Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

March 30, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 10 Ways to Hate People – Expanded

10 Ways to Hate People – Expanded

Earlier this month, David Murray posted a list entitled 10 Ways to Hate People. The list struck me, especially since these sins are all too common among those who profess to know Jesus Christ. The list has come back to my mind a number of times. Therefore, I decided to expand on David’s list simply by adding a few Scriptural supports, which drive the truths deeper into our hearts. May the Lord truly work His transforming grace in each of us so that we will practice the better way, the loving life!

  1. Grudge their success.  “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy” (1 Corinthians 13:4). “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26).
  2. Blacken their name.  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18). Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
  3. Desire their failure. “But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune” (Obadiah 1:12).
  4. Ignore their graces and gifts. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many….The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 21-26).
  5. Suspect their motives.  Biblical love “always trusts” (NIV) or “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
  6. Rejoice when they fall or fail.  Love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
  7. Refuse their confession.  “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ [Read the full context and Jesus’ terrifying warning in Matthew 18:21-35]. For a similar warning, read Matthew 6:14-15. Finally, read Matthew 5:21-26, and consider how “the silent treatment” is a manifestation of deep anger, hatred, and murder of the heart.
  8. Highlight only their defects.  Even though the apostle could have chosen to write only of the Corinthians’ errors and sinful ways, he chose the road of love instead, which highlighted the evidences of grace in them. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4-8). For more on this topic, read Sam Crabtree’s excellent book Practicing Affirmation.
  9. Despise their callings and roles:  “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
  10. Take vengeance upon them:  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:9). “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:17-18).

If we are honest, each and every one of us is guilty of having some hate in our hearts, at least at times. Let us repent, today, ask the Lord to fill our hearts with the love of Christ, and actively put on love (Colossians 3:14). Jesus died in our place and rose from the dead in order that we may no longer live for ourselves, but for Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Consider one final, sober warning from the apostle John: “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:8-10).

RELATED POST: 37 Ways to Love One Another

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March 23, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on I Shall Walk in a Wide Place

I Shall Walk in a Wide Place

“I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” (Psalm 119:45).

This verse struck me a couple weeks back when I was working through Psalm 119. “What does the phrase ‘walk in a wide place’ mean,” I asked. In the margin of the ESV, Proverbs 4:12 is noted as a cross reference: “When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.” Here’s my conclusion, what I wrote in my journal.

To walk in a wide place appears to mean that the way of wisdom—the way of the Word—is the way of God’s blessing. Not that God’s way does not include many, many difficulties (Jesus said, “Hard is the way…”), but when God opens a door, He opens it wide; He does not merely crack it open. Instead, He throws it open. God’s sovereignty is over the open and closed doors (Revelations 3:7). When God throws open the door of His will in our lives, it will seem plain, obvious, and even easy to walk right through to the other side—by faith. That seems to be what walking “in a wide place” means.

Lord, cultivate the discipline of obedience more consistently in my life so that I may walk in a wide place.

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March 19, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Test of Trials – Part 4

The Test of Trials – Part 4

In the past few posts, we’ve been walking through James 1:2-12 and learning how God uses trials to test and grow our faith in order to lead us to greater fruitfulness. First, James taught us that trials test our posture, that is, our faith-response and countenance in the face of suffering. Second, we learned that trials test our prayers; they lead us to a deeper state of God-dependency in which we cry out to Him for wisdom. Third, trials test our priorities; they force us to make decisions concerning what we really are living for, what we are investing our lives in. Do we live for God, or the material world? Are we truly losing our life in order to find it again (Matthew 10:39)? Today, and finally, we learn that trials test the level of our perseverance. In one way, we come full circle from where we began. Trials train us in endurance and, in the end, we persevere and are blessed by God.

TRIALS TEST OUR PERSEVERANCE (v. 12)

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial” means happy is the man who perseveres. The word “man” is used in the general sense (like v. 8), that is, of man or woman. Why is the persevering believer blessed? For “once he has been approved [by God] “he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

  • Perseverance is proof of genuine life

Let me clear. Perseverance under trial does not earn us eternal life, but it is proof that our faith is authentic, that we possess the real thing. Jesus taught concerning the end times, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13). Unfortunately, not all who possess Christ will endure to the end. Some will be like the seed that fell on the rocky soil. It sprouted quickly and withered away.

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. – Matthew 13:20-21

Perseverance in the faith is evidence a person has truly been born again.

  • Perseverance and joy are linked together

As we learn to count it all joy when we encounter various trials, one immeasurable blessing is the endurance of faith that results. This is perseverance being fed by joy. However, the opposite is also true. As we learn to persevere in trial, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with true joy and a love for the Lord that does not diminish, but grows even deeper. As D. Edmond Hiebert writes, “Falling into various trials can be considered ‘pure joy’ only when those trials are effectively endured.”

This is God’s verdict! The man or woman who perseveres under trial and submits to whatever God wants to teach him, or her, through that suffering will in the end profit from it. But the profit will be spiritual, not material. It will be spiritual maturity, Christ-likeness, and growth in love, hope, and grace.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

What is the reward for perseverance in trials? At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the one who perseveres “will receive the crown of life.” God is the potter; we are the clay. Let us submit to the Master Potter so that He may make us into a beautiful vessel for His use and for His glory.

Previous Posts in this Series

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March 16, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Test of Trials – Part 3

The Bible indicates that a person’s attitude toward material possessions is a reflector of his true spiritual condition. For example, when Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to leave his wealth and follow Him, the man “became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:23). Luke goes on to say, “And Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 18:24). The abundance of material riches often keeps a person from sensing their spiritual bankruptcy which, in turn, leaves them unwilling to run to Christ for the gift of righteousness they need in order to be justified before God.

In light of this, therefore, one rarely-recognized benefit of trials is that they test what a person is really living for; they clarify a person’s true priorities, not the ones they may only imagine are theirs. And a very common form of trials is that which is related to material riches— whether you have them or you don’t. What James does in the next few verses is present a contrast in the form of a riddle, a contrast between the “poor rich” man and the “rich poor” man (Kent Hughes). He says it this way:

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

In two earlier posts, we’ve seen that trials test our posture and our prayers. Now we see how they also test our priorities; our relationship to wealth tests our values.

TRIALS TEST OUR PRIORITIES (vv. 9-11)

Both the poor and the rich are tested by God. God tests us so that we learn to glory in what matters most because He designed us to be driven by what we treasure: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

  • The materially poor believer should glory in spiritual riches (v. 9)

The “lowly brother” is the poor Christian. In light of being a child of the King of heaven, he ought to “boast in his high exaltation.” He should take rightful pride in his high position in Christ. The apostle Paul describes the high position of every believer in Ephesians 2:4-7.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

He who is materially poor, now, will not in the end be if indeed he is spiritually rich in Jesus. If the trials of life have left you with financial loss, but you also know that you possess Christ and He possesses you, then glory in that; glory in God and His great love for you. Meditate on what you once were—dead in sin—and what you are now—alive in Christ—and the glorious position of already being seated with Him in heaven.

  • The materially rich believer should humble himself before God and others (vv. 10-11)

The “rich” man in the text is the rich believer. The wealthy Christian should glory “in his humiliation,” that is, he should realize that all of his riches are nothing before God and one day they will perish “because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” He who is rich now will be poor in the end if he treasures his possessions more than he treasures Christ.

Earthly riches are temporary; they make themselves wings and fly away (Proverbs 23:50. Wealth is dangerous and the love of it leads many astray (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Therefore, James is teaching the wealthy Christian that his riches will pass away, too. The reason James places his warning where he does in his letter is because he will revisit the matter of riches and challenge believers to demonstrate true Christianity by how they use their riches to care for one another in the body of Christ. He will present the love of the brethren, specifically meeting their material needs, as a test of genuine saving faith, as John does in his letter (1 John 3:16-18).

So, both the poor man and the rich man have a trial to face. As it says in Proverbs, one faces the temptation to steal while the other faces the temptation to forsake God because of a sense of self-sufficiency: “Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

So, whether you are rich or poor, glory in Christ. He alone is worthy of being our greatest treasure.

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March 12, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 60 Ways the Inerrant Word Blesses Us

60 Ways the Inerrant Word Blesses Us

Psalm 119 has been a personal favorite of mine since the early days of my Christian life, studying it was instrumental to my growth. Then, while helping to plant a church in Kansas in the late 1980’s, the Psalm became my choice for the first adult Sunday School class we offered. Working through the Psalm eight verses at a time with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ blessed my soul.

Therefore, when Mark Dever publicly read Psalm 119 and preached from it last week at the Inerrancy Summit it was a special blessing to me. In his sermon, Mark challenged his listeners to work through the Psalm and note the ways the Word blesses us. So, I’ve spent my devotional times this past week mining the Psalm, doing what Mark exhorted, and now I’m sharing my findings with you.

Open your Bible to Psalm 119 and work through this list in your personal devotional time, or your small group. See if you find any more blessings that I missed.

The inerrant Word of God…

  1. Shows us how to keep our heart and way blameless (1, 3, 80)
  2. Guides our wholehearted pursuit of God (2, 10, 145, 148)
  3. Guards us from the shame of sin when our attention remains fixed upon obeying it (4-6, 31)
  4. Generates heartfelt prayer and praise to God (7, 12, 48, 62, 64, 108, 146)
  5. Cultivates trust in God’s help and presence (8, 141, 150-151, 173-174)
  6. Keeps the young heart pure (9)
  7. Prevents sinning when we treasure it (11, 101, 133)
  8. Breeds an urgency to proclaim and teach it (13)
  9. Produces godly delight in eternal riches more than the abundance of temporal things (14, 16, 35-36, 72, 103, 127)
  10. Reveals the ways of God (15)
  11. Feeds humility in prayer and a longing for God’s blessing (17, 26, 56, 58, 132, 135)
  12. Gives insight into that which is truly spiritual, thus leading to a continuous cycle of growth (18)
  13. Guides our earthly pilgrimage, lighting our way in this darkened world (19, 176)
  14. Generates a never-ending longing for itself (20, 64)
  15. Rebukes the insolent and arrogant (21)
  16. Removes scorn and contempt (22)
  17. Gives confidence and perseverance in the face of enemies who plot against us (23, 51, 53, 61, 69-70, 78, 85-87, 94-95, 98, 110, 115, 121-122, 134, 150-151, 157-158, 161)
  18. Counsels us (24)
  19. Renews our soul when we are in the dust of despair (25)
  20. Gives understanding of the ways of the Creator (27, 73)
  21. Encourages meditation on the works of God (27)
  22. Strengthens our hearts when they are overcome by grief (28)
  23. Puts false ways away from us (29, 163)
  24. Explains “the way of faithfulness” (30)
  25. Enlarges our heart for God to run the race of obedience (32, 34, 57, 106, 112, 17-168)
  26. Nourishes perseverance of faith to the end (33, 112)
  27. Turns our eyes from worthless things and leads us to true life (37)
  28. Nurtures the fear of the Lord (79, 116, 120)
  29. Prevents reproach (39)
  30. Reveals the righteousness that leads to life (40, 156)
  31. Assures us of the promise of salvation (41, 94, 81-82, 123, 166)
  32. Answers our accusers (42, 78, 121-122)
  33. Generates hope (43, 49, 74, 147, 166)
  34. Leads to walking “in a wide place” (44-45)
  35. Emboldens our witness (46-47)
  36. Comforts us in our affliction ((50, 52, 75-76, 82-84, 141, 143, 170)
  37. Becomes the believer’s song for the earthly journey (54, 172)
  38. Reminds us of who God really is, what He is like, and of His steadfast love—His “name” (55, 76, 88, 124, 159)
  39. Cultivates a growing satisfaction in God (57)
  40. Renews our mind, leading to repentance from sin and obedience to God (59-60)
  41. Establishes the sphere of godly friendships (63)
  42. Describes how the Lord always does well with us (65)
  43. Teaches us good judgment and knowledge (66)
  44. Opens our spiritual eyes to God’s goodness and His good purposes for our affliction (67-68, 71, 75)
  45. Reveals the mercy of God, dispensing it to our needy souls (77, 156)
  46. Provides the basis for crying out to God for justice (84-86, 118-119, 126, 136, 139, 149)
  47. Stands forever; it never fails as an enduring testimony to God’s faithfulness ((89-91, 111a, 142, 144, 152, 160)
  48. Strengthens the inner man in times of affliction (92, 107, 159)
  49. Gives spiritual life to the soul (93)
  50. Provides the standard of perfection (96)
  51. Imparts wisdom and spiritual understanding (97-100, 125, 130, 169)
  52. Teaches us the path of God (102)
  53. Feeds and satisfies spiritual appetites (103, 131)
  54. Engenders hatred for sin (104, 113, 128, 163)
  55. Lights our way in this darkened world (105)
  56. Produces joy in the heart (111, 143, 162)
  57. Provides a refuge when attacked by evildoers (114-115, 117, 139, 153-155, 161)
  58. Renews the longing to obey God (129)
  59. Defines the righteousness of God (137-138, 142)
  60. Brings peace to the troubled soul (165)

Once you savor Psalm 119, you will find yourself returning there throughout your spiritual pilgrimage. He who truly tastes the food of the Word returns to its table, habitually.

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March 9, 2015
by Paul Tautges
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The Test of Trials – Part 2

Nothing tests the sincerity of the heart motives behind our prayers like trials do. Why is that? Trials are custom-designed by God to reveal to us the idolatry that remains in our hearts, not so that He may gleefully watch us suffer or, God forbid, punish us for something Christ already sufficiently paid for, but in order that we may more deeply experience the transforming power of His grace toward Christ-likeness. Let’s face it: When we suffer, we too often pray in very selfish ways. Most commonly, we ask God to deliver us from our trial—to make life easier. But what if easier does not lead to true growth?

In the last post, we thought about God’s gracious purpose in our trials, that is, to test our faith in order that we may grow in the endurance that characterizes spiritual maturity. This is the reason we should obey the command to rejoice when we encounter various trials. When you and I disobey God’s command to rejoice then we work against the deeper works that the Spirit seeks to accomplish within us.

As already stated, another benefit of trials is their unique ability to test our prayers. The way we pray in the midst of suffering reveals our heart’s desires, whether we are more concerned with God’s glory or our own “comfortable life.”

TRIALS TEST OUR PRAYERS (vv. 5-8)

Trials test our faith by either moving us closer to dependence on God, demonstrated by submissive prayer, or further from God by feeding our innate prideful independence and sense of self-sufficiency. Listen to how James exhorts us:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

  • The promise (v. 5)

God’s promise to us is that He will give us wisdom in our times of trial. And He will not give it stingily, but generously and without reproach. Wisdom is “for the asking.” The phrase “if any of you lacks” indicates that James rightly assumes that we need wisdom, “we need God’s wisdom so that our trials will not be wasted” (James: Wisdom for the Community by Christopher W. Morgan and B. Dale Ellenburg).

God gives to us generously, that is, James calls God the constantly giving God. And when God gives His wisdom, He does it “without reproach,” without scolding us for previous sins, failures, or weaknesses. God does not give like we sometimes give. Sometimes we may say, “Well, what happened to the money that I gave you last time? Well, I guess I’ll have to give you more. But remember, don’t mess up this time.” God is not that way. When we ask for wisdom, it is as if He has been waiting to give it to us all along. All we have to do is ask for it.

When a believer asks God for wisdom in trial, that wisdom “will be given him.” The promise is clear: Ask the constantly-giving God for wisdom and He will give it to you. King Solomon prayed for wisdom and God answered by giving it to him.

It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:10-12).

God’s wisdom is truly there “for the asking.”

  • The prerequisite (vv. 6a)

However, James makes it clear that there is a prerequisite to receiving God’s wisdom: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting.” In other words, we must keep on asking, not doubting—we must persevere in prayer instead of giving up the first time God does not give us a microwave answer.

Edmond Hiebert defines this kind of faith as “the wholehearted attitude of a full and unquestioning committal to and dependence upon God, as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ Jesus. It is the proper human response to the goodness of God.” This is the faith of the woman with the twelve-year hemorrhage who pressed through the crowds just to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Her actions were motivated by a simple childlike trust in the goodness of God. And Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

This kind of faith is “without any doubting.” It is without the back-and-forth wavering that too often characterizes us.

  • The problem (vv. 6b-8)

This doubting reveals a problem, “for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” Adamson says in the New International Commentary on the New Testament, “The doubter is like ‘a sea of waves,’ now wind-driven toward the southeast, and now toward the northwest, with nothing that could sensibly be called progress.”

Verse 7 is a very strong rebuke! “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” When we ask God for wisdom, but do not truly believe He will give it to us, then we are acting double-minded. The picture here is of a mind “so filled with uncertainty and indecision that it cannot make any choice between the alternatives with which it is faced” (Adamson). In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan calls this man: “Mr. Facing-both-ways.” He is a fence-walker. On one hand he wants to leave the lusts of his flesh, but on the other hand he delights in them so much that he does not want to give them up for God. The prophet Jeremiah reveals that this stems from trusting in ourselves, rather than trusting in God.

Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

Trials have a way of testing our prayers to reveal whether we simply want relief from suffering or the more valuable possession of wisdom leading to spiritual growth toward maturity in Christ.

APPLICATION QUESTIONS

  • What trial is God taking you through right now?
  • Have you been responding in a godly manner?
  • If not, confess your sinful response(s) to God and receive His generous forgiveness.
  • How are you praying?
  • What does the way you pray reveal about your heart?
  • Are you asking God for His generous wisdom, or are you doubting Him?
  • Talk to the Lord about these things.
  • Ask Him to give you a heart to trust Him.

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March 4, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Test of Trials – Part 1

The Test of Trials – Part 1

In his excellent book, Trusting God, Jerry Bridges provides a compelling illustration of the necessary relationship between experiencing trials and growing toward spiritual maturity. He writes:

One of the many fascinating events in nature is the emergence of the Cecropia moth from its cocoon—an event that occurs only with much struggle on the part of the moth to free itself. The story is frequently told of someone who watched a moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help—and not realizing the necessity of the struggle—the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon. Soon the moth came out with its wings all crimped and shriveled. But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few moments would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be.

What the person in the story did not realize was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth’s body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth’s struggle, the watcher had actually crippled the moth and doomed its existence.

Bridges then rightly makes this application:

We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christlike character will not occur in our lives without adversity….However we shrink from adversity and, to use the terms from the moth illustration, we want God to snip the cocoon of adversity we often find ourselves in and release us. Too often we do not fully submit to the trials that God sends our way—choosing instead to be released from difficulty. As a result, we forego opportunities to have our faith-muscle strengthened.

As James writes his letter to Jewish believers who have been scattered due to persecution, he recognizes they are suffering a variety of trials, such as poverty and oppression (1:9; 5:4). James now presents us with a test of the authenticity of faith, that is, specifically, how we respond to trials. Daniel Doriani writes, “Our response to trials reveals our heart condition.”

God wants us to respond properly to the trials that He has sovereignly appointed for the growth of our faith and Christ-likness. To help us learn how to respond this way, James reveals four ways that trials test us and, therefore, benefit our spiritual growth when we discipline ourselves for perseverance. In today’s post, we will think about the first way.

TRIALS TEST OUR POSTURE (vv. 2-4)

How should we stand; how should we conduct ourselves while in the midst of trials? The half-brother of Jesus teaches us in James 1:2-4. Pause for a moment and read those verses.

  • The response to trials (v. 2a)

The Christian response to trials is distinct from that of an unbeliever. The word “consider” is a command which calls for a certain attitude, a certain mindset. In other words, it is our duty to pursue an attitude of joy in the midst of trials. When we fail to do so, it is sin. “All joy” does not refer to joy in the trial itself, but in knowing that God’s good and perfect will is sure to be carried out as a result of this trial. James is not saying to us, “Now, no matter how painful your suffering is, just put on a happy face. Pretend if you have to. Whatever you do don’t let anyone know how deeply you are really hurting.”

James is not encouraging us to live in denial. Trials are hard. Trials do hurt, but the joy of the Lord is the believer’s strength. Jesus teaches in Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” In other words, biblical joy does not equal earthly happiness. It is also not dependent on our circumstances. For example, the Apostle Paul was in prison for his faith when he wrote to the Philippian believers, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

  • The reality of trials (v. 2b)

Notice that James says, “when you encounter various trials” not “if.” Whether or not we suffer is not a choice, but our response to trial is a choice. As believers in Christ, we should not be surprised when terribly difficult times come upon us. We should expect them (see 1 Peter 4:12-13).

The word “encounter” means to fall around (KJV “fall”). Luke 10:30 illustrates its meaning: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers.” In other words, the man’s trail was unexpected. This is a bit strange. Trials are to be expected and yet we encounter unexpected trials. What James seems to be saying is the reality of trials should be expected; we are not able to expected what they will look like or from where they may come.

Our trials are “various”(poikilos), of many colors, i.e. many varieties, kinds, diversity. The same word is used to describe the cloak that Jacob gave to his favorite son, Joseph, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In other words, there is not simply one kind of trial that afflicts Christians, but there are many different kinds. At the same time, no two believers are tried in exactly the same way either. If we hypothetically say there are ten different kinds of trials, we do not all necessarily suffer in all ten ways to the same degree. Yes, we suffer common testing (1 Cor. 10:13), but at the same time the trials are custom designed for us by a loving God.

So there is a sense in which trials are expected and unexpected at the same time. They will come. Therefore we should expect them. Yet they come unexpectedly. We cannot predict their timing, severity, or the uniqueness of their appearance.

  • The reason for trials (v. 3)

James says our trials are for the purpose of “testing” our faith in order to produce endurance. This word is only used here and in 1 Peter 1:7, where Peter instructs us to respond to trials with this same joy. The word “testing” means to try in order to approve. So, God does not put trials into our lives to show us that we are a failure, but rather to approve our faith, to make it more authentic. He wants us to be confident that our faith is genuine and growing. He is not content with our level of maturity, or Christ-likeness, and, therefore, will do all that is necessary to cause us to grow. God does not ordain trials to set us up for failure but to prove the reality of our faith in a way similar to the process of purifying metals; our faith being more precious than gold itself, which is perishable. When we submit to the will of God in our trials, we learn to say with Job, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

The character quality of endurance is priceless. “Endurance” (hupomone), a compound word from hupo (meaning “under”) and meno (meaning “to stay, abide, or remain”). Thus, the word pictures someone who successfully carries a heavy load for a long time without trying to escape. God tests our faith in order to build the character quality of endurance into our lives. As Kent Hughes says, “The more tests we pass, the tougher we become.”

  • The result of endurance (v. 4)

God is performing this sanctifying work in and through suffering “so that [here’s the purpose] you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The phrase “perfect and complete” speaks of that which is finished, whole, and mature. God’s goal in our trials, which is only reached if we endure, is spiritual maturity. The word “perfect” (teleios) refers to that which has reached its goal. What goal? God’s goal for every believer, as stated in two key New Testament passages, which is maturity in, and conformity to, Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 8:28-29).

We can and should be joyful in the midst of trials because God has a specific purpose in mind for us. He is developing within us godly, Christlike character. Jesus teaches us, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).

Jesus’ illustration of pruning is very beneficial to our understanding of trials. The goal in pruning a tree is to remove unwanted growth, diseased, or dead branches in order to produce a better bloom and a greater abundance of fruit. By removing older branches, the younger ones are encouraged to grow stronger in order to take their place. If trees could talk, they would admit to the pain of pruning, but they would also testify to the more abundant fruit they bear in a future season. Out of a loving desire to see us be fruitful for Him, God prunes us so that we will bear more and more fruit.

In obedience to God, we must learn to let the trials that come into our lives serve their God-intended purpose: to produce the character quality of endurance—a mark of Christian maturity—which is the end result of responding in faith while under trial. When we fail to respond to God’s trials in a manner that exhibits childlike faith and trust in Him, we need to confess this to God and receive the forgiveness that comes from the fountain of His grace in Christ.

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February 25, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 5 Reasons I Love Being an ACBC Fellow

5 Reasons I Love Being an ACBC Fellow

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) is an organization that I have been pleased to be part of for many years; first, as a conference attendee, then a certified counselor, and currently a teaching fellow. ACBC has a rich, 40-year history of involvement in the training and certification of men and women who love Jesus Christ, but also want to more effectively minister His grace and truth into the lives of others as biblical counselors. Below are 5 reasons I love being part of this organization.

ACBC is committed to the ongoing pursuit of excellence in biblical counselor training and certification. Excellence, not mediocrity, is the pursuit of the leaders and members of ACBC. Yes, the training is rigorous at every level, but it is well worth it and will lead to significant personal growth in your own walk with the Lord. Counseling certification is not about obtaining a certificate to hang on your wall so that you can then hang out a shingle (although some may), but it’s about growing toward spiritual maturity and love so as to be more useful to our Lord and His church (Colossians 1:28-29).

ACBC is committed to theological clarity and precision, which grows out of a commitment to the sufficiency of the Scriptures for life and godliness. We stand without apology on the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of the Bible as God’s words to man. The Scriptures are sufficient for all that pertains to living a life that glorifies Christ our Lord and Redeemer (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). My fellow Fellows not only love theology, but they love the Lord of theology. For further study on the sufficiency of Scripture, see Steve Viars’ and my chapter in Scripture and Counseling, the latest volume from the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

ACBC does not believe it has arrived, but is committed to continual growth in our understanding of human behavior, the body/soul connection, and the heart issues that drive us. Behavior modification is not our business. Our business is to plead with God for wisdom to discern how the Spirit is at work in fellow believers in order to come alongside one another to help in the ongoing process of applying theology to life (Ephesians 4-6). ACBC rightly views the Christian life as an ongoing journey of sanctification toward becoming like Christ. I am pleased to be part of a body of men and women who view themselves as lifelong students of the Lord.

ACBC is committed to building up local churches through training all those who desire to become willing servants of God in the process of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Rightly understood, biblical counseling is an intensive aspect of the Great Commission to multiply disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), which is a command given to all believers in the primary context of the local church. ACBC understands this and affirms it in practice. Sanctification is a community project. ACBC gets this.

ACBC is committed to pursuing and multiplying a “pastoral heart” toward others. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you already understand my conviction: Biblical counseling is a ministry of love for every believer, not simply pastors and church leaders; it is a biblical responsibility to speak the truth in love to one another. This means that a pastoral heart is not only for pastors. A pastoral heart is one which longs for the spiritual good in others and, therefore, seeks to do all in its power to part of the process of leading others closer to Jesus, the one and only Redeemer for desperate sinners like you and me (Romans 1:11; 15:14).

As one who continues to be blessed by being involved in the ministry of ACBC, I encourage you to check them out. Involvement at any level will surely enrich your own walk with the Lord and expand your ministry of love toward other believers. To learn more about the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, visit www.biblicalcounseling.com. You may just find regional training is not that far away.

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February 24, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Paul Tripp on 5 Reasons God Answers Us

Paul Tripp on 5 Reasons God Answers Us

In Psalm 27:7, David pleads with God to answer him. But what is significant to recognize is that he does not base his request on himself, but on God’s grace and mercy: “Be gracious to me and answer me!” This serves as a very important reminder to us. God roots His answers to our prayers, not in us, but in Himself and His own character, ultimately. Paul Tripp writes of this in his wonderful devotional through Psalm 27, A Shelter in the Time of Storm. Below are five reasons Tripp encourages us to mediate on.

God’s love. He’s the ultimate wise, patient, kind, gentle, and forgiving father. He delights in his children. Because of his great love, his eyes look out for us and his ears are always attentive to our cries. Because of his love, he invites us to bring our cares to him, and he assures us that he really does care for us. He is never too busy or dis­tracted or too tired to hear and answer. He doesn’t refuse to answer because of our weakness and failure. He doesn’t get impatient because we have to come again and again. He is love, and he loves to exercise his power and glory to meet the needs of his struggling children.

God’s grace. Grace provides the whole structure and standing of our relationship with him. If it weren’t for the grandeur of his forgiv­ing grace, we would have no relationship with him at all. Because of his grace, he is unwilling to rest until the work of transformation is complete. In grace he looks on us and knows that this work isn’t done. We’ve not yet been completely formed into the likeness of his Son. Although the power of sin has been broken, he knows that the presence of sin still remains. He hears our prayers because, when we pray, we confess that we still need the grace of forgiveness and deliver­ance, and in so doing we place ourselves in the center of what he has committed himself to complete—his work of redemption.

God’s faithfulness. He doesn’t change his mind. He doesn’t ride the roller-coaster of the rise and fall of emotions. His heart isn’t a battle zone of conflicting motivations. He doesn’t get bored, exhausted, or distracted. He won’t quit what he has begun. He won’t forsake those upon whom he has placed his love. He won’t harden his heart, shut down his mind, and turn his back. He won’t take a break or go to sleep. He will never tell you that you have asked too much or that you have come to him too often. You never have to work to figure him out. You never have to wonder if his response to you will change. He is absolutely faithful to every promise he has made and every provision he has offered. Your hope in prayer is rooted in his faithfulness, not yours.

God’s kingdom. As I come to him in the patterns laid out by Christ and pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” I pray words that bring him delight. He loves the exercise of his will. He finds joy in the success of his kingdom. The spiritual growth and prosperity of his children means the growth and prosperity of his kingdom. He is King, and he delights in his children’s recognizing his lordship and submitting to his rule. Every good thing he does for his children is done to rescue them from their self-focused kingdom of one and to welcome them into the expansiveness of his kingdom of glory and grace. And his ears will continue to be atten­tive and his hands will be active until his kingdom has been fully and completely established forever.

God’s glory. The thing that God is most committed to is his own glory. But here’s what you need to understand. His commitment to his own glory is your only hope. Because he is committed to his own glory, he has committed to draw to himself a multitude of people who forsake their own glory and do the one thing that they were created to do: live for his. So his commitment to his glory causes him to listen and respond, listen and respond until all of his children no longer look to the shadow glories of creation for their satisfaction but, rather, look to him. Because he is committed to his glory, I can go to him in prayer, knowing that he will hear and answer.

Don’t give up crying out to God with the needs and desires of your heart. If you know God through faith in Christ, then His mercy continues to be extended to you. He will answer you in His time because of His love, grace, faithfulness, kingdom, and glory.

A Shelter in the Time of Storm has deeply ministered to my heart, helping me to see what God sees there and the sufficiency of Christ to not only be my Savior, but also my Sanctifier and my Rest. Get your copy from Cumberland Valley Bible & Books.

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February 20, 2015
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Sin in the Believer

Sin in the Believer

This morning, after spending time in the Psalms, my eye glanced to my left and caught a volume that I’ve not pulled off the shelf in quite some time. So, I picked up A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life and opened it to the page where a blue sticky note marks my progress of slowly working through this 1,000-page practical theology. Four pages in particular counseled my heart and I will summarize their content here.

“While the Puritans did not ignore the effects of sin on the unregenerate, they gave far more attention to understanding sin in the lives of the regenerate.” According to Beeke and Jones, the Puritans’ practical theology concerning the presence of sin in the believer (stemming from an accurate interpretation of Romans 5-7) may be summarized into three categories. This helps us to understand temptation, our responsibility to kill sin, and the power of Christ and His gospel to set us free.

The Remnants of Indwelling Sin

Rightly, the Puritans understood Romans 7 as a description of the believer’s struggle against sin, particularly indwelling sin. “Saints in this world are never entirely free from original sin; it will plague them to the day they die….This ‘law of sin’ is powerful, even in the best of saints, and ‘though its rule be broken its strength weakened and impaired, its root mortified, yet it is a law still of great force and efficacy.’ Original sin in believers, to use a phrase from Burgess, is like a furnace always sending forth sparks.”

The presence and power of sin “arise from its being seated or rooted in the human heart. Christianity is a heart religion because it aims to repair what sin has corrupted and damaged.” Thus, as much as Christians have the perennial tendency to focus merely on behavior modification, the root issue is always what God sees in the heart and the transformation that Christ alone can make there. Recognizing the presence of indwelling sin is actually evidence of a person being regenerate; whereas, the denial of one’s own sinfulness is proof that a man or woman is not truly saved (1 John 1:8).

Freedom from Sin’s Dominion

“If Romans 5 speaks about the imputation of guilt from Adam to his descendants, and Romans 7 speaks of the presence of indwelling sin in the life of believers, Romans 6 proclaims the freedom from the dominion of sin that characterizes the lives of the godly. At the moment of regeneration a Christian experiences emancipation (redemption) from the power or dominion of sin, although not from the presence of sin in his heart and life.” Therefore, as the apostle exhorts us in Romans 6, we must be about the business of constantly applying the truth of our position in Christ—we are dead to sin and alive unto God—to our daily practice of the Christian life.

Mortifying Sin

“Believers are able to mortify sin because they receive from Christ the gift of the Spirit. Owen speaks of the Spirit working upon ‘our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us.’…Far from advocating a stringent moralism, the doctrine of mortification [the believer’s responsibility to be constantly killing his own sin] brings glory to the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit ‘brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power. And in the life of believers, the Spirit is the author and finisher of their sanctification. Thus the cure of guilt among those who love Christ is their justification; in this life, the cure of sin’s dominion is sanctification, which involves mortifying sin by the power of the Spirit; and, after this life, the blessing that will bring the full cure from sin to God’s people is glorification.”

The glorious news of the gospel is that, although the disciple of Christ continues to fight a difficult battle against sin and, with the apostle, may often cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (v. 24), the final victory of redemption is on its way. With Paul we can confidently shout, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). The final victory will come through Christ when He delivers us from our body of sin and death.

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