Mark Altrogge


Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter.

Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

The Joy of Fear

We tend to think of fear as bad thing.

As something to be avoided. We don’t want to live in fear. And when it comes to the fear of the Lord, we tend to think of it in negative terms as well. We tend to think of the fear of the Lord as fear that he will punish us for sin. A dread that if we get out of line he’ll backhand us or hurl a lightning bolt at us. But the fear of the Lord is a wonderful, amazing, positive, desirable blessing that God gives us to produce joy and gladness in our lives.

The fear of the Lord is to delight in God’s awesomeness. To marvel at his majestic power and glory. To contemplate his infinite might and breathtaking holiness. To fear God is to love him and take great pleasure in obeying and serving him. When we contemplate the beauty of the Lord and taste and see his goodness, we will hate sin and filth and impurity and anything else that robs us of our delight and joy in God.

Here are a few verses to contemplate:

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Ps 33:8

To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of him. To marvel and be amazed at his glory and power.

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! Ps 112:1

The Psalmist tells us that fearing the Lord isn’t so much a fear of punishment for breaking God’s commands; rather it is positively delighting in God’s commandments.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Pr 14.27

Fearing God brings life, joy, satisfaction, contentment. It is a fountain of life–a constant source of refreshing and fulfillment. Because we delight in and stand in awe of God, we turn away from sin, which brings misery and death.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” Dt 10:12

God tells us that to fear him is in reality to love him and serve him wholeheartedly.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Ps 19.9

The fear of the Lord is always positive. It is clean. It endures forever. It has to do with loving God’s true and righteous laws.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

The fear of the Lord has infinitely more to do with loving God than fearing his punishment. We are not to fear punishment from God, because he punished Christ in our place. Rather, because of all God did for us through his Son, we should love God and delight in him with all our hearts.

So fear God today. Love him. Delight in his awesome, infinite power. Contemplate his sovereign rule over all the angels, over every demon, over every nation. Marvel at God’s providence and wisdom in directing all things from galaxies to lightning bolts. Praise him for his steadfast love and his mercies that never cease. As you drink from the Fountain of Delights, you’ll hate the putrid waters of sin. You’ll hate the snares of death that rob you of joy and satisfaction in the infinite beauty of the Beautiful One.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


12 Things to Thank God for in the Midst of Affliction

One of the most important things we must do when we suffer is to give thanks. I don’t say this lightly and I know many believers who have endured unimaginable pain and tragedy.  Giving thanks in the midst of agony and affliction is certainly not easy to do. 

Yet Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” and 1 Thess 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Giving thanks helps us focus on God in our affliction, steers us away from complaining, strengthens our faith, and brings glory to Jesus.

There are many things we can give thanks for when we suffer, but here are 12 that I try to remember:

1) That God is sovereign and in complete control of the intensity and the duration of your affliction.

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose’ Is 46:9-10

2) That God’s love and mercies never cease

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22-23

3) That Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5

4) That God is with you in your affliction

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Is 43:2

5) That God hears your every prayer

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry. Ps 34:15

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles. Ps 34:17

6) That God is using this affliction to make you like Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28–29

7) That this affliction is momentary and light compared to the eternal reward it is producing

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2 Cor 4:17

8) That Jesus is your sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for you constantly

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25

9) That God is near you in your pain

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18

10) That Jesus is your refuge, strength, and strong tower you can run to.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1, ESV

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Pr 18:10

11) That God has saved you, washed away your sins, and adopted you as his own child.

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Rom 4:7

12) That someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from your eyes and you will see his glorious face.

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 21:4


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


How Much Power Does Satan Really Have?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that (Job) has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12

Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Jobs’ suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin. But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith.  We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.

Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful. “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”

When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits). In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self-pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon. I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.

Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.

He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership. We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.

When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job. God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job. Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.

Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite. Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.

If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being. A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs. Above dogs are monkeys, then humans, and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation. The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.

Satan is a tool of God, and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).

So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.


A Good Dose of Self-Forgetfulness

Pride can act humble.

I can act as humble as Moses (“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Wait a minute, didn’t Moses write Numbers? What’s up with that? Anyway, I can act meek as Moses while simultaneously being proud of how humble I am.

Don’t get me wrong – I really do want to be humble. But true humility isn’t being preoccupied with whether you’re humble or not. Did you ever get preoccupied with humility and pride? Someone commends you for your humility and you’re immediately tempted to be proud about it. Here’s what we need – a good dose of self-forgetfulness.

As Tim Keller says in The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

If we were to meet a truly humble person, (C.S.) Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. 

Genius!

How do we think of ourselves less? By being interested in others. “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.”

This is gospel-humility – counting others more significant than ourselves. Being genuinely interested in and concerned for others. A good dose of self-forgetfulness.

Paul says we should “put on” compassion and love for our brothers and sisters. I’m not naturally emotional or compassionate. I’ve had to learn to put on compassion. All my life I looked to my own interests, but when Jesus saved me I had to learn to start looking to the interests of others.

To put on compassion means we try to enter into what someone is going through, try to imagine what it would be like to suffer what they’re suffering. We can’t fully know another’s pain, but we can do our best to empathize.

But self-forgetfulness is more than sympathizing. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice. Celebrating God’s work in someone’s life. Being glad when others are blessed. This is true humility.

And when we sincerely sympathize or celebrate with others we forget ourselves. And we’re truly humble.

So ask Jesus to help you think of yourself less and more of others today. Now, enough about you, what do you think about me?


The One Question That Creates Humility and Thankfulness

What do you have that you did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7

Meditating on this truth goes a long way toward producing humility and thankfulness in us. All that we know about God we received as a gift, either from God or from others. Our knowledge of God comes primarily from Scripture. We didn’t write it or print it or distribute the Bible. God gave his word to Moses and Isaiah and Matthew and Paul, who wrote it down. Others distributed it, translated it, printed it. Eventually God’s word came to us. Maybe someone witnessed to us or we heard a preacher or someone gave us a Bible. But all we know of God is ultimately a gift from God and others.

Our talents, our ability to think, our eyes, ears, hands, fingers—all a gift from God. If you can read this you are using hundreds of blessings he has heaped on you. The other day I was racking my brain to try to remember something I hadn’t thought about for months. Suddenly it popped into my mind. Where in the world does memory come from? What a miracle. Our brain—a mass of flesh—can store immaterial information, then recall it. My 95 year old dad is in a personal care facility, highly medicated for pain and out of it much of the time, will sing along if you start singing “Dancing Cheek to Cheek,” a song written by Irving Berlin in 1935, sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1935 movie Top Hat. How does that work? What a gift memory is. (And what a gift is Google, which I used to look up the song.)

Our incomes, jobs, our home—all gifts from God. “But I worked hard to get my degree, applied myself, worked hard—that’s how I got where I am.” Who gave you your intelligence to study? Who gave you diligence? Who made the opportunities for you to advance? All you have is a gift.

All we have we were given. The country we were born in, the language we speak, the educational opportunities—we didn’t make those for ourselves. Hey Mr. Proud Peacock, nice feathers you’re strutting around showing off. Who gave you those? Did you make them yourself?

What do you have that you did not receive? Think about this today. Turn it into thankfulness and humility before your generous King.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


12 Things To Do When You’re Criticized

We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.

Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)

This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.

Be slow to speak (James 1:19).

Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.

Be slow to become angry.

Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.

Don’t rail back.

“When (Jesus) 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). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.

Give a gentle response.  

“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.

Don’t defend yourself too quickly.

Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.

Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.

Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.

Remember the Cross.

Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure, but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.

Consider the fact that you have blind spots  

We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.

Pray about the criticism

Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalms 32:8).

Ask others for their opinion

Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.

Consider the source.  

Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.


What Does Your Worship Say about God?

If an outsider came into your Sunday meeting and observed you worshiping, what would he conclude you think about God? 

Does your expression of worship say how great and glorious, delightful and exciting you think God is? Does your worship say you’ve found God to be faithful and good, loving and satisfying? Would an outsider conclude you believe God to be real and present?

Or does your worship say you find God about as exciting as an exam on protein chains (maybe you bio majors would get excited about this – I wouldn’t). Do you sing with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just been asked to shovel 2 tons of manure? Does your worship say you believe God is distant and uncaring?

What does our worship say about what God did for us? Do we sing like those who have been redeemed eternally from the wrath of God? Like those who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places? Like those who are grateful to have every sin wiped away? Do we rejoice like those who have the king of the universe living inside them?

We should worship God expressively, not for a show or to impress others, but as a way of saying to him how much we love him. That we consider him to be infinitely great and glorious and majestic. That we consider him to be praiseworthy.

Worship is primarily an issue of the heart. So someone could worship God wholeheartedly and not show it on the outside. But I like what I once heard John Piper say – worship begins in the heart but should not stay there. It should be expressed.

Our glad hearts should overflow with thanks for all God did for us in Christ. Hey, Jesus DIED for us. He was tortured, spit on, mocked, pierced, so that we could enjoy God for ever and ever. Essentially, Jesus went to hell so that we don’t have to. Isn’t that worth getting excited about?

We should worship like rich people! Because we are. We’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ! We should sing with more enthusiasm than if we just found out we won the lottery.

We should sing like those who know God is working all things for good in our lives. Like those who are being transformed into the very image of Christ. Like those who will worship around the throne for eternity?

God has designed us to express delight in things excellent and beautiful. We gush when we see a glorious sunset. We clap and shout at Coldplay concerts and Steeler games (well, maybe not if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan). We give standing ovations for outstanding accomplishments. Our cheers show what we think of that diving catch or that guitar solo.

Again, our worship isn’t some kind of performance we put on for others. Our worship is for God. But it says something about what we think about him.

This Sunday let’s show God what we think of him and sing the roofs off our church buildings.


How to Fight the Good Fight for Joy

Christians should be marked by joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. If knowing Jesus doesn’t bring us a deeper joy than those who don’t know him, what’s the point? This doesn’t mean Christians don’t suffer and experience depression, discouragement, sadness and grief. Paul said in 2 Co 6:10 that he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” So somehow, even in the throes of sorrow, Paul had joy.

Jesus promised us joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Ultimately our fullness of joy will be in heaven. But Jesus wants us to know his joy now. Believers begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit in this life, and one of those fruits is joy.

Ps 16:11 says “in your presence there is fullness of joy.” Though fullness of joy awaits us in heaven, we begin to taste that joy in this life.

So how do we experience Christ’s joy now? As John Piper says, it’s a fight, part of the good fight of faith. Here are some ways to fight:

Realize that all lasting joy is found in Christ. Jeremiah 2:13 says “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” When we look to anything else but Jesus for lasting joy we’ll come up empty.

Abide in Christ. Seek him, walk with him, rest in him, trust him. In John 15:9-11 Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Take in God’s Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” God’s word is a conduit of his joy to us. As we continue to take it in, believe and obey it, it becomes a joy and delight. His promises give us hope and make us glad.

Thank him and praise him for as much as you can. Thank him for spiritual blessings and material blessings. A thankful heart is a joyful heart.

Ask Jesus for joy. As David prayed in Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

Contemplate your salvation and heaven to come. In Luke 10:20 Jesus said, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Tell yourself to hope in God. David took himself by the collar and shook himself in Psalm 42:5-6 and said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Jesus came for our joy. Sometimes it’s not easy to experience, but if we continue to abide in Christ it will be worth it. No one in heaven will say it wasn’t worth going through what they went through on earth. So don’t give up. Keep fighting the good fight.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


We Know Something Nobody Else Knows

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We who have trusted in Jesus know something. We know something no one else knows. It is one of the great secrets of life and one of the keys to consistent, deep, abiding joy. What do we know? That our sovereign God, Jesus Christ, the Lord of history, who reigns on his throne for us, causes all things–ALL things–to work together for our good. Really? ALL things? Yes. All things.

All of history. Kingdoms and rulers, wars and discoveries.
All that has happened in our lives–Where we were born, the country, state and town you live in, the language you speak
The period of history we live in
Our education (or lack of)
Every event in our childhood and teenage years.

Jesus causes all good things to work for our good:

First of all, Jesus’ own life was and is for our good, both in eternity and now. Every word he spoke, every action, every miracle–they all work for our good now, especially the cross and the resurrection.
All of heaven, the angels and saints above.
The Bible and prayer–how powerful they are!
The church, worship, giving, preaching, serving, the gifts of the Spirit, working through conflicts with brothers and sisters–it’s all for our good.
Our families–our dads, moms, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents.
Our friends.
Books, music, art, technology, medicine, computers, the internet, television.
Jesus causes all of creation–the stars and galaxies, gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, plants and animals and birds and bugs (yes, I tell myself, even our two dogs) to work for our good.

It’s easy to see how God uses all good things for our good. But we know by faith that Jesus causes all evil and bad things to work together for our good. Jesus turns to our good:

Every sin we’ve committed. By no means does this encourage us to sin, for sin offends our holy God. We may look back on our sins with deep regret and sadness, but Jesus is so great he causes even them to work together for our good. Jesus also uses:
Our temptations and struggles
All things from our past, tragic or sad
Every evil in the world
Satan and demons
Every trial, affliction, and tragedy we face now
Every sad thing
Every sickness and disease
Every lack
Every failure or poor decision
Every bad thing someone does to us, every sin someone commits against us.

But wait, there’s more: Jesus works together for our good:

Times of waiting
Unfulfilled hopes
Joy, sorrow
Hunger, thirst
Weakness, pain, confusion, misery, boredom, emptiness. You get the idea.

Why do all things work together for our good? Because Jesus is on the throne, sovereign over all, and he loves us. He works day and night for our good. Not one single thing that happens to us is outside his control or purpose for us.

And what is our “good”? To be like him, to know him and enjoy his fellowship and love. To be holy like he is, and have his image stamped upon us. To be overflowing with the fruit of his Spirit. To be filled with his joy forever.

Let us remember this today and give him praise for everything that happens to us. Let’s praise him for as much as we can. For every good thing and every bad thing. Someday we’ll see how Jesus’ divine genius worked them for our eternal everlasting good.


Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.


Holiness Is Not an Option

We love to preach grace, talk about grace, help new people understand grace. How astonishing that God declares us righteous in Christ and we need do nothing to earn it. What joy to know that our lavish God pours out grace upon grace on us, so much so that it will take the coming ages to reveal his kindness to us in Jesus.

But God’s grace should lead us to holiness. Imputed righteousness should lead to PRACTICAL righteousness. We should walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. We must PRACTICE our righteousness.

Jesus told his followers to practice righteousness. But unlike the religious leaders of the day, they should practice righteousness in all of life–especially in private.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

The Pharisees practiced righteousness–in public. But not in private. They did it for show. They taught others to be holy but they weren’t in private. They practiced righteousness to gain the praise of men.

Jesus commands us to practice righteousness. Both in public and in private. To hunger and thirst for true righteousness. To be holy whether anyone is watching or not. To flee temptation when we’re all alone in an airport 15 states from home. To be pure and holy on Thursdays at 2 a.m. as well as Sunday mornings when we’re singing in church. To be pure in our thoughts as well as when sharing in Care Group.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)

Holiness is not an option! God is holy and he saved us to make us like himself. Impurity and every form of unholiness belongs to our former life. Now we are to put on our new self created after God’s likeness in righteousness and holiness. God has called us in holiness. He gives us his Holy Spirit to make us holy.

Holiness isn’t limited to sexual purity. We should hunger and thirst for righteousness–or acting rightly–in all our relationships. We want to do what is right with our our spouses and children. Do what is right with our neighbors. It isn’t righteousness to lie or steal or cheat on our taxes. It isn’t righteousness to grumble and complain. We want to PRACTICE RIGHTEOUSNESS. We don’t simply want to talk about it.

Hospitals encourage the practice of hygiene. They put signs and reminders all over the place–wash your hands. Don’t spread disease; wash your hands. They have containers of antibacterial gel all over the place. Boxes of latex gloves in patients’ rooms, specially marked trash cans. Every needle is individually wrapped and they don’t use a needle more than once. Before they draw blood they swab your arm with something to kill any germs in the area. Hospitals PRACTICE hygiene. Why? Because if they don’t there are consequences. People can get sick and die.

Can you imagine a hospital that said they believed in hygiene but didn’t practice it? Oh, yes, we believe in sanitation. Do we wash our hands? Naahh. Do we reuse needles? What’s wrong with that? Here, stick this in your mouth so I can take your temperature. It’s only been used a few times; you’ll be ok. I don’t want to go to any hospital that merely talks about being clean; I want them to be passionate about hygene.

How much more should we have a passion for holiness?

We are to be holy and righteous in every area of our lives. Holy in our thoughts. In our speech. Cursing and dirty jokes and gossip and slander should be far from our lips. We should be holy with our eyes and turn away from all impurity. We must seek to be holy in our actions.

Ongoing hunger and thirst

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who at one time hungered and thirsted for righteousness…” He said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”–Present tense. All the time. Every moment. Like the sons of Korah who wrote Psalm 42:

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Ps 42:1-2

To thirst for righteousness is to thirst for the living God. To thirst for relationship. For intimacy and communion with the Holy One.

So let’s not just talk about righteousness. Let’s hunger and thirst for it. Let’s not simply talk about holiness. Let’s practice it.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.


Fretting and Fearful for Our Nation? Here’s Some Good Advice…

Do you fret over the state of this nation? Get angry about Obamacare? Get worked up watching Fox News? Are you fearful about the way things are going with our government?

If so, Psalm 37 has some good instruction for you. For all of us. Psalm 37 tells us the wicked and the righteous live in society together. The psalm says the wicked hate the righteous, plot against them, gnash their teeth at them, and draw their swords and bend their bows to bring the righteous down. The wicked pursue the abundance of the world and enrich themselves by borrowing and not paying back. They unjustly accuse the righteous. The wicked gain power and “spread out” by ruthlessness and aggression.

The righteous are tempted to fret because of the wicked, or to respond to them with anger and aggression. To fight fire with fire. But God gives the righteous instructions which we are wise to heed when tempted to anger at the unrighteous, especially when we are affected by their sin.

Here’s what God tells us to do. Instead of fuming over the government, or anxious about our company or aggressive toward our neighbor, God says:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! (1)

Three times in the Psalm God says, “Fret not.” Don’t be fearful. Don’t get anxious. Instead he tells us to:

Trust in the Lord and do good
Cultivate faithfulness to God
Delight yourself in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him
Refrain from anger and wrath
Turn from evil and do good
Wait for the Lord and keep his way

God says if we do these things, he’ll give us all we need. The righteous will inherit the land. The wicked will be cut off, and the meek will inherit the earth. He promises this numerous times in the psalm.

God says if we fret and fume over the unrighteous it will only lead us into sin and evil ourselves. If we trust God and delight ourselves in him, he will give us contentment and supply all our needs.

In essence, here’s what Psalm 37 says: The wicked focus on this world and aggressively go after all they can get of it by hook or crook, and it seems like they prosper. The righteous focus on God, who satisfies them with himself. The wicked, who pursue the world, eventually not only lose the world, but their souls as well. The righteous gain God who provides enough of the world to meet their needs and eventually they inherit the new heaven and new earth which God will someday create.

So don’t fret. If watching political news programs gets you agitated, or you’re tempted to anger at your rising taxes, read Psalm 37. Keep reading it. It’s rich and comforting and will help you trust the Lord.


Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.


Before You Make That Decision

Every day we face hundreds of choices and decisions. Fortunately most of them are not life-altering.

Should I go with the honey hot wings, or the Cajun? Should I get the ultra-whitening toothpaste or the kind that restores brain cells? Should I watch Doomsday Preppers or Extreme Paranormal Makeover?

But as the new year begins, many of us face difficult and life-changing decisions. I’m so grateful for God’s incredible promise in Psalms 32:8:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

This is the one of Scripture’s most encouraging promises. I regularly pray “Thank you Father, that you have promised to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go and counsel me with your eye upon me. Please guide me in this decision I am facing. Please show me what to do. Please give me wisdom.  Thank, you, Father that you have promised you will.”

First of all, it is God Himself who instructs us – “I will instruct you… I will counsel you… My eye upon you.” God doesn’t delegate his counsel to an angel or anyone else. The very fountain of all wisdom counsels us. The one who devised the laws of nature, who knows how the whole universe works together, who knows all things, including the future; the one who knows us intimately, who knows what is best for us and loves us so deeply he shed his only Son’s blood to purchase us. This is the one who instructs us and counsels us.

God teaches and guides us for his own glory. He wants us to lead lives of maximum effectiveness and fruitfulness. He desires to display his goodness, kindness, mercy, and transforming power through us. God wants to counsel us more than we want his counsel.

He shows us the way to go because he is a loving Father. If any of my children faced difficulties and ask for my advice I wouldn’t say figure it out on your own. I want my children to do well. I want my children to have every good thing. I want my children to know and enjoy God. If I desire these things from my children, how much more does our heavenly Father desire them for us?

He speaks to us his by his Word and his Spirit. God’s word is a treasure chest of wisdom and guidance. It contains all we need to know about God and how to obey him. It is filled with his will from cover to cover. In addition, God fills us with his own Spirit, the Counselor, who guides us into all truth and shows us what to do in every situation.

God also speaks through the preaching of his Word and books written by Christian teachers. He also guides us through godly Christian counselors–our parents, pastors, wise friends, and fellow believers.

What are you facing today? Before you make that decision, go to your loving Father and thank him for his wonderful promise to teach you guide you and personally counsel you. Seek him in big decisions and small. Then trust him and don’t fret. He will certainly fulfill his promise to guide you in his perfect timing. If you have to make a decision, and have sought him, and still don’t know what to do, just make the best decision you can. He will guide you.

Obviously you don’t have to ask God what kind of wings to get. But I would recommend the Cajun.
 

Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.