Things I’ve Learned

I went to church sporadically growing up. I remember occasionally going to a small Southern Baptist Church about fifteen minutes from my childhood home when I was in elementary school. While I was in middle school, I remember intermittingly going to a larger Southern Baptist Church in West Mobile. And by the time I entered high school, I was rarely going to church at all . . . I only went to church when I was dating a girl that had a family that was going to church (how pathetic is that)!

Needless to say, I didn’t grow up with a relationship to pastors and deacons. Nor did I have any familiarity with AWANA, VBS, youth summer camps, mission trips, or anything along those lines. Really, regarding church life, I didn’t know much of anything.

Growing Familiarity with the Church

By the time I entered college, God began to graciously call me to Himself. Deep into the fall semester of my freshmen year, He mercifully saved me and freely gave me the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. With a genuine work of God in my heart, I began to become more active in the local church.

This allowed me to get close to pastors and deacons, to become familiar with Vacation Bible Schools, youth summer camps, mission trips, and other church related things. And though I wasn’t knowledgeable of all that was going on in the church that I was attending, I started becoming more familiar with the church.

Much More Familiarity with the Church

After college, my wife and I moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina, in January of 2015. On August 16, 2016, I was hired on full time as the Director of College Ministry at First Baptist Church of Durham (a healthy local church in downtown Durham). This was my first ever ministry position, and I joyfully served in this capacity for three and a half years.

While I was doing college ministry, a friend of mine from Louisiana asked if I would be interested in being his associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Longville. This seemed like a good opportunity to serve the people of God, so in December of 2019, I moved to Longville, Louisiana, to begin serving full time as an associate pastor. I’m still serving in this capacity. This means that, as of August 16, 2021 (today), I’ve been doing full time ministry for five years. And at twenty-nine years old, I’m much more familiar with the church than I was in my childhood and teenage years.

Things I’ve Learned

Though five years isn’t a very long time, I thought it’d be neat to reflect on some things that I’ve learned while serving in full time ministry. Since ministry largely involves ministering to people, most of the things I’ve learned have to do with people. So, here we go:

People Need Christ

Christ is the incarnate Word, the image of the invisible God, the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, and the light for the nations. He is the only mediator between God and man, and it’s only in Christ that one can find reconciliation and peace with God. Jesus is a never-ending source of other-worldly satisfaction and joy, and it’s Jesus that people need. 

After five years of ministry, I’m even more mindful that one of the most important things that I can do is place Christ before people’s eyes. And no, I’m not merely talking about placing Christ before unbelievers’ eyes. I’m also talking about placing Christ before believers’ eyes. I’ve learned that the children of God desperately need to behold and savor Christ afresh every day.

People Love Handwritten Cards

We live in a day and age where our emails are bombarded with advertisements, and where our cell phones are constantly receiving mostly insignificant messages from friends, family members, and acquaintances. And even though communication is remarkably easy, people are rarely receiving well thought out handwritten cards that are expressly written for the purpose of encouraging others.

This means that when people do receive a handwritten card, it is both encouraging and memorable! In all seriousness, I don’t believe I’ve ever had somebody thank me to my face for an encouraging text (though I’ve sent many). But almost everybody that I’ve written a card to goes out of their way to thank me. It’s evident that people love handwritten cards!

People Need to be Encouraged

There are people in the church that sacrifice their time, energy, and money for the cause of Christ. They give up their weeknights and Sundays for the purpose of sacrificially serving others. They diligently study so that they can properly teach the Word of God. They read books and listen to podcasts so that they can better counsel folks that are hurting and suffering. They open their homes to get to know other members of the church. And these people need to be encouraged. They need to know that I, as their pastor, see their ministry, am grateful for their ministry, and that our church is better off because of their ministry.

People are Hurting

Sure, people put on a socially acceptable smile on Sunday mornings, but deep down inside most people are hurting. And they are hurting because of their own sins, someone else’s sins, or because of all that comes with living on a cursed earth. There’s a family unit that has a rebellious child. There’s a marriage that is on the brink of disaster. There’s a youth that’s beginning to indulge in sexual sin that will have consequences for decades to come. Somebody has gone to the doctor and received a life altering diagnosis. A couple is doubting if they will ever be able to get pregnant. A widow is trying to figure out how to go to sleep by herself every night. All over the church, people are hurting, and they need other brothers and sisters in Christ to help them.

People Need Parlor Preachers

We don’t really hear the term “parlor” anymore, but most churches in the old days had them. It was a room in the church that was especially constructed for receiving guests. And a parlor preacher is a Christian that can speak about heavenly things in social settings (not just from the pulpit). Charles Bridges defines it as “the ability to introduce the subject of religion seasonably and acceptably into social discourse.”

It’s important to be able to do this as a pastor, and it’s important to have fellow church members that can do this as well. Reflecting on the importance of this Spurgeon says, “To be a holy talker for Jesus might be almost as fruitful an office as to be a faithful preacher.” In five years, I’ve learned that we vastly overestimate what people learn from their pastor in the pulpit, and that we vastly underestimate what people learn from a spiritual conversation in the parlor.

People Need Church History

The Catholic Church teaches that both Scripture and tradition are equally authoritative. While the Baptist Church has rightly rejected this, most Baptist Churches have made an equally deadly error by flat out rejecting church history and tradition. There are so many people that are ignorant of the early church and its creeds, the Reformation and its confessions, the historical development of Baptist ecclesiology and doctrine, the Great Awakening, and so much more. 

This means that, within many Baptist Churches, most people’s concept of church is built around the church that they grew up in rather than the historic church that has existed for thousands of years. This isn’t healthy at all, and it leads to a multitude of problems. People really need church history.

People Need Sound Doctrine

This should not surprise anyone because one cursory reading through the Bible reveals that sound doctrine is important. Nevertheless, when I ministered to college students in North Carolina, and as I’ve ministered to people in Louisiana, it has become clear that many people grow up in Baptist Churches that are indifferent to doctrine. And it seems like most churches promote doctrinal indifferentism for the sake of maintaining unity. It’s as though pastors think to themselves: “If I don’t preach meaty doctrine, then my people won’t divide over anything.” 

What these pastors are failing to realize is that keeping people ignorant of doctrine cultivates what J.I. Packer calls “a deceptive appearance of unity.” Just because a church seems to have inter-party peace doesn’t mean they’re unified. Instead, it means that division is right around the corner. . . .as soon as people start talking about doctrine! So, people need sound doctrine, and Baptists Churches would be better off if they made every effort to cultivate doctrinal unity within their congregations rather than a deceptive appearance of unity.

Church Family IS Family

Kahlie and I both have awesome families. As a matter of fact, almost every vacation we take involves going to see our families because we enjoy being around them so much! With that said, one of the things that God has really taught us since we have moved away from our families for the sake of the church is that church family IS family! We knew this mentally before we moved away from home. We understood that other Christians were our brothers and sisters in Christ. We knew that older Christians could become spiritual fathers and mothers to us. We could mentally assent to these truths.

But once we moved away from home, we quickly came to understand this experientially. While we were in North Carolina, Kahlie and I immediately had our hearts joined together with other Christians. We were eating at each other’s houses, celebrating holidays together, serving together, serving each other, praying for one another, learning from one another, taking vacations together, helping each other bear up under trials, and so on and so forth! Older Christians invested in us, discipled us, cooked for us, and counseled us. And sure enough, when we moved eighteen hours from North Carolina to Louisiana, we immediately had our hearts knitted together with other Christians here. As we have moved across the Southeast, it’s become clear that church family is family. Thank God for the church!

Church Friendly Families are Awesome

Most families are looking for family friendly churches. This is completely understandable. It’s good to look for a church that’s going to strategically strive to serve each member of your family in a manner that’s worthy of the Lord. But as a pastor, one of the greatest blessings to the church is a church friendly family—a family that prioritizes healthy involvement in the church over athletics, hobbies, and other extracurriculars. In both churches that I’ve served in, I’m always blessed and encouraged by healthy family units that make healthy involvement in the church a main priority.

Godly Deacons are a Blessing

I’ve had the pleasure of getting close to godly deacons at both churches that I’ve served at. The deacons I’m talking about account their lives of little value, have hearts that go out to the hurting, and see it as their God given role to glorify Christ by fulfilling both menial and significant tasks for the church and the community. About these men, I echo Spurgeon’s words: 

“The church owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to those thousands of godly men who study her interests day and night, contribute largely of their substance, care for her poor, cheer her ministers, and in times of trouble as well as prosperity remain faithfully at their posts…Deprive the church of her deacons and she would be bereaved of her most valiant sons; their loss would be the shaking of the pillars of our spiritual house and would cause desolation on every side.”

Still Learning

I could keep going. I’ve learned a great deal about people and ministry over the past five years. But, like I said early, I’m not so naïve to think that five years is a long time. It’s very brief in the grand scheme of things. With this in mind, I’m still learning, and I’m greatly anticipating God to continue educating me.

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.

From North Carolina to Louisiana

In January of 2015, Kahlie and I moved from Satsuma, Alabama, to Wake Forest, North Carolina. We had been married for about 13 months, and were desiring to go to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary so that I could get an Master of Divinity. The purpose of the M.Div. was so that I could become better equipped to serve Christ by serving the local church for the rest of my life. And when we moved, we only took what we could pack into our two vehicles. It was an exciting time for us and we were thrilled about how the Lord might use us in North Carolina!

Shortly after this, the Lord provided Kahlie with a job in Occupational Therapy (so she was paying the bills) and me with a job on the SEBTS grounds crew (and I was paying for Chick Fil A)! But, though we had jobs, we were still looking for a healthy church. We went to few a different churches, but we weren’t dead set on any of them.

Now, in the midst of searching for a healthy church that Kahlie and I could join and begin serving, a guy informed me of First Baptist Church of Durham in Durham, North Carolina. Upon attending, Kahlie and I were hooked. We loved everything about the church. The preaching ministry was phenomenal. The multigenerational aspect was appealing. The small group ministry was intentional. And the pastors took a genuine interest in the congregation. Soon after visiting, we decided to join in May of 2015.

After we joined, Kahlie and I got involved in the youth ministry. She was teaching middle school girls and I was teaching high school guys. We also got involved in the children’s ministry (churches are always looking for more volunteers here)! And lastly, we just sought to be healthy church members. Kahlie and I knew that, if we wanted to serve the local church for the rest of our lives, we didn’t need to wait until after seminary to do it. We needed to do it all throughout seminary as well. So that is what we sought to do. And as we did this, I continued pursuing my M.Div, and Kahlie continued helping and aiding me in anyway she could (praise God for a godly wife)!

We did this for about fourteen months, and then something completely unexpected happened. In July of 2016, I received a phone call from Andy Davis (The Senior Pastor at FBC). And when I answered the phone call, Andy asked me if I would be interested in interviewing for the Director of College Ministry position. This was unexpected because I was only twenty-four, I didn’t have a ton of ministry experience, I wasn’t done with my M.Div., and I hadn’t even put in a resume. Needless to say, I was shocked.

Andy Davis had become one of my role models in the faith and he was asking me to serve along side of him in ministry. FBC Durham was the healthiest church I had ever been a part of and it was asking me to come on staff. So I told Andy that he had the wrong number and that he must have meant to call someone else! Just kidding! I told him I would talk to Kahlie about it and then get back to him. When I talked to Kahlie about it she was more shocked than I was (to which I was mildly offended by)!!!!! But we both decided that I should go through the interview process to better understand as to whether this was something God would have me do. Here is the journal I wrote after Andy called me:

Monday afternoon I received a phone call from Andy Davis. He told me that their desire has always been to hire a College Director from within FBC Durham. They have had numerous resumes turned in, and a couple of interviews with men outside of FBC. None of these had worked out. He then told me that they have had their eye on me for a while now. He said that many people have mentioned my name and have said that I may be a good fit for the position. He also told me that the christian growth he has seen in me over the past year has been encouraging. I would never have put a resume in for this position because I know how unqualified I am for such a service. But they have asked me to come in today to speak with them about this position to see if I could possibly fill it. I have no idea what to expect, but I am very thankful to God for such an opportunity. May the Lord’s will be done.

Shortly after the interview process, they offered me the position. Kahlie and I talked about it and we went on to accept the position. It was exciting and overwhelming. Thinking through this, I wrote:

This presents an incredible opportunity for serving the Lord Jesus Christ and also the local church. These are honestly my life long ambitions. However, I did not think that I would be thrust into ministry this quickly. This was not even a thought a couple weeks ago. Now, I officially start August 16th.

As you can tell, this was a big deal in my life. Now, some of you may be reading this and saying, “Good golly, Philip! It was just an opportunity to do college ministry.” But for me, it was so much more. It was the opportunity to labor full time in gospel ministry. It was an opportunity to teach, disciple, and evangelize within the context of the healthiest church I had ever been a part of. It was an opportunity to be under Andy Davis and to watch his way of life, to ask him questions, and to drink in his wisdom. It was my first paid ministry position ever, and I could not believe that God was giving it to me!

Well, after all the interviewing stuff, I started the College Director position on August 16, 2016. Kahlie immediately started serving with me. We moved to Durham, I started taking online classes at SEBTS, and we started learning what it was like to do ministry in a greater capacity than we had ever done ministry. I was leading guys Bible studies, discipling students, evangelizing, leading retreats, and heading up mission trips. Kahlie was discipling ladies, leading Bible studies, helping me lead retreats, and going on mission trips with me. Though some of this was overwhelming, we both loved it! And we have now been serving this way for over 3 years. Kahlie and I can honestly say that it has been one of the greatest joys of our lives.

Now, after doing this for three years, I have received another unexpected phone call. In mid June, I received a phone call from Corey Townsley (a good friend of mine…..he is actually the guy that invited Kahlie and I to attend FBC Durham when we first moved to North Carolina). Corey is now serving as the senior pastor of FBC Longville in Longville, Louisiana. He called me to see if I would be interested in coming down to Louisiana to serve alongside of him as an associate pastor of youth. He told me that my primary responsibility would shepherding middle schoolers and high schoolers, but that he also wanted me to help shepherd the church body as a whole

The more Kahlie and I looked at this opportunity, sought counsel from the pastors that we are under now, and spent time in prayer, the more convinced we became that this was a position that we ought to pursue. Now, after five months, three interviews, and two trips to Louisiana, on November 3, 2019, FBC Longville unanimously voted to have me come be the Associate Pastor of Youth. Upon hearing the vote, Kahlie and I joyfully accepted this opportunity, and are preparing to head down there in December.

This is bittersweet for us. It pains us to leave FBC Durham, all the college students in the ministry, the many friends that we have made, and the city of Durham. But we are excited about serving Christ Jesus by serving the local church in Longville, Louisiana.

Here are ways that you can pray for Kahlie and I as we transition to Longville, LA.

  1. Pray that we would seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness even in the midst of a busy transition.
  2. Pray that we would have good, fruitful good-byes here in Durham!
  3. Pray that we would find housing in Longville that we can leverage for ministry purposes.
  4. Pray that we would make it down there safely.
  5. And pray that the Lord would begin preparing us for the good works that he will have us do at FBC Longville.

 

College Students – Read These 7 Books in 2019

Over the past two and a half years, I have spent and still spend a lot of time with Christian college students. So, from my own personal walk with Christ (throughout college and into my mid 20s) and from seeing many college students following Christ, I would recommend these 7 books for Christian college students to read throughout 2019.

The Seven

  1. The Bible (Lots of Pages)
    1. Most Christian college students have never read through the entire Bible. Now, I say that knowing that most professed Christians in general have probably never read through the Bible. . . . so do not frown on college students for this! With that said, Christians students should seek to read through the Bible this year. You can try a reading plan. You can try to read through it at your own pace. Just try to make your way through the Bible. You will be challenged, stretched, encouraged, and built up in the faith as you seek to do this. My first time doing this was when I was a senior in college. Convicted by the fact that I had never read through the entire Bible, I read it in three months (yes, to my shame, I skipped the genealogies)! Since then, I have consistently read the Bible every year. I am currently on my sixth time through the Bible and I am enjoying it more than I previously did the first five times because I am understanding it so much better. So, take up the Bible and read. Seek to be as acquainted with the Bible as you possibly can be!
  2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer (288 pages)
    1. Every college student is a theologian. Each college student has a particular belief about who God is. And, in all honesty, each student believes dogmatically about what he or she believes. Once you say something contrary to what they believe about Jesus, salvation, the Spirit, spiritual gifts, etc., then they will argue with you. So, each student is a passionate theologian. However, that does not mean that each person is a good theologian. Just because we have a belief about God that we are passionate about does not mean that it is right. Therefore, we need to seek to be good theologians. Knowing God will help you with this. J.I. Packer will teach you what it is like to think carefully about who God is and how He has revealed himself in the Bible.
  3. The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul (224 pages)
    1. Most students that I have talked to focus primarily on the death and resurrection of Christ. They focus on the cross, the blood, the death, and the resurrection. The problem with this is that it is not the whole story. The work of Christ in his life is just as important as the work of Christ in his death. Jesus being born in Bethlehem, being a descendent of David, being circumcised on the eight day, being baptized to fulfill all righteousness, etc., are all important to our salvation. Had Jesus not been blameless, he would have not been a sufficient sacrifice. Had he not been righteous, there would be no righteousness for us to be gifted with through faith in Jesus. Thus, the work of Christ in his life is of immense important. R.C. Sproul will show you this.
  4. The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (167 pages)
    1. So, whereas The Work of Christ will show you the importance of Christ’s earthly ministry, The Truth of the Cross will keen in on the significance of Christ’s work on the cross. And, let’s be honest, it would be of great value to become experts in all that happened on the cross. I mean what does it mean that the wrath of our just God was satisfied in the death of Christ? What does it mean that Christ made atonement for us? What does it mean that He was our substitute? What does it mean that he bore our sin in his body on the cross? What does it mean that he was made a curse for us? Sproul will show you the answers to these questions.
  5. Tactics by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. Evangelism is hard. It is hard to navigate conversations to specific points where we can proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This is most certainly hard in a day where there is increasing hostility to a Christian worldview. . . .especially on college campuses. It is not abnormal for somebody to bombard you with things that they have heard from others (their highly educated liberal professors) once they hear you say that you are a Christian. How can the Bible be true if it is written by men? How can you believe abortion is wrong? How come you don’t think a woman has the right to choose how she uses her own body? Doesn’t it say that homosexuals ought to be stoned in the Bible? The Jesus of history is different from the Jesus of faith. The historical Jesus was just some Jew. The Jesus of faith is some mythological deity that early Christians made up. How can you fall for believing in this mythological deity? The questions abound! Gregory Koukl will give you a neat way to navigate these questions in a gentle way. He will help you turn these types of conversations into something that is very beneficial. Ultimately, he will help you to expose unbeliever’s faulty thinking, and to navigate these types of conversations to Jesus Christ and him crucified.
  6. The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl (208 Pages)
    1. We, as Christians, do not believe in a myth. When we speak about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the depravity of man, the person of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus, etc., we are talking about reality. This is what has really happened. Therefore, everything else that is contrary to the Christian faith is false. It simply isn’t reality. Gregory Koukl, throughout The Story of Reality, articulates how the Christian worldview makes the most sense. This will be of great help to a Christian college student.
  7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (352 Pages)
    1. Most college students do not know what it looks like to progressively grow in holiness. They have an understanding of believing in Christ and being saved, but they do not have an understanding of what it looks like to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Therefore, they don’t. This isn’t good. If we remain ignorant of this facet of the Christian life we will remain spiritual babes. This is why this book is so important. Donald Whitney will show us how God uses these ordinary disciplines (Bible reading, meditation, prayer, evangelism, etc.) to help Christians grow and conform into the image of Jesus.

I am sure that others would recommend a different seven books, but from what I have seen throughout my years in college and in college ministry, these seven books will be beneficial for college students. They are easy to read, pretty short, and address particular areas of thought that are largely neglected.

The Implications of a Judgment According to Works for the Christian

Getting Justification Right 

A sinner is saved by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. There will not be one individual that will be declared righteous through his obedience. Rather, individuals will only be declared righteous through faith in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. So, those who are in Christ through faith are justified, and those who are apart from Christ are condemned.

That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are a Christian, you will never hear the just judge of all the earth declare you to be guilty of sin and deserving of eternal punishment. That will not happen. Rather, you hear a silent declaration of “Justified!” from the judge of the earth now, and you will one day hear a public declaration of “Justified!” on judgment day. This is our hope and it is incredibly comforting! We are righteous in Christ Jesus. Praise God for this! We are rescued from the wrath of God in Christ Jesus. Glory be to God alone! We are adopted into the family of God in Christ Jesus. Honor be to the name of Jesus!

Justification Does Not Eradicate Evaluation

With that said, there also must be an understanding that those who have been justified (judicially declared righteous) through faith in Christ will be judged according to their works. This is thoroughly biblical. Just because we will not face condemnation on judgment day does not mean that we will escape evaluation. We will most certainly be evaluated. All of our actions, motives, thoughts, and words will be evaluated on judgment day. So, our works will be judged. And, according to Scripture, this doctrine is incredibly important for how we live life now. So, let’s look at some applications that arise from a judgment according to works.

Application of This Doctrine

A judgment according to works can be applied in many ways. Therefore, it will be helpful to see how this understanding of the role of works in the judgment of the righteous can be applied personally and within Christian ministry.

Personal Holiness

The first application that arises from a knowledge of a judgment according to works is personal holiness. All throughout the New Testament, the biblical writers refer to the day of judgment and then issue appeals for lives of holiness. For example, Peter, in speaking about the importance of being holy because God the Father is holy, says, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Pet. 1:17). Paul, in a similar line of thought, said that all Christians will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is for this reason that Paul says that Christians are to make it their aim to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).

So, one day, we as individuals, will stand before Christ’s great tribunal and receive what is our due for both the good and the evil that we have done in our earthly bodies. There will be no partiality in Christ’s judgment. Christ will look into the inner recesses of our hearts and expose every motive, secret, intention, careless word, and action in accordance with his infinite wisdom. For the evil that we have done, Christ will withhold his commendation. For the good that we have done, Christ will give his commendation (1 Cor. 4:5). For the evil that we have done, we will not receive a reward. For the good that we have done, we will receive rewards.

This is, without a doubt, a major incentive to live a life of holiness for the Lord. Regarding this Phanton says, “No wise disciple can afford to neglect so great a mass of Scripture, or throw away so mighty an incentive to holiness. Our discovery of this truth at the Judgment Seat will be too late.” Phanton is right in his assertion. We, if we want to live lives of holiness for the Lord, will find all the incentive we need in a thorough contemplation of standing before the judgment seat of Christ on that Great Day.

This also must be applied in the ministry context that God has entrusted with us. Right now I do college ministry on college campuses throughout the triangle area. I am able to interact with numerous students throughout the week. Each of them will have to stand before Christ’s tribunal to give an account of their lives. I ought to labor with relentless zeal in order to do everything that I can so that they will stand holy and blameless before the Lord on that Great Day. It should be my aim to prepare them for judgment day. Thus, I should do everything I can to help them pursue personal holiness.

Labor For The Lord

Secondly, a judgment according to works should lead us to increasingly labor for the Lord. When we do something in faith, to the glory of God, and out of love for neighbor, it is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Rather than being in vain, it will lead to commendation and reward from my blessed Savior. This is a major incentive to gospel labor. It most certainly was for Paul, this truth led him to tell Christians in Corinth, “to be abounding in the works of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

And this idea of rewards should not make us feel uneasy. The Scriptures clearly use this truth to compel Christians to labor. Jesus, in Matthew 6, uses both rewards and loss of rewards, to compel his disciples to give to the needy, pray, and fast in a way that is honoring to the Lord (Mt. 6:1-18). He then goes on to tell his disciples to intentionally lay-up treasure in heaven with how they use their money (Mt. 6:19-24). Also, the parable of the talents teaches that those who are faithful in how they steward their God given gifts will receive rewards when Christ Jesus returns (Mt. 24:14-30).

So, the idea of heavenly rewards compelling us to holy zeal and fervor in going about the work of the Lord is seen in the Scripture. This leads Wayne Grudem to say, “It would be morally and spiritually beneficial for us to have a greater consciousness of this clear New Testament teaching on degrees of heavenly reward.” Grudem is right. We would do well to contemplate eternal rewards often. This will lead us to zealously labor for Christ’s sake. We should be willing to spend and be spent for Christ’s kingdom knowing that nothing we do is in vain.

Also, this idea of rewards should impact the ministry we have been given. It should impact me personally as I labor on college campuses. Each of these students that I am shepherding has the opportunity to labor for the Lord, thus, storing up treasures in heaven. I ought to do everything in my power to keep them from wasting their lives by compelling them to lay up treasures in heaven by doing bold acts of service for Christ’s sake. So, I should be helping them and encouraging them to store up heavenly rewards from a most benevolent God who is eager to bestow them.

Increasing Humility

Thirdly, a judgment according to works should also lead us to have ever increasing humility. Often times, we have haughty views of ourselves. We simply seem to regard ourselves, as well as our ministry, with greater significance than we ought to. The reality of judgment day should keep us from this.

I say this because this was Paul’s mentality. Paul knew that he was gifted by God to be a steward of the mysteries of the gospel for the sake of the church. However, when it came to examining his faithfulness as a steward, he was not concerned with the judgment of men. He says, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by any human court” (1 Cor. 4:3). Paul then goes even further saying that he does not even trust his own judgment of his ministry, even though, as far as he could tell, he had not been unfaithful (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

The reason for this is because he knew judgment day was coming. Therefore, rather than leaning on his own judgment or the judgment of men, he says, “Therefore, I do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5).

Thus, judgment day led Paul to refrain from judging his own faithfulness. Rather, he humbly labored for the Lord waiting for judgment day to shed light on his ministry. The same truth mentioned above also led George Whitefield, after laboring for the Lord in an incomprehensibly glorious way, to leave his tomb stone with the words, “Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover.” So, the understanding of judgment day should keep us personally humble in our gospel labor as we patiently wait for that great day to reveal the genuineness of our work.

No Sinful Judging

Fourthly, a judgment according to works should keep us from sinfully casting judgment on weaker Christians. It should also keep us from causing a weaker brother in Christ to sin in how we use our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:5-23). Each Christian is going to have to give an account of their lives to Christ. Therefore, the last thing we should want is to have to give an account to Christ for how we caused a weaker Christian, for whom He died, to sin against him by how we used our Christian freedom (Rom. 14:15).

This Should Permeate Our Teachings

Lastly, a judgment according to work should be within our teachings, our discipleship relationships, and in how we raise our kids. We should not just teach justification, and we should not just teach a judgment according to works. Rather, they should both be taught. Justification by faith alone in Christ alone and a judgment according to works are both clearly in the Bible. Therefore, both of them ought to be taught. To emphasize justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the detriment of judgment according to works produces lawlessness. People will simply live however they want to live all the while claiming Christ as Savior. We see this all throughout the Bible Belt! Also, to emphasize judgment according to works to the detriment of justification by faith alone in Christ alone produces legalism. This also is seen all throughout the Bible Belt! So, we must emphasize both. To emphasize both will produce an affectionate reverence to Christ whereby we yield ourselves in obedience to the will of God. Therefore, this teaching ought to permeate our thoughts, teachings, sermons, discipleship relationships, child rearing, etc.