Growing Your Faith by Jerry Bridges

Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in ChristGrowing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ by Jerry Bridges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a bit of a compilation of Bridges’ previous works, summarized together into one book. He takes us through sanctification – the need for the Holy Spirit as well as our own responsibility. Challenging and helpful book!

Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors and I have read most of his books and re-read some as well. There was a lot of good stuff in this book, but for some reason I didn’t underline as I went through. Definitely worth a re-read at some point.

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Heirs of the Covenant by Susan Hunt

Heirs of the CovenantHeirs of the Covenant by Susan Hunt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The importance of Christian Education in the church and a plan to implement it

Teacher traits

“Teacher Trait #1: A living faith. ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (2 Timothy 1:5).
Teacher Trait #2: Diligent student of the Word. ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).
Teacher Trait #3: Example of godliness. ‘Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity….Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching….Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
Teacher Trait #4: A grateful servant spirit. ‘I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service’ (1 Timothy 1:12).
Teacher Trait #5: A constant awareness of our own sinfulness and God’s mercy. ‘Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:13-15).
Teacher Trait #6: A disciple maker. ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others’ (2 Timothy 2:2).
Teacher Trait #7: A unity builder. ‘Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will’ (2 Timothy 2:22-26).
Teacher Trait #8: A heart for evangelism. ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist….’ (2 Timothy 4:5).”

Spirit vs. Flesh

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are  led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV)

What more needs to be said? The contrast between how the world lives and how those with the Holy Spirit live is seen in these verses. How do we know that we have the Holy Spirit? It will be evident by the works that we do. If we do things that are impure, sensual, idolatrous, or that cause strife, divisions, and dissension, then it is evident that we are in the flesh and not the Spirit. Christians will still sin after salvation, but the pattern will change as the Holy Spirit works in us, convicting us of sin and growing us in the fruits of love, joy, peace, and so forth. The more we grow in holiness, the more we mourn our sin.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

The Holiness of GodThe Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holiness isn’t talked about much these days. Yet it is what Christians are called to be holy because God is holy. Great book for reminding and reflecting on the holiness of God and how that should change our lives.

“Anyone can be a noncomformist for noncomformity’s sake. Again I want to emphasize that this is a cheap piety. What we are ultimately called to is more than nonconformity; we are called to transformation.”

“The prefix trans means ‘across’ or ‘beyond.’ When we are called to be transformed, it means that we are to rise above the forms and the structures of this world. We are not to follow the world’s lead but to cut across it and rise above it to a higher calling and style. This is a call to transcendent excellence, not a call to sloppy ‘out-of-it-ness.'”

“The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the ‘renewal of the mind.’ This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Serious education. In-depth education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It calls for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed.
True transformation comes by gaining a new understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. What we are after ultimately is to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are to be like Jesus, though not in the sense that we can ever gain deity. We are not god-men. But our humanity it to mirror and reflect the perfect humanity of Jesus.”

“We are not to be like the rest of the world, content to live our lives with a superficial understanding of God. We are to grow dissatisfied with spiritual milk and hunger after spiritual meat.”

“Yet as we grow in our knowledge of Him, we gain a deeper love for His purity and sense a deeper dependence on His grace. We learn that He is altogether worthy of our adoration. The fruit of our growing love for Him is the increase of reverence for His name. We love Him now because we see His loveliness. We adore Him now because we see His majesty. We obey Him now because His Holy Spirit dwells within us.”

Top Books for 2015

So jumping on the bandwagon of sharing top reads for the year, I kinda feel like it’s unfair to the books that were read at the beginning of the year. Unless they were really outstanding, they get lost in the memory as other books are read throughout the year. I seemed to have been much more critical of books that I read this year. My first book of the year that I rated 5 stars (out of 5) was actually a re-read of Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

Here are the books that stood out to me this year:

God Has Spoken by Gerald Bray: this was a very interesting read detailing quite thoroughly the history of how the doctrines of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit developed from the time of the apostles throughout church history. For those who like theology and enjoy church history, this combined both.

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind by David Saxton: a Biblical look at what meditation is and isn’t, with a look at how the Puritans defined it.

Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox: a look at the creation account in Genesis and some of the different views, such as old-earth creationism and young-earth creationism.

God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts: excellent overview of the Bible in an easy-to-read format.

Let’s Study Ephesians by Sinclair Ferguson: readable commentary on the book of Ephesians.

Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement by Bob DeWaay: a look at the pragmatism behind the purpose driven movement and how it has led evangelicalism away from the truth of Scripture.

Let’s Study Galatians by Derek Thomas: readable commentary on the book of Galatians.

The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson: another excellent overview of the whole Bible and its overarching story.

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp: how we can help each other in the body of Christ to grow in our sanctification.

Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur: a look at the excesses of the charismatic movement and Word Faith movement and how it has led to mysticism and experiential Christianity instead of reliance on the truth of Scripture.

Theology – What Is It?

What is your theology of who God is?
We all have a theology or an understanding of who we think God is, but it may not be a correct theology or accurate picture of God.

Solid Food Ministries

What is theology? The simple answer is that theology is the study of God. Why is theology important? Theology is what we believe about who God is, His character, what He has done. We all have a theology or an understanding of who we think God is, but it may not be a correct theology or accurate picture of God. Studying theology helps us to understand better who God is based on what the Bible says about Him. What we believe about God affects how we live our lives. Theology is worked out in our behavior, attitudes and actions, thus a study of theology helps us to grow more like God as we learn who He is.

There are many sub-branches of theology that deal with different aspects of what we believe on different subjects. The study of God the Father is often referred to as Theology Proper. The study…

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Friendships

“Let us seek friends that will stir us up about our prayers, our Bible reading, our use of time, our souls, and our salvation” J. C. Ryle

Do we seek this kind of friend?

And we should also seek to be this kind of friend to others. How are we building up our friends? Encouraging them in their walk with Christ? Helping them to focus on Christ in their daily lives? Talking to them about what we are reading in our Bibles and encouraging them in their Bible reading?

Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur

Charismatic ChaosCharismatic Chaos by John F. MacArthur Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“And so charismatic chaos spreads because the voices promulgating eccentric teachings drown out the feeble whispers of those who challenge Christians to examine the Scriptures to see whether these things are so (cf. Acts 17:11). It is not unkind to analyze doctrinal differences in the light of Scripture. It is not necessarily factious to voice disagreement with someone else’s teaching. In fact, we have a moral imperative to examine what is proclaimed in Jesus’ name, and to expose and condemn false teaching and unbiblical behavior.”

I wish everyone would read this book! When we elevate experience over the truths of Scripture, then chaos results. “Experience, however, is not the test of biblical truth; rather, biblical truth stands in final judgment on experience. That more than any other single issue is what this book is about.”

“As experience after experience is reported in the press and on religious radio and television, a subtle but sinister pattern is developing. Instead of responding to a proper interpretation of God’s Word, Christianity is collecting fantastic and preposterous experiences. The Bible is either mangled to fit those experiences or simply ignored altogether. The result is pseudo-Christian mysticism.”

This is why it is so crucial that Christians learn how to study and interpret the Bible correctly. Lack of knowledge of the Bible’s truths opens us up to be deceived by all kinds of false teachings and errors. We need to be in our Bibles: reading, studying, memorizing, and applying. The Bible has the truths we need to live holy lives that honor and glorify God. When we don’t know the Bible and the Bible seems to be lacking in what we are looking for, we turn to emotions and experience to find what we crave. God has told us in the Bible that His Word is sufficient (2 Peter 1:3 tells us He has given us everything we need for life and godliness). Do we really practice that? Do we rely that the Bible gives us the truth we need or do we look to ours or others’ experiences for truth?

Mysticism has been defined in various ways. Here is John MacArthur’s definition: “Mysticism is a system of belief that attempts to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable facts. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition, and other internal senses. Objective data is usually discounted, so mysticism derives its authority from within. Spontaneous feeling becomes more significant than objective fact. Intuition outweighs reason. An internal awareness supersedes external reality…..mysticism is at the heart of modern existentialism, humanism, and even many forms of paganism – most notably Hinduism and its close ally, New Age philosophy.”

I would encourage people to read this book to understand what the concerns are when it comes to the charismatic movement and to see the heresy in the Word of Faith movement. Most of all, I encourage people to be reading and learning the Bible, applying its truth to their lives.

What Are We Sowing?

Excellent sermon this past Sunday as part of a current series going through the Minor Prophets. The message was on Hosea and dealt with the warnings of flouting God’s covenant and living a life of waywardness. While as believers our sin is forgiven, that doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the consequences of that sin in this life. We cannot live a wayward life without reaping the consequences. Hosea 8:7 – “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” What are we sowing in our life? Are we sowing materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness? Or are we sowing generosity, holiness and love? What are we allowing into our lives that then flows out of our lives in our words and actions? Do the TV shows and movies we watch honor God or shift our focus onto worldly things? Do the articles we read, the video games we play, help us to grow in holiness or fulfill our selfish desires? If we are constantly intaking a diet of profanity, sexual innuendo and violence, that will flow out of our lives in what we say or how we react. We will reap what we sow. So what are we sowing in our lives?

Another thing that struck me from Hosea was in chapter 14 and verse 8: “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.” God is the one who produces fruit in us. Idols can’t produce fruit. If we are seeking after idols (anything that takes the place of God in our lives), we won’t be producing fruit. We must be seeking after God. Are we allowing idols to rule us or God? If there is no fruit in our lives, perhaps we are pursuing idols rather than God.

The full sermon hasn’t been uploaded to the church website yet, but when it is, you can listen to the full sermon here (the 12/6/15 date).

Contentment and Books

I always seem to struggle with contentment when it comes to books. Yet I already have way too many that I want to read and already own. Instead of thinking about the book I want to read that I don’t own yet, I need to concentrate on the books I already own and haven’t read yet. This time of year makes it hard with all the advertising for Christmas and the sales and specials that places have. But it doesn’t change the fact that I have plenty of reading material already at my disposal. So how would contentment with my books look? Perhaps instead of buying “just this one more”, I could pick up one I already own and decide that I don’t need to read every book out there that piques my interest. I currently own between physical and Kindle books enough reading material for a couple years at least. Especially as some of them are rather large volumes such as Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith.