“Sanctification does not consist exclusively in a series of a new kind of act. It is the making the tree good, in order that the fruit may be good. It involves an essential change of character. Just a regeneration is … a new birth, a new creation, a quickening or communicating a new life; … so sanctification in its essential nature is not holy acts, but such a change in the state of the soul, that sinful acts become more infrequent, and holy acts more and more habitual and controlling.” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology)
- “6 Ways to Steward Your Weekly Screen Time” by Ashley M. Gorman (Intersect Project).
- “9 Tips for Learning Biblical Greek from Bill Mounce” (Zondervan Academic). Maybe you have never considered learning biblical Greek. This article may convince you otherwise.
- “Helping Churches to Better Handle Cases of Abuse” by Jim Newheiser (Biblical Counseling Coalition). Another ACBC counselor gives room for divorce in some cases of spousal abuse.
- “Ten Brief Lessons on the Ten Commandments” by Barry York (Gentle Reformation).
If I weren’t planning on attending Shepherds Conference next year, I would choose this one.
Humility. The Christian life could be summarized into this one virtue, because it is the way we come into God’s family at salvation. Jesus put it this way in Luke –
“‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
I had a professor who used to say that we are a lot like God’s camera men: we are never to be in the picture.
Thus, to be a prideful Christian is an oxymoron. Richard Baxter, that English Puritan of the 17th century, wrote in The Reformed Pastor, “It is a contradiction in terms, to be a Christian, and not humble.”
What then is humility? One simple answer comes from a book entitled Humility: The Forgotten Virtue by Wayne Mack, who is a former professor of mine:
“Humility, then, consists in an attitude wherein we receive our own insignificance and unworthinesss before God and attribute to Him the supreme honor, praise, prerogatives, rights, privileges, worship, devotion, authority, submission, and obedience that He alone deserved. … It means having a servant’s mind-set and always putting self last.” (pg. 26)
In the Bible, we see countless examples of saints expressing this kind of godly humility that God longs for in all of us.
- Abraham referred to himself as “dust and ashes” when he approached God in prayer asking for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).
- Jacob realized his unworthiness to be an object of God’s faithfulness in providing for him and his forefathers (Genesis 32).
- When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, Moses questioned himself as worthy of being God’s chosen to lead the Hebrews from Egyptian captivity; Moses saw his physical inabilities (Exodus 3).
- When Gideon was called to lead Israel against Midian, he felt his smallness and thought he was the last one in the land God wanted to lead His army (Judges 6).
- John the Baptist felt quite uncomfortable with being asked to baptize Jesus; he said he was unworthy to even untie Jesus’ sandals (John 1).
- When Peter was initially called to leave his fishing vocation to follow Christ, he was hesitant because of his sin (Luke 5).
And how does one determine if he is like Gideon, Moses, or John the Baptist. You could ask yourself any or all of the following 4 questions.
- Who draws the moral boundaries in your life? The proud determines their own “right and wrong.” The humble use God’s Word as their standard.
- What is your initial reaction when you are given a gift? The proud enjoys being in the center of honor. The humble is shocked that anyone would give them anything.
- Where is your sufficiency? The proud thinks their own strength and smarts will be enough for a fulfilled life. The humble doesn’t trust themselves is not ultimately dependent on any other but God.
- Do you feel God or society owes you something? The proud feels entitled. The humble knows nothing is owed them … ever.
The question of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (aka “free will” or “meaningful choice”) is a question every generation of the church has pondered and inquired about.
It is a biblical tension that we see in Scripture (e.g., Matthew 11:28 – will; I Timothy 6:15 – God’s sovereignty). And because Scripture never contradicts itself (I Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 6:18), the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are in no need to be reconciled. You never need to reconcile friends.
It is better to ask the question, “How do these two biblical truths work together” (or “hand in hand” as Randy Alcorn writes) and not a “God’s sovereignty vs. man’s responsibility” question. These two truths are not competitors; they are on the same team.
But we are still left with a need to better understand this tension. Let me give you an example I have found helpful in my own understanding of the question.
I have 3 boys in my home. Our oldest is in 7th grade and our youngest is in 3rd grade. Annie and I are “in the thick and thin” of raising children. It is parenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In our home, we have rules, guidelines, expectations, boundaries, laws, etc. We expect our children to obey what we ask of them, because their obedience is a direct reflection of how they think of God (Ephesians 6:1).
And even though they are handsome young men and a joy to be around, these boys are sinners. They don’t always follow our rules; they will choose to disobey at times. They periodically grumble about our expectations of them in our home.
On the other hand, there is no mistake about who oversees the home. Annie and I are the parents. We are the leaders of our home. You might even use the word “sovereign.” The word “sovereignty” implies rule over a domain. Our “kingdom” is the home and Annie and I are sovereign over it.
Yet, our sovereignty in our home does not mean that our children do not have the choice or the will to do what they want. In other words, just because they choose to disobey doesn’t mean we aren’t in charge of our own home.
Part of our headship includes giving them the choice to obey or disobey.
Thus, in the home there is “free will” and sovereignty. They work together. Our boys do not question who is sovereign in the home; and Annie and I do not question whether they have “free will” or not. We are sovereign; our kids have a choice.
God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is a true partnership.
For further reading on this biblical tension, I would highly commend to you Randy Alcorn’s book on this very subject. There I no book I would recommend before it – Hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Meaningful Choice.
I have 1,820 books on my shelves. I have read probably 75% of them, which was much higher a few years ago…but I keep buying books! Anyway, I have listed my “top 10 book” lists in the past and even given recommendations for building a library – both for a church or personal use.
Today, I want to give you my “Top 10 List of the Most Underrated Books.” In other words, here are books that don’t get the “press” they deserve – whether by reviews, sales, or references.
#1 – Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach by Paul Benware. There are as many views in eschatology as there are years in the Millennium – assuming you believe in a literal 1,000 years. This book covers all the views and gives pro’s and con’s for each view. If you needed a book on the last days that gave you all the interpretive options so you can pick for yourself, buy and read this book.
#2 – Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God by Joshua Harris. Every teenager and college student should be given this book when they graduate. Church is not about consumption but about commitment. Don’t date around; settle down and invest yourself to the local church.
#3 – The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin by Kris Lundgaard. This is a synopsis of John Owen’s writing about the mortification of sin and the flesh, but written in plain, modern language. If you don’t read Owen (even though you should), read this.
#4 – Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J.P. Moreland. I discovered this book about 10 years ago when I was working on reading all books in my library I had never read. I had never touched a work by Moreland, but since then I read anything I can from this careful Christian thinker. This book builds a case for the Christian mind and its use in our sanctification. The mind gets the process of holiness going. The mind informs the heart, and the heart informs our behavior.
#5 – Expository Listening: A Practical Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey. This book would be one of those books I would give to every Christian I know, if I had that much money. The connection between listening and obedience is rarely explained biblically. And listening includes far more than hearing someone talk, as Ramey so helpfully explains.
#6 – Killing Sin Habits: Conquering Sin with Radical Faith by Stuart Scott. I had this man as a professor in college, and I can testify that he “practices what he preaches.” You will find this to be a tool for defeating sin over and over again. Its brevity is a strength and its biblical equipping in the battle of mortifying sin is unmatched.
#7 – New Testament Deacon by Alexander Strauch. This author rightly shows the pastoral tone of the deacon ministry and encourages churches not to relegate their deacons to building maintenance and financial questions. We need this book in our churches and we need our deacons to help shepherd the flock of God.
#8 – Caring for Widows: You and Your Church Can Make a Difference by Wesley M. Teterud. We have found this to be a very practical book for our church (Wichita Bible Church). If you are looking for a biblical call to care for the “senior saints” in your church and tangible ways to help serve them in these difficult years of their life, read this book. You can write an entire philosophy of ministry for ministering to the elderly from this one resource.
#9 – The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ by Bruce A. Ware. This is the only book I would recommend on the reality that Jesus was both God and man. Ware excels in illustrating difficult concepts and what is more challenging to understand than how Jesus could be 100% man and 100% God? Ware makes it sound so simple!
#10 – Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children by John A. Younts. If you need a resource to help you be more spiritually intentional in your conversations with your children, this is your book. By reading this book, you will be given tips on how to transform normal conversation into spiritual conversation. And many of the principles learned in this book could apply to any conversation with a non-Christian.
From the human perspective, the people who own Romans 8:28 love God. They do not just believe the Bible, important as that is. They do not just go to church, important as that is. They love God. They embrace his purpose. There are no longer happy in sin. They want what pleases God. They gladly suffer the loss of all things, in order to gain Christ. People who love God – they are the ones to whom the assurance of Romans 8:28 belongs. And this is right, because the mentality of love is all-inclusive. Love entails trust and hope and all the other virtues of the heart that bind us to God. And love for God is most convincing when offered to him in the furnace of affliction. Love does not resent God. It does not rage against God. Love bows in worship and accepts the will of God without expectation of good. (Ray Ortlund, Supernatural Living for Supernatural People)