other Christians agreeing with your theology than unbelievers actually believing the gospel.
You go to small group studies ready to pounce on anyone who doesn’t clearly articulate every nuance of biblical knowledge the way you do.
You go to small group studies ready to argue instead of encourage and to take notice God’s grace in the life of others.
You talk more about what you are reading than the ways in which God is changing your through the power of Spirit and the word.
Sermons on grace frustrate you for fear others might misunderstand and become disobedient Christians.
I heard this quote early on in my ministry and it’s haunted me since.
Fling him into his office, then tear the “Office” sign from the door, and replace it with a sign that says, “Study.”
Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flick of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.
Force him to be the one man in the community who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through, and let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.
Shut his mouth from forever spouting remarks and stop his tongue from forever tripping lightly over every non-essential. Require him to have something to say before he breaks the silence. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for the things of God. Make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God.
Rip out his telephone. Burn up his success sheets. Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. Test him, quiz him, examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finance, batting averages and political party issues. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir, raise a chant and haunt him night and day with, “Sir, we would know God.”
When at long last he does assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he doesn’t, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the paper. You can digest the television commentary. You can think through the day’s superficial problems and manage the weary drives of the community and bless the assorted baked potatoes and green beans better than he can.
And when he does speak God’s Word, listen. And when he’s burned out finally by the flaming Word, consumed by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man and finally is himself transferred from earth to heaven, bear him away gently. Blow a muted trumpet. Lay him down softly and place a two-edged sword on his coffin and raise the tune triumphant, for ere he died he had become a Man of God.
- John MacArthur
This was a section of an article Tom Ascol wrote. You can find the entire article here.
Never was a game better matched to its season, or better, never was a season – from spring to early autumn – better matched by a game. The game was outdoors, on grass, in the sun. It began at winter’s end, and ended before frost. It made the most of high skies, clement weather, and the times of planting and growth. Until the advent of lights, then domed stadia and artificial turf, baseball was earthbound in the sense of using the earth and climate to advantage and the rhythms of light, shadow, and dusk and spring, summer, and early fall as part of itself. To be earthbound in such a fashion is, to me, pure heaven.
This Sunday Ashland’s church plant in Madison County (Ashland in Madison County) will move to new temporary facilities. 124 South Keeneland RIchmond Ky 40475 Join us at 10 am! And bring someone with you!
On October 28th, at Ashland, we will be showing the first video documentary of our work in Cordova Peru. I say first because the title of the movie, Unreached, is only meant to tell the first part of this story. Right now, Cordova is unreached. While most of the village may have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, only a few have believed. While a few have believed there is still not a local church in the village preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s this need that Ashland set out to meet nearly seven years ago as we began sending short-term teams into the Andes Mountains of Peru. Unreached will seek to summarize our church’s work over the past several years while issuing the challenge to finish the task.
Unreached is a product of one of our church members, Allen Hisle, and his video production company, First String Media. First String accompanied me in August to Cordova. I was extremely impressed with their attention to detail and commitment to excellence. But, I was overwhelmed with their heart for Cordova. On several occasions, I noticed the cameramen fighting back tears as they heard the people of Cordova talk about life in this dark and hopeless village. I know Allen and his team’s heart is in the project. This is one reason why I am confident the finished project is going to blow us away.
I can’t wait to gather on October 28th at 6:00 pm to be broken and challenged by Unreached. Even more, I cannot wait to see how this movie is used in the life of Ashland to see more Cordovians following Jesus in the days ahead.
You can follow our missionary Eric Turner and his work in Cordova here.
I have prayed for Josh Hamilton more than any other professional athlete. Just to be honest I don’t pray for professional athletes all that often. But, every time I see Josh Hamilton on the field or in an interview, I am prompted to pray for him.
The reason I pray for him really has little to do with his success. Except that I would know nothing of him if he wasn’t a successful MLB player. These days my prayers on behalf of Hamilton have much more to do with his failures.
Hamilton has been very open about his past drug addiction and his continued struggles. I cannot help but feel if he had been more private about these things I would never have been prompted to pray for him in this way. I actually believe that if he hid them, as a fan, I would feel betrayed each time I found out about them. And yet, the opposite has been true for me and many more baseball fans. It’s the openness about his struggles that have caused me to be concerned with his spiritual welfare.
The church can learn from such openness. We are subtly convinced that it is our successes as Christians that bind us together. Tragically, this is why so many in the church struggle with serious sin and we never know about it. When such sin is uncovered and brought to light both sides feel betrayed.
The exact opposite should be true. It’s our collective need for Christ that binds us together. We are to be reminded of this need as we all continually cultivate a healthy openness in the life of the church concerning our failures. The more we hide our sin the more we lessen the awareness of our need for a Savior.
Let me be clear, in no way should we create environments that magnify sin for sin sake. Satan loves it when Christians worship their sin more than they worship Jesus. If we stop at sin and never get to the Savior we are just as bad off. And yet, being honest about how good we are at sinning, magnifies the greatness of our Savior’s success in saving us. Being honest about our struggles brings us together and ties our hearts together to the cross.
Here’s a video after from Hamilton’s four HR game earlier this week. Admire and appreciate the success of this talented athlete. Join me in praying for him in his continued battles with sin. May his story remind us to pray more fervently for one another.