Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

January 21, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Nuggets of Wisdom

Here are a few articles that I found helpful this week:

What does the Bible say about criticism? – “If criticism cannot be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit, it’s better left unsaid.”

What does the Bible say about resentment? – “Resentment is the cheapest and least legitimate form of anger.”

Choose to Sing into the Darkness – from the True Woman blog

Should Christians ‘Disown’ Gay Sons and Daughters – In his typical manner, Jonathan Leeman offers a wonderful blend of grace, truth, and wisdom.

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January 20, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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How to Pray on Inauguration Day

When we commit to praying for our leaders (whether or not we agree with them), God is pleased with us and is pleased to work in their hearts according to His will. In relation to this divinely given duty, one passage in particular contains fundamental principles every believer needs to understand. Paul says in 1 Tim. 2:1–4:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In these verses we hear the apostle’s plea to us to be obedient to God by praying for our leaders. Continue reading…

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January 18, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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What Is a Saint?

If you were to ask the average person to name someone in their lifetime whom they considered to be a saint, one name that you would surely hear is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor, especially in Calcutta, India. Last September, 19 years after her death, she was canonized a saint by the Pope. But was she a saint? The Roman Catholic Church says Yes, as would most people of any religion. But what does the Bible say?

In Philippians 4:21-23, the apostle closes his letter with three simple sentences. He greets those who are in Christ and the family of God, and wishes them grace, and then wrapped up his letter the same way he began (1:1), by calling them “saints.” But what is a saint?

The word “saint” is from the word from which we get “holy.” The word means to be set apart. Therefore, a saint is a person who is set apart in Jesus Christ. Biblically, a saint is a sinner who has exchanged his faith in himself and his good works for the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Biblically, a saint is a person who is trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sin and the salvation of his soul. This then results in a corresponding pursuit of holiness in life. None of us, no matter how kind-hearted or well-intentioned we may be in our service to God and others, can earn sainthood. It is a gift of God’s grace received through faith.

Since that is true, we ought to be concerned about what Mother Teresa believed about the gospel, and how she described her own faith. Mother Teresa was a universalist; she believed that all religions eventually lead to heaven. For example, in her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

“We never try to convert those who receive [aid from our mission of charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.”

Elsewhere she wrote: “I love all religions. … If people become better Hindus, better Muslims, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there.” Or in another place, “All is God — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, etc., all have access to the same God.”

Clearly, Mother Teresa did not believe Jesus Christ is the only way for sinners to be reconciled to God. But what did she believe about her own salvation? In a collection of personal letters published after her death, she wrote: “Where is my faith? Even deep down . . . there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. . . . If there be God—please forgive me.” According to the letters compiled by the Vatican, Mother Teresa’s doubts continued until her death.

In light of this and the almost universal exaltation of her life and faith as an example (even, sadly, among evangelicals), we need to ask and answer the question: What is a saint? Let’s answer that question by considering three truths about what it means to be a saint.

The Bible teaches that every true believer in Jesus Christ is a saint and, therefore, is…

Set apart by God

The book of Romans was written to “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). The book of 1 Corinthians begins with these words: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2). Believers are saints by calling, not by deed. When God saves us from our sin, He at the same time calls us to Himself. He sets us apart. Alva McClain: “God never goes to a sinner and tells him to try to attain to sainthood. He picks us out of the mud, and He says, ‘You are a saint.’”

Consider the apostle Paul’s testimony in Galatians 1:11-17. God’s choice to set apart Paul unto the gospel was purely by God’s grace. We know this because Paul said he was set apart before he was even born. How then could God’s choice have had anything to do with Paul? It could not have. It’s that simple. According to Ephesians 1:3-4 this is true of every believer. We are set apart by God for His purpose and glory.

Set apart from the world

According to the Bible, a saint is a sinner whose relationship with the world has changed because of the transforming work of God’s grace. But this is an unpopular message today. In his book Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, Kent Hughes writes, Our own time and place require that we take stock of what is actually happening in our culture and in the church. The evidence is pretty clear that we do not understand either of these as well as we should. Among evangelicals, there is a great disconnect between (on the one hand) what Christians believe and assimilate from sermons and Christian sources and how (on the other hand) they actually live … The contemporary evangelical church is not lacking for moral and spiritual instruction. It is lacking in its ability to remain uncontaminated by the unchristian thinking and morality of contemporary culture.

Yet Scripture calls us to live differently because of who we are—holy ones. Consider what 1 Peter teaches us. Since we have been chosen by God and born again through the Spirit and the Word, we should be holy in mind (1:13), holy in desires (1:14), and holy in the habits of our life (1:15-16). Why is this? Not only because the God who called us is holy, but also because we are part of the holy priesthood of God (2:5). A believer is one who is part of the holy priesthood of God and, therefore, has rejected the ways of the world.

Set apart unto Christ

Ephesians 5:1-5 teaches us that we are to imitate God, not only because He is holy, but also because, as children of God, we are called reflect our heavenly Father. We are to walk in love, as a living sacrifice, and avoid sinful lifestyles since they are now “out of place.” That is, these sins are out of sync with who we now are in Christ.

Why is holiness a fitting calling? Colossians 3:1-4 teaches us that we are no longer our own, but we now belong to Christ. Our old life is dead. The only life we now have is hidden with Christ in God. Since this is true, we should set our mind on the things above.

So what do we conclude?

  • Sainthood is not a title obtained through selfless service and good works. It is a privileged position received as a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Every believer is responsible to progressively become holy in mind, heart, and lifestyle.

Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I a saint? Is there evidence I have been personally set apart by God to be His own possession? Or am I merely a religious person living on the power of my own selfish pride?

If you answered yes to the first question, “Am I a saint?” then you must also answer the second question.

  • Am I living like I am set apart? Is there a progressive movement away from sin and worldliness toward holiness and Christlikeness? Or am I merely living for myself, one foot in the world and the other with God?

Are you a saint? Are you called by God through faith in Jesus Christ? If so, are you living like one?

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon by the same title.]

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January 16, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry

The more we progress in the sanctification that is promoted by exposure to the Word of God, the more we see the hidden motives of our heart. Indeed this is one of the purposes of Scripture: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to perform heart surgery, which exposes the whys behind the whats of our behavior.

In addition, questions stir the conscience. Therefore, I have found the following 20 questions helpful as the Lord continues to do His patient work of conforming me to the image of Christ. These questions are drawn from Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. Ask yourself how you would complete this statement: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if…

  1.  I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
  2. I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
  3. I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
  4. I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
  5. people are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
  6. someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
  7. I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
  8. I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
  9. I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
  10. I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
  11. I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
  12. This one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
  13. I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
  14. My race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.” (Racial/cultural idolatry)
  15. A particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
  16. My children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
  17. Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry)
  18. I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
  19. my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence or power.” (Ideology idolatry)
  20. I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry)

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January 13, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Gender as a Spectrum – Moral Chaos for Children

Gender as a Spectrum – Moral Chaos for Children

[Today’s guest post is written by Jay Younts, author of Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage, and is re-posted here with permission.]

The January 2017 issue of National Geographic examines the issue of gender. The editor of the magazine believes gender is not an issue of male and female, but that gender is best understood as numerous points along a spectrum of possible identities. As this special magazine issue indicates, the idea of gender as a spectrum is a recent concept and rapidly changing the way culture and science view the sex of humans.

According to National Geographic, gender identity and sexual orientation are fixed realities that are determined by children as they grow. The idea that humans are created male and female by God has been been discarded. The notion that gender can be determined at birth is also dismissed. Note this quote from an article in this issue entitled Helping Families Talk About Gender:

“There is no way to predict how children will identify later in life. This uncertainty is one of the hardest things about parenting a gender nonconforming child. It is important for parents to make their home a place where their child feels safe, loved unconditionally, and accepted for who they are. Research suggests that gender is something that we are born with; It can’t be changed by any interventions.”

When God’s order and plan are rejected, uncertainty is the result. Taking the article and the theme of this issue at face value, the physical anatomy of children at birth is not a reliable indicator of the sexual gender and orientation of that baby. To be sensitive to what the child determines, parents must wait until the child declares for themselves what their gender is and then what sexual orientation they will pursue. The article continues:

“While gender identity typically becomes clear in early childhood, sexual orientation — which refers to the person one falls in love with or is attracted to — becomes evident later. Research suggests that like gender identity, sexual orientation cannot be changed.”

The social chaos that will result from this thinking is impossible to calculate. A baby who looks like a boy, may actually identify as a girl or a mix of girl and boy who may determine to engage in a range of sexual activities that is consistent with an emerging orientation that is yet unknown to that child. One final quote from the article:

“When your child discloses an identity to you, respond in an affirming, supportive way. Understand that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed, but the way people identify their gender identity or sexual orientation may change over time as they discover more about themselves.”

It is up to the child to determine, to discover, what sexual gender he or she will be and the mix and gender of the sexual partners she or he will have in life. The choice is totally up to the child and how he or she identifies with who she or he thinks she is. Chaos awaits.

Humanity is perceived by this article to be an emerging evolutionary flow where each person is his own point of sexual self-reference. There is no proof given tor this assertion. Note the highlighted portions in the three quotes above. In the first two quotes we read that “research suggests” identity / orientation cannot be changed. But then just a couple of paragraphs later in this short article we read that we must “understand that gender Identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed.” No references are given for this research. No other sources are cited. The suggestions have become absolute. The term “research suggests” has replaced the purpose and plan of God in determining issues regarding human sexuality.

The truth of God has been exchanged for unfounded assertions. By disregarding the truth of God’s word, culture is plunging itself into a sea of uncertainty. Personal choice is everything. In this context there can be no sexual immorality except the immortality of denying personal choice in sexual behavior. Your two year old boy may decide to identify as a girl who desires both male and female sexual partners. And it is your job as a parent to show unconditional love, acceptance and affirmation of this self-determined gender and orientation.

Moral chaos will result. Indeed, if you examine the contents of this issue of National Geographic you will see that moral chaos has already arrived.

What is God’s answer to this chaos?

First, you must believe that gender is not a matter of human choice. Genesis 1:27 says,
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”

God did not create more or less than two genders of humans. As it was at the beginning, so it is now. Because of the impact of sin there are places where cultural traditions produce behaviors that accommodate a distorted view of human sexual practice. But these distortions do not change the reality that God created two genders. Also because of the impact of the fall of man, there are rare occurrences of children born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics. But, as with any number of other congenital conditions, these occurrences do not constitute a change in the created order.

With regard to sexual behavior, marriage remains the one social construct where God says that sexual activity is appropriate. The fact that people rebel against what God has commanded does not change what is honoring to God.

The teaching of the Bible is sufficient to address the radical assertions posed by National Geographic. But you must be aggressively faithful to God and his word if you want to lead your children to clarity of thought and purity of sexual practice. God, not a developing human child, is the one who determines gender and what is healthy sexual behavior. His word fully discloses all that you need to know. Don’t be taken captive by the impending moral chaos. I discuss these issues and more in my new book, Everyday Talk about Sex and Marriage: a biblical handbook for parents. It will be available from Shepherd Press in February.

There is much more that needs to be said. This is why I am grateful to Cornerstone Community Church for hosting a conference that brings the light of Scripture to these dark times. This February 17&18 are the dates for the conference. It is called Redeeming the Gift, God’s Design for Sexuality. I am honored to participate in this conference along with Tim Challies and Paul Tautges. Here is a link to information about this important response to the gender and sexual chaos of our culture.

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January 12, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Power and the Pattern for Marriage

The Power and the Pattern for Marriage

A few days ago, I began reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. The conclusion to the first chapter is so well written and compelling that I wanted to share it with you.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom—and speak of them—and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it.

This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.” (pp 48-49)

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January 10, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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4 Conclusions Concerning “God Is Love”

Many times, it is the simplest truths that are the most profound and the simplest truths that are most easily forgotten, such as the truth “God is love.” The truth is so simple that people hear it and ignore it. “Of course, He is,” they say, “What else would He be?” And yet it is profound to think that the holy God could love sinners.

What does it mean that God is love? How do we know that this is true? What has He done to demonstrate it? And what does it mean for you and for me, as sinners? As believers in Christ? These are important questions, which 1 John 4:7-11 answers for us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So, here are four conclusions concerning the truth that God is love.

God’s gracious, saving work in the heart of a sinner is the only means to true love (vv. 7-8a).

In the New Covenant, which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus, God gives us a new heart at the moment of our conversion. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Because we are born sinners we are spiritually dead. Only by the miracle of the new birth can we be made new. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” This new birth takes place by means of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (John 3:8; 1 Peter 1:23).

God’s nature is to love (v. 8b).

Love began with God and ends with God. Without God, it is impossible to even have love present anywhere in our world. Love is part of God’s essence, an integral part of who He is. Love is what moved God to initiate His rescue plan for sinners: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18). God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead He patiently waits, calling them—calling us—to repent of our sin and believe in Jesus as the only Savior (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s love has already been shown and proven to us (vv. 9-10).

Scripture makes it clear that the Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest demonstration of the love of God for sinners. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). By means of Christ’s death on the cross, God manifested both His love and justice at the same time. He punished sin and provided the one and only way for us to be reconciled back to Himself. This is love.

God’s expectation for believers is that we love one another (vv. 11-13).

God’s command to believers to love one another is one of the most important themes in the book of 1 John. For example, see 1 John 3:11-18.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (See also 1 John 4:7-12).

This love for one another is a fruit of God’s grace in our lives and one of the means by which God is made visible. It is one of the most powerful elements of our gospel witness to the world (John 13:35).

The central message of the Bible is actually very simple, yet profound. God loves sinners and has done everything to rescue us from the eternal consequences of our sin. As the angel announced, there has been born for us a Savior. He is Christ the Lord. In His great love, God has given to us Jesus Christ. He and the salvation He brought are God’s gifts to us as sinners. Have you responded to God’s love? Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you have not repented and returned to God by faith in Jesus Christ, please come to Him today.

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January 6, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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The Uniqueness of God’s Lordship

“To regard God as Lord is to see him as utterly unique,” writes John Frame in his new Systematic Theology. “He is unique both (1) in his radical differences from anything in creation and (2) in his equally radical differences from anything else that is called a god or that is falsely worshiped as a god. These two forms of uniqueness are connected. The false gods that people worship are always created beings. The very nature of idolatry is to worship a created thing as if it were God.”

So what makes God’s lordship unique? What sets him apart from all false gods? What makes Him worthy of exclusive worship? Frame lists five ways.

  1. The Lord Is Absolute. God is absolute in that his attributes possess the highest possible degree of perfection. “His power can never be surpassed or defeated (Job 23:13; Isa. 43:13). His understanding is without limit (Ps. 147:5), so that ‘no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord’ (Prov. 21:30). His love is immeasurable (Eph. 3:19).
  2. The Lord Is Tripersonal. “The Lord is not an impersonal force or principle….Rather than taking him for granted, as we do with impersonal things and forces, we must always take his concerns into account, responding to him in repentance, love, thanksgiving, worship…..In Scripture, the personal is greater than the impersonal. The impersonal things and forces in this world are created and directed by a personal God.”
  3. The Lord Is Transcendent. “God is ‘exalted’ not mainly as someone living miles above the earth, but as One who is on a throne. The expressions of transcendence refer to God’s rule, his kingship, his lordship (Isa. 66:1).
  4. The Lord Is Immanent. “The deepest sense in which God is present is in Jesus, God incarnate. Jesus is Immanuel, the name given to him in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23. To say that God is present or with us is not merely to describe his location but to describe his saving purpose. He comes among us, not just to be among us, but to deliver us from sin and its consequences.”
  5. The Lord Is Creator. “In Genesis 1, God calls light to appear out of darkness, when light was still nonexistent (v. 3). He is the God who ‘calls into existence the things that do not exist’ (Rom. 4:17). Nobody else can do this.”

What is the proper response to this God, the God of Scripture? It is nothing less than full surrender and humble, exuberant praise and exclusive worship.

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January 5, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Register Now for “Redeeming the Gift”

Last week, while reading Owen Strachan’s latest book, my heart was affirmed that our upcoming conference on biblical sexuality is being planned under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, writes in The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them,

Pornography, adultery, homosexual marriage and transgenderism are not the main issues. Sin is the issue which makes engaging the culture with biblical sexuality a gospel opportunity. It’s a mission moment. At the very worst of times, when Satan seems to have the upper hand, God is using it for victory. Just look at the cross. For this battle we need Christians who are passionate but sober-minded, who think biblically and pray earnestly, and who will speak the truth in love. The real issue is whether the church will be silent….

We don’t want to destroy and discourage people; we want to win them. And we want to present a compelling gospel-shaped world to the culture through biblical manhood and womanhood. It’s about God’s authority to design His world. This is a mission moment that will define the church.

On February 17-18, our church will host Redeeming the Gift: God’s Design for Sexuality. This 1½ day conference will bring much-needed biblical clarity to a confusing conversation. Together we will learn what the Scriptures teach about God’s good design and how He has provided hope for each and every one of us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, let me give you five reasons you should register. You will be helped personally and equipped for more effective gospel outreach and service to Christ in our confused world.

  • As parents, we will be given practical teaching on how to have “the talk” with our young children, and how to engage our teens and young adults on these topics from a biblical perspective. We encourage you to bring your high-school-aged children as part of your discipleship of them in the Lord’s ways.
  • Men, young and old, will be helped to reorient their understanding of sex from Scripture, according to God’s plan for this gift.
  • Women of all ages will receive instruction and encouragement on important matters related to biblical womanhood.
  • Every believer will be equipped to better understand the beauty of God’s original design for men and women, and how to engage others about this subject.
  • And every sinner (that’s all of us) will be directed to Christ and His gospel for the hope and promise of forgiveness, and the help of ongoing and sufficient grace for godliness.

I’m thankful for the courage of the Cornerstone elders and staff to take on this sensitive topic. I compel you to attend this timely and important event. Please take a moment to register now. Early bird discount ends this Sunday, January 8th. Looking forward to seeing you!

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January 5, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Victorious Christian Running

Victorious Christian Running

One of the favorite metaphors used by New Testament writers to describe the Christian life is that of the race. For example, the apostle asked the Corinthians, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? (1 Cor 9:24).  Many run, but not everyone is a winner.

The word race is stadion in the Greek, from which we get “stadium,” a running track about 200 yards long and 30 yards wide. On this track, the Corinthians observed the foot races as part of the annual games. They watched many run, but not everyone got the prize. Therefore, Paul exhorts the believers, run in such a way that you win. Run in such a way that you may win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Winning not only requires putting forth every ounce of energy toward the goal, but also includes a willingness to obey, to submit to the leader. If the athlete runs out of bounds he loses. If he has a false start he’s out. As there are rules in a race there are commands in the Christian life, and our rule book is the Word of God. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work [and the Christian race] (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The author of Hebrews used the race metaphor, too, to urge his readers to keep running the Christian race toward the finish line. However, in this case, please take note of the plural personal pronouns:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Too often we think of the Christian life as an individual race. It is my race. It is your race. That is, we often attempt to run it alone, or even in competition with one another. But that is not how this Scripture portrays it. Instead, the Christian race is a group activity. Yes, we have our own personal responsibility and we cannot blame anyone else for the lack of victory we experience in our lives. But, still, we do not run the race alone.

Finishing the Christian race victoriously cannot be accomplished in prideful independence, but only in the humility of interdependence. Therefore, as we stand upon the threshold of a new year, let us determine to practice 3 ongoing disciplines together.

Lay aside weights and sins (v. 1a).

Sin is a weight that drags us down and prevents us from running the race well. There are obvious sins that trip us up and cause us to fall, but there are also weights that perhaps may not be emphatically labeled sins, but still they hinder us. What are the weights that are holding you back?  What are the habits that are weighing you down? There is much freedom in the Christian life, but it should not be exercised unless it builds up others. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up (1 Cor. 10:23).

Sin entangles us; it “clings so closely.” It trips us up. Like a spider, it weaves its intricate, sticky web around every area of our lives. We must lay our sins aside. We must kill them. See, for example, 2 Timothy 2:22; Ephesians 4:31; 1 Peter 2:1; Colossians 3:5-6. Runners in the ancient games stripped down to the bare essentials. They wore nothing that was not necessary. Why? To let go of weights that would slow them down. We must do the same.

Run the race with endurance (v. 1b).

The word endurance is from a compound word meaning “to stay under.” This word pictures someone who successfully carries a heavy load for a long time without trying to escape. He remains under the discipline of the Christian life. He is not a quitter, but does the hard things instead of coasting through life.

James wrote of this endurance: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). God often tests our faith in order to build within us the character qualities that are lacking, one of which is endurance. But running with endurance requires another quality, its companion: self-control.

Again, using the race metaphor, the apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians, everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. This is a picture of self-denial. Followers of Christ are called to a life of self-denial. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Running with endurance is not easy. It requires daily effort. Using cruise control in the Christian race is not a good idea.

Focus on Jesus and His finished work (vv. 2-3).

While we are running, we are looking—looking at Jesus. Not looking at ourselves, though self-examination is necessary. Not looking at others, though loving concern for them is necessary. Not looking at our past, though there is much to learn from it. But looking at Christ who is the “founder and perfecter” of our faith. He began a good work in us through faith and He will finish it by faith (Phil. 1:6; Col 2:7). What propelled Him to endure was “the joy set before Him.” The joy was not the cross itself. No. Whatever joy He set His eyes upon resulted in His willingness to endure the cross. The joy set before Him was the promise of a bride from the Father. What motivated His endurance was His desire to share His glory with His bride—us, believers (John 17). While doing so, he despised the shame brought upon Him by our sin—our shame. And then He sat down at the right hand of God because His work on our behalf was finished.

As we enter a new year, let us choose to embrace these ongoing disciplines in the Christian race. Let us lay aside the sins and weights that are slowing us down, let us endure while we run,  and let us keep our eyes on the One who already ran the race on our behalf…and finished victoriously.

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church.]

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