Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

August 25, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Verse on My Door

[The following is adapted from a brief testimony that I shared at my installation service on August 16, 2015 at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. I share it with you in hopes that it will encourage you to hang on to the promises of God by faith.]

A year and a half ago, when the Holy Spirit led me to take a break from pastoral ministry, we began to finish off a room in our basement that I could use as a place to think, pray, read, and write. As the room came close to completion, I found a picture that had been given to me as a gift when I received my master’s degree in 1998, and decided to hang it on the outside of my study door. I hung it there because I needed to see it every time I entered the room; I needed to consciously cling to a truth about my God. It contains the following verse from the book of Ephesians.Verse on my door

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

This verse is a benediction I took hold of as a promise from God, which became an anchor for my weary soul. It is a key truth that my feeble faith gripped and would not let go of. Another promise that I clung to is found in Psalm 37:23, which had been displayed on of my bookshelves for 22 years: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.”

During time away from pastoral ministry, I had met with our pastor several times. The first time he and I met for coffee, he encouraged me to write down the characteristics of the next church that I would want to pastor when the Lord’s timing was right. He firmly believed that if and when the Lord would lead us to a new ministry, both my wife and I would know it. As a result, I came up with 7 characteristics of a church that not only I would want to pastor, but more importantly, a church that I believed would be good for my family. I jotted them down on a legal pad, which then got buried in one of the piles on my desk.

In January 2015, when my personal commitment to take a minimum of one-year to rest, evaluate, calibrate, and focus on specific needs in my family came to a close; I was not ready to intentionally search for a new ministry role. Many of my brothers in Christ encouraged me to get my resume out there, but I was not comfortable with that approach. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with doing that, and many of my friends had been led by God through that means, but it was not how the Lord had led my wife and me in our past. Previously, He had gone before us each time and opened a wide door for ministry when we were not looking for it, when we did not expect it, and I believed He would do that again—in His time—if it was His will. And He did.

On January 21st of this year, Armand Tiffe and I both received the same email from a mutual friend at the Master’s College in California, Dr. Bob Somerville. Armand had contacted Bob concerning the senior pastor role that would be opening this summer at Cornerstone. Bob responded by introducing the two of us via email, affirming his belief that we would work well together.

Unbeknownst to Bob, I had just met Armand two months before, at a conference in Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Armand, Bob had become a friend and counselor to me over two years before. Bob was a brother who had suffered through a deep valley of depression and was helping other men, like myself, who found themselves in the same valley. And unbeknownst to me, Armand Tiffe and his wife had talked on their way home from the conference about how they each had separately thought that I would be an ideal fit for Armand’s successor at Cornerstone. That email from Bob got the discussion going, which led to a lengthy evaluation, interview, and candidate process with the elders and members at Cornerstone Community Church.

This past May, as I was packing up my library in our Wisconsin home, I found that legal pad with the traits of the church that I believed our family needed and that I would want to pastor. This is what I wrote. It would be a warm fellowship—a Bible-teaching, Christ-following, God-exalting, gospel-announcing, grace-dispensing, loving, and forgiving community of believers who desire to grow in Christ, together.

When I found that legal pad, I realized God had indeed kept His promises. Not only had He led our steps according to His good and sovereign plan, but He had also done exceedingly abundantly above all that we had asked for or thought possible.

I’m simply an unworthy slave of Christ who longs to one-day hear the Master say, “Well done.” I am a sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, reclaimed by God for His purposes. My wife and I are so thankful for the faithfulness of the Lord in our lives and look forward to serving Him as part of the Cornerstone Community Church family.

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August 18, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Charge at My Installation Service

This past Lord’s Day, it was an honor to be installed as the new senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio (an eastern suburb of Cleveland). One of the men who spoke at the service was Jeff Powell, the district superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Unbeknownst to Jeff, he selected the same passage of Scripture that I had chosen in the early 1990s to be my “life ministry verses.”

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-29)

From this passage, Jeff charged me with four reminders:

Remember to Rejoice (v. 24).

Jeff charged me to never forget to rejoice in my sufferings because the ministry we have been called to, and the faith we walk in, will include sufferings. There will always be opposition to the gospel call to Christ. Maintaining my joy is one key area where I have failed in the past. So how do I keep my joy in ministry? Jeff charged me to keep my joy in the ministry by maintaining a deep, intimate relationship with Christ; not sacrificing ministry time to do ministry at the expense of my personal time with God. I must not allow ministry duties to disrupt my time with God.

Remember the Commission Is from God, not Man (v. 25a).

The apostle believed that since his call came from God, he could do nothing else. The call that Paul received was not to a position. The call was to serve Christ in a specific way through the gospel. It was not a call to a specific church or office. It was an assignment to serve his Master, the Lord Jesus. This commission was given and defined by God. Therefore, I must always guard my commission in a way that never allows me to place any earthly expression of the calling above the divine calling to the gospel itself. As a side note, Jeff charged the congregation to remember that their pastor is not their hired man. He is not sent by God for their purposes, but brought to fulfill God’s purposes, which includes caring for the flock.

Remember the Centrality of the Gospel (vv. 25b-27).

The gospel saved the apostle Paul and was the basis upon which his entire ministry was built. His call was to serve as a minister of the gospel. Today, a temptation in ministry is to get overly creative. Jeff charged me to never, never stray from the gospel; it is Christ whom I must proclaim. He is our only hope. The gospel ministry is a call to live out the hope of His glory. I must give my new flock the confidence of the gospel and the uncomfortableness of the gospel.

Remember to Make Disciple-makers for Christ (vv. 28-29).

A church is not called to make church attenders; we are called to make disciples. There is a big difference. Verse 28 gives a clear sense that the apostle was relentless in the task of moving believers toward maturity. We have too many churches filled with consumers and spectators. Jeff charged me to remember that my call is to proclaim the gospel and show believers how living out the gospel is how we are called to live. To do that, I must proclaim Christ. My job is to point people back to Christ, to instruct and admonish the flock, to direct them and to set their hearts in place.

These are important reminders from a cherished passage of Scripture. They serve as a high charge to me. I appreciate your prayers for me as I carry out the Lord’s calling in a new place. If you are ever visiting Cleveland, please come worship with us.

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August 10, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, Arizona

Last month, my wife and I and our four youngest children had the privilege of making a road trip to Arizona to serve at a family camp in beautiful Sedona, Arizona. The 3-day camp was the 29th family camp for Grace Covenant Church in a suburb of Phoenix. This was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to spend several days with this congregation, the first being at a biblical counseling training conference in September 2013. The fellowship that I’ve experienced on both visits was so encouraging and sweet that I want to take a moment to draw your attention to this local church that is faithfully upholding the sufficiency of Christ and His word (perhaps you know someone in the Phoenix area who may be helped by this church’s ministry). Here are a few bits of information about GCC.

Reformed Baptist

Grace Covenant Church is a member of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA), which holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Charles Spurgeon called this document “the most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us [Baptists churches in London].”

Regulative Principle of Worship

Grace Covenant Church follows the practice of the Reformers known as the regulative principle of worship, which states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture, not man’s inventions (see and explanation from Derek Thomas published by Ligonier).

Biblical Counseling Training

In 1996, Grace Covenant Church established its biblical counseling ministry under the direction of associate pastor Darrell Gustafson. This later developed into the Biblical Counseling Training Center of Arizona, which is an ACBC certified training center. Since the center opened, over 225 men and women have gone through its training program. Their annual conference is coming up in October.

There is much more I could say about the ministry of Grace Covenant Church, which has been a blessing to my family and me. Find out more about this church at their website.

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August 7, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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10 Reasons a Christian Must Be Pro-Life

My wife has been pregnant 11 times. Ten of those pregnancies ended with the births of precious sons and daughters, all of whom we cherish. Do we love babies? That’s obvious. I’ve loved babies for as long as I can remember. The same is true of my wife. That’s one of the qualities that drew me to her. So to say the Planned Parenthood butchery videos are disturbing to us is the understatement of the year (I confess that I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to watch the most recent one).

Was I surprised by the evils of Planned Parenthood? Actually, no. I’m shocked, but not surprised. I’m shocked by how calloused a PP leader’s heart may become when given over completely to her depravity. But I’m not surprised since Planned Parenthood has been empowered by Satan and governed by Satanic thinking since the days of its wicked founder, Margaret Sanger. After all, Satan invented abortion (John 8:44; Exodus 1:15-22).

God designed woman with a heart for children. That’s why, for me, one of the most disturbing facts of this vile organization is that it was founded and is run by women. To love children is part of what it means to be a woman—God’s kind of woman. Any woman, therefore, who does not have a heart for children is, at bare minimum, controlled by a worldly love for herself. And any woman who despises children and turns them into a commodity to be bought and sold, whole or in parts, is empowered by the forces of hell. There are no two ways about it.

Do we love babies? That’s obvious. In light of this, you may be tempted to think we are pro-life because we love babies. And if you did, you would be mistaken, terribly mistaken. We are not pro-life because we love babies. We love babies because we are pro-life. We love babies because we believe God is the creator; He is the author and designer of all life. We love babies because we believe God’s creative beauty is displayed in, and His image uniquely stamped upon, every boy and girl conceived in the safety of the womb. We love babies because God’s glory is displayed in them. We love babies because Jesus Christ came into this world to reclaim and restore the glory and image of God in man. We love babies because we are Christians.

To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to be reclaimed by the Creator who became our Redeemer. To be a Christian means to be rescued from evil, our own evil. And when one is rescued from his own evil he longs to see the whole world rescued as well. So what are we to think about these things? Why must a Christian be pro-life? Here are 10 reasons.

1. All human life is created by God.

The Bible gives to God exclusive credit for all human existence. The patriarch Job said to God, “Didst Thou not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese; clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews? Thou hast granted me life (Job 10:10-12). David wrote, children are a gift of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).

Every baby is a unique creation of God. Even secular medical experts dare to use the word “miraculous.” Keith L. Moore, professor and chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, wrote in The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented-Embryology, a widely used medical textbook: “The processes by which a child develops from a single cell are miraculous….Human development is a continuous process that begins when an ovum from a female is fertilized by a sperm from a male. Growth and differentiation transform the zygote, a single cell…into a multicellular adult human being. Even a single strand of DNA from a human cell contains information equivalent to a library of one thousand volumes. The complexity of the zygote itself, according to Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chief Geneticist at the Mayo Clinic, “is so great that it is beyond our comprehension.” In a short nine months’ time, one fertilized ovum grows into six thousand million cells that become a living, breathing person like you.

2. Human life is sacred because we are created in God’s image.

On the sixth day of the creation week, God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). To be made in God’s image means that man resembles God in a way the rest of creation does not. We do not fully understand what this means, but it at least means that man possesses intellect, emotion, and will and is, therefore, a moral creature. These capacities make it possible for man to have spiritual fellowship with his Creator. This gives immense value to all human life.

After Noah’s flood, God established the death penalty for murder. At the heart of God’s reasoning was the fact that man is an image-bearer. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” Genesis 9:6). To assault man is to assault God since man is made in His image. The image of God is what sets man apart as unique and infinitely more valuable than every other creature.

3. Human life begins at conception.

The phrase conceived and gave birth occurs repeatedly throughout the Scriptures. For example, it occurs four times alone in Genesis 29:32-35. King David asserted in Psalm 51:5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” David acknowledged the fact that he was a sinner by nature from the very moment he came into existence, and his existence began at conception. The humanity of Jesus began at conception. The Gospel of Luke records the angel’s message to Mary: “You will conceive in your womb” (Luke 1:31). Except for the absence of a sin nature, the humanity of Jesus was identical to ours (Hebrews 2:17) and began the moment the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary.

4. The unborn child is a person.

God consistently views the fetus as a real person regardless of its stage of development. Psalm 139:13-16 contains the most beautiful description of God’s handiwork in the womb: “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb…” I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well….Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance…”

Scripture acknowledges a difference in the baby’s appearance at various stages of human development, but always acknowledges it as fully human at every stage. Consider more examples of the unborn being treated as real persons (Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15, 41). John Jefferson Davis writes, “Rather than saying that the unborn represent ‘potential human life,’ it is more accurate to say that the unborn represent actual human life with great potential.”

5. Disabled persons are created by God and are equal in value.

When Moses tried to talk his way out of being God’s mouthpiece, the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). God takes full responsibility for the creation of those with disabilities. For years, abortion rights advocates have used “quality of life” talk to advance their cause. It is critical to recognize that God makes no distinction between quality of life and life itself. All human life holds incredible value in the eyes of the Creator.

6. The life of the unborn child belongs to God, not the mother.

For decades we’ve heard about “the mother’s right to control her own body.” However, medical science has long proven that the baby in the womb is a completely separate person. It is not the mother’s body that we are talking about. The developing child is connected to the mother and dependent on her life, but a totally new creation. Evidence of this may be seen from three simple facts: many women carry babies whose blood type differs from their own; many women carry male children; and the child has its own brainwaves, fingerprints, and DNA. The mother’s body recognizes the baby as a foreign body. If it were not for the protection of the placenta, which is triggered into existence by the baby, the mother’s body would reject the fertilized egg. Knowledge like this only verifies what God has already said in His Word, “all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine” (Ezekiel 18:4).

7. The intentional taking of innocent human life is forbidden and cursed by God.

The 6th Commandment is “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Murder is the intentional, pre-meditated taking of innocent human life. If life begins at conception and abortion is the intentional ending of life prior to birth then abortion is murder. There is no way around this conclusion. To deny it we must willfully choose to ignore the obvious evidence. Exodus 23:7 warns, “do not kill the innocent or the righteous.”   Proverbs 6:16-17 reads, “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.” Dietrich Bonhoffer, the Lutheran theologian who was executed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler, said the following of abortion: “The simple fact is that God intended to create a human being and…this human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

8. Scripture condemns the accidental causing of the death of an unborn child.

In Exodus 21:22-23, we find the following: “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life.” If this is true in regard to the accidental death of the unborn, how much more serious is its intentional destruction?

9. Nations that slaughter the innocent will reap God’s judgment.

God warned Israel that murder pollutes a nation, “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land” (Numbers 35:33). Abortion is a deplorable pollution to any nation. Over one hundred years ago, an Italian attorney, Raffaello Balestrini, warned: “Whenever abortion becomes a social custom, it is the external manifestation of a people’s decadence.” Abortion is an ungodly symptom of a nation that has willfully turned its back on God. No nation will get away with that for long.

10. God offers forgiveness to those who have taken innocent life when they come to Him through Jesus Christ–the Sin Bearer.

The Bible extends the offer of God’s forgiveness to those who will repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

If you are a woman reading this and you have personally experienced the reality of abortion, please know that God’s forgiveness is offered to you in Jesus Christ. If you are a man who has ever influenced a woman to have an abortion, please know that God’s forgiveness is offered to you as well. If you confess this sin to God and turn away from it then God will truly cleanse you. He will set you free. Jesus died for all sin, even abortion. Place your faith in Him as the One who paid the penalty for your sin. In Christ, all sin may be washed away by God’s forgiving grace. The Lord promises, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

On the other hand, if you do not see abortion as an evil that requires repentance, then, in light of these 10 truths, you need to check your heart. If you profess to be a Christian and yet are pro-choice you need to look in the mirror and ask who has deceived you. Have you deceived yourself? Have you naïvely been deceived by the world? Or have you been deceived by the devil himself?

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August 1, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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What Grace Is Mine

Yesterday, our family returned from a 2-week, 4,200-mile road trip to Arizona. We had a wonderful time of being awed by the creative works of our awesome God (the red mountains of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, to name just two), and taking part in Grace Covenant Church‘s annual family camp. One of the ways we occupied so many hours on the road with four children under eleven was by listening to audio books like Charlotte’s Web, Shiloh, and Hugo Cabret (3x!) and listening to music CDs like the Muppets, Winnie the Pooh, Casting Crowns, and the Gettys. The disc we listened to the most; however, is Keith and Kristyn Getty’s “Awaken the Dawn.” I love every song on this disc, but my personal favorite is the closing track, “What Grace Is Mine.” It is my testimony and prayer.

What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in his name be known

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him

What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me
Beneath his wings my wakened soul may soar
All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome
My Saviour lives and reigns forevermore

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him

Watch and listen to this beautiful hymn here. Learn more about the ministry of these modern hymn writers at their website: www.gettymusic.com

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July 31, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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14 Trinitarian Works

Earlier this week, I posted a brief article on the work of the triune godhead in the believer’s sanctification. I was surprised by the interest the post generated. Therefore, I’ve decided to list the ways the three members work together to accomplish the divine will. Perhaps, in the future, I may develop each of these into its own article. For now, though, I hope this will encourage your personal study and your delight in the Trinity.

Creation

  • Father – Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:29; 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Son – Colossians 1:16; John. 1:3
  • Spirit – Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13

Incarnation

  • Father – Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:9-10, 14
  • Son – John 1:14
  • Spirit – Luke 1:35

Christ’s Earthly Ministry

  • Father – John 5:19, 30; Matthew 26:39
  • Son – above verses
  • Spirit – Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; Matthew 12:28

Death of Christ

  • Father – John 3:16
  • Son – John 10:18; Galatians 2:20
  • Spirit – Hebrews 9:14

Resurrection of Christ

  • Father – Acts 2:24
  • Son – John 10:18; 2:19
  • Spirit- Romans 1:4

Evangelism

  • Father – John 6:44, 65
  • Son – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  • Spirit – John 16:8-11

Salvation

  • Father – Ephesians 1:4-6
  • Son – Ephesians 1:7-12
  • Spirit – Ephesians 1:13-14

Sanctification

  • Father – Ephesians 1:4; Jude 1:1
  • Son – Hebrews 2:11
  • Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Cor. 3:18

Eternal Security

  • Father – John 10:29
  • Son – John 10:28; Romans 8:34
  • Spirit – Ephesians 1:13; 4:30

Indwelling

  • Father – Ephesians 4:6
  • Son – Colossians 1:27
  • Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:19

Fellowship

  • Father – 1 John 1:3
  • Son – 1 John 1:3
  • Spirit – 2 Corinthians 13:14

Prayer

  • Father – John 16:23-24
  • Son – John 16:23-24
  • Spirit- Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18

Christian Service

  • Father – 1 Corinthians 12:6
  • Son – 1 Corinthians 12:5
  • Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:4

Resurrection of the Dead

  • Father – John 5:21
  • Son – John 5:21
  • Spirit – Romans 8:11

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

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July 24, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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Trinitarian Sanctification

A couple weeks ago, I was unpacking boxes of books and files in my new office at Cornerstone Community Church when a lesson plan caught my eye. It was on the Tri-Unity of God, which I had put together in the fall of 2012, while Satan was making a very distressing but unsuccessful attempt to destroy the gospel witness of our former church through one of his oldest strategies—attack from within by promoting lies about God. In this case, it was by leading a few members to deny the Trinitarian nature of God and embrace a strange mix of modalism and Jesus-only Pentacostalism, and attempt to spread it to other members. My pastoral response was twofold: plead with those who had embraced soul-damning error and protect the rest of the flock by teaching biblical doctrine. My summary document included a chart of the works that the three persons of the godhead accomplish together, fourteen of them.

One of those works, which I want to briefly reflect on, is the work of sanctification. In other words, all three members of the divine Godhead are involved in the work of rescuing sinners like you and me and gradually fashioning us into the image of Jesus. The Father called us in Christ; the Son redeemed and keeps us; and the Spirit transforms us into His image as we grow in submission to His written Word.

The Father Set Us Apart for Christ

According to Scripture, the Father chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). We are saints by calling (1 Corinthians 1:2), that is, we have been set apart by God—for God. We now belong to God since we have been bought by Him with the blood of His Son (1 Corinthians 6:20). Believers in Christ are “the called” (Jude 1), and “those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

The Son of God Redeemed Us through His Blood

According to Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:21-25); lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15); died, was buried, and rose bodily from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4); ascended to heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those whom the Father set apart to be the Son’s bride (Acts 1:9; Hebrews 4:15-16; 9:24; 10:12). The death Jesus died on the cross of Calvary was a representative, propitiatory, and substitutionary sacrifice for sin (John 19:30; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He redeemed us—bought us back from the slave market of sin—with the price of His blood (Ephesians 1:7). And those whom He redeems He also sanctifies (Hebrews 2:11).

The Spirit Transforms Us into the Image of Christ as He Empowers us to Obey the Word

According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit ministers to the believer by leading, teaching, empowering, interceding, producing spiritual fruit, and filling (controlling) those surrendered to God’s Word (Romans 8:14, 26; 1 John 2:20,27; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:18). In short, He sanctifies us. That is, as we behold the glory of Christ in the Word—with a heart attitude of submission—we are gradually, progressively transformed from the inside out. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

These glorious works should compel us to worship the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

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June 30, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Holy Spirit’s Power to Convert Sinners

Continuing our thoughts from yesterday’s post on the brightness of gospel light in an ever-darkening world, let’s think about the power of the Holy Spirit to take that same gospel and employ it to rescue sinners out of sinful lifestyles and make them right with God. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, the apostle reminded the believers in Corinth that some of them had been rescued from lives of deep sinfulness (sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft and greed, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling) and, therefore, as new creations in Christ they must never return to them. The words “Such were some of you” (6:11) are a bold declaration of the power of the gospel to change lives and lifestyles.

The next word, “but,” highlights a strong contrast between what they were in the past and what they now are in Christ: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is conversion. This is a turning from sin to God. This is what God’s transforming grace looks like. Gordon Fee writes,

For Paul there is to be the closest possible relationship between the experience of grace and one’s behavior that evidences that experience of grace … But those who concern themselves with grace without equal concern for behavior have missed Paul’s own theological urgencies. It is precisely for these reasons that the warning texts in Paul must be taken with real seriousness. Security in Christ there is, to be sure, but it is a false security that would justify sinners who have never taken seriously “but such were some of you.” That is to whitewash the sinner without regeneration or transformation; Paul simply would not understand such theology.

Some of the believers in Corinth had been rescued from the sins mentioned. Some had been guilty in experience, but all of them possessed the depravity capable of such living. Maintaining this mindset will help us to always minister grace to fellow sinners rather than display a harsh spirit even when God’s Word calls for firm rebuke. Paul describes the transforming work of God in three ways.

God Regenerates Dead Sinners and Forgives

God breathes His life into sinners by the washing of regeneration. Some in Corinth were “washed.” The aorist tense refers to a decisive action in the past. In other words, at the moment God brought spiritual life into these dead sinners, there was a complete washing. Titus 3:5–6 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” The Apostle John refers to Christ as the One who loves us and “released us from our sins by His blood” (Rev. 1:5). We must never disconnect forgiveness from the atoning work of Jesus or we lose the only biblical ground of grace. Forgiveness is free to us, but it was not free for God. It cost the life of His only Son: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Biblical forgiveness is the release of a debt. It is the removal of guilt accumulated before God. The conversion of some in Corinth was the beginning of a brand new life; their past was wiped away or cast “into the depths of the sea,” as Micah prophesies (7:19). “Forgiveness is clearing the rubble of the past so that something fresh and fine may be built in its place.” That is exactly what God does when He saves a sinner and begins a lifelong process of remaking him or her as a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

God Sets Sinners Apart as His Own Possession

Not only does God hurl a sinner’s past into the ocean of His grace, but He also sanctifies the sinner for Himself. “Sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11) comes from a Greek word that means “to make holy” or “consecrate.” It comes from the root hagios, the word for “holy.” In other words, God calls sinners out of their sin and sets them apart for the purpose of reflecting His holiness in the world. God “saved us and called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9).

Sanctification speaks not only of our immediate setting apart at the moment of conversion, but also of God’s ongoing work of spiritual growth in our lives. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). Sanctification, growth in holiness, is the expectation of the Spirit’s work in a believer’s life, “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Millard Erickson defines sanctification as “the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her actually holy,” so that the saved sinner bears “an actual likeness to God.”

The believer’s sanctification is threefold: sanctification is positional, in that it refers to God’s calling apart a sinner to Himself (Gal. 1:6); it is progressive, in that it refers to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, conforming him or her to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10); and is ultimate (glorification), in that it refers to the day when the believer’s standing and present state become one, being completely holy on that day in glory (1 John 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:23).

God Declares Sinners Righteous in Christ

Not only does God regenerate and sanctify sinners, but He justifies them as well. Justification is the legal act whereby God declares the sinner righteous on the basis of empty-handed faith in the all-sufficient death and resurrection of His Son (Rom. 4:25; Phil.3:9). “Legal” is an important word in this definition because it emphasizes the fact that justification is not experiential. Instead, it is an announcement in the “courtroom of heaven.” Justification is not the act whereby God makes us holy; that is sanctification, which is a process. In contrast, justification is a one-time event that forever changes the sinner’s standing before God based on imputed righteousness alone.

Imputed righteousness is the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to our “spiritual account” as a gift of God’s grace, received by faith, at the moment of conversion. A key verse is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God the Father imputed our sin to Christ while He hung on the cross. Then the Father judged Jesus in our place as if He were the guilty one. When we believe in Christ and trust in His atoning work on our behalf, the perfect righteousness of God’s Son is imputed to us in place of our sin. God then declares us righteous, treating us as if we had perfectly obeyed His law just as Jesus did. This is the wondrous exchange! As a result, “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17), “through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). This is all of faith, not by works: “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Rom. 3:20); “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28); “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). However, this justification is inseparably married to a living faith that produces works that glorify God (John 15:8; Eph. 2:10; the book of James).

Regeneration, sanctification, and justification—together, these three works of God shout triumphantly of the power of the Holy Spirit in conversion. Charles Hodge says of the Corinthians, “they had been converted, or completely changed. They had put off the old man, and put on the new man. Their sins, considered as filth, had been washed away; considered as pollution, they had been purged or purified; considered as guilt, they had been covered with the righteousness of God.” As we obey God’s command to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we must tell people the truth about how God views sin and, at the same time, hold out hope to those in bondage. For such were some of us.

[This blog post is adapted from Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship, published by Shepherd Press.]

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June 29, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Gospel Light Is Brightest When It Gets Darker Outside

Gospel Light Is Brightest When It Gets Darker Outside

light in darknessLast week’s Supreme Court decision in favor of homosexual marriage is one that grieves the heart of any true Christian. It brings grief because we know the Scriptures are true when it says that sin is a disgrace to any nation (Proverbs 14:34). But it also grieves us because we are sinners who have experienced the transforming power of the gospel and, therefore, also know that the hearty approval of sin does not do the sinner any favors. Instead it only leads to a deeper hardening of the heart away from God, and a searing of the conscience that cries out its warnings concerning the consequences of rebellion against God. So we grieve, but we do not grieve without hope. Why is that? Because we know that Jesus Christ and His gracious gospel always win. He will win the victory when He returns and He will win now, though it rarely appears that way from the horizontal perspective. We know this because we believe it by faith. Therefore, my prayer for the true church continues to be the same as it has been for decades: “Lord, awaken us. Since judgment shall first come to the household of God, awaken us to our own sinfulness and give us the gracious gift of repentance that we may know You more deeply, obey the Word more faithfully, love others more authentically, and announce the good news of Christ to the nations more fervently.”

Let Us Not Lose Gospel Perspective

You see, one thing that is true of the true church is that we never lose hope, ultimately. Yes, we get discouraged, even angry, but we do not lose hope if our eyes of faith are focused where they should be—on the glory of the risen Christ. And we never lose our perspective when we remember that Jesus will come again to judge the world and claim His bride and when He does He will set all things right. Therefore, let us not lose hope. Let us not lose gospel perspective. Let us remember that the gospel always shines brightest when the world is darkest. Yes, the world is running rapidly downhill toward destruction, but that is because the world is made up of sinners who, in their independence from God, are desperately trying to fill their lives with things that will never satisfy. Until they find rest in Jesus who invites all sinners to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28), folly will abound still more and more. What is needed now is the same thing that has always been needed, a firm belief in the power of the gospel to transform sinners from the inside out.

Let Us Resurrect the Doctrine of Conversion

Authentic biblical ministry stands in awe of the power of God’s gospel to convert thoroughly sinful men and women from thoroughly sinful thoughts, actions, motives, emotions, and desires to Spirit-generated new creations that reflect the beautiful love and holiness of Jesus Christ—the Lord we are called to follow. God’s vision for making disciples; therefore, requires a theological understanding of the nature and effects of sin and of the work of His sovereign grace; not merely to reform sinners, but to regenerate, redeem, rescue, and thoroughly recreate them by reclaiming them for His own possession. Therefore, we must be convinced that, in order for any natural-born rebel who is against God’s divine sovereignty to come to the place of voluntarily submitting his or her will to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and, as a disciple, obeying His commands, a supernatural revolution must take place in the inner person. Nothing short of an extraordinary work of God via the wonder-working power of the gospel message is required—a work called “conversion.”

A biblical illustration of conversion is seen in the body of believers that God redeemed in the thoroughly sinful city of Corinth. Noted for its immorality, the city contained the temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility, which housed 1,000 temple prostitutes. Its reputation was so well known that to commit sexual immorality was to “corinthianize.” G. Campbell Morgan described Corinth as one of the greatest cities in the Roman Empire, “characterized by wealth, luxuriousness and lust, by extreme cleverness and the arguments of its philosophers. The language used then was supposed to be the highest form of the Greek language. There was a phrase of the time, ‘To speak as they do at Corinth,’ which meant they spoke with accuracy and beauty, and with artistic finish. Corinth was the centre of everything intellectual, on the level of their own philosophies; but it was rotten at heart, utterly corrupt, given over to every manner of lasciviousness.” The good news is that God in His mercy chose to save some out of this corruption.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

These are words of hope. “Such were some of you” (v. 11) is a bold declaration of the power of the gospel to change lives and lifestyles. The next word, “but,” highlights a strong contrast between what they were in the past and what they now are in Christ. This is conversion. This is a turning from sin to God. This is what God’s transforming grace looks like. Let us remember that conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful proclamation of the gospel, the light of which can only be seen in the dark.

Tomorrow, we will consider the three miraculous works of the Spirit that take place upon conversion to Christ.

[Much of the content of this blog post is adapted from Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship, published by Shepherd Press.]

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June 15, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on “Counseling One Another” Now Available as eBook

“Counseling One Another” Now Available as eBook

It’s a pleasure to inform you that a revised and updated edition of the book Counseling One Another is now published by Shepherd Press (originally 2009 by Day One Publications) and is available in eBook form. Print copy will be available in a few months.

This paradigm-shifting book helps believers understand the process of being transformed by God’s grace and truth, and challenges them to be a part of the process of discipleship in the lives of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Counseling One Another biblically presents and defends every believer’s responsibility to work toward God’s goal of conforming us to the image of His Son—a goal reached through the targeted form of intensive discipleship most often referred to as counseling.

All Christians will find Counseling One Another useful as they make progress in the life of sanctification and as they discuss issues with their friends, children, spouses, and fellow believers, providing them with a biblical framework for life and one-another ministry in the body of Christ.

ENDORSEMENTS

This book gets it right! Comprehensive and convincing, Counseling One Another shows how true biblical counseling and preaching fit hand-in-glove. Those who preach, teach or counsel regularly are sure to benefit greatly from this helpful resource.
Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA

Paul Tautges is fast becoming one of the major names in biblical counseling and pastoral ministry. His Counseling One Another blog and his blog posts and book lists at The Biblical Counseling Coalition are much sought-after resources. They are on the cutting edge of what the Evangelical church needs today to advance God’s work in our broken world.
Bob Kellemen, Executive Director of The Biblical Counseling Coalition

A gathering storm surrounds the day in which we live, a dark hour in which the absolute sufficiency of the Scripture has come under attack. But how refreshing—and rare—to see a book like this that asserts the irresistible power of God’s Word to develop true discipleship by the sovereign working of His Spirit. This is not a ‘trendy book’ like so many, blown about by the prevailing evangelical winds. Rather, here is an anchor for authentic ministry that will stimulate real spiritual growth in God’s people. May the Lord set an open door before this book and use it to affect the lives of many.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson, One Passion Ministries

The ministry of counseling has for too long been relegated to the professional counselor. Paul Tautges brings the biblical command for discipleship right back to the local church and to all believers. He takes the word “counseling,” a word often perceived as being for professionals only (and threatening to average church laymen), and helps to reduce that fear, encouraging believers to fulfill their responsibility by uniquely redefining this ministry biblically as intensely focused and personal discipleship. Rather than send people who are struggling spiritually, socially, and emotionally to a limited group of professionals, Tautges makes the case theologically that all church members have the responsibility to disciple one another and restore hurting people. He makes it clear that it is not just pastors who are responsible for counseling, but it is a “one-another ministry” for all who claim the name of Christ. Counseling One Another is a must-read for all pastors and believers who take Matthew 28 and discipleship in the local church seriously.

Dr. Ron Allchin, NANC Fellow, Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Center, Arlington Heights, Illinois, and author of Ripening Sonship

Like their pastors, most Christians have adopted a professionalized or psychologized view of counseling that naturally excludes uneducated laity. This is why I believe that this book, Counseling One Another, addresses a serious deficiency in the discipleship ministry of Christians within the church. It advocates a radical departure from the status quo and a return to an authentic personal ministry of the Word among Christians through discipleship counseling. It effectively lays the theological foundation for Christians regaining the New Testament priority of addressing personal soul troubles with biblical counsel.

Dr. John D. Street, Chair, Graduate Program in Biblical Counseling, The Master’s College and Seminary, Santa Clarita, California

Get Counseling One Another from Shepherd Press or Amazon.

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