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11 Things to Pray for a Deeper Prayer Life

11 Thing to Pray for a Deeper Prayer Life

We all know we should pray regularly, but we often don’t. There are numerous reasons for why we don’t pray on a regular basis.

Why We Don’t Pray

  • Life gets busy — We haven’t set aside the time, and a prayerless morning turns into a prayerless week.
  • We think God doesn’t have the time — Our needs seem minor next to the atrocities we read about in the paper — famine, ebola, and genocide.
  • We believe we must pull our own bootstraps up — Our problem is ours, not God’s.

Maybe you find yourself in the list above. If you do, I can assure you, God does have time for you, so you should make time for Him. Your needs, however small, are important to God. As well as trying to handle everything on your own is not wise, nor what God wants.

Maybe you don’t find yourself in the above list. Maybe the reason you don’t pray is because you don’t know what to pray. If that’s you, let me point you to the Psalms. There you will find a wealth of content to guide you in prayer.

The Psalms

Lately, I have been meditating on the Psalms, even praying them at times. Doing so has added a lot of depth to my prayer life. As I was meditating on Psalm 25, I wrote down 11 things to pray for a deeper prayer life that I want to share with you.

11 Things to Pray

  1. Pray God would help you trust Him more (1-3)
  2. Pray for greater knowledge of God (4-5)
  3. Pray a prayer of repentance (6-7)
  4. Pray God would instruct and lead you (8-10)
  5. Praise God for saving you (11)
  6. Pray God’s name would be magnified (11)
  7. Pray you would fear the Lord (12-15)
  8. Pray your emotions and ask God to help you in your time of need (16-18)
  9. Pray you would respond to your enemies in a gospel-centered way (19-20)
  10. Pray for integrity and uprightness in your dealings with others (21)
  11. Pray for God’s final and complete redemption (22)

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you use a guide to help you when you pray? If so, would you share it?

Resource

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A Continual Reformation

Quotes

Fundamentally, Reformed theology is theology founded on and fashioned by God’s Word.

For it is God’s Word that forms our theology, and it is we who are reformed by that theology as we constantly return to God’s Word every day and in every generation.

At its core, this is what the sixteenth-century Reformation was all about, and it’s what being Reformed is all about – confessing and practicing what God’s Word teaches.

The Reformation isn’t over, nor will it ever be over, because reformation – God’s word and God’s Spirit reforming His church – will never end.

God’s Word is always powerful and God’s Spirit is always working to renew our minds, transform our hearts, and change our lives. Therefore, the people of God, the church, will be always “being reformed” according to the unchanging Word of God, not according to our ever-changing culture.

Question for Reflection

  1. Is God’s Word or the culture changing you?

Resources

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TableTalk Magazine, January 2015, The True Reformers, Burk Parsons

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Who are We in Christ? – Part 3

Jesus on the Cross

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians while in Ephesus after he heard of some issues plaguing the church. The issues Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians are the same issues we deal with today, which is why this is such a good book for the modern day church to study.

However, before Paul dives into the issues, he reminds the Corinthians, and subsequently us, of who we are in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul writes:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

Based on 1 Corinthians 1:2, the second thing we learn is that:

(3) Those who are in Christ are Saints

In the middle of verse 2, Paul says that we are:

called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Cor. 1:2c)

Paul doesn’t beat around the bush. He flat out says that we are all called to be Saints.

What does it mean to be saint?

The Catholic Church doesn’t have the market cornered on saints. A Saint is someone who is set apart to live for God. Since all Christians are set apart to live for God, all Christians are saints.

Saints because sin no longer holds us back

We are all saints — we all can live for God — because sin no longer holds us back.

When I was in college, I had a passion for rock climb. We had a nice climbing wall in our Rec Center at the University of Georgia, and we lived within a few hours drive of the best climbing in the Southeast. Needless to say I climbed all the time.

I remember one day I was climbing on a route in Tennessee at Foster Falls. A route that was a too advanced for me, but one I attempted anyways. While working the route, I hurt my shoulder. Not real bad, but I hurt it. Instead of resting my shoulder for a week or so, I decided to climb the next day. When I did, the small shoulder I had turned into a major shoulder injury. One that kept me from climbing for a long time.

Just as my shoulder injury once held me back from climbing, our sin once held us back from living for God. No matter how hard we tried, before we turned our lives over to Jesus, we couldn’t live a life that pleased God. It was impossible because our sin held us back.

Set free to live for God

When we became Christians, however, Jesus sets us free from sin, so that now we are able to live for God. That is exactly what God expects from us. He expects us to live for Him, to desire to and strive to become more and more like Christ each and everyday. Which is possible because we are saints who have been freed from the grip of sin.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you think of yourself as a saint?
  2. Do you believe you can live a holy life?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Who Are We In Christ?

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The Reformer’s Cry

Quotes

Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, secundum verbum Dei – The church reformed and always being reformed according to God’s Word.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you realize God’s Word and Spirit are always reforming His church by renewing, transforming, and changing us?

Resources

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Who are We in Christ? – Part 2

Jesus on the Cross

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians while in Ephesus after he heard of some issues plaguing the church. The issues Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians are the same issues we deal with today, which is why this is such a good book for the modern day church to study.

However, before Paul dives into the issues, he reminds the Corinthians, and subsequently us, of who we are in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul writes:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

Based on 1 Corinthians 1:2, the second thing we learn is that:

(2) Those who are in Christ are free from God’s punishment.

If we are going to be God’s people, who are on His mission, something has to have happened so that we are free from God’s punishment because in our natural state we are sinners, who deserve God’s wrath, not His grace and mercy.

What is a Sinner?

I am sure you have heard that word — sinner — all your life if you have been in the church and probably if you haven’t been in the church.

What it simple means to be a sinner is that you have rebelled against God. As our Creator, God has the right to tell us how He wants us to live. We, however, don’t want God to tell us how we are to live. Instead, we want to call the shots, we want to direct our own lives. When we place ourselves in the drivers seat, we are living in rebellion to God. In other words, we are living as a sinner.

Bad News/Good News

The bad news is everyone is born and lives as a sinner, which means we all deserve God’s punishment. The good news, however, is that those who are Christians are free from God’s punishment.

How is that? How are we freed from God’s punishment?

In verse 2, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are

…sanctified in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1:2b)

And then in verse 3, we learn Christians have received God’s

Grace…and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:3)

Finally, in verse 8, Paul says Christians will be:

guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:8)

These verses come together to tell us Jesus frees us from God’s punishment.

How exactly does Jesus free us from God’s punishment? 

You can think of it like this: On March 11th 2014, Glenn Ford was released from Angola State Prison. He had spent the last 30 years on death row, awaiting his day of execution. His day, however, never came. Instead he was set free because the courts realized he was an innocent man, who hadn’t committed the crime of which he was convicted. So instead of facing the death chamber, he walked off death row a free man never having to fear being put to death by the State again.

Christians, like Mr. Ford, have also been set free from death row and no longer live under the threat and fear of God’s punishment. However, unlike Mr. Ford our freedom wasn’t gained because God received new evidence of our innocence. We are and have always been guilty of rebellion against God and deserve His punishment. So we weren’t set free because our innocence was proven. Instead we are set free because Jesus took our seat on death row and died in our place.

What a wonderful thing that is — because of Jesus’ sacrifice we now experience freedom from God’s punishment and we have peace with God.

You Can Experience Freedom and Peace 

The way you can enjoy freedom and peace with God is simply by believing you are a sinner who needs a Savior, and Jesus is your Savior. He is the One who died for you to take the punishment you deserve.

When you believe that, when you confess that, and when you repent of your sins to follow Jesus, you will experience the same freedom and peace that all other Christians experience.

So if you haven’t repented of your sins and professed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, do so today. Don’t wait any longer. Experience God’s freedom and peace today. Quit living under the fear of punishment. Quit living under the uncertainty of not knowing if you have done enough to please God. Turn to Him today and experience freedom and peace.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you turned to Jesus?
  2. Do you long for freedom and peace?
  3. Are you uncertain about your eternal future?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Who Are We In Christ?

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Article: Glenn Ford’s First Days of Freedom after 30 years on Death Row

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On Christian Liberty

Quotes

The end or purpose of Christian liberty is not to smoke or drink; liberty is given for the pursuit of holiness. Those who wave the banner of Christian liberty so that they might do whatever they might want to do have not understood the doctrine at all.

To Learn Holiness

Christian liberty is given so that we might learn to be holy.

That he would grant not us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Lk. 1:74-75)

To be a Slave to Righteousness

Paul teaches in Romans 6:18-23 that freedom from sin necessarily entails slavery to righteousness (v. 18). If we are not serving God as slaves, bearing fruit to holiness (v. 22), then this means we do not comprehend the point of Christian liberty.

There are really only two alternatives – if we are not growing in grace and true personal holiness then anything we do is an act of slavery – not liberty. Rather we are slaves to sin, and it does not matter if as “slaves to sin” we smoke a cigar or not, or drink beer or not. In other words, we must never think that a class of “behaviors” opens to anyone apart from personal holiness. There is no middle territory between the two.

Christian liberty is nothing other than slavery to God.

To Do All We Do Before the Lord in Holiness

[Which is why] [t]he point is not to drink or smoke or dance according to our own whims, in the light of our own wisdom, but to do whatever we do before the Lord, with the increase of joy and holiness obvious to all.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you abuse what many refer to as Christian liberty, or do you see it as an opportunity to be a slave to God and a way to grow in holiness?

Resources

Douglas Wilson, Future Men, 77; 80

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Who are We in Christ? – Part 1

Jesus on the Cross

Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians while in Ephesus after he heard of some issues plaguing the church. The issues Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians are the same issues we deal with today, which is why this is such a good book for the modern day church to study.

However, before Paul dives into the issues, he reminds the Corinthians, and subsequently us, of who we are in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul writes:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

Based on 1 Corinthians 1:2, the first thing we learn is that:

(1) Those who are in Christ form a church that is set apart and set on mission by God

Notice Paul calls the Corinthians “the church of God”. They are called the church of God to distinguish them from any other gathering, which is an important idea because the church is unique. We are formed and led by God. As well as we are a people sanctified by Jesus. He makes us holy and sets us apart as God’s people.

In Jesus, sinners are made righteous. They are made Holy. They are set apart as God’s people to accomplish His mission — To make disciples.

I think we often forget how much of a privilege it is to be on God’s mission. We are sinners, who have rebelled against God. However, despite who we are, God sees fit to call us to Himself, makes us holy, and then employee us in His mission.

Thinking about God not only saving us but using us — sinners who at one time rebelled against Him and set themselves up as His enemies — is simply amazing to me. It is amazing that God would care enough to rescue His enemies. It amazes me further that He doesn’t set us on the shelf afterwards, but He actually empowers and allows us to participate in His mission.

So the next time you have an opportunity to have a gospel conversation with someone, don’t shy away. Instead praise God for saving and using you to accomplish His mission — To make disciples.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do recognize the immense privilege it is to be used by God?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Who Are We In Christ?

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On Church Discipline

Quotes

Church discipline is not just “clearing the membership roll” as if the point were primarily accuracy in bookkeeping. Neither is church discipline designed to be a punishment, as if the church were saying,

“We don’t want your kind around here.”

Yes, the church speaks of this stage of discipline as the delivering of one to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5), but the very next phrase in the same verse reveals that such is done precisely for the purpose that “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

Thus, the goal in church discipline is that the one being put out of fellowship will hear the warning in the church’s action as Jesus’s own voice, saying to him,“I am handing you over to Satan,”and in response turn back in repentance and faith. If that happens, Scripture tells us, we will have “gained [a] brother” (Matthew 18:15).

The church disciplines in the hope that the one being disciplined will hear Jesus’s warning voice and return — as Jesus says of his flock, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you realize church discipline is for the benefit of our brother and the church?

Resources

Russell Moore, Acting the Miracle Together: Corporate Dynamics in Christian Sanctification

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Why do you do the things you do in the name of the Lord?

Worship God

Every week, I meet with a group of guys at IHOP for breakfast, coffee, and Bible study. For the last year, we have been working chapter by chapter through the Minor Prophets. It has been a fruitful study! We are currently in the book of Zechariah, so we are almost finished. When we came together this last week, we worked through chapter 7.

The Question

In the beginning of chapter 7, we learn that for seventy years, those in the Babylonian exile fasted during the fifth month as a way to mourn the destruction of the Temple. Now, that they have returned from exile, a group from Bethel comes to Jerusalem asking whether they should continue weeping and abstaining in the fifth month, or quit and celebrate the future restoration of the Temple with joy? (Zech. 7:1-3)

God’s Challenge

God, through the prophet Zechariah, doesn’t provide an immediate answer. Instead, He challenges their heart motivation for keeping the fast. Were they truly sorry? Did they fear the Lord? Or was it all for their own benefit?  (Zech. 7:4-6)

Examine Your Own Heart

Similarly, are the things we do in the name of the Lord for His benefit? Because we fear Him? As a way to worship Him? Or do we do them for our own benefit? Because they make us feel good? Or because we feel obligated? Why do we do the things we do in the name of the Lord? What a great question to ask of yourself and your church this week.

Question for Reflection?

  1. Why do we do the things we do in the name of the Lord?

Resource

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On Being Guilty but Forgiven Sinners

Quotes

As guilty but forgiven sinners, what the powers and principalities of this age say to us is true.

But we’ve already been accused; we’ve already been indicted; we’ve been arrested; we’ve been dressed in purple and beaten; we’ve been stapled to a Roman cross; we’ve had the wrath of God poured out upon us; we’ve been left in a tomb as a bloated, abandoned, cursed corpse; and on a Sunday morning in Jerusalem, we were resurrected.

So when the accusations of the Evil One come against us, what he hears in reply is the gospel truth that we can’t be re-executed. What we hear said of us from the Father is,

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,

because we are in union with Christ, and what is true of him is now, by the grace of God, true of us. And that is precisely why

there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you realize the implications of being buried with Jesus in the likeness of His death and raised with Him to walk in newness of life?

Resources

Russell Moore, Acting the Miracle Together: Corporate Dynamics in Christian Sanctification

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Trust God Will Use You

Work Construction

I just finished preaching a series over the Genesis 1-12. In the last chapter — Genesis 12 — we encountered Abram (Abraham). He is a great example of someone who had to trust that God would use him.

Abraham’s Hindrance

Remember the promise God made Abraham — to make him into a great nation. That is a great promise to hear and believe if you already have a large family of 10 kids.

However, consider Abraham, he is 75 years old and doesn’t have any children. In Genesis 11:30, the text tells us:

… Sarai was barren; she had no child.” (Gen. 11:30).

Sarai’s barrenness wasn’t for lack of trying. Abraham and Sarai weren’t late bloomers who married later in life, nor did they use birth control. In fact, according to Jewish custom, they probably had been married since they were 13 or 14, which means they had been trying to have kids for 60 years without any success.

So when God told Abraham that a great nation would come from Him, he had to really trust that the Lord would use he and his wife, because so far they hadn’t produce one child, let alone an entire nation.

Our Hindrances

In the same way we have to trust that the Lord will use us to advance His Kingdom. Trusting the Lord to use us sounds a lot easier than it really is. There are a lot things that have the potential to hinder us from believing God will use us to bring another to faith in Jesus.

(1) For some that might be your knowledge of God’s Word. Maybe you don’t believe you know enough to talk with someone else about the gospel, or you are concerned you won’t be able to answer their objections.

(2) For others that might be your past. Maybe your past was hard and difficult. You were known as a trouble maker. Maybe you even spent some time in jail. Now you can’t imagine that anyone would listen to you.

(3) Still for others it might be your ability to connect with others. Maybe you are different than those you live around and you can’t imagine how God could use you to speak into their lives.

These are the end-all-be-all of hindrances. There are many other things that may hinder us from believing God will use us to expand His kingdom.

Believing You Can’t Be Used is a Lie

However, believing you can’t be used by God to further His kingdom is a lie. Starting in 1 Corinthians 1:27 Paul writes,

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)

You see, if God saves us, He will use us. No matter what abilities we possess, or what we have done. God will use us. So don’t doubt. Instead, trust that God will use you to further His kingdom.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you trust that God will use you to further His kingdom?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: God’s Reclamation Project

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On the Need to Preach the Whole Counsel of God’s Word

Quotes

The sad decline in the quality of Christian life and witness in our country is largely due to the fact that the evangelical church has for several generations been a huge nursery, not only for infant babes but, much worse, grown-up babes…thus laying them open to all the carnal excesses and sectarian and heretical influences around them.

This is largely because [they] regard the Bible as the book which contain the Gospel message. Although they generally hold the whole Bible to be the inspired Word of God, they far from draw upon the totality of its inspired writings. All their search is for the simple Gospel, and if they don’t find the simple Gospel in its pages then it is politely, even reverently set aside.

There is nothing so sorely needed in the world today as the Word of God hammered home to people’s minds, hearts, and wills [through a consistent diet of expository preaching, covering the breadth and depth of God’s Word.]

Question for Reflection

  1. Pastor, do you recognize the need to feed your people with a consistent diet of expository preaching that covers the full counsel of God’s Word?

Resources

William Still, The Work of the Pastor80-82, 89.

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Leave Everything and Go Wherever

Traveling Bone

Abraham is a prime example of someone whom God asked to leave everything and go wherever. In Genesis 12:1, we read,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1b)

Leave Everything

God asks Abraham to leave behind all he has ever known – his idol worship, his family, his inheritance, his safety, and his culture. We may not see this as a big deal because we live in a transient society. A lot of us leave home and strike out on our own. But as one commentator says,

“To leave home and to break ancestral bonds was to expect of ancient men almost the impossible.” [1]

Go Wherever

On top of asking Abraham to leave everything behind, God also asks him to follow Him wherever He leads. It is one thing to leave behind what you have knowing something better awaits. Think about all those immigrating to the United States. Many of them leave behind everything they have ever known for what they believe to be a better life in the States.

Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes for a moment. Imagine God asking you to leave your home for a place you know nothing about. You don’t know what kind of life you will lead there, if it will be safe, or if you will have an opportunity to provide for your family. Thinking about it like that, we see just how tough of a decision Abraham had to make.

Jesus’ Disciples Should Leave Everything and Go Wherever

Abraham, however, isn’t the only one God asks to leave everything and go wherever. He also asks us – Jesus’ disciples – to do the same.

A couple of years ago my friend John (not his real name) and his wife left family, friends, and all that is familiar to them to move halfway across the world to live in Africa as missionaries. While they were willing to answer God’s call, they didn’t have a complete picture of what was in store for them. They didn’t know they would move several times, suffer several illnesses, or be robbed and extorted for money on multiple occasions, nor did they know the extent of the heartache they would experience. Even though they were in the dark about these things, they went anyways. As far as I know, they don’t regret answering God’s call, and they aren’t planning to come home.

While God certainly asks missionaries to pick up their life, leave everything, and go wherever, His call on His disciple’s lives doesn’t end there. In other words,

God doesn’t just ask missionaries to leave everything and go wherever, He asks us all to give up everything and go wherever He leads.

Sure, God may not ask most of us to move halfway around the world, but He does ask us to give up our life – our will, our desires, our wants, our safety, our family, all that is comfortable to us – and go wherever He leads.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you ready to answer God’s call to give up everything and go wherever He leads?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon: God’s Reclamation Project

[1] Von Rad, Genesis, 161 via Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Genesis, 151.

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4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism – Part 4

Stumbling Block

In my last post, I explored our idea of the evangelistic process and how we can naturally talk to others about Christ.

Today we continue exploring what keeps us from modeling Paul’s activity in Athens — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism and How to Remove Them

(4) Our Idea of Bringing People to Christ 

Often times we believe winning someone to Christ is something we have to do on our own in a one-off-full-on gospel presentation on foreign soil like someone’s front yard, the mall, or the movies. Thinking that way will often keep us from sharing the gospel because after all we don’t want to mess it up. We don’t want to lose the sale, or be the reason why someone didn’t come to Jesus.

But here is the thing:

Saving others is not our responsibility. It is God’s.

God is the One who changes people’s hearts, so that they desire a relationship with Jesus, not us. Our responsibility is only to share the message to the best of our ability.

Conclusion

So those are a few stumbling blocks to everyday evangelism and how we might remove them so that we can engage people everyday with the gospel.

All of them take a little effort and intentionality, but the effort is worth it, not only because it will change people’s lives, but it is something we are called to do. We are called to be disciples who are make disciples.

So let’s be that. Let’s be disciples who make disciples. Let’s all see it as our responsibility to daily reach out to those in the community with the purpose of building relationships and spreading the gospel. If we do that, then everyday evangelism will happen, and we will make an impact in our communities and cities for Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. How does knowing that God is the One who saves free you up to share the gospel more often?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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On Whose Approval Matters

Quotes

Those who are servants of Christ, those who are entrusted with the secret things of God, do not see themselves winning popularity contest – not even within the church’s borders. That is what Paul means when he says,

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court” (1 Corinthians 4:3)

There is only one Person whose “Well done!” on the last day means anything. In comparison, the approval or disapproval of the church means nothing.

Question for Reflection

  1. Who do you try to please – Christ or Man?

Resources

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry97.

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