It is impossible to live a faithful Christian life without experiencing opposition and persecution. Jesus promises his disciples that in this world we “will have tribulation” (John 16:33), and Paul warns Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly live in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Given this inevitable reality, how then are followers of Jesus to respond to such treatment?
Jesus clearly answers that question when he says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). This is what apostles teach, as well. “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14); “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
It is natural to become defensive or combative when mistreated, but the way of Christ calls us to respond with humility and love. As we remember our sin and what we actually deserve, we are humbled. As we remember our opponents and what they actually need, we desire to see them blessed.
Two examples stand out in my mind as illustrating this kind of grace at work. The first comes from a fascinating scene in the life of King David. When his son Absalom usurped his throne, David was forced to flee Jerusalem. Early in his journey Shimei confronted him and his entourage by throwing stones at them and cursing David, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and theLORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood” (2 Samuel 16:7–8).
Those words had enough truth in them to pierce David’s conscience. One of his mighty men, Abishai, wanted to decapitate that “dead dog” Shimei, but David, reminded of his own sin and God’s sovereignty over even these events, refused to allow any vengeful response and to leave the matter with God.
The second example comes from the life of George Whitefield, the 18th century evangelist who was greatly used in the Great Awakening. He was often abused by opponents, even having rotten fruit and dead cats thrown at him on occasion. Perhaps nothing wounded him more deeply than to be vilified in the name of Christ by fellow ministers of the gospel. He describes one such occasion that took place on a Sunday morning in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1740.
In the morning, I went to church, and heard the Commissary [representative of the Bishop of London] preach. Had some infernal spirit been sent to draw my picture, I think it scarcely possible that he could have painted me in more horrid colours. I think, if ever, then was the time that all manner of evil was spoken against me falsely for Christ’s sake. The Commissary seemed to ransack church history for instances of enthusiasm and abused grace. He drew a parallel between me and all the Oliverians, Ranters, Quakers, French Prophets, till he came down to a family of the Dutarts, who lived, not many years ago, in South Carolina, and were guilty of the most notorious incests and murder.
How would you have responded to being singled out, lied about, and scorned in such a way in a Sunday morning sermon? Whitefield’s response shows us the way of Christ.
To the honour of God’s free grace be it spoken, whilst the Commissary was representing me thus, I felt the Blessed Spirit strengthening and refreshing my soul. God, at the same time, gave me to see what I was by nature, and how I had deserved His eternal wrath; and, therefore, I did not feel the least resentment against the preacher. No; I pitied, I prayed for him; and wished, from my soul, that the Lord would convert him, as he once did the persecutor Saul, and let him know that it is Jesus Whom he persecutes. In the evening, many came, I was informed, to hear what I would say; but as the Commissary hinted, that his sermons should be printed, and as they were full of invidious falsehood, I held my tongue, and made little or no reply.
This is precisely the way that our Lord responded when he suffered to accomplish our salvation. In doing so he has provide us with an example of how we who follow him are to respond. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
Christians must remember that our Master secured our salvation through suffering and crucifixion. The path that we are called to walk as we work out that salvation in our own lives is no different. As servants, we are not above our Master. By the grace that comes from our Lord, we can learn to live by faith in him so that we do not respond to opposition and persecution in the same way as those who do not know his grace. As we do so, we demonstrate that there is a power greater than our own strength at work in our lives and provide a platform for the source of this power to be proclaimed with persuasive credibility.
by Tom Hicks
Many of today's young evangelicals have happily thrown off the legalistic fundamentalism of their childhood. They've come to a greater understanding of God's abundant grace, and the gospel has liberated them from slavery to guilt and fear. That's a very good thing. But I submit that recovering the gospel alone isn't enough to keep legalism at bay. We need a renewed emphasis on the law of God or else legalism will inevitably reemerge. Specifically, we need a clear emphasis on (1) the law as a covenant, and (2) the law as a standard or rule.
The Law as a Covenant
The law as a covenant says, “Do this and live” (Lev 18:5; Ez 20:11; Lk 10:28; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12). It demands perfect obedience for eternal life (Gal 3:12; 5:3). It makes no provision for forgiveness of sins (Gal 3:10). The law covenant is inflexible and absolute. Even one sin against the law covenant brings guilt and eternal condemnation. That means we're all condemned in the court of the law covenant because we're all sinners. The good news is that Christ's perfect obedience to the terms of the law covenant brings justification and eternal life for all who belong to Him.
If, however, we forget the law covenant's strict requirement of perfect obedience for justification and eternal life, then we'll inevitably start to think that we can imperfectly keep the law for our justification and eternal life. This isn't theoretical. While I appreciate many of the things N.T. Wright says, I believe he's wrong about this in particular. Wright, popular among many evangelicals, teaches that we initially receive justification and life by grace, but we retain our justification and life by a kind of imperfect soft-obedience to the law. Wright, and those who follow him, have forgotten the strict demands of the law as a covenant.
Evangelicals who follow Wright on his doctrine of justification will find themselves re-enslaved to the legalism from which they thought they were liberated. They'll keep the law to retain God's saving love and favor. They'll fear losing Christ and His good graces; so, they'll perform. Moreover, the works they do won't really be “good” because they won't flow from faith resting in Christ's complete satisfaction of the terms of the law as a covenant. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).
The Law as a Standard or Rule
In Christ, we're free from the law as a covenant! But we're not free from the law as a standard or rule. After Jesus justifies us, He graciously points us to His good law as our guide in sanctification. As believers, we express our love for Christ by learning to keep the standard of His law more and more. The law of God is the Christian's “rule of walking” faithfully in Christ. Romans 7:12 says, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Paul says, “I delight in the law of God in my inner being” (Rom 7:22). Romans 8:4 says that Christ satisfied the law so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”
If we don't emphasize the law as our sufficient standard of faithful conduct, then we'll start to make up our own standards. Preachers will teach “practical” ways of applying the gospel that aren't anchored in God's law but only in their own experiences and preferences. That's authoritarianism. Church cultures, rather than God's law, will tell us how to live in light of the gospel. Extra-biblical emphases and practices will arise by the “leading of the Spirit,” while God's own law is marginalized. If young evangelicals don't emphasize and apply the biblical doctrine of God's law, they'll inevitably be re-enslaved to the legalism from which they were liberated.
The Bible teaches “through the law comes knowledge of sin,” (Rom 3:20), “where there is no law, there is no transgression” (Rom 4:15), and “sin is not counted where there is no law” (Rom 5:13). The doctrine of Christian liberty is based on the Bible's doctrine of the law. If we lose the doctrine of law, then we'll lose our liberty. We will become legalists again. But when we emphasize the law of God, we'll be free from all extra-biblical commandments to walk wisely in light of His sufficient commands.
The gospel alone isn't enough to keep us from legalism. The law of God, correctly understood as a covenant and a standard or rule, is a necessary and powerful protection from legalism.
In the last several posts we have asked the question: How are we to join in the gathered worship of the church? We must make an effort to come and gather. We must enter fully into worship when we arrive. And we must worship God in spirit and in truth.
Another key element of our participation in worship is a submissive, teachable heart. When we come to worship, we should pray that God will subdue and humble our hearts. We too often show up to corporate worship with our own agendas and assumptions. We get set in our ways and no longer expect God’s Word to challenge and change us. We need God to come and work in us—to bend our will to His. We need to pray and then obey: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). We need to learn submission so we can joyfully love and serve and follow Him together.
This includes submission to church leaders, pastors, and elders who shepherd our souls. We are told in the book of Hebrews:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).
And it includes submission to one another in the fear of God, as we walk together in the light of the gospel.
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
Most importantly, we are to be attentive and submissive to the Word of God. We must come ready to hear and receive and do what God teaches us in Scripture. This is the desire of the psalmist in Psalm 119: “I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end” (Psalm 119:112). James admonishes us: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). It should be our predisposition as followers of Christ to believe and to do all that He says in His Word. We see this mindset displayed in Peter (Simon) in Luke 5:
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking (Luke 5:1–6).
Peter had just heard Jesus teaching the Word of God. He had provided his boat so Jesus could teach the crowd. But then Jesus asked Peter to do something that did not make sense. He told him to go out to the deep part of the lake and cast his net. Peter was a fisherman and he knew the lake well. He knew the best times and the best places to fish. He had been out fishing the previous night without catching any fish. Yet, because Jesus told him to go and cast the net, he did so. He was predisposed to obey his Master. “But at Your word, I will let down the nets.” Peter obeyed and a bountiful catch was the result.
We need to nurture such a disposition in our own hearts. Let’s cast off reluctance, hesitation, and lethargy, and pursue a readiness and inclination to do what God says in His Word. Participation in worship requires a submissive, teachable heart—one that is opened, humbled, and readied for obedience by grace. May God work in our hearts by the power of His Spirit, each time we sit under the preaching and teaching of His Word, and grant us an eager submission—ready to hear, ready to learn, and ready to obey.
See a Table of Contents (thus far) for this series: Gathered Worship in the House of God
(Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)
by Tom Ascol
An inerrant Bible that remains unread & unheeded is no better than one that is filled with errors. In other words, what difference does it make if we have an inerrant, infallible Bible if we are unwilling to give ourselves to its study and cultivate a submissive obedience to it’s precepts and doctrines? I fear that the blessing of having God’s Word so readily accessible to us brings with it the great danger of taking it for granted. In fact, it seems that in much of the English speaking world, as the Bible has become more available it has also become increasingly neglected.
My fear is that we too often assume that we value the Bible primarily because we can consult it in a variety of ways with the click of a touch pad, launching of an app or by pulling a copy off of a shelf. But if our esteem for Scripture is measured by how much time and energy we invest in learning it, thinking about it, memorizing it and implementing its teachings in our lives then I wonder what the evidence would reveal about our true estimation of its worth.
As a new year dawns thoughts inevitably turn toward developing new patterns for our lives. If you have never read the Bible or have grow accustomed to neglecting it day in and day out, then the most important and eternally beneficial resolution that you could make in the new year it to commit to spending time regularly reading and learning it.
Here are 3 encouragements to help you read God’s Word this year.
1. Justin Taylor has provided a wonderful compilation of Bible reading plans and aids for reading the Bible in completion in 2014.
2. In the 19th century, Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote a tract in which he encourages the reading of God’s Word. His exhortation remains as relevant today as when he first wrote it.
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always labouring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.
Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible…. Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible….Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?
There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?
If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience…. Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.
If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him…. Your sword is held loosely in your hand.
If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.
If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.
All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal…. Remember your many enemies. Be armed!
3. Finally, the following video documents the reaction of the Kimyal Tribe in Papua, Indonesia when God’s Word is finally translated into their heart language. May their love for Scripture help rekindle our own.
Founders Ministries exists to work for the recovery of the gospel and the biblical re-formation of local churches. They have a myriad of ministries that are given to that two-pronged effort, including a church planting network, an online study center, a publishing house, a quarterly journal, regional conferences and events, minister search list, friends list, and church list. In addition to this their website is populated with loads of resources for pastors, students, church leaders and serious Christians.
Contributers to the blog:
Dr. Tom Ascol, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL
Dr. Tom Hicks, Pastor of Discipleship, Morningview Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL (Tom is the team leader of the blog).
Dr. Fred Malone, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Clinton, LA
Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY
Dr. Phil Newton, Pastor, South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, TN
Dr. Kenneth Puls, Director of Publications and the Study Center for Founders Ministries, Cape Coral, FL
Dr. Jeff Robinson, Pastor, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL
Jon English Lee, Ph.D. Student, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY