What Does It Mean to Deny Yourself?

Jesus said if anyone wants to follow him they must “deny himself” (Matthew 16:24).

But what does it mean to deny yourself?

William Barclay answered well:

“To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God.

To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God.

To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life.

The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.”

(Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, p. 167).

By this definition, someone can only say yes to Christ after they’ve said no to themselves. One’s Christianity begins only after their old life ends. Christ is only Savior to those who have dethroned themselves as king.

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Seven Directions for Singing in Church

Christians are a singing people. Our Savior, whom we strive to imitate, sings (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). Our Scriptures command us to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Our perfect salvation compels us to sing (Psalm 96:1-2). Our gatherings are saturated with songs of joy, lament, need, and praise. Every Christian is a singer. Every church a choir.

However, though all Christians are called and compelled to sing, not all Christians are completely prepared to do it well; lessening both the blessings they’re able to give and receive.

With that in mind, famed Methodist preacher, John Wesley, offered seven directions to help Christians in his day make the most of their singing. Thankfully, they’re just as helpful for the church today.

That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.

  1. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please. 
  2. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
  3. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
  4. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
  5. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
  6. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

May God use these directions to help you sing as “lustily” as ever the next time you gather with the church.

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An Unconventional Graduation Blessing

Joshua McNall gave a beautifully unconventional graduation blessing to the class of 2017:

Class of 2017, hear these words:

May you fail  [long pause] … to seek significance in the plastic trinkets of this world / things like money, power, and fame. / And may you find significance in this: / that you are a beloved child of God / Etched in the image of Jesus Christ.

May you have enemies / So that you may love them just as Jesus did / and thus turn some of them to friends.

May you be disloyal citizens / to rival kings and rival kingdoms / So that you may prove true to good king Jesus / And see his Kingdom come.

May your life not go (entirely) as you have planned it / And in those moments, may you come to see that, alongside fidelity, God’s other name is “Surprise.”

And most of all: May you know that we, as your faculty, cannot wait to see you go / Not because we want to be rid of you / But because through your lives, our little ministries will multiply a hundredfold.

We love you; Godspeed.

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How to Protect Yourself Online

Jonathan McKee:

I’ve frequently heard social media experts, advise, “Always be careful what you allow someone to film.” Personally, I don’t think this is very good advice, simply because I’ve read countless stories of people who didn’t even realize they were being filmed or recorded.

Here’s a better piece of advice: Live your life in such a way that people can’t accuse you of anything.

Yeah. You read that correctly.

What I’m suggesting is, don’t get drunk, don’t make racial slurs, don’t smoke a bowl, don’t get naked with anyone but your spouse. And guess what? Then you’ll never have to worry, “Is there a camera in this room?”

In the book of 1 Peter he wrote, “It is God’s will that your honorable he wrote, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).

That advice is a lot different than “Be careful what people film you doing.” Peter is saying, “Be careful how you live.”

(Take from The Teen’s Guide to Social Media… and Mobile Devices: 21 Tips to Wise Posting in an Insecure World, p. 47).

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Dads of Daughters: Put Your Shotgun Away

As a man who has been entrusted to care for two beautiful daughters, this hit home in all the right ways.

Jen Wilkin:

Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family…

So put down your shotgun. Pick up your Indian Princess guide book, or your coach’s clipboard. Take a seat at a tea party. Teach how to change a flat and start the mower. Discuss politics and economics and theology. Compliment a new outfit or an A in math. Tell her you think she is absolutely beautiful. Kneel at a pink chenille bedside and pray your guts out. Raise a daughter with a fully loaded heart and mind so that a fully loaded shotgun isn’t necessary. She shouldn’t need you to scare off weak suitors. Let her strength and dignity do the job. Resolve to settle for nothing less than the best protection for your daughter. Resolve to be the kind of man you want her to bring home. Resolve to build a wall.

“What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver. . .” (Song of Solomon 8:8–9).

Dads, stop thinking about shotguns and love your daughters as Jesus would have you.

Read the whole article here.

For another look at the same idea, don’t miss this gem from Voddie Baucham.

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When Conversion is Worthless

Often, in Christian testimonies, one’s conversion experience takes center stage. Usually, with cool lights, soft music, and a little fog, the circumstance, emotions, and sensations of the event are described in great, gut-wrenching detail. Whenever testimonies are called for, more airtime is often given to those with the juiciest conversion-story offerings; those with boring testimonies (i.e. those punk, church-kids) are never asked to share unless they fudge the details to make their story a bit sexier. All that to be said, Evangelical Christians love a good conversion story.

Now, do not misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with sharing the story of our conversion. When done well, they often bring glory to Christ as the One who saves the worst of us. But the ongoing emphasis on the moment of conversion can distract us from this one crucial, Scriptural truth: our conversion is worthless if it doesn’t result in life of love and obedience to God. David Wells explains:

Conversion inaugurates a life devoted to serving God. Conversion is not an isolated event but it is related to the entire life of faith that follows from it. It is the moment of birth into a new life. It is like a doorway into a room. A person is born to live, not to linger on the edge of the womb in a time of limbo. A person opens a door not for the pleasure of standing forever on the threshold but to enter the room. The Evangelical world has strangely perverted this truth. Evangelicals often make the test of spiritual life one’s willingness to testify about the moment of birth. Describing one’s sensations in passing through the doorway is considered proof that one is in the room! This shifts the focus from where it ought to be (the evidence of the Spirit’s renewing work in producing a God-centered life, a God-fearing heart, and a God-honoring character and witness) and places it on a person’s autobiographical account of the conversion crisis. The only real proof of our conversion is an obedient and fruitful life.

(Taken from Turning to God, p. 43)

Jesus’ disciples are known by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). The plant that produced fruit was the only one not cut down (Mark 4:3-20). Only those who do the Father’s will are recognized by Jesus as family (Matt. 12:50). Faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17). Love for Jesus will always result in obedience to Jesus (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10). More important than how high you jump is how straight you walk afterward. Genuine Christian conversion will change not only one’s claim but also their conduct. The Spirit of God is just too powerful and loving to dwell within us and leave us unchanged.

If you’d like a sermon that powerfully applies this truth to the American Church today, hold onto your hats and check this out.

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If the Bible is Really God’s Word…

Marshall & Payne:

If we believe that the Bible’s word is the powerful speech of God, then in many respects what we want to see flourish in our church culture is as many instances as possible of the Bible being spoken, read, studied, preached, explained, taught, discussed, memorized, prayed over and meditated upon.

(Taken from The Vine Project, 85)

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