Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.
What does the church of Jesus Christ really look like? Of course, I am not talking about the architectural style of the building in which it meets, but what a local body of believers looks like. We know the church should be sound in doctrine and zealous in proclaiming the gospel. But how does a sound church really function?
Worshiping God is both our duty and our privilege, no matter who we are. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation with the biblical command, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). If Jesus would quote this command even to Satan, surely there is no one exempt from the force of its demands. This is because, as Psalm 95:6 reminds us, the call to worship our Lord God arises from the reality that he is “our maker.” Every creature owes the one Creator their worship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged, just before the end of the Second World War in Europe. I have lately been enjoying Bonhoeffer’s classic work The Cost of Discipleship, written at the height of his conflict with Nazi ideology and with the compromising German church.
This beautiful, biblical description of a Christian comes from James Smith in 1856. As you read this pastor’s wise and insightful summary of the Christian life, prayerfully consider — not only whether these words describe you, but — how they may better describe you. May each of us as Christian believers learn Christ’s doctrines better, trust his promises better, and do his will better. If anyone is in Christ — he is a new creature:
I recently came across this excellent quote on marriage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous German preacher who was executed by the Nazis for trying to overthrow Hitler. Coming from a serious man, who lived in a day of serious challenges, it is all the more poignant and worthwhile. Marriage is more than your love for each other.
The creation is singing and dancing the praises of its Maker so clearly and so loudly, that Paul says everyone is “without excuse” when they ignore what is “clearly perceived” (Romans 1:20). The fine-tuning of this massive, marvelous, intricate universe we live in is just one of many ways that the creation is declaring the existence and glory of its Creator. Yet the effort to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) continues in every generation, in a variety of ways.
A friend who has recently been reading through David Brainerd’s biography shared with me a stirring passage from Brainerd’s journal. What motivated this man — who spent years in sacrifice and service of the gospel, and eventually died an early death for the spread of it — to continue laboring in the face of excruciating pain and disappointment? The overarching, undergirding concern “that God might be known to be God in the whole earth” and that “God have the glory forever.”
The doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is a well-known and important teaching within the Christian faith. This doctrine refers to the fact that the Bible is clear, that it communicates perfectly. All scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible can be understood by anyone, barring mental handicaps (2 Timothy 3:15). This doesn’t mean it is easy to correctly understand; rather, the Bible requires careful, thoughtful study (2 Peter 3:16). Equally vital as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, however, is the balancing consideration of the “perspicacity” of the reader.
The following is an excerpt from The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ, written by English pastor Thomas Vincent over 300 years ago. I quoted this passage in a recent message I preached, entitled “What Do You Do When You Leave Church?” The truth is, too many Christians in our day live lives that are spiritually disjointed.
Now concerning the collection for the saints … on the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Paul here instructs the Corinthian church to lay aside funds before he comes to visit them. Why lay aside funds? “So that there will be no collecting when I come.”
In a worship service in which I recently participated, we sang this beautiful hymn by Charles Wesley. I believe it was my first time to be acquainted with it and the words struck me powerfully. Too little thought is given, and too few messages and songs are devoted, to the marvelous and gospel-centering truth that salvation now and forever is found only in the substitution of Christ on the cross, for sinners.
While knowledge of the truth is very important, it is possible to put so much emphasis on the letter of it that the application is forgotten. Paul reminds us that knowledge alone just puffs a person up, while knowledge according to love actually builds up. So here is a thought for pastors, especially, and by implication the people in the pew as well.
Allow me to make one last new year’s observation, with the help of George Whitefield. As we enter into this new year, many resolutions will be made regarding better diets and more exercise. But what we need most — as always — is to feed on Christ and to exercise ourselves unto godliness. The preeminent preacher of the Great Awakening in America, George Whitefield reminded his audience in a New Year’s message entitled “A Penitent Heart, the Best New Year’s Gift” that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Not exactly your typical warm and fuzzy holiday
We wish to see Jesus (John 12:21). These were the words of the Greeks who approached the apostle Philip when they came to the feast at Jerusalem. It is interesting to observe that these Gentiles were seeking Jesus while the Jewish leaders were plotting to put him to death. Their appearance points to the bringing in of the Gentiles and the blessing of the gospel they would soon enjoy.