Why Read Christian Biography?

I have enjoyed reading Christian biography ever since the Lord saved me my freshmen year of college. To put it in perspective, I have been a Christian for a little less than ten years and have read (or listened to) forty-three biographies. Reading Christian biography is a discipline that I have cultivated, and this is not without reason.

God has used Christian biography to stir my affections for Christ. And, as I heard Matt Chandler say many years ago, find whatever stirs your affections for Christ and keep doing it. Therefore, I pick up different Christian biographies throughout the year and let the Lord minister to my soul as I read about His dealings with other Christians throughout history.

With that said, what I want to do now is list out five reasons why I enjoy reading Christian biography. After I lay out the five reasons, I will recommend some Christian biographies that you may be interested in.

Christian Biography Demonstrates the Cost of Discipleship

Though salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, a life of discipleship, of following Jesus, will cost you everything. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus said:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Just as Peter denied, completely disassociated himself, with Jesus later on in Matthew’s gospel, so the disciple of Jesus must deny, completely disassociate, with himself. He must realize that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15). This is what Christ demands of those who follow him.

And as one reads Christian biographies, they begin to see what this looks like. The lives of individuals like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Whitefield, Judson, and Spurgeon allow us to see that faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ comes with a cost. More importantly, they allow us to clearly see that a life of denying self for the purpose of living for the fame of Christ is completely worth it!

Christian Biography Reveals God’s Providence

The 1689 Baptist Confession defines God’s providence as:

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.

That is one amazing sentence. This confession goes on to say, “As the providence of God doth in general reach to all creatures, so after a more special manner it taketh care of his church, and disposeth of all things to the good thereof.” As you can tell, this is a comforting doctrine.

However, God’s providential governance is mysterious to us. After something happens, we often times do not know how God is disposing all things for our good. We cannot immediately trace God’s hand to see all the good that He is bringing about out of suffering, hardship, pain, difficulty, and even death. Most of the purposes in his providential dealings with us are not able to be discerned until much later on in our lives. Therefore, during these times of difficulty, we have to trust God’s heart even though we cannot trace His hand.

Though this is the case for us individually, Christian biographies reveal God’s providential dealings with His children. As we read about the lives of these individuals, we are able to see how God disposes all things (suffering, hardship, pain, difficulty, and even death) for the good of His people. Simply put, in Christian biography we are actually able to trace God’s hand as He worked ALL things for the good of the Christians we are reading about (Rom 8:28).

Christian Biography Shows God’s Patience

There are no great Christians. The Christians you read about in Christian biographies would not have said that they are great Christians. They would  have said, with John Newton, that they are great sinners and that Christ is a great Savior. This is what makes Christian biographies so fascinating. These men and women battle their sinful flesh by the power of the Spirit, humbly cast themselves upon God, and God patiently deals with them as a loving Father.

Let’s be honest, none of us would have patiently dealt with Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin. As we look into our heart of hearts, we see that we are prone to be impatient and quick to get frustrated. This is not the case with God! Even in the midst of His children’s weaknesses, He is patient with them. Very few things reveal the loving patience of our God as an extensive Christian biography that probes the infirmities of one of our heroes in the faith. As we see this, our hope is stengthened in knowing that the God that was patient with them is the same God that is patient with us.

Christian Biography Displays Christian Living

If you are anything like me then you are well aware that gaining proper theological knowledge is much easier than living a practically godly life! I can read a whole book on a certain theological topic and not be any godlier. Though this is a sad reality, I think that it is understandable.

You see, we not only have a hard time living a godly life because our sinful flesh wages war against us; we also have a hard time living a godly life because we do not know how to apply the theological knowledge that we do have. Christian biographies can help us with this.

For example, I know what the Bible says about marriage. I know the theme of marriage throughout the Bible. However, I don’t always treat my wife in a manner that reflects the sacredness of the marriage covenant. Honestly, I don’t always know how to treat my wife in a manner that reflects the sacredness of the marriage covenant. Then, as I read about Charles Spurgeon and Susanna Spurgeon, I see how Spurgeon treated his wife. I see how he spoke, lead, wrote, and loved his wife. In reading this, I am learning how my theology should be applied. I am gleaning how to live a practically godly life in light of the theological knowledge that I have.

Christian Biography Gives Ideas for Good Works

In Titus 2:14, Paul gives us three purposes for Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Christ gave himself for us in order to: 1) redeem us from all lawlessness, 2) purify us, 3) make us zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). I think the last purpose that is mentioned, to make us zealous for good works, is often forgotten. We, as a redeemed people, are to relentlessly devote ourselves to good works that will bring honor to God.

This is something that certain brothers and sisters of ours throughout history understood. They were zealous for good works. Seriously, there would not be biographies written about them if they weren’t zealous for good works! Who wants to read about a half-hearted slothful Christian that lived a bulk of his life for himself? Nobody! But who wants to read about a Spirit empowered Christian filled with fervor and zeal that joyfully spent his life making Christ famous? Everybody!

And as Christians in the 21st century, we can look at all of their good works and get ideas. We can see particular ways they served the Lord and think through what that might look like in our own lives.

Christian Biographies I’ve Enjoyed

Biographies of Missionaries

Biographies of Pastors

Biographies of Ladies

Extensive (Auto)Biographie–(not for the faint of heart)!

 

 

Childcare Volunteers-Missed People on Sunday Mornings

Sundays During Quarantine

For our church in Louisiana, we have not been able to gather together for four weeks. It has been even longer for other churches in our area as well as around the country. This means that Christian families have had numerous Sunday mornings where they wake up, try to cultivate some type of normalcy, and then sit down as a family to watch their pastor preach to them from a screen.

Of course we can romanticize this by saying we get our hot cup of coffee, sit down on our cozy couch, offer up some eloquent prayers as a Christian family, and then intently listen to our pastor preach the Word of God while our love for Christ is inflamed anew. But let’s be honest, for families with infants and toddlers, Sunday mornings do not look like this.

Sunday mornings are filled with distractions. An infant or toddler needs to be attended too at many points throughout the sermon. They need milk warmed up, or perhaps they need the regular stipend of goldfish that the childcare workers in church normally gives them. Maybe their sinful flesh begins to oppose authority and they take all the attention in the room. This is what Sunday mornings looks like for many families during this time.

Meanwhile, the pastor’s words continue to be unheard. Those nuggets of spiritual truths that nourish our souls simply slide past us. Those life given exhortations from our pastor go out into the unknown. Those theological truths in worship songs go on being heard but not grasped.

Childcare-An Undesirable Service Opportunity

Childcare…………

Let’s be honest, most Christians don’t desire to serve in childcare. I think I can speak on behalf of churches all around the country when I say that the ministry that is always in need of volunteers is the children’s ministry. And I get it, it is hard to serve in a ministry where there is very little affirmation, self-fulfillment, or attention. It is hard to serve in a ministry where you see very little tangible spiritual fruit.

And then there are these other erroneous thoughts that run through our minds. We say to ourselves:

Surely God will not look at the rocking of a toddler on a Sunday morning and give eternal rewards. There is no way God will reward the changing of a diaper on a Sunday morning. Plus, even if God sees these things, not many other people do. Sure, the preacher gets some flack as he serves, but he still gets a ton of affirmation and praise from people too. But just look at the childcare volunteer.  People do not praise them. Shoot, I’d be shocked if even God praises them.

These types of thoughts leave our nursery with very few volunteers. They leave the leader of the children’s ministry hastily sending out texts, emails, and Facebook posts trying to find somebody to fill a spot on a Sunday morning.

Childcare-A Missed Ministry During Quarantine

But during these hectic Sunday mornings during quarantine, it is evident that the unglamorous ministry of childcare is deeply missed. People are realizing the sacrifices that childcare volunteers make in rocking other’s people’s children so that members of the church, as well as guests, can be attentive to the Word of God. They are realizing how blessed they are to have vetted childcare volunteers to change their baby’s diaper so that they can join together in corporate prayer during worship. In sum, Christian families are realizing how grateful they ought to be for brothers and sisters in Christ that die to themselves, walk down to the childcare/nursery area, and serve in the unnoticed and often overlooked childcare ministry.

Encouragement to Childcare Volunteers

The church needs you. You are a vital aspect to our Sunday morning gatherings. Because of you, believers and unbelievers have the opportunity to sit through corporate worship, listen to biblical truth, and hear life giving exhortations from the Word of God. With this in mind, know that your labor is not in vain. When you, in faith, volunteer in the children’s ministry, your Heavenly Father sees you, and your sacrificial service pleases Him.

Exhortations to Childcare Avoiders

If you are a member of a local church and have long avoided opportunities to serve in childcare, I hope Sundays during quarantine changes your thinking. When we are once again able to gather together, I hope you seriously consider volunteering in childcare. This is a wonderful and greatly needed way to serve the local church.

 

 

A Glance at John Bunyan

John Bunyan is a towering figure within church history. Though he was born in the 17th century, his books are still being published, made into movies, and quoted from pulpits. He really did leave us many timeless works. I believe the reason they are timeless is because they are soaked in Scripture. Even the great C.H. Spurgeon said:

Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. . . He had read it until his whole being was saturated with Scripture, and though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress – that sweetest of all prose poems – without continually making us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is bibline . . . for his whole soul is full of the Word of God.

John Bunyan truly was a man of the Bible, and this is evident with every word you read from his works!

Though Bunyan is still being published and quoted from pulpits, most Christians in the 21st century are unaware of who he is. In my own experience, if you mention John Bunyan, people assume they know who you are talking about because they think you are talking about Paul Bunyan! Though this is humorous, it is also sad. My hopes in writing this biographical blog on Bunyan is to introduce him to some folks that are unfamiliar with him. In doing so, I hope and pray that you will be spurred on by looking briefly at Bunyan’s life.

Physical Birth

bunyscot-orig_1_origWhile we do not know a great deal about John Bunyan’s physical birth, we do know that John Bunyan was born in Elstow, England on November 30, 1628. His father was a working mechanic, and Bunyan himself says that they were of the lower class. Writing about his own upbringing, Bunyan said, “My descent was of a low and inconsiderable generation, my father’s house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families in the land.”

Education

During Bunyan’s time, it was common for the poor to receive a basic education in reading and writing. Bunyan received this, but this was all he received. He was not educated in all the classics, nor did he learn Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Bunyan’s education consisted of knowing how to read and write. And though he was educated in reading and writing, he forgot even these upon leaving school at a young age. In reflecting on his education he said, “To my shame, I confess I did soon lose that little I learned, and that almost utterly.”

Unregenerate and Ungodly

There is a reason Scripture says, “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions,” as well as, “So flee youthful passions.” When we are young and unregenerate, we seek to gratify our youthful passions and in doing so transgress our Creator in numerous ways. This was certainly true of Bunyan.

When reflecting on the sins of his youth, Bunyan said:

As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in the world, it was indeed according to the course of this world, and the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will: being filled with all unrighteousness; that from a child I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God.

He goes on to say, “I was the very ringleader of all the youth that kept me company, in all manner of vice and ungodliness,” and, “I was one of those great sin-breeders; I infected all the youth of the town where I was born.” Bunyan was, on all accounts, a heathen. Within the village of Elstow, he was blot and blemish; a young man that you wouldn’t want your kids hanging around.

When we read stuff like this, it is easy to think that Bunyan is exaggerating. We think to ourselves, “Surely Bunyan was not that sinful as a youth!” But Bunyan was aware that people reading about his youthful passions may think this so he wrote, “In these things, I protest before God, I lie not, neither do I feign this sort of speech; these were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires.” Bunyan did not want people to minimize the heinous nature of his sin; he did not want them to believe that he was simply using hyperbole. He wanted them to be aware that he was at enmity with God.

First Marriage and Books

In 1648, when Bunyan was twenty years old, he began his occupation as a brazier (a tinker or metal worker), and started thinking about marriage and starting a family. Though Bunyan was an ungodly wretch, God gave him a godly wife named Mary that had come from a godly family. In reflecting on this he said, “My mercy was to light upon a wife whose father was counted godly. This woman and I came together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us.”

Though not much is known about Mary, biographers say that Mary seems to have been left in impoverished circumstances. Her father was dead and most people assume her mother was dead as well. They believe that this is the reason she would have married an individual like Bunyan. In all honesty, it is like biographers are trying to figure out how a godly woman like Mary would have married a wretch like Bunyan!

With that aside, this marriage proved to be a providential means that God used to begin softening Bunyan’s hard heart to the reality of his sin. Mary would often reprove and correct Bunyan for his corrupt lifestyle, and would tell him about how godly her father was. She also would force Bunyan to read Christian books that her father had given her.

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Two of the books that Mary brought into her marriage with Bunyan

The reading of these books made an impression on Bunyan. Faith Cook writes, “The first effect of Mary’s concern and books they were reading was to create in John the early awakenings of a desire to improve himself.” Bunyan himself put it this way, “I fell in very eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, to go to church twice a day and that too with the foremost and there should very devoutly, both say and sing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life.” Bunyan was attending to religious things, but his manner of life had not changed. He mimicked the saints in the church, but lived like the same ole wretch in the community of Elstow. However, his conscience was awakened and his hard heart was being softened.

Unregenerate and Religious

While Bunyan was living an ungodly life, he had an unusual encounter with a very ungodly women that led to a moral reformation. A woman that Bunyan described as a “loose and ungodly wretch” overheard his foul mouth and told him that, “He was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that ever she heard in all her life,” and that, “he was able to spoil all the youth in a whole town, if they came in his company.” This reproof from a vile, wretched, and ungodly woman led Bunyan to leave off his life of outward immorality. As one biographer put it: “Public reproof from such a woman was an arrow that pierced his inmost soul; it effected a reformation marvelous to all his companions, and bordering upon the miraculous.”

However, we must not mistake his moral reformation as regeneration and conversion. His spiritual life did not change. He was still dead in sin. All he did now was act in a civil and religious manner. He simply became, as Scripture says, “A white-washed tomb.” Even Bunyan himself said: “Now I was, as they said, become godly, and their words pleased me well, though as yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite.” Bunyan’s moral reformation made people think that he was godly, but he knew that it was all a facade. He did not know Jesus Christ. He was still unregenerate.

 Regenerate and Religious

As we move closer to John Bunyan’s conversion, it is important to keep in mind that the day and hour of Bunyan’s conversion is difficult to pinpoint. There are numerous accounts in his autobiography that read like conversion moments. His biographers are all in disagreement as well. It is as though both Bunyan and his biographers were unclear about the moment he was born again. With that said, I will deal with the two most significant moments in his life. One of these has to be the moment he was converted.

Bunyan had a wife and a blind daughter, therefore there was extra incentive to go out and make a living. As a tinker would walk through nearby towns and villages he would cry out, “Have you any work for a tinker? Have you any old bellows to mend?” And he would do this until some individual needed a tinker to come over and fix some things.

As Bunyan was doing this in Bedford, a village near Elstow, he came across a group of three to four women. He describes them as “poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God.” As a “brisk talker” in religion, Bunyan drew near to participate in the conversation. However, this white washed tomb had never ran across Christians that were living and radiating with the joy that comes from being Spirit-filled Christians. As he listened to them, he thought to himself, “I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach.”

These poor ladies were indeed out of Bunyan’s reach. He said:

Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil.

Their manner of discourse centered on the new birth, conviction of sin, and a genuine encounter with God through faith in Jesus. Bunyan was ignorant of all of these.

He continues talking about the women saying, “They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, of their unbelief; and did condemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.” These ladies were condemning themselves and casting their hope on the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness. The self-righteous Bunyan was being made aware of the insufficiency of his own righteousness.

He then said, “Methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said that they were to me as if they had found a new world.” In truth, these ladies had found a new world. They had been transferred from Satan’s domain of darkness into the Kingdom of Christ.

As Bunyan listened to them, his own condition was rising to the top. These poor women were different than him. This led Bunyan to shake and tremble in fear. He said:

At this I felt my own heart began to shake, as mistrusting my condition to be nought; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth never did enter into my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the Word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart.

This conviction led him to earnestly desire to be a godly man. He rid himself of his ungodly companions, and began to soak up the Scriptures. After overhearing these poor ladies conversation he said, “I read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed I was then never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.” Many biographers mark this as Bunyan’s conversion moment, and there are many reasons that this moment seems to be the moment of his conversion.

Nevertheless, the reason for the difficulty in pointing to this as Bunyan’s conversion moment is because, shortly after this, he went through great bouts of depression that brought a lack of assurance. He simply did not believe himself to be saved. He said this in regard to conversion: “Gold! Could it have been gotten for gold, what could I have given for it! had I had a whole world it had all gone ten thousand times over for this, that my soul might have been in a converted state!” As you can see, there is nothing Bunyan wants more than conversion. He wants to be right with God. Yet, in Bunyan’s opinion, there is nothing that is so distant from him than conversion. He simply does not believe that he has crossed over from spiritual death to spiritual life. This is why pinpointing Bunyan’s conversion is so perplexing.

The second moment that I want to look at in Bunyan’s life is what many other people consider to be Bunyan’s conversion moment. As he was going through bouts of depression, lacking assurance, and crying out to God to have mercy on him, Bunyan had an encounter with God that profoundly impacted him. He said:

As I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience . . . suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven: and methought withal, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, he lacks my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same yesterday and today for ever (Heb. 13:8).

Bunyan seems to realize for the first time that the very foundation of his right standing with God is Christ’s righteousness; not his good frame of heart or his bad frame of heart. Realizing this, Bunyan said, “Now did my chains fall from my legs indeed.” This led to a time of peace. His conscience was no longer being wounded left and right because his focus was on Christ. He said, “Here, therefore I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes.”

It is evident that this is a moment of utmost joy for Bunyan. This is why so many people point to this as the moment of his conversion. I do not have the authority to determine when this wretched tinker passed over from death to life; that prerogative belongs to God and God alone! All I can say is that these two moments are of utmost significance to Bunyan. These providential dealings where instrumental to his salvation. And as we read these accounts, we cannot help but have our affections moved by God’s dealings with this poor tinker.

From Tinker to Preacher

Within the town of Bedford, Bunyan was attending a small independent church that consisted of about 90 members. After the death of the pastor, John Gifford, in 1655, the church was looking for another pastor. In the meantime, Bunyan would fill the pulpit. As he filled the pulpit, the church began to increasingly notice Bunyan’s extraordinary giftedness. They desired Bunyan to become their pastor, and in 1656, they gathered together to vote him in. This call to be the pastor meant that he would regularly preach the word to the church, and that he would also gather the unconverted together within other villages in order to preach to them.

As Bunyan set out to do this, he had a remarkable impact. In his preaching he would do what we call law work. He would impress upon his listeners a sense of their own sin. He said:

In my preaching of the Word, I took special notice of this one thing, namely, that the Lord did lead me to begin where his Word begins with sinners; that is, to condemn all flesh, and to open and allege that the curse of God by the law, doth belong to and lay hold on all men as they come into the world, because of sin.

He would press upon the conscience a deep and terrorizing sense of the coming wrath of God, but then he would bring the good news of the gospel. He said that he “labored to hold forth Jesus Christ in all his offices, relations and benefits.” Heralding the word like this was something that Bunyan treasured. To give you an idea of this, here is how Bunyan reflected on preaching:

My heart hath been so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work, that I counted myself more blessed and honored of God by this than if he had made me the emperor of the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it.

As you can see, the fact that God had called him to preach the Word was a great honor to him. It was an honor that he most certainly did not take lightly. Also, it was something that he was really good at too.

Just to give you a sense of the greatness of John Bunyan’s preaching, King Charles asked John Owen why he goes to listen to “that tinker” preach. John Owen, arguably one of the greatest puritan theologians, said, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.” In other words, John Bunyan may be an uneducated tinker, but the Spirit of God powerfully worked through his preaching ministry in order to bring men to Christ. This was to be a mark of his preaching ministry for the rest of his life.

From Preacher to Prisoner

When Bunyan was around thirty years old, his wife Mary passed away shortly after giving birth to their fourth child. Bunyan was left to raise their four children, one of whom was blind, by himself. This put great strains on him, and gave him great incentive to remarry.

In God’s providence, he was able to marry a woman named Elizabeth. Faith Cook puts it into perspective when she writes: “To take a man like John Bunyan and his four children was also to share his sufferings, but Elizabeth rose to the challenge.” Bunyan, now having a capable woman tending to the needs of his children, relentlessly continued his preaching ministry.

Sadly, after Bunyan had been married to Elizabeth for about a year, he was arrested and thrown into prison in 1660. He was not thrown into prison because he was rebellious. He was thrown into prison because he refused to stop preaching. Within England, Parliament had a growing hostility towards nonconformist (people that refused to conform to the Anglican Church) like Bunyan (Bunyan was an independent Baptist). Parliament implemented a series of acts that placed greater and greater legal pressure on nonconformist that refused to give up preaching to gathered assemblies.

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Elizabeth pleading for Bunyan’s release from prison

Bunyan, in light of the call of God upon his life to preach the gospel, refused to give up the preaching ministry. In Bunyan’s words, “Come, be of good cheer, let us not be daunted; our cause is good, we need not be ashamed of it; to preach God’s word is so good a work that we shall be well rewarded if we suffer for that.” Needless to say, Bunyan continued to preach the Word of God, and it is the preaching of the Word that ultimately got Bunyan thrown into prison.

He would spend the next twelve years of his life, from 1660-1672, in prison. This meant that he was in prison from the age of thirty-two to the age of fourty-four; arguably some of the best years of an individuals life. He was separated from his family, and his wife Elizabeth was forced to raise four kids that were not even biologically hers. This was a time of great suffering. However, great suffering usually produced great spiritual maturity.

Bunyan in Prison

It was no trivial thing to be imprisoned in the 17th century. Prison brought great sufferings. Bunyan said, “I have suffered as much misery as soe dismal a place can be capable to inflict and soe am likely to perish without your Majestie’s further compassion and mercy towards me.” It is evident that Bunyan believed that, apart from God sustaining him within prison, he would not have made it.

And his sufferings were not merely physical. They were also emotional. To be stripped from your wife and four children, one of whom was blind, was devastating. Bunyan gives us a glimpse of this when he writes:

The parting with my Wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor Family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my Blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.

I don’t think there is a more vivid picture of the inward pain that Bunyan was feeling than when he says that the departing with his wife and children has been to him like “the pulling of the Flesh from my bones.” His suffering meant they were suffering. This truth was almost too much for him to bear!

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Bunyan being visited by his blind daughter Mary while he was in prison

Thankfully, in the midst of all this, God dealt graciously with Bunyan. God began to illuminate Bunyan’s understanding of Scripture. While in prison Bunyan wrote, “Those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now; here I have seen him and felt him indeed.” While in the midst of affliction, Bunyan’s faith was strengthening.

While his faith was strengthening and his understanding of Scripture was deepening, Bunyan picked up a pen and wrote. He wrote poems, letters, books, and sermons. Sure, the authorities thought that imprisoning Bunyan might silence him, but they never considered what the Spirit-filled, uneducated tinker might do with his pen!

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Pilgrim’s Progress is claimed to be one of the ten most published books of all time

For example, as George Whitefield reflected on Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan’s most famous writing, he said, “It smells of prison. It was written when the author was confined to
Bedford jail. And ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross: the Spirit of Christ and of Glory rests upon them.” This was the case with many of Bunyan’s works. Bunyan’s imprisonments did a great deal of harm to Satan’s domain of darkness because his imprisonments allowed him to take up a pen and write.

Bunyan in Bedford

Bunyan was well known by the time he was released from prison. Many people knew about his preaching, writings, and sufferings. This could have possibly afforded Bunyan the opportunity to go pastor in a more centralized location; maybe even in London. Bunyan would not do this though. He once again took up his pastorate in Bedford; that little village where he ran across those three to four poor women talking about the things of God when he was in his twenties. It is hard to overstate the love that Bunyan had for the people of Bedford. His life’s mission was to minister to them, and that is what he sought to continue to do when he was released from prison.

Bunyan’s Death

When Bunyan was nearing his sixtieth birthday, he set out to London on horseback in order to take a book manuscript to a publisher. On his trip, he was caught in a storm. Rather than pulling off the muddy road to take shelter, Bunyan continued to ride through the torrential downpour until he reached London. He was cold and shivering. His old and often sick body was failing. Soon a fever set in, and it was evident that Bunyan’s health was deteriorating rapidly.

On August 31, 1688, Bunyan passed away in London. He died apart from his wife Elizabeth, all his children, and his church in Bedford. But his last words were, “I go to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will, no doubt through the mediation of his blessed Son, receive me, though a sinner; where I hope we ere long shall meet and sing the new song and remain everlastingly happy, world without end.” This saint that was tormented with a lack of assurance early on in life, died with utmost assurance because he never took his eyes off of Christ.

 

 

 

The First Commandment

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Last year I wrote a blog on the seventh commandment that listed out its meaning as well as some applications that followed. Within this blog, I want to do something similar with the first commandment. Let’s begin looking at this famous commandment.

The Importance of this Commandment

The importance of this commandment cannot be overstated. Our God is an orderly God and, in his infinite wisdom, He placed this commandment at the beginning of the Ten Commandments. This led J.I. Packer to say that the first commandment is, “the fundamental commandment, first in importance as well as in order, and basic to every other. . . .true religion starts with accepting it as one’s rule of life.” And Packer is simply drawing from Thomas Watson who, when looking at the first commandment said, “This may well lead the van, and be set in the front of all the commandments, because it is the foundation of all true religion.”

In essence, Packer and Watson are saying that the essence of true religion is placing the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, as the exclusive object of our worship. If we make the God of the Bible anything less than the exclusive object of our worship, then we have swerved into a false religion.

These truths lead me to say this: in order for us to be obedient to any other commandment, we must be obedient to this commandment. Every other commandment must be obeyed because we have the God of the Bible as the sole object of our worship. To attempt to obey every other commandment without obeying the first commandment is considered sin, and is worthy of eternal condemnation. This is why this commandment is so very important.

The Uniqueness of this Commandment

As one looks at the gods of the ancient world, it is evident that none of them make the kind of assertion that our God makes in the first commandment. The God of the Bible is saying that you must worship Him and only Him. None of the other religions said anything like this. The cult of Baal, Asherah, and Molech never made such statements.

So when God said, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He was saying something quite unique. Ryken makes this even clearer when he says, “This command was without precedent. None of the other nations in the ancient world prohibited the worship of other gods. The God of Israel refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any ofter God.” As you can tell, the God of the Bible is not a man pleaser! He will have you worship Him and Him alone because all the gods of the nations are false and illegitimate; completely unworthy of the worship of men and women made in he image of the one true God.

The Commandment in Light of the Trinity

We have briefly covered the importance and the uniqueness of the first commandment. Let’s now look at this commandment in light of the Trinity. This will be important when we start addressing what this commandment is requiring of us.

God has revealed Himself as the triune God. The One true God that gave us the first commandment eternally exists as three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person within the Trinity is fully God and is worthy of our worship, allegiance, and trust.

So, the Son is worthy of the same honor as the Father (Jn 5:23). The Spirit is worthy of the same honor as the Son. All three distinct persons of the Trinity, since they have the same essence, are worthy of the allegiance that the first commandment requires. And it is when our lives are dominated by our relationship with the one true triune God, that we are walking in faithfulness to the first commandment.

Now that we have a general overview of this commandment, let’s try to understand what the first commandment is forbidding us from doing, as well as what the first commandment is commanding us to do. In order to do this, we will use the two-sided rule.

The Two-Sided Rule

This is one of the interpretive methods we use in studying the Ten Commandments. This rule teaches that, when something is forbidden, the opposite is also commanded. It also teaches that, when something is commanded, the opposite is forbidden. In essence, there are always two sides to each commandment; a negative side and a positive side. We will begin with the negative side of this commandment.

The Negative Side

First, this commandment is forbidding us from worshipping any other so called “god.” When the Lord says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” He is forbidding us from worshipping any and all false gods. With that said, false gods come in many different shapes and sizes.

-Obvious False “Gods”

This is important to understand because some people merely think of false gods as statues of certain gods and goddesses, or they think about all the gods of other religions. Though the worship of these statues and gods of other religions is clearly forbidden by the first commandment, there are other false gods out there that are a little more subtle.

-Subtle False “Gods”

False gods that are a little more subtle are ones that have Christian terminology attached to them. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the Apostle Paul talks about Satan’s craftiness in deceiving people. One way he deceives people is by placing a different Jesus out there than the Jesus the apostles were preaching about.

Also, in Galatians 1:7, Paul admonished the Galatians for turning to a different gospel than the one he originally preached to them. These false teachers in the region of Galatia are using Christian terminology, but they are preaching and teaching about a different gospel than the one handed down by the apostles. And the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping these different “Jesuses” and different “gospels.”

This means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Jehovah witnesses. They do not believe in the Trinity, that Jesus is God, or that Jesus resurrected bodily from the grave. They preach a distorted gospel with a distorted Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the Mormons. They believe that god used to be a man and that, after obedience to the law, was eventually elevated to a god. They believe that god had sex with his goddess wife and they produced offspring (Jesus and Lucifer). Jesus obeyed god’s laws and became a god himself. This is also a distorted gospel with a different Jesus.

This also means that the first commandment is forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel preaches that the Abrahamic covenant brings material wealth, that prayer forces God’s hand, that faith is not a gift from God, and that Jesus’ atonement brings physical healing and financial prosperity. As Jones states, “In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because its faulty view of the relationship of God and man.” The Jesus of the prosperity gospel is different than the one recorded in the gospels and preached by the apostles.

And lastly, for subtle false gods, the first commandment is also forbidding us from worshipping the Jesus of theological liberalism. The Jesus of theological liberalism is not God over all, a being most glorious and worthy of our exclusive allegiance. Rather, he is merely a moral example; a paragon of virtue. His death was not substitutionary. It did not accomplish anything. It merely teaches and models what it means to be sacrificial and to look after the interests of others. Simply put, the god of theological liberalism is not the God of the Bible.

-The “God” of the Muslims or Jews

I would also say that worshipping the god of the Muslims or the Jews is a breaking of the first commandment. Sure, both Muslims and Jews say that they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but as Christians we must reiterate that they are worshipping a god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When you look at the Bible, it is clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has revealed Himself as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus clearly teaches that to dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father (Jn 5:23). Therefore, both Muslims and Jews are worshipping a false god, and not the God of the Bible. They are worshipping a god that is other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

-“God” Substitutes

The last category that I want to hone in on when it comes to things forbidden by the first commandment is god substitutes. God substitutes do not present themselves as gods, but we end up relying, trusting, and worshipping them as though they were gods. At the outset, let me just say that these are the predominant idols that gain our allegiance and affection in the west.

A god substitute can be strength (Hab 1:11), money (Job 31:24; Dan 5:23; Mt 6:24), possessions (Lk 12:16-21), pleasure (1 Tim 3:4), or entertainment. The scripture clearly teaches that our sin nature delights in elevating these things to unhealthy places in our heart. When we do this, we then trust and rely on these god substitutes as though they were the one true God. When we do this, we are breaking the first commandment.

The Positive Side

Now that we are done with the negative side of this commandment (looking at what this commandment is forbidding us from doing), let’s look at the positive side (what this commandment is positively commanding us to do). This will be much shorter so bear with me!

The first commandment is positively commanding us to place our allegiance, affections, and love on God and God alone. God is to be the chief object of our love. Our loyalty is to be to Him and Him alone. I love how one author put it when he said, “The commandment calls for a style of life dominated by a relationship with God….the relationship to one God must dominate every sphere of life, whether the life of action, of thought, or of emotion.” So the first commandment is commanding us to have a life that is dominated by our relationship with the triune God of the Bible.

This means that our entire lives are to be consecrated to the Lord; completely set apart for the purposes of glorifying and magnifying Him. Like Jesus, we should seek to be obedient to the Lord in every sphere of life: thoughts, actions, motives, and words. When we eat and drink, we are to do so to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). When we work, we are to work heartily as for the Lord (Col 3:23). While we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Our entire life is to be dominated by our relationship with the one true God that has eternally existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is when we are doing this that we are walking in obedience to the first commandment.

Gospel Hope

With that said, it is evident that there is no commandment that we break more often than the first commandment. As a matter of fact, anytime we break any other God given commandment, the root of our sinful disobedience can ultimately be found in a breach of the first commandment. It is when God is not the supreme object of our affections that we dishonor our parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet our neighbor’s wife and possessions. So, though this commandment comes first and is of utmost importance, there is no commandment that we have violated more frequently than this one.

And the Bible teaches that only a curse awaits those who violate God’s law. When we commit cosmic treason by elevating other gods and god substitutes to the place of Almighty God, we deserve everlasting torment in the lake of fire. However, the good news of the gospel is that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:13).

After Christ faithfully obeyed the first commandment throughout his life, he hung on a tree; bearing our violations of the first commandment and suffering under the lawbreakers curse. God the Father willed for Jesus, his beloved Son, to die this way so that violators of the first commandment might be redeemed and restored to a proper relationship with Him. This is the hope of the Gospel, and this ought to lead us to praise and glorify our Savior, who loved us and gave himself for us! Indeed, this ought to lead us to joyfully and wholeheartedly live a life that is dominated by our relationship with the God that saved us by His grace.

 

Global Pandemic & Porn Pandemic

COVID-19 & Social Distancing

COVID-19 has confined many of us to our homes as we practice social distancing. Our objective in social distancing is to limit the amount of contact we have with people in order to stop the transmission of this virus to others. This means that many junior high, high school, and college students are not busy with school and extracurriculars. Rather, they are at home with limited social interactions and limited things to do. This presents us with grave spiritual vulnerability.

Spiritual Vulnerability

One reason this places many of us in a vulnerable situation is because, ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3, many of our God given longings are inclined towards heinous sins due to the sin nature we inherited from Adam. For example, we have a God given longing for seeking praise, but we are often tempted to seek praise from men and women rather than praise from God.

And, for our purposes in this blog, three God given longings that we have are:

      1. social interactions with the opposite sex,
      2. sexual attraction to the opposite sex,
      3. and sexual interactions with the opposite sex.

These are all God given desires that are to lead us to pursue a member of the opposite sex in a God honoring way so that we can pursue them in marriage in order to have an unique and special companionship and intimacy that God specifically and exclusively reserved for the marital union. This is how God created us, and it is beautiful.

However, because of our sin natures, we use these God given desires in corrupt and immoral ways. One such way is through the use of pornography. We take to the web to find “intimacy” that doesn’t really involve true intimacy. We go to our browsers to have an orgasm without companionship. This is the way so many individuals use these God given desires in heinous and deplorable ways. And sadly, the ruling power over the porn industry, Satan, is aware of this.

Satan Capitalizes On Our Spiritual Vulnerability

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on our sinful inclinations to use our God given desires in terribly immoral ways, porn outlets are giving away free subscriptions during our time of social distancing. Porn outlets are opening up the dark chambers of their nearly limitless illicit videos and letting folks in to find “relief.” They are aware that we, as people, desire intimacy and companionship, so they are going to deceptively offer it through hours upon hours of fake intimacy.

And just to show you how successful Satan has been in his endeavor to draw the sin nature in man to commit sexually heinous sins via the internet, take a look at this chart:

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The chart above shows the percent change in traffic day to day. Just think about this; Pornhub traffic was up .1% on February 25, 2020. You can see how this traffic began to significantly increase day after day as more and more people were forced inside. Traffic peaked, according to the chart, at 11.6% on March 17, 2020, after free subscriptions were offered. This is a significant increase in the use of pornography. The COVID-19 global pandemic that brings physical death is leading to a porn pandemic that brings spiritual death. This is a tragedy that we must be aware of.

A Warning to Christians

Christians, though our sin nature no longer reigns, it does remain. In union with Christ, our sin nature has been crucified. However, that crucified sin nature rears its head everyday seeking to wreak havoc in our lives. It seeks to keep us from doing what we know we ought to do as believers in Christ.

With this in mind, you must remain awake and alert during this time of social distancing (1 Peter 5:8). Do what needs to be done in order to crucify the flesh with its hideous sexual passions (Galatians 5:14). Take great measures that will keep you from gratifying the flesh with its immoral desires (Matthew 5:27-31; Galatians 5:16). And, by doing whatever it takes, flee this type of sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Also, get educated on how pornography greatly affects the brain by reading helpful articles. Think through all the different ways you actually sin against God when you view pornography. In one helpful article, a Christian blogger named Challies mentioned these eight ways we sin against God when we view pornography:

    1. We commit the sin of idolatry
      1. Idolatry is seeking satisfaction and joy in something other than God. As you view pornography, you are seeking satisfaction and joy in it rather than the one true God.
    2. We commit the sin of adultery
      1. Jesus said that looking at a woman with lustful intent is adultery. The sheer purpose of pornography is to illicit lust in those who are consuming it. Thus, if you are consuming pornography, you are committing the sin of adultery.
    3. We commit the sin of deceit
      1. When we sin we feel shame. When we feel shame we hide sin. This has been happening since the garden of Eden. And, if you are viewing pornography, you will inevitably feel shame. And once you feel shame, you will hide your sin. You’ll erase your browsing history, and you’ll refuse to confess it to friends and family that can help. This is deceitful.
    4. We commit the sin of theft
      1. “60 percent of all illegal downloads are of pornographic content” (Challies). This means that, as you download more and more pornography, are likely downloading material that has been stolen.
    5. We commit the sin of greed
      1. Greedy people seek to take advantage of other people for their own gain. When we view pornography, we are taking advantage of a woman or man that is made in the image of God for our own sinful gain. We are using that individual in a very shameful way for the express purpose of reaching sexual climax.
    6. We commit the sin of sloth
      1. Paul tells us that we are to make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). We are to use the limited time we have here for God honoring purposes. When we view pornography, we are using our limited time in a wasteful and God dishonoring way. This is the worst kind of sloth.
    7. We commit the sin of sexual assault
      1. “A person who drives a getaway car for a band of bank robbers will rightly be charged with murder for anyone who is killed in committing the crime. The person who voluntarily watches sexual assault for the purposes of titillation is rightly guilty of that sexual assault. And a nauseating quantity of pornography is violent in nature” (Challies).
    8. We commit the sin of ignoring the Spirit
      1. When Paul writes about the importance of fleeing sexual sin and impurity he says, “For God has not called you for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:6). To ignore the warnings the Holy Spirit gives before you view pornography, and even while you are viewing pornography, is a sin against God.

As a child of God, it should grieve us if we sin against our Heavenly Father in these ways! So resolve, by the power of the Spirit, to refuse to sin in these ways by staying as far away from pornography as possible.

Also, think through reasons you should exit out of your browser and never look at porn again. Challies helps us here as well:

    1. The cost to your soul
    2. The cost to your neighbor
    3. The cost to your church
    4. The cost to your family
    5. The cost to your mission
    6. The cost to your witness
    7. The cost to your savior

As you can see, pornography costs a great deal. Most people vastly underestimate this truth! Meditate on the costs of committing such a sin and be renewed in your zeal to fight it.

And lastly, think through the warnings of Scripture. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament have significant warnings against sexual sin. Proverbs tells us that sexual sin leads to death (Proverbs 5:5-6). The New Testament shouts that those who are sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-5; Galatians 5:19-21). With these warnings in mind, wage war against the sin of viewing pornography like it is seeking to strip you of the salvation that is offered in Christ; for that is exactly what it is seeking to do!

A Warning to Parents

Parents are entrusted with the spiritual well-being of their children. In light of this, parents need to be diligent in protecting their children from the soul ravaging nature of pornography. So here are some things you need to know as a parent (these stats are from a Barna survey conducted from 2014-2016, and the use of pornography has only increased since then):

    • The following percentages of men say they view pornography at least once a month: 79% of 18-30 year olds; 67% of 31-49 year olds; 49% of 50-68 year olds.
    • The following percentages of men say they view pornography at least several times a week: 63% of 18-30 year olds; 38% of 31-49 year olds; 25% of 50-68 year olds.
    • ––The following percentages of women say they view pornography at least once a month: 76% of 18-30 year olds; 16% of 31-49 year olds; 4% of 50-68 year olds.
    • ––The following percentages of women say they view pornography at least several times a week: 21% of 18-30 year olds; 5% of 31-49 year olds; 0% of 50-68 year olds.
    • 55% of married men say they watch porn at least once a month, compared to 70% of unmarried men.
    • ––25% of married women say they watch porn at least once a month, compared to 16% of unmarried women.

These stats say a lot of things, but the one thing I want you to think through is the use of pornography amongst both men and women. Pornography is no longer a “male” thing to do. An increasing number of women are viewing pornography as well. In light of this, you need to be protecting ALL of your children from pornography. It would be wise to talk to your children about these things. Chances are, if they are over the age of 11-12, they have been exposed to pornography. In regard to this, Challies said:

At age 11, the average child has already been exposed to explicit pornographic content through the internet. 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet-based pornography during their adolescent years and 22% of the vast quantities of porn consumed by people aged under 18 is consumed by those aged less than 10. Significance: Parents are nothing short of negligent if they take no steps to protect their children from being exposed to pornography.

Parents must be the front lines of defense when it comes to guarding their children’s souls against pornography. This is especially the case right now during this global pandemic.

A Final Word

Blogs like this are never pleasant to read. They turn the stomach and overwhelm us with sorrow. Yet, it is necessary to discuss these things because this is reality. So, just to offer some comfort, I want to give some words of encouragement.

First, though our sins are like scarlet, in Christ, they have been washed white as snow. Though we will have to give an account of our lives (every click on pornography) on judgment day, we ultimately will not be condemned if we are in Christ. This is the good news of the gospel. Christ bore our sin in his body on the cross. Praise God!

Second, a Spirit dwelt believer can put any sin to death. This is the beauty of the indwelling Spirit. He enables us to die to sin and to live to the glory of God. He gives us the power to say no to pornography and yes to righteousness.

Third, the throne of grace is called the throne of grace for a reason. We, as children of God, can approach our Heavenly Father to receive grace and mercy in a time of need. If you fall into the sin of viewing pornography, do not recoil away from the Lord. Flee to his throne to receive grace and mercy.

Fourth, if you are a parent, you will be held accountable for how you shepherd your children. Ultimately though, your children will be responsible for their own sins. Do what you can to protect them spiritually (there are a lot of helpful resources our there to protect your children by the way) and then entrust them to God.

This blog is entirely too long so this is where I am going to end. I do hope and pray that this will be helpful in many people putting the sin of viewing pornography to death!

 

A COVID-19 Spiritual Care Package

God’s Ordained Means to Satisfaction in Christ

Within the Christian life, God has ordained that certain disciplines, when done in faith, will further our sanctification and give us ever increasing joy and satisfaction in Christ. Here are some of those disciplines:

    • Bible Intake (Reading, Meditating, Memorizing, & Listening to the Bible)
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Prayer (Personal Prayer & Corporate Prayer)
    • Worship (Personal Worship & Corporate Worship)
    • Singing
    • Fellowship
    • Fasting (Personal Fasting & Corporate Fasting)
    • Evangelism & Missions
    • Giving (To the Ministries of the Church, the Needy, & Missions)
    • Service
    • Ordinances (Baptism & the Lord’s Supper)
    • Discipleship

As we discipline ourselves, in faith, to make use of these disciplines, we will progressively be conformed into the image of Jesus and find satisfaction in Jesus.

COVID-19 Presents Some Problems

With one cursory reading through the New Testament, you will realize that God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Christ is the local church. Most of the godly disciplines mentioned above take place in the local church:

    • Listening to the Word
    • Preaching & Teaching
    • Fellowship
    • Corporate Prayer
    • Corporate Fasting
    • Corporate Worship
    • Ordinances

This is why, when you see a Christian that is not faithfully involved in the life of a local church, they are spiritually immature and find very little satisfaction in Jesus. They are neglecting God’s Plan-A for spiritual growth and satisfaction in Jesus!

With that said, here is the problem that COVID-19 presents: Most churches, out of love for God and love for neighbor, are canceling services. These cancelations could last a couple weeks or they could possibly last for months. Nobody is really sure in light of the volatility of the situation. This means that most Christians are not going to be able to faithfully participate in the life of the local church. Thus, Christians are not going to be able to participate in God’s Plan-A for christian maturity and satisfaction in Christ.

A Spiritual Care Package

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to create a spiritual care package that God might use to nourish our souls. So, rather than languishing spiritually during this time, this care package is meant to sustain your joy, contentment, and satisfaction in Christ. This care package will contain advise as well as specific recommendations.

First, consistently intake the Bible. At a time like this, it is tempting to have your face glued to your phone to catch the latest news article, tweet, or Facebook post about COVID-19. Resist that temptation and seek the Lord. Read through whole books of the Bible. Meditate on comforting truths from the Bible. Memorize sections of the Bible that you can share with others. Bible intake is, without a doubt, the chief means that God uses to both mature and satisfy His people.

Second, pray regularly. Make a weekly prayer guide to strategically pray for the following things:

    • those at high-risk in your local church body,
    • those that may feel lonely,
    • those entrusted to lead the church through this trying time,
    • those in your community,
    • those working in medical facilities,
    • those entrusted to lead our country,
    • those missionaries all over the world,
    • and unbelievers.

As you do this, you will bear the burdens of others. You will be petitioning a great King that has limitless resources to act on behalf of others!

Third, listen to good preaching. I do have one caveat here. Though there are a variety of godly pastors out there that are gifted preachers and teachers, be sure to listen to the specific pastor that God has entrusted to the care of your soul. He knows, loves, and cares for you a great deal. He is thinking about how to specifically shepherd you during this time. So listen to him. With that caveat out the way, here are some good sermons that have made a profound impact on Kahlie (my wife) and I personally:

Fourth, read good books written by good teachers. God has gifted the universal church with many godly men and women throughout the centuries that are gifted with writing. God has given them the ability to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to pump out helpful literature for the church. Here are some books, none of which are academic, that have been helpful or encouraging in Kahlie and I’s life:

Fifth, listen and sing some hymns that were penned in troubled times throughout history. Matt Merker actually published an article of 25 hymns to sing. Each hymn has a link that takes you to a website where you can read the lyrics as well as listen to the song. Click on this link and find some hymns to joyfully sing to the Lord.

Sixth, serve the local church and the surrounding community. A global pandemic does not just hinder us as individuals. It hinders those around us. It hinders fellow members in our local church as well as fellow individuals in our community. Health care workers get exhausted, small business owners get anxious, and the elderly get concerned. In light of this, we are presented with some opportunities to serve. Here are some opportunities that I have been thinking through:

    • Offer to go get groceries for the elderly in your church
    • Offer to go get prescription medicine for the elderly in your church
    • Adopt a widow in your church and check up on her every 2-3 days
    • Give generously toward the benevolence fund at your local church
    • Order carry-out food or gift cards from local businesses in your area
    • Send encouraging texts or emails to those in your Sunday school class
    • Thank those who work in health care, the police department, grocery stores, etc.

Joy in Christ in the Midst of COVID-19

I am confident that if you, in faith, make use of this spiritual care package, then you will find joy and satisfaction in Jesus. In the midst of all the turmoil and volatility, you will be a well of living water that benefits and nourishes other people in these dark days.

March & April in Books

My goal in doing this type of blog every two months is to give you, the readers, an opportunity to look at certain books that you may like to read. So, here are the books that I have read throughout March and April.

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The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer

This is a book that I had to read for one of my classes this semester. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it immensely helpful. Needless to say, the work of a shepherd, when done properly, is tasking but overwhelmingly worth it. This book makes this evident. If you are a pastor, or are aspiring to be a pastor, then I would encourage you to read this. Below is the description that is on Amazon:

Leaders in the church are called to be shepherds, not a board of directors. This requires involvement in a personal shepherding ministry among the people. The Shepherd Leader unpacks the four primary ministries of shepherds — knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting — on macro (churchwide) and micro (personal) levels, providing seven elements to be incorporated into an effective shepherding plan.

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The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew Davis

I serve under Andy Davis (the author of this book) so I have been looking forward to reading this! I would encourage any and every Christian to read this book. Here is the review that I wrote for this book on Amazon:

Andy Davis uses Jeremiah Burrough’s definition of contentment: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (40-41). And Andy Davis sees biblical warrant for us to pursue this contentment every day of our lives.

He says, “It is the duty of all Christians to strive after contentment every single day for the rest of their lives on earth. We owe this to Christ. A convicting question stands over all our moments of complaining discontent: Has Christ, crucified and resurrected on your behalf, done enough to make you content today. . .or must he do a little more” (40).

However, if we are going to pursue Christian contentment, then we are going to have to learn it the same way the Apostle Paul learned it (Phil. 4:11-13). Paul learned to live on God alone in the midst of suffering and prosperity. Andy Davis then teaches us a great deal about God so that we might learn how to live in Him alone.

The most breathtaking chapters are the ones on God’s providence, the evils and excuses of a complaining heart, contentment in suffering, and contentment in prosperity. With that said, here is a quote from the chapter on the evils and excuses of a complaining heart: “All of us underestimate how much evil complaining reveals in our hearts. We have spent much of our lives complaining about our surroundings-too hot, too cold, too loud, too soft, too spicy, too bland. We don’t think it matters if we voice our frustrations on a regular basis. But actually Scripture teaches the truth: complaining reveals much corruption in the soul” (111).

This book will help you fight for contentment in Christ in any and every circumstance!

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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible by Jay E. Adams

This past semester, I taught the college students what the Bible says in regards to divorce and remarriage. I used numerous resources as I prepared for this teaching, but the one resource that I read in its entirety was this short book. Jay Adams is concise and dogmatic (some people may not like the dogmatic aspect). Nevertheless, he was helpful for thinking through the topic. This will serve as a nice introductory read to the topic of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

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Spirit-Led Preaching by Greg Heisler

This is another book that I had to read for school. I enjoyed the read. Heisler speaks about how essential the Holy Spirit is to the preaching ministry. Heisler’s own words are below:

Spirit-Led Preaching is a call issued to preachers, pastors, and teachers of homiletics to recover the Holy Spirit for expository preaching in the same way we have recovered the biblical text. . . . My plan for doing this is to recover the doctrine of pneumatology (the study of spiritual beings/phenomena) for our theology of preaching, resulting in a renewed emphasis on the powerful combination of Word and Spirit working together as the catalyst for powerful expository preaching.

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The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

Every book that I have ever read on pastoral ministry quotes extensively from The Reformed Pastor. After having read it, it is obvious as to why this would be the case! Baxter lays out a charge to ministers to be faithful in the charge to shepherd the flock that the Holy Spirit has made them overseers of. Philip Doddridge said, “The Reformed Pastor is an extraordinary book. . .many good men are but shadows of what (by the blessing of God) they might be, if the maxims and measures laid out in that incomparable treatise were strenuously pursued.” I concur!

Kevin DeYoung

The 10 Commandments by Kevin DeYoung

I read this book because I am going to be doing a series with the college students on the 10 Commandments over the summer. I found this book informative. It definitely serves as an introductory work to studying the 10 Commandments.

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Basics of Biblical Greek by William Mounce

I am finishing up Greek 2 this semester. I would say the most beneficial aspect of taking Greek 2 is that this lower Alabamian has finally learned some English grammar!

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Spurgeon’s Practical Wisdom by Charles Spurgeon

I always like reading something written by Spurgeon or something written about Spurgeon. This was something written by Spurgeon. In this book, Spurgeon writes under the pseudonym John Ploughman. He seeks to give extremely practical advice on certain topics such as marriage, drunkenness, debt, laziness, hypocrisy, unhealthy spending, etc. He gives this advice in a witty way that is filled with humor. Here is a sample:

Ever since that early sickening I have hated debt as Luther hated the Pope, and if I say some fierce things about it, you must not wonder. To keep debt, dirt, and the devil out of my cottage has been my greatest wish ever since I set up housekeeping; although the last of the three has sometimes got in by the door or the window, for the old serpent will wriggle through the smallest crack, yet, thanks to a good wife, hard work, honesty, and scrubbing brushes, the two others have not crossed the threshold.

Eye for an Eye

I love The Sermon on the Mount. It opens up our eyes to the ethics of the Kingdom of God. It reveals to us what kind of people we ought to be as Spirit filled followers of Christ. And one section that I find particularly helpful is Matthew 5:38-42. This is the small section I want to focus on in this blog. Here is the passage in full:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Let’s start with verse 38: 

Verse 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’”

As is common throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with a quotation of the Old Testament Law. He quotes Exodus 21:23-25 where the Law said, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” And once again, as poor interpreters of the Bible, the Scribes and the Pharisees missed the Spirit of this particular law and created a simple, basic, and twisted interpretation of this law.

You see, they used this law in everyday life. If somebody does this to you then you are to do that to them. So, if they burn your house down, then you are to burn their house down. If they gouge your eye out, then you are to gouge their eye out. They pretty much used this Old Testament Law to enact personal vengeance on the one who did them wrong. This same misinterpretation is also seen with Donald Trump, for he did say that this was his favorite Bible verse….I digress though! 

In interpreting this Old Testament law this way, they missed the Spirit of it. God did not give this law so that we could bring about vengeance on the one who wronged us. Rather, He gave us this law to address and restrain man’s great, evil desire for retaliation.

You see, naturally, when somebody does something against us, we want to defend ourselves to the utmost. We want to retaliate. We want retribution. And we normally do not want to retaliate by inflicting the same harm on them as they did to us. Rather, we want to inflict more harm on them than they did to us.

For example, if somebody says something against you that is very offensive and hurtful, your natural desire is to either say something more hurtful, or possibly even to do something physically harmful, to them. This is that evil desire to retaliate, and it comes from a deep prideful desire to defend ourselves. I mean, how dare somebody wrong us (sarcasm emplied)!

With this in mind, this law seeks to restrain this evil desire that we have. It tells us that we must not carry out our fleshly desire for retaliation. We must not be so eager to defend ourselves that we move beyond legitimate retribution and into unjust actions.

The Scribes and the Pharisees were not thinking this way though. Christ, being a good interpreter of the Law and having the mind of God, is about to give us a proper understanding of the purpose of this particular law. And then, right after this, Christ is going to gives us an incredible teaching on how, when this law is interpreted rightly, it reveals that we should not be so eager to defend ourselves. Let’s look at verse 39.

Verse 39 “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

So Christ says that we are not to “Resist the one who is evil.” Which we can take to mean “do not oppose, or set yourself against an evil person.” Therefore, we are to accept the one who is evil. And then Christ is going to give us four examples of what this kingdom ethic looks like. He is going to show us what this practically looks like in different areas of life. He starts with this,“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Now, just to clarify quickly, Jesus is speaking about his disciples personally. He is not speaking about nations, capitol punishment, or wars. Also, he is not talking about defending yourself from a physical attack on your life. Nor he is talking about evading an attack on your life. He is simply teaching us how we ought to live as Christians when evil people wrong us.

With that said, a slap on the right cheek was regarded as one of the most insulting things in ancient Israel. It was a shameful thing to be slapped in the face. And Christ says that his people are not to retaliate, or oppose, those who insult and shame them. Rather, we are to turn our other cheek to them. We are to let them insult and shame us without opposition! Our Lord is the perfect example of this. If you want to apply this your life, then take Jesus as the example. 

It says in 1 Peter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Christ was consistently reviled and mocked, but he never threatened those who reviled and mocked Him. Rather, He entrusted himself to God. Paul imitated Christ well in this regard. He says that he blesses those who revile him (1 Cor. 4:12).

Thus, as disciples, we turn away from the desire to retaliate. We turn away from the evil desire to defend ourselves. Rather, we entrust ourselves to God and bless those that are opposed to us. This is the first example that he gives. Now let’s look at verse 40 to see the second example that Jesus gives.

Verse 40 “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

This has to do with legal rights. Within ancient Israel, if you wronged somebody then they would sue you in order to take your tunic. This was legal. However, it was illegal for someone to sue you for your cloak (Ex. 22:25-27).

And what Christ is saying here is that we are not to insist upon our legal rights. If you have done something wrong and that person sues you for your tunic, then do not insist on your individual legal rights by merely giving him your tunic. Go beyond what the legal law requires of you. Give him both your tunic and your cloak.

This teaching is beautifully illustrated in the life of Zacchaeus. Once Zacchaeus came to faith in Christ, he wanted to pay back those whom he wronged as a crooked tax collector. However, he didn’t want to simply give them the exact sum that he took from them. Rather, he gave them four times as much as he took from them (Luke 19:5-10)! He went beyond the legal obligation.

This is what we do as disciples of Christ. Those who are overly concerned about themselves will only meet the legal requirement that is placed on them. Those who live empowered by the Spirit will go further than the civil law would ever tell them to because they are followers of Christ. That is the second example that Christ gives. The next example is found in the following verse.

Verse 41 “And if anyone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles.”

Here, Christ is telling us not to insist upon our civil rights. According to Roman law, if the Romans were going through a town, let’s say Capernaum, they could lawfully ask a citizen of Capernaum to carry some type of burden for a mile. When that mile was over, the citizen was free to return. Then the Romans would get another individual to carry it a mile.

So, with this in mind, Christ tells them not to merely do what was required of them as a citizen. Rather, they are to do more. If they ask you to fulfill your obligation by carrying a burden for one mile, carry that burden for two miles. Christ is simply getting at our selfishness, isn’t he? In our flesh we simply want to do what is required of us. Christ is bidding us here to die to the flesh and do more! That is the third example. The fourth and last example Christ gives us is found in verse 42.

Verse 42 “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Here, Christ is speaking about personal possessions. His disciples are not to be a people that are selfish and stingy. We naturally, in our flesh, say, “I worked hard for this so why should I give it to you?” We say, “This is my money, this is my house, and this is my car.” We are so focused on ourselves that it keeps us from being generous and ready to share.

But as disciples, we are to be a generous people. We are not to insist upon our ownership of things. Rather, we are to be a people that freely give. This is what the early church was doing. Luke writes, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

Conclusion

Christ is challenging the popular interpretation of, “An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” In doing so, he is revealing that that law was actually established to restrain us from retaliating in harmful and extreme ways. Then he shows us what a good, pure, and righteous ethic is for citizens within His kingdom. He shows us that, as Spirit filled disciples, we are not to be a people that are vehemently committed to self. Rather, we are to be a selfless people. We do not insist on legitimate retribution, legal rights, civil rights, or our own possessions. We relinquish our rights for the sake of living a selfless life to the glory of God.

 

Our First Priority

A Remarkable and Important Verse!

One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is Matthew 6:33. Within the section of Scripture that this particular verse is found, Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are not to be anxious about food, water, or clothing. Their lives should not be consumed with an overwhelming preoccupation for seeking the necessities of life. They are made for so much more than this. I mean, unbelievers are the ones that are to be preoccupied with the necessities of life because that is all they have. This is not so with the Christian. We know there is a God that is in enthroned in the heavens. Therefore, that is what we ought to be procuppied with seeking. This is why Jesus says these famous words in Matthew 6:33:

Verse 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 This verse is by far the most important verse in this section of Scripture. This is the whole reason we, as Christians, are not to be anxious and preoccupied with running after food, drink, and clothing. It is because we are to be seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What This Means

Well, the term “Seek” here literally means to “eagerly seek” or to “run after.” Then he says “First” which is in reference to a level of priority. So, in essence, Christ is telling us, in context, to stop placing food, water, and clothing as our top priority and to begin placing the kingdom of God and His righteousness as our top priority.

So, this is what we, as Christians, are to be earnestly seeking and running after. But what in the world does this look like? We like this verse as a screensaver on our phones but what does it mean for our lives? To understand this, let’s begin with what the kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is a reference to the rule and reign of God. It is the Kingdom that is not ruled by man, but the one ruled by Almighty God. It is the kingdom that Jesus Christ inaugurated in his first coming, and it is the kingdom that will be consummated in Christ’s second coming. And to seek this kingdom is three-fold.

First, we need to seek this Kingdom personally. Recall when Nicodemus approached Jesus at night saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Then Jesus responded to Nicodemus directly, getting at the heart of the matter, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

This is what I mean when I say that one, first and foremost, needs to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God in a personal way. They need to be born again by the Spirit of God. They desperately need God to impart new spiritual life to their dead spiritual corpses through the ministry of the Spirit. They need to repent of their sins, look at Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as the only Savior of the world, and then place their faith in Him. It is at this moment that an individual passes from Satan’s evil kingdom to God’s glorious kingdom. It is at this moment that one goes from being in the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. So, first, one needs to seek the kingdom of God in this way!

Secondly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God corporately. By that, I mean that we need to be consistently seeking the reign of God in the church. We need to seek each other’s submission to Christ as a local assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. What might this look like?

Well, we need to encourage one another, we need to speak the Scriptures into each other’s lives. We need to correct and rebuke one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to disciple one another. We ought to be earnest and zealous for everybody in the church, including ourselves, to be more and more obedient to the Lord. This is what it looks like to seek the Kingdom of God corporately!

Thirdly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God globally. We need to seek to advance the Kingdom of Christ throughout all the world. Our desire and ambition ought to be to take this Gospel of the Kingdom of God to family, neighbors, co-workers, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. We need to pray to this end, raise our kids to this end, give money to this end, and send out missionaries to this end. In doing this, we are seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom all across the globe!

This is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God. And, according to Christ, it is to be our first order of business! It is to be our top priority. It is to be our main ambition. It is more important that food, drink, and clothing. That is incredible!

His Righteousness

Now, let’s reflect on what it means to seek “His righteousness.” Within the Bible, we learn about two types of righteousness. The first is an alien righteousness we receive by faith. The second is a practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. So first, let’s talk about the alien righteousness.

In Philippians 3:7-9, Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Did you notice how Paul said that this is not a righteousness of his own? This is not a righteousness that he mustered up. No! It is an alien righteousness. By that, I simply mean it comes from outside of himself. It is a righteousness that comes from God that he received through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the righteousness that brings salvation. This is all by God’s grace!

At this point, it is important to understand that this is not the righteousness that Jesus is telling us to be seeking in our passage. We do not have to seek it. The Lord gives us it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel. So, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then God has graciously given you Christ’s righteousness as a free gift. That is why you are saved.

With that said, this means that the righteousness that Jesus wants us to seek in our passage is that second type of righteousness. It is that practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. It is that righteousness that we are to live out after we become children of God. The righteousness that comes as we submit to God in the whole of life. The righteousness that makes us a light to the world and a city on a hill.

So, this is the righteousness we are to be seeking as our top priority. But what does this look like practically? And to begin with, let’s talk about what seeking this righteousness does not look like.

First, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely attending church on a Sunday morning. Many people think that this is what is required of them. They think that, as a Christian, you go to church on a Sunday morning and that is it.

Secondly, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely being baptized. You talk to many people and that is what they think. They think that to be baptized is what it is all about!

Thirdly, seeking this righteousness does not look like mechanically praying the same rote prayer every evening and before every meal. That is not it!

Lastly, though we could keep going, seeking God’s righteousness does not look like voting straight republican or democrat during the elections. That is not it either! This is too small a view of the Christian religion.

You see, Christianity is huge! It encompasses everything. It consumes the entirety of one’s life. To seek God’s righteousness infiltrates every part of our minutes, days, weeks, months, and years.

It is waking up every day, peering into the Word of God, and saying, “I am not my own, I have been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, Christ is my Lord and I am his slave. My aim today will not be to live for myself, but to live for my Savior. I will aim to love, serve, and obey Him and only Him.”

Seeking God’s righteousness sounds like Paul when he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 3:12-14).

It looks like Jesus when he says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). And like Jesus when he was fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and Satan comes and says, “If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.” To which Jesus responded saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-4). This is what seeking “His righteousness” looks like!

Conclusion

So, this is what Jesus expects us to seek first and foremost. Our main ambition is to be seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We are to be running after this. This is what we were made for. This is what we were saved for. This will glorify and honor our Lord a great deal. Therefore, let us strive to, by the power of the Spirit and through faith in Jesus, seek to be obedient to this remarkable verse!

Sexual Sin-Proverbs 5, 6, & 7

Introduction

This blog post is specifically going to deal with sexual sin by looking at Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. I will be jumping around these chapters to get a holistic view of sexual sin. Also, I originally taught some of this content to the college students at the church I serve, but have increasingly had a desire to condense and revise it in order to put it on this blog so that it would benefit others. With that said, much more could be said than what is in this post! Let’s get started.

Main Crux

Within Proverbs 5, 6, and 7 we will see a father address his son with loving wisdom regarding the dangers of the adulterous woman and adultery in general.

For men, these chapters are informing us of two things. First, we need to guard our hearts against lusting after women because it will ultimately lead to our destruction. Secondly, we do not need to entice a woman.

For women, these chapters are also informing you of two things. First, you need to guard your hearts against a predatory man. . .one seeking to woo you, win you, and speak sweetly to you, but who will ultimately destroy you. Secondly, do not seek to allure a man sexually with how you act and dress.

Solomon-Speaking from Experience

Now, the father that is giving this advice to his son learned the dangers of sexual immorality the hard way. I say that because King Solomon is the father in this discourse. And, from the biblical witness, Solomon was a man that was given to sexual immorality.

In 1 Kings 11 we read, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women.” The Scripture goes on to say, “Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 hundred wives and 300 concubines,” as well as, “They turned away his heart and he began to follow other gods.” As is evident, Solomon knew the devastating effects of sexual immorality experientially. With this in mind, he is seeking to give wisdom to his son throughout these three chapters in Proverbs so that his son might not fall into the same trap that he did.

The Desperate Need for Wisdom in this Area

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:1-6)

As we look at this, we see two appeals from Solomon!

  1. “Be attentive to my wisdom”
  2. “Incline your ear to my understanding.”

Every time Solomon is about to address the son about the adulterous woman and adultery in general, there is always an appeal for the son to listen to the father’s instructions so that he can gain wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 5:7; 6:20; 7:1-2).

Moreover, in chapter 7 we are given an example of what Solomon saw one day as he was looking down from his castle. And it was this, a simple boy amongst a bunch of youths that lacked sense. It was this boy that fell into the sin of sexual immorality and thus destroyed himself. Therefore, it is evident that the simple, the ones that lack knowledge and understanding of the appeal of sexual sin, the embrace of sexual sin, the true nature of sexual sin, and the consequences of sexual sin, are the ones that succumb to sexual sin.

So, let’s incline our ears to the Word of God and listen to what our Lord has to say about sexual sin. This will lead, as the text says, to “discretion and guarding knowledge!” That phrase just means that we will be able to make the proper decisions in any given circumstance. . . even when the adulterous woman comes out to entice us and when sexual immorality is bidding us to partake in it. With that said, let’s begin gaining wisdom by looking at the initial appeal of sexual Immorality.

The Initial Appeal of Sexual Sin

The text quoted about said, “Her lips drip honey and her speech is smoother than oil.” The adulteress is revealing the very nature of sexual sin isn’t she? Sexual sin initially appears delightful, sweet, easy to partake in, and enjoyable. It is simply not like other sins in its appeal.

I mean, murder does not look sweet and delicious to the eyes. Theft does not come with a strong appeal of deep satisfaction. Dishonoring parents doesn’t look like honey to a hungry soul! This, however, is exactly what the adulterous woman looks like.

Sexual immorality initially seems to promise our soul many good things. It seems to present something that ought to be partaken in and delighted in. It looks like something to be enjoyed and gratified by. That is the nature of both the adulterous woman and sexual sin. In their initial appeal, they are very deceptive.

And sexual sin’s deception does not stop here. Solomon gives more insight throughout these chapters of the strong appeal that the adulterous woman has. In Proverbs 6:24-25, Solomon says that the adulterous woman has a smooth tongue, that she is beautiful, and that she has eyelashes that capture men. So, the adulterous has a smooth tongue. She has a way with words that strokes the male ego. She uses her voice in subtle ways to allure and persuade men. This is seen in Proverbs 7:21 as well when we read, “With much seductive speech she persuades him, with her smooth talk she compels him.”

She also has physical beauty that she uses to her own advantage as she seeks to draw men in. Chapter 7 says that, “She is dressed like a prostitute, wily of heart.” So, she dresses in a manner that reveals her desire for sexual intimacy. When men see her, they cannot help but think that she is interested in promiscuity.

And she has eyelashes that are captivating. So she shows men interest. She looks at them, shows interest in them, and goes out of her way to gain the their attention.

This is the initial appeal of the adulteress. This is what one sees from afar. This is what allures and tempts. And it is overwhelmingly appealing isn’t it? But, keep in mind, this is only its initial appeal. It is not what she truly is. Rather, she is incredibly crafty. That is why the Scripture says, “She is wily of heart.” She is cunning. She is a hunter dressed in camouflage waiting to kill her prey. This is why these chapters are so important for us. We must get wisdom in regards to sexual immorality’s initial appeal.

However, to know the initial appeal is not enough in and of itself. We also need wisdom in understanding sexual immorality’s initial embrace.

The Initial Embrace of Sexual Sin

For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold the woman meets him. (Proverbs 7:6-10)

This young man is simple. He is naïve. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, he also isn’t  around a bunch of men with wisdom. Rather, he’s among a bunch of youths that lack wisdom. So, he is ignorant and lacking sense and around others that are ignorant and lacking sense!

And look, he is headed to the adulteress’s street. He is taking the road to her house. And it is at night time when sexual immorality happens to be rampant. So, he is tempting the devil to tempt him. And, with this being the case, the adulterous woman comes out to meet him in order to tempt him sexually.

And think about the strength of this temptation. The naïve young man runs into the adulteress in the evening. Her lips are dripping honey and her speech is smoother than oil. She is beautiful and dressed in a way that shows her desire for sexual intimacy. She is looking at him in an alluring way showing him that she is interested in him. As you can tell, this is not good. This is just the initial appeal though. The initial embrace is even worse.

Proverbs 7:13-15 says, “She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, ‘I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.”

The lips that drip honey embrace the young man’s lips. This is a bold sexual encounter! And look, she begins to present herself, not as devoutly promiscuous woman that lives a life of unrestrained sexual immorality, but as a religious woman. She says, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows.” So, she has been to the temple to “offer up” sacrifices and vows to God.

But, let’s be honest, her heart is not set truly on God. Rather, she uses religion to her own advantage. She uses it to ease her conscience and also to woo her prey. So, she plays the hypocrite with God all the while she seduces man.

Still Seen Today (Excursus)

This mode of attack is still common today. There are many people out there that use Christianity to assuage their consciences. They live immorally, go to church to fill better about themselves, and then step back into a life of immorality.

And, both men and women, still masquerade as Christians all the while using it to their own advantage. They seek to woo a member of the opposite sex by their religiosity in order to get to their own end. They use religion to get the other person to let their guard down so that they can get them to fall into sexual sin with them. Do not be deceived by this!

Initial Embrace Continued

And then look, she tells the young man, “I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.” Look at how crafty and manipulative she is. She is seeking to make him feel important. She wants him to feel special. She wants him to feel like he is the only one she intended to be with. But, as is apparent in the text, she has not really been seeking him at all. Proverbs 7:11-12 says, “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.”

So, in reality, she is always out and about just waiting for her next prey. This man is not special to her. She cannot reveal this truth though. She cannot embrace him as though he is merely prey. That would not be nearly as successful a strategy for her. Therefore, she embraces him like he is special. She embraces him like he is all she has ever desired.

And is this not the case even today. Whether it be in high school, college, or in your career, at the gym, church, or job, the people that are sexually promiscuous are good with their words. They know how to make a person feel incredibly important. They make people feel like they are the ones that they have been waiting for. They are sweet talkers and know exactly what to say.

But they are not doing this out of sincerity. They are doing this for their own end. . . and that end is immorality. So, look beyond the mere words of an individual. Look at the way of life. Look at holiness, godliness, and knowledge of the Bible. Don’t be easily led astray by mere words!

So, as you can see, the initial embrace of sexual immorality is daunting. It gets even worse though. Look at Proverbs 7:16-20 where she says:

I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning, let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.

The adulteress has been preparing for this moment. The bait has been set. The couch is covered, nice linens are spread out, the perfume has been poured on, the husband is not home, and no one will find out!

And notice how she says, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning, let us delight ourselves in love.” She is tempting him to sexual immorality by presenting it as love! She is using the longing of the human heart, a desire to be loved, to manipulate her prey. This is a tactic that is both deceptive and successful. And then in verse 21 Solomon says, “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.”

So, this is the initial embrace of sexual sin! And it is very apparent, as we have seen, that the initial appeal and the initial embrace of sexual immorality are overwhelmingly powerful. It seems like sexual sin, for some reason, tends to carry a unique amount of both power and deception. With this being the case, we most certainly need to know the true nature of sexual sin. Thankfully Solomon gives us much detail regarding this.

The True Nature of Sexual Sin

But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:4)

This is sexual sins end. The adulterous’ initial appeal distracts us from the end that she will bring. She promises sweet pleasure but, in the end, she is bitter as wormwood. She promises gratification and satisfaction but, in the end, she cuts like a two-edged sword.

I am telling you, before people partake in sexual sin, they are not thinking “What is this going to do to my soul, my spouse, my children, my reputation?” Rather, they are thinking, “Honey!” “Oil on the Lips!” “Satisfaction!” This is all they are thinking about. And, because of this, they are blinded to what will follow!

Also, look at Proverbs 5:5 where Solomon says,“Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.”

This shows us how sexual sin has impacted the adulterous herself. I mean, she is walking in darkness. She is headed straight for death. Just look at how unrestrained sexual sin has destroyed her. She does not even think about living a holy or righteous life. She wanders, or is unstable, in her ways as she heads to judgment without even knowing it. It is as though her unrestrained sexual immorality has taken away any thought of God.

And this is the nature of sexual sin isn’t it? The longer one partakes in it, the harder their heart becomes. The longer sexual sin is indulged in, the less we think about the things of God. This is honestly why it is so foolish to say, “I will enjoy this sin for a season and then I will repent of it.” That is not how this works.

That view has the presupposition that we have mastered sin and that we can partake and repent of it any time that we desire. This is not true. It is a lie for the enemy of our souls. You see, biblically speaking, sin has mastered us and we are enslaved to it. The only hope that we can be released from its mastery is repentance (which is a gift of God) and faith in Jesus (who obliterated the dominating power of sin on the cross). And, from the Scripture, the longer you put off repentance, the less likely God will gift you with it. So, before you become like the adulterous woman, not even pondering the things of God and following the path leading to destruction, repent and turn to Jesus in faith.

Alright, Let’s continue looking at the true nature of sexual sin. Proverbs 5:7-14 says:

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciful, less strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teacher or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.

Let’s focus on, “Lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless.” You see, through this act of sexual immorality your honor will be taken away. Just think about David. Wasn’t this true of him? He was a man after God’s own heart who served the Lord many years of his life, yet, bring up David’s name in mixed company and it is his adultery that is mentioned first. This is also the case with Samson and Solomon. These men are remembered more for their adultery than they are for their obedience. It’s clear, sexual sin of this sort will take away honor!

Moreover, Solomon says, “And your years will be given to the merciless.” You must know that people are a harsh. They are not merciful, forgiving, or gracious. When people hear that somebody has had an affair or committed sexual immorality of some sort, they will mock and slander your name. Just look at the newspaper headlines or gossip magazine covers. Affairs make the front page. People simply delight in being merciless.

Then he says, “Lest strangers take their fill of your strength and your labors go to the house of a foreigner.” So, oftentimes sexual sin of this sort (adultery) leads to poverty. Everything you have is taken away and given to a stranger. This is not always the case, but it is generally true. A season of financial hardship often comes on those who have affairs.

And then he says, “And at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘how I hated discipline and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.’” Sexual sin has the tendency to destroy your conscience. As you see the devastating effects of such sin, you want to go back and take heed to the counsel you heard when you were younger, but it is too late. The flesh has been gratified, a life has been wasted, and death is right around the corner.

And lastly, look at how Solomon put the true nature of the adultery and sexual sin. Proverbs 7:23 says, “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast, till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” This is horrific. I mean, this sin is bitter as wormwood and sharper than a two-edged sword. It takes away honor, leads people to be merciless towards you, it destroys your conscience, and it often times enraptures its victim so much so that it leads to eternal death. It will cost you your life!

And even though this sin is this destructive, because of its initial appeal and initial embrace, it destroys many people! Solomon says in Proverbs 7:25-27, “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way of Sheol, going to down to the chambers of death.”

This sin has brought down Samson, David, and Solomon. Sexual sin brings down pastors, theologians, seminary professors, seminarians, CEO’s, doctors, politicians, teachers, etc. It brings down both the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the ignorant, Christians and non-christians, men and women, young and old. It is bringing down people left and right in our day. Sexual sin’s victims are a mighty throng. It continues to slay thousands upon thousands!

And since this is the true nature of sexual sin, we need to know how to die to this most deadly vice!

How to Die to Sexual Sin

First, stay away from it! Proverbs 6:8 says, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” This shows the strong nature of sexual sin doesn’t it? It is something that we must avoid all together. We must not even get close to it, for in getting close to it, we will find ourselves in its trap.

It is remarkable how, all to often, this simple warning is not heeded. People trifle with sexual sin as though it isn’t that dangerous! They fool themselves by saying:

  • “I can get close to it but not completely succumb to it.”
  • “I can do this or that and it will not affect me.”
  • “I can view this website without going to that website.”
  • “I can go to this party without doing this particular thing.”
  • “I can date this particular guy without giving in like his last girlfriend.”
  • “I can develop a really close friendship with a co-worker of the opposite sex without getting involved emotionally or sexually.”
  • “I can watch this particular movie without succumbing to lust.”

All the while, Solomon is pleading with his son to stay FAR away from the adulterous. . . . do not even go NEAR her house!

With that said, it really is sad that this disposition of the heart towards sexual sin is not seen in our day. We simply play around with it not thinking that we will succumb to it. All the while our fragile self-control falls apart and we end up on the path to destruction. . . like a city with broken down walls.

Secondly, rid yourselves of lust. Proverbs 6:25 says, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” This is sexual sin in its beginning. It is desiring her beauty in your heart. Therefore, repent of lust and seek to purify your mind by saturating yourself with the things of God and thoughts about Christ.

Thirdly, gain wisdom. These three passages are filled with exhortations to gain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding so that we can have discretion. Therefore, study up on sin. Read books about sin and how we are to kill it.

Fourthly, understand one of God’s providential means to keep you from sexual sin. Proverbs 6:15-20 says:

Drink water from you own cistern, flowing water from you own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

Pertaining to this passage, Ray Ortlund says:

And God is saying, “Satisfy your thirst through lovemaking with your wife.” Look what the Lord is not saying. He is not saying, “There’s temptation out there? Then what you need is a will of iron. You need steely determination. So here is your future—endless frustration bottled up inside.” Obviously we all need self-control if we are going to have emotional structures above a five-year-old level. Verse 23 warns against a ‘lack of discipline.’ But God’s remedy for your thirst for sex is sex, overflowing sexual joy with your wife. That is what he means in verse 15 by ‘your own cistern’ and ‘your own well.’ Your wife is your own personal and private, divinely approved wellspring of endless sexual satisfaction.

So, understand that God is not some kill joy that is forbidding you to enjoy your natural God-given desire for sex. Rather, He is a gracious God that has given you the institution of marriage for the regular satifaction of those desires with your spouse!

Lastly, a greater view of the worth of Christ. Thomas Chalmers said this in a sermon titled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection: 

In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.

Chalmers is saying that our hearts are often engaged in a positive love for a great and ascendant object that has our affections. In our case, it would be sexual immorality. And the way to disengage our hearts from this object, sexual immorality, is to expose our hearts and affections to something far more worthy and excellent. Thus, we need our affections set on something that is far superior, satisfying, and glorious than sexual sin. Thus, we need to set our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we want to rid ourselves of sexual immorality, we must set our hearts and affections on Christ. We must always seek to be getting an education in his infinite worth and value. We need to understand that He is a fountain of living water that satisfies the weary soul. We need to see him as the eternal Son of God reigning in glory with His Father. We need to see him as the meek and sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. We need to see him weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. We need to see Him on the cross, bleeding, and dying as a substitute for sinners. We need to see him resurrecting in glory, restoring Peter, teaching the multitudes, and then ascending into heavens. We need to see him in heaven right now, interceding for us and being a faithful high priest on our behalf. And, when we see Christ, an object of more worth than a billion worlds, our hearts will be drawn from sexual sin and enraptured in Him. This is the key to killing this deadly sin.