Six Reasons to Take Seminary Chapel Seriously

In the last few years, multiple books have been published to specifically address seminary and how to get the most out of it.[1] This is for good reason, as seminarians are at a unique juncture that demands unique (and unvarying) instruction. It’s likely the seminarians of today will be the pastors and denominational leaders of tomorrow, which means this: we need every evangelical seminary to succeed and every seminarian to be competent and qualified. Historically, a chief strategy toward forming students has been the seminary’s chapel worship gathering. In the points below, I want to highlight the seriousness of chapel and God’s good purposes in it for the seminarian.

  1. Chapel re-centers our life on God. The fight to be supremely satisfied in God is the most critical battle for the seminarian, minister, and Christian. Thus, the importance of chapel stems from its role in giving students a greater sight of God in His beauty. To the degree that God is displayed as valuable in chapel is the degree to which students should value chapel. Because God’s Word is expounded in word and song in the setting of chapel, it can be used by God to restore our joy and strengthen our hearts in God. For this reason, we ought to do our best to relax all other duties and deadlines to attend chapel.
  2. Chapel reminds us of the primacy and profit of God’s Word. Attendance in chapel should have far less to do with who is speaking and everything to do with what is being spoken, which hopefully, is the Word of God. Our posture toward chapel should be informed by the words of Jesus, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Every word of Scripture is inspired and every word is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This means whatever is preached upon at chapel, if it is from God’s word, will be profitable for our lives and ministry (Isa. 55:11).
  3. Chapel reinforces the non-negotiables of a corporate worship gathering. All of seminary can be instructive, including the order of service for chapel. As a minister, you will have to plan an order of service. What will you include? At the very least, in being observant of the order of service in the chapel service, you know Christians should gather under the Bible, pray the Bible, read the Bible, sing the Bible, and preach the Bible. These indispensable components of a corporate worship gathering are exercised in the chapel service and should be imitated in the local church.
  4. Chapel renders valuable ministry insights. Another benefit of attending chapel is that it affords a unique opportunity to gain second-hand experience from a diversity of gifted ministers who have a variety of experiences. Who knows, maybe what is spoken in chapel next week will save you a hundred headaches in your ministry.
  5. Chapel reduces pride. This is not automatic, of course, just like the other benefits chapel presents. First, chapel can be humbling because we are most likely off the stage. Though our ministries will revolve around declaring the Bible, in a chapel settings, we are under the Bible in our seats. Being in a chair and not behind the pulpit should remind us that our first calling is to Christ and then to ministry. Second, we aren’t alone in the room. Being in a room of a couple of hundred students should tell me something about the seminary: it doesn’t revolve around me. Other students are being trained for ministry. Unfortunately, seminary can be a grenade-filled ground of comparison. Let the chapel hour be a regular time where you pray against envy. Third, the preached gospel is a cup of humility to those who drink it rightly and regularly. Near the end of his life, Carl F.H Henry was asked a question by D.A. Carson on how he fought personal ego throughout his impactful ministry. He answered this way, “How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing beside the cross?” In chapel, we come back under the cross of Christ and are humbled.
  6. Chapel restricts us from staying in the study. Time in seminary is precious. Time alone in study is also indispensable. Yet, we must be reminded that we are not studying just for our own sake. In other words, we study to share what we have learned for the spiritual benefit of other people. The chapel hour provides a time in which we talk with other students, professors, staff, and friends about life and truth. In fact, chapel arguably provides the best consistent time to dialogue with the greater seminary community. By regularly attending chapel, we are forced to get out of our study, and that’s a good thing.

Here’s a final thought: academic prowess and a devotional posture ought not be detached from one another. Yet, each day these habits seem to naturally drift and must be reigned back in. In chapel, thinking and feeling come together, or at least they should. The habit of reading, praying, thinking, and singing in the same setting is a wonderful example for us to carry out through the week. So, take chapel seriously, and ask God that he would use those hours each week to mold you further into a faithful minister.

[1] David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell, How to Stay Christian in Seminary (Crossway: Wheaton, 2014); H. Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin K. Forest, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: An Academic and Spiritual Handbook (Lexham Press: Bellingham, WA, 2017).

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10 Quotes: Redemption Accomplished and Applied

 

 

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I agree with Carl Trueman, that this book is “a miniture masterpiece of theology.” Written by John Murray in 1955, Murray aims to show forth the beauty of our salvation by defining its order and observing its Trinitarian nature, namely, that God the Father planned redemption in eternity past, accomplished salvation in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, and applied that salvation to His chosen people through the work of the Holy Spirit. I recommend this worshipful book to all who endeavor to understand more fully and accurately the great salvation found in Christ alone.

10 Quotes

  1. “The very nature of Christ’s mission and accomplishment is involved in this question. Did Christ come to make salvation of all men possible, to remove obstacles that stood in the way of salvation, and merely to make provision for salvation? Or did he come to save his people? Did he come to put all men in a salvable state? Or did he come to secure the salvation of all those who are ordained to eternal life? Did he come to make men redeemable? Or did he come to effectually and infallibly to redeem?…Design and accomplishment and final realization have all the same extent” (pg. 62).
  2. Commenting on Romans 6:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, and Colossians 3:3: “All for whom Christ died also died in Christ. All who died in Christ rose again with Christ. This rising again with Christ is a rising to newness of life after the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. To die with Christ is, therefore, to die to sin and to rise with him to the life of new obedience, to live not to ourselves but to him who died for us and rose again. The inference is inevitable that those for whom Christ died are those and those only who die to sin and live to righteousness” (pg. 69).
  3. “Calling is an act of God’s grace and power just as regeneration, justification, and adoption are. We do not call ourselves, we do not set ourselves apart by sovereign volition any more than we regenerate, justify, or adopt ourselves. Calling is an act of God and of God alone. This fact should make us keenly aware how dependent we are upon the sovereign grace of God in the application of redemption” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; pg. 92).
  4. “Is is God the Father who is the specific agent in the effectual call…The Father is not far removed from the effectuation of that which he designed in his eternal counsel and accomplishment in the death of his Son; he comes into the most intimate relation to his people in the application of redemption by being the specific and particular actor in the inception of such application” (cf. Rom. 8:30; pg. 93).
  5. “Regeneration is inseparable from its effects and one of the effects is faith. Without regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for a person to believe in Christ, but when a person is regenerated it is morally and spiritually impossible for that person not to believe” (cf. John 6:37, 44, 45; pg. 111).
  6. “The fact that regeneration is the prerequisite of faith in no way relieves us of the responsibility to believe nor does it eliminate the priceless privilege that is ours as Christ and his claims are pressed upon us in full and free overtures of his grace. Our inability is no excuse for our unbelief nor does it provide us with any reason for not believing. As we are presented with Christ in the gospel there is no reason for the rejection of unbelief and all reason demands the entrustment of faith” (pg. 118).
  7. “If we remember that repentance is turning from sin unto God, the turning to God implies faith in the mercy of God as revealed in Christ. It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith” (pg. 119).
  8. “The more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin which remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it” (pg. 153).
  9. “It is true that a believer sins; he may fall into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of his subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness. The truth is that the faith of Jesus Christ is always respective of the life of holiness and fidelity. And so it is never proper to think of a believer irrespective of the fruits of faith and holiness. To say that a believer is secure whatever may be the extent of his addiction to sin in his subsequent life is to abstract faith in Christ from its very definition and it ministers to that abuse that turns the grace of God into lasciviousness” (pgs. 163-164).
  10. “Glorification is glorification with Christ. Remove the latter and we have robbed the glorification of believers of the one thing that enables them to look forward to this event with confidence, with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (pgs. 189-190).

Table of Contents

  • The Necessity of the Atonement
  • The Nature of the Atonement
  • The Perfection of the Atonement
  • The Extent of the Atonement
  • Conclusion
  • The Order of Application
  • Effectual Calling
  • Regeneration
  • Faith and Repentance
  • Justification
  • Adoption
  • Sanctification
  • Perseverance
  • Union with Christ
  • Glorification

Where You Can Find This Resource

http://www.eerdmans.com/Products/7309/redemption-accomplished-and-applied.aspx

 

How to Study Theology

Much could be said on precautions to take and wisdom to heed in digesting content that is theological in nature. Before one dismisses this post as one that is too deep or academic, you must understand that everyone has theological views. To say that the Bible says or does not say something about a particular topic, is to say something theological. In that way, everyone is a theologian! When one listens to a sermon, or reads a book that renders biblical truth, there is a grid through which that content must be discerned as true or not true.

So how can we be wise in hearing and reading theological content? Here are fifteen ways in which we must study theology.

  1. Biblically (Psalm 119:160; Luke 24:25-27; John 17:17; Acts 15;17:2-3, 11; 18:28; 20:27; Titus 1:9; Hebrews 1; 11). That’s to say that we derive our views of God and truth from the Bible. The Scriptures are the gateway into true knowledge of reality. Everything must be proven by the Word of God and proper interpretation of it. The Bible alone is authoritative in life and doctrine (doctrine just means what the Bible teaches about a particular topic).
  2. Exegetically (Matthew 12:3-7; 19:4; 22:29; Mark 12:10). Our reception of the truth and our interpretation of biblical texts cannot be separated. To understand any passage, one must grasp what God was saying through the specific author to the specific recipient in its context. A writer or preacher that doesn’t regularly and carefully explain a passage according to its context should be disregarded. We need to base our theological convictions on proper interpretations of the Bible. 
  3. Historically (2 Timothy 4:7; Jude 3-4). We consult faithful saints of old to see how they rendered passages and communicated truths. We look to the past to see how Christians contended for and kept the Christian faith.
  4. Humbly (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 8:1-3; 1 Peter 5:5). For Christians to arrive at and remain in the truth is a result of God’s grace in our lives.  Recall the words of Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). To study humbly does not mean that we do not speak confidently about any Scriptural topic. That’s a false humility. To study humbly means to be willing to accept whatever you see as true in Scripture, to submit fully to God’s instruction. We won’t know everything there is to know about any single doctrine, but we can know that doctrine truly.  
  5. Charitably (Acts 15:36-40). There are Christians who love Christ, submit to the Word of God, believe in the gospel, cherish the local church, who interpret some passages and doctrines differently. This should impact our level of criticalness. There is a distinction between major and minor doctrines.
  6. Seriously (John 17:3, 17, 20; Ephesians 4:12, 13, 15; Philippians 1:27; 1 Timothy 2:4;  6:3-5; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3; 2 John 9). To have wrong views of, or wrong affections for, God and His Word, have damning consequences. Precision does not come by those who are flippant in their study of God. Louis Berkof once wrote, “They who minimize the significance of the truth, and therefore ignore and neglect it, will finally come to the discovery that they have very little Christianity left.” Why? Because Christianity is founded on truth. An earnestness must accompany every person, class, church, or seminary that seeks to define and defend a sound theology. We must have a resolute determination to be God-honoring theologians. God is not properly glorified where He is not rightly known.
  7. Prayerfully (Psalm 119:18,33, 34, 169; John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Ephesians 1:17-19). We pray before and during study time because only God can give us eyes to see Him, minds to know Him, hearts to love Him, and wills to obey Him.  
  8. Worshipfully (Psalm 19:8; 96:4; 119:14, 103, 111, 162; 139:17; Romans 11:33-36). To study the Bible is to study the most precious realities in the universe. Seeing and savoring the God of the Bible is chief goal in studying biblical truth. 
  9. Redemptively (Luke 24:13-27; John 5:43-47). In studying theology, we are looking to how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, planned, accomplished, and applied salvation to God’s people. There are more and more layers of glory to uncover each time we attend time to the story of redemption. 
  10. Obediently (Luke 11:28; James 2:14-26). We want to be Christians who hear and obey the truth that we see in the Bible. “Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). 
  11. Practically (1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; Titus 1:1). There is an interconnectedness between theology and ethics. The lives we as Christians are suppose to live and the attitudes we are suppose to have (ethics), is largely dictated by the truth that we know and believe.
  12. Persistently (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:33). God is infinite! His excellencies are more than the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. Christians will forever wonder at God’s glory and those glories can be seen and delighted in now. Every true Christian will give themselves to knowing God in the fullest way possible.
  13. Corporately (Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:13; Titus 1:9). Who in your local congregation can you learn from or helpfully instruct in sound doctrine?
  14. Evangelistically (Mark 1:15; John 3:1-8). We study not only for our own joy in the Lord, but also that the nations might be glad in God (Psalm 67). Is there someone you know that you can share the gospel of Christ with? Forgiveness of sins and eternal life are found in no other place but in Jesus Christ. 
  15. Doctrinally (Romans 3:21-26; Titus 3:5). As a result of studying theology, we want to be able to biblically articulate what God has said about topics in the Bible. Bad theology hurts people. Folks make destructive decisions every day as a result of the biblical truth they disregard or the biblical truth that they do not know. We must do our part as Christians to seek their good in being competent theologians.

What other ways do you think theology must be studied?

10 Quotes: Thoughts for Young Men

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Don’t let the title fool you. This book, Thoughts for Young Men, would benefit persons of any age who are considering how the short life that God has given each of us should be lived. Though short in length, this small volume places biblical warnings right in front of its reader. Too many people waste the early years of their life living in sin, rebelling against God, and defaming God’s name. J.C. Ryle calls the reader to see the inevitable reality of eternity. The world lies to its inhabitants with its fading snippets of joy. Ryle shows the reader the unending happiness of those who live for God. I hope these quotes will spur you on to consider the gospel and its immediate implications.

10 Quotes

  1. “Young men, be not deceived. Think not you can, at will, serve lusts and pleasures in your beginning, and then go and serve God with ease at your latter end. Think not you can live with Esau, and then die with Jacob” (9).
  2. “Believe me , you will find it no easy matter to turn to God just when you please. It is a true saying of good Archbishop Leighton: ‘The way of sin is down hill; a man cannot stop when he would.’ Holy desires and serious convictions are not like the servants of the centurion, ready to come and go at your desire (Matt. 8:5); rather are they like the unicorn in Job,–they will not obey your voice, nor attend at your bidding (Job 39:9). It was said of a famous general of old, when he could have taken the city he warred against, he would not, and by and by when he could not. Beware, lest the same kind of event befall you in the matter of eternal life” (10).
  3. “Every day you are either getting nearer to God, or further off. Every year that you continue impenitent, the wall of division between you and heaven becomes higher and thicker, and the gulf to be crossed deeper and broader. Oh, dread the hardening effect of constant lingering in sin!…If you seek not the Lord when young, the strength of habit is such that you will probably never seek him at all” (11-12).
  4. “Sin is the mother of all sorrow, and no sort of sin appears to give a man so much misery and pain as the sins of his youth. The foolish acts he did,–the time he wasted,–the mistakes he made,–the bad company he kept,–the harm he did himself, both body and soul,–the chances of happiness he threw away,–the openings of usefulness he neglected;–all these are things that often embitter the conscience of an old man, throw a gloom on the evening of his days, and fills he later hours of his life with self-reproach and shame” (14-15).
  5. “Young men, young men, I wish you did but know the comfort of a conscience not burdened with a long list of youthful sins. These are the wounds that pierce the deepest. These are the arrows that drink  up a man’s spirit. This is the iron that enters into the soul. Be merciful to yourselves. Seek the Lord early, and so you will be spared many a bitter tear” (16).
  6. “Young men, I beseech you earnestly, beware of pride. Two things are said to be very rare sights in the world,–one is a young man humble, and the other is an old man content. I fear this saying is only too true” (21).
  7. “Men may tell you there are difficulties in the Bible;–things hard to be understood. It would not be God’s book if there were not. And what if there are? You do not despise medicines because you cannot explain all that your doctor does by them. But whatever men may say, the things needful to salvation are as clear as daylight. Be very sure of this,–people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it. They understand it too well; they understand that it condemns their own behavior; they understand that it witnesses against their own sins; and summons them to judgement. They try to believe it is false and useless, because they do not like to allow it is true. ‘A bad life’, said the celebrated Lord Rochester, laying his hand on the Bible, ‘a bad life is the only grand objection to this book.’ Men question the truth of Christianity’, says South, ‘because they hate the practice of it'” (32).
  8. “Resolve, at once, by God’s help, to break off every known sin, however small…Nothing darkens the eyes of the mind so much, and deadens the conscience so surely, as an allowed sin. It may be a little one, but it is not the less dangerous for all that. A small leak will sink a great ship, and a small spark will kindle a great fire, and a little allowed sin in this manner will ruin an immortal soul” (55).
  9. “Live as in the sight of God. This is what Abraham did,–he walked before him. This is what Enoch did,–he walked with him. This is what heaven itself will be,–the eternal presence of God. Do nothing you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go to no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, ‘Show it me.’ Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, ‘What art thou doing?'” (62)
  10. “Think…of the happiness that will come to your own soul, if you serve God,–happiness by the way, as you travel through life,–and happiness in the end, when the journey is over. Believe me, whatever vain notions you may have heard, believe me, there is a reward for the righteous even in this world” (74).

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Mark Dever 
  • Introduction
  • Part 1: General Reasons for Exhorting Young Men
  • Part 2: Special Dangers to Young Men
  • Part 3: General Counsels for Young Men
  • Part 4: Special Rules for Young Men
  • Conclusion

Where You Can Find This Resource

https://banneroftruth.org/us/?s=thoughts+for+young+men

10 Quotes: The Glory of Christ

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John Owen was a Puritan pastor in the seventeenth century. Owen loved the glory of God and expounded the Scriptures with the aim that others might see clearly and convincingly the beauty of God. This particular volume focuses on the glory of Jesus, who is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). First published a year after his death in 1684, The Glory of Christ lifts up Jesus as the One for whom our souls were made to delight in and whose work on our behalf in the gospel enables us to be forgiven of all of our sin and be with Him forever through His death and resurrection. There are infinite facets and rays of glory that shine in and through Jesus, both in His person and work; I hope these quotes will give you a glimpse of those glories and that you’ll look through them and beyond them to the Bible, where Jesus, in His glory, is most visibly manifested.

10 Quotes

  1. “One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ” (2).
  2. “No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven who does not, in some measure, behold it by faith in this world” (4).
  3. “On Christ’s glory I would fix my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world” (7).
  4. “By beholding the glory of Christ we shall be made fit and ready for heaven. Not all who desire to go to heaven are fit and ready for it. Some are not only unworthy of it and excluded from it because of unforgiven sin; they are not prepared for it. Should they be admitted, they would never enjoy it. All of us naturally regard ourselves as fit for eternal glory. But few of us have any idea of how unfit we really are, because we have had no experience of that glory of Christ which is in heaven. Men shall not be clothed with glory, as it were, whether they want to be or not. It is to be received only by faith. But fallen man is incapable of believing. Music cannot please a deaf man, nor can beautiful colors impress a blind man. A fish would not thank you for taking it out of the sea and putting it on dry land under the blazing sun! Neither would an unregenerate sinner welcome the thought of living for ever in the blazing glory of Christ” (7-8).
  5. “Christ is specially glorious because he and he alone perfectly reveals God’s nature and will to us. Without Christ we would have known nothing truly about God or he would have been eternally invisible to us. We would never have seen God at any time, either in this life or the next (John 1:18)” (11).
  6. “Make up your mind that to behold the glory of God by beholding the glory of Christ is the greatest privilege which is given to believers in this life. This is the dawning of heaven. It is the first taste of that heavenly glory which God has prepared for us, for this is eternal life, to know the Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3)” (22-23).
  7. “Election is founded on divine love because it is free and undeserved. We did nothing to persuade God to choose us rather than others. Any good done to us which is altogether undeserved and which is done to promote our good, is an act of love and cannot be anything else. Any good there is in God’s people is the result of election and not the reason why God chose us. The only thing that moved God to choose us was his undeserved love” (50-51).
  8. “In this state of infinite, eternal Being and goodness, before he had called anything into existence by his wisdom or power, God was eternally in himself all that he will be and all that he can be, for ever and ever. For where there is infinite Being and infinite goodness, there is infinite blessedness and happiness. Nothing can be added to make him more blessed and happy. God is always the same…All existing things add nothing to God, nor do they change him. His blessedness, happiness and self-satisfaction as well as all his other infinite perfections were absolutely the same before as well as after the creation of all things. Nothing he called into existence added one time bit to his infinite blessedness and happiness” (91-92).
  9. “A spiritual sight of Christ will fill the heart with love for him. So, if any one does not love Christ that person has never seen Christ and does not know him at all. When we fall in love with someone we often think about them. So, when we fall in love with Christ we will be constantly thinking about him. And where a person is not filled with thoughts of Christ, that person only deceives himself if he claims to have received him as Saviour” (117).
  10. “But what of the sight of the glory of Christ that we shall have in heaven compared to the sight we have here on earth? It will be clear and stable. Nothing will interrupt or be able to draw our eyes away from it, for we shall have been delivered from sin and from everything that now hinders our view of Christ…Our minds and eyes will never get tired…In heaven we shall be continually admiring and praising God in Christ, never needing any rest or even being interrupted. We shall be like the angels” (118-119).

Table of Contents

  • Seeing Christ’s Glory
  • Christ’s Glory as God’s Representative
  • The Glory of Christ in His Person
  • The Glory of Christ’s Humbling Himself
  • The Glory of Christ’s Love as Mediator
  • The Glory of Christ’s Work as Mediator
  • The Glory of Christ’s Exaltation
  • The Glory of Christ under the Old Testament
  • The Glory of Christ’s Union with the Church
  • The Glory of Christ’s Giving Himself to Believers
  • The Glory of Christ’s Restoring All Things
  • The First Difference between Beholding the Glory of Christ by Faith and by Sight
  • The Second Difference between Beholding the Glory of Christ by Faith and by Sight
  • The Third Difference between Beholding the Glory of Christ by Faith and by Sight
  • Exhortation to Unbelievers
  • How to Recognize Spiritual Decay in the Soul
  • How the Soul may be Recovered from Spiritual Decays

Where You Can Find This Resource

Our Momentary Marriages: Securing Undivided Devotion to the Lord

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Great picture, huh? That’s my wife and I just a year ago this week!

In the church that I grew up in, there were monthly celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries. As the lucky folks “came on down” to the front of the sanctuary, the congregation began to peer out to separate the birthdays from anniversaries. To the members relief, birthday years were not mentioned, but anniversary years were. The couples would share their number and the congregation would applaud. To the Lord’s glory, there were several couples that had been together for half a century, which makes my one year of marriage seem ultra brief.

Though experientially and biblically I do not know all there is to know about marriage (no person does!), I’d like to encourage from the Bible, those who are married (and even those who aren’t, or might want to be), to secure their undivided devotion to God.

Marriage: A Parable 

The tendency for all the precious gifts that God has given us is to hold them higher than the Giver of the gifts. That’s what the Bible calls idolatry, loving the things that God has made more than God Himself. That tendency is no different in marriage. In Christian marriages, often unintentionally and subconsciously, our love for one another can quickly overshadow our love for God. Christians know that marriage was purposed by God to be something more than our relationship together. God ordained marriage to be a picture–a parable of Jesus’ love and substitutionary death for the Church (Eph. 5). Wives submitting to their husbands, as to the Lord (v. 22), and husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (v. 25), is a mystery that refers to “Christ and the church” (v. 32). The point of marriage therefore is not the people that make up the institution, but the God who ordained it and the Savior who is seen through it.

So on the one hand we are to treasure our spouse. We are to love them, sacrifice for them, care for them. Yet on the other hand, Christians have God as their greatest treasure, their superior love. How do these biblical realities go together?

Undivided Devotion to the Lord

Paul in his letter to Christians who are in the city of Corinth, spends chapter 7 expounding on marital principles. Addressed in this section are married and unmarried, divorced and betrothed.

As to the unmarried and married, Paul writes that “each has his own gift from God” (1 Cor. 7:7). Both singleness and matrimony express glorious aspects of the Church’s relationship to God. Though Paul expressed his wish that “all were as I myself am,” which was single, he nevertheless said, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Cor. 7:17). In relation to others, our calling might be unique. In relation to God, however, our calling is the same; that calling is one of “undivided devotion to the Lord.”

“I say this for your benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35).

The main argument that Paul uses in encouraging Christians to consider singleness is that they would be freed up and detached from the world to serve Jesus. “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (1 Cor. 7:28). “I want you to be free from anxieties” (1 Cor. 7:32). The ultimate drive behind the words of Paul to the Corinthians is that they might be unhindered in loving and serving God above all things.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes, “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about the worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:32-34a). Divided interests are true for the woman as well. “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor. 7:34).

It’s after those words that Paul writes, “I say this for your benefit…to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). He points out in the verses above that the interests of Christian married couples can be divided. They are focused on “worldly things.” But looking to please your spouse would be considered a good thing, right? Why does Paul call them worldly things?

Reason #1: Marriage is Momentary

After stating the desire to keep the Corinthians from “worldly troubles” (1 Cor. 7:28), Paul continues by saying, “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none” (v. 29). “The present form of this world is passing away” (v. 31). In other words, the daily affairs of this world, including marriage, are not eternal. Matthew 22:30: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” The world gives its full attention to that which is passing away. A side note here that I want to include is that God intends for the shortness of time to press us on into loving one another in a greater way. To understand the limited time with husband or wife, family and friends, should spur us on toward holy, God-gloryifying love.

Reason #2: God is Supreme

Just as the world gives its full attention to that which is passing away, it also places its full affection on that which does not satisfy. Your spouse is not God and therefore cannot eternally satisfy your soul. God made us and sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to die in our place for our sins and raised Him from the dead that our souls would be satisfied in God through faith in Jesus.

Pleasing your spouse can be holy! It can honor the Lord! Paul isn’t saying that doing things for your spouse is always worldly. What he is saying is that pleasing your spouse is worldly if it is placed above pleasing God. I think that’s what Paul means by divided interests in verse 34 of 1 Corinthians 7. Our greatest efforts and deepest affections are for the Lord.

One Sentence Summary

If I could put all that we’ve looked at so far in one sentence, with regards to how to secure undivided devotion to the Lord in marriage, it would be this: Let God be God and marriage be a gift. 

Marriage is a wonderful gift, more so than I could have ever imagined a year ago. But, if you ask a Christian married couple that loves God above all things, they would tell you that marriage, including the spouse, cannot be ultimate. Marriage will be miserable when your spouse is your god.

Healthy Marriages Honor God

I want to be clear in closing: In Christ you don’t have to choose between a healthy relationship with God or a healthy marriage. Marriage cannot and should not be neglected. Healthy marriages honor the Lord. The choice lies in which (God or marriage) will be supreme. The fight for health in marriage is not primarily a fight to be satisfied in one another, but a fight to be satisfied in God. Devotion to God will certainly mean faithful devotion to his/her spouse; furthermore, this devotion will see the spouse as a precious gift and marriage as a momentary blessing. Loving one another genuinely  glorifies God. Loving God more than one another, glorifies God more. Only when God is valued in the place that He deserves will the spouse be valued as they should.

Saving Faith: Jesus as Satisfying and Supreme

Jesus once gave a parable about a great banquet. “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all began to make excuses” (Luke 14:16-18). One of those excuses: “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (v. 20). None of those invited tasted the banquet (v. 24). The man passed up eternal satisfaction in God for momentary pleasure in spouse. The result: eternal condemnation and no salvation. This is the fight for God’s supremacy in marriage that we’ve been looking at.

In Matthew 10:37, Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of men, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” God is not glorified where He is not loved more than all things. Saving faith in Jesus Christ is a faith that holds Jesus Christ higher and more valuable than the most precious things of the world. Marriage is one of those precious gifts. Let’s hold marriage in its proper place and secure our undivided devotion to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theological Reasons Behind Preparing for Ministry

This upcoming week, I will begin my seminary education. For those of you who might be interested to know, my first class will be with Zane Pratt, vice president for Global Training with the International Mission Board (IMB), in an Introduction to Missiology course at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. At the end of this month, my wife and I are going to be transitioning to Kansas City, MO, where I will be a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (http://www.mbts.edu).

As I’ve thought about my upcoming time of theological education, I’ve wanted to write something helpful for others that might express some of my thoughts on the importance of proper preparation for ministry. This post is the outworking of those thoughts. Before I get into the call to prepare for ministry, I want to first of all say that our effort in preparation is ignited by our love for Jesus, enabled by the Holy Spirit, and aimed at the glory of God in the happiness of Christians. We certainly do not work hard in seminary to gain favor from God or pursue ministry in hopes that God might be pleased with us. Our justification before God is due Christ’s work alone on the cross and in His resurrection. Faith alone in Jesus upon seeing Him as beautiful is the only means of salvation. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on preparing for ministry.

A Call to Prepare

The call to ministry and the call to preach is undoubtedly, a call to prepare. The “what” of ministerial preparation is clear: to grow in godly character (1 Tim. 3:2) and to be girded in sound teaching (2 Tim. 4:3). The “where” of preparation can often be multifaceted. The church is vehicle where this preparation most naturally plays out. Church leaders are investing in men, teaching them doctrine both formally and informally. Seminaries (or other formalized organizations) though, in conjunction with and in service to the local church, can play a key role in the training process.

Regardless, though, of whether you train solely in your local church or move away to attend seminary, the main thing is that you give yourself fully to the current task of preparation. I’m reminded of a quote by John MacArthur who said, “Every significant pastor in church history has been a heavyweight in theology.” God is worthy of all of our efforts to know Him, seek Him, obey Him, love Him, display Him. No time spent studying the glories of God is wasted. I want to place before you theological reasons to give yourself in preparation for ministry. As I mentioned earlier, it’s these points and many others that I’ve thought about in choosing to attend seminary. I hope these reasons are helpful as we seek to be faithful to God in our present and future ministries.

Theological Reasons to Give Yourself to Preparation

  1. The Bible is collectively true. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16).  The Bible is the word of God. God is the divine author of Holy Scipture and human authors “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). The Bible is God’s Book. He wrote it and it’s about Him. The Bible is clear concerning the character of God. He is perfect. God is clear in the Bible that His word is perfect. “The law of the LORD is perfect” (Ps. 19:7). This means that the Bible is inerrant, that is, without error, as God Himself is inerrant, without error. The glory that radiates from the pages of Holy Scripture are evident, self-attesting, and beautiful. It’s that glory that shines to the heart and mind to be the final proof of its divinity. The Bible is worth giving all our time and effort to. It’s better than gold (Ps. 19:10).
  2. God is supremely great. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). No life is more valuable than the life is spent each day and year knowing God in the Bible. God is the most glorious reality in the universe. He is the rare treasure hidden in a field, which you joyfully sell all else to possess (Matt. 13:45). God is infinite, limitless, boundless in His perfections and excellencies. “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Ps. 113:4-6). To lift this God up truthfully and exultantly in preaching is incomparable.
  3. The gospel is exclusively life-giving. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3), has made a way, the only way, for sinners to be right with God the Father. He has done this in His perfect life (1 Pet. 2:22), His substitutionary death (2 Cor. 5:21), and triumphant resurrection (Eph. 1:20). Jesus fully obeyed and enjoyed God. To be in the presence of God, one must be perfect. Jesus’ perfection is credited to all those who would unite their life with His. The good news of Jesus’ person and work must be known and guarded (2 Tim. 1:14). The gospel is too good and too precious to be skimmed over with dull eyes and carried with wobbly hands. We’ve been saved by this gospel and must proclaim it rightly. Our message, everlasting joy in God, is available in and through Jesus! We need men and women who know and love the intricacies of the gospel.
  4. The church is uniquely precious. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus died for the church (Eph. 5:25). This raises the stakes of pastoral ministry to its highest peak. The sheep in the pasture are sheep that have their life in the death of the Shepherd. To not preach to them in truth, lead them in holiness, pray for them with tears, serve them with joy, is to minimize the office. The church deserves from its leaders their absolute best. The pastorate is not for weak, undisciplined, half-hearted men who love their comforts and their lives more than God and His people.
  5. Ministry is joyfully serious. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). To aspire to the office of an elder is to “desire a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). It is also to understand that “we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Ministry is serious. All ministers will have to give an account for their faithfulness to the Lord and to the people entrusted to their care. Ministers must rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).  Ministry is serious, but joyfully serious. To be a minister is an undeservedly glorious privilege. To know God deeper in His word, to study and preach the Bible, and to shepherd God’s people are gifts. The most joyous life in ministry is the one that is most devoted to God’s glory, the Bible’s truth, the church’s good, and the nation’s salvation.
  6. Life is really short. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and vanishes” (James 4:14). Donald Grey Barnhouse, who pastured Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for a number of years, once said, “If I only had three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing.” For young men (and older men as well) like myself, the time to prepare is now. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:35-38).
  7. Unbelievers are eternally condemned. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). The mission of the church is to go into all the world and to make disciples. The mission of pastors is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Let’s be ministers who work with all our might and pray with all our hearts that God might use us in the scattering of saints to the world. If the unreached do not hear the gospel, they will perish in their sins. Only those who treasure God in Christ above all things will go to heaven.
  8. Hell is horrifyingly real. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev. 14:11). The world must be warned that unless they repent of their sins and trust in Christ, they will face the judgment of God and consequently, the fires of hell. We must be clear about the miserable realities of the consequences of not enjoying God.
  9. Heaven is indescribably wonderful. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). This life will soon be over and all who have ever trusted in Jesus’ work for salvation will see His face and enter glory. We will be like Him as we see Jesus as He is. We will be fully satisfied in God and completely holy before Him. This day is coming. Until that day, let us prepare and labor to be found faithful.