Said Musa is an Afghan father of six, a Red Cross worker, and a prisoner of Christ Jesus.  Musa was imprisoned because of his conversion to Christianity.  A judge recently warned Musa that he would be hanged within days if he does not recant his Christian faith and reconvert to Islam.  You can read one of the latest articles here.

What should we pray for Musa during this fiery trial? Read the rest of this entry »

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

(Heidelburg Catechism, first question)

An Update from Alis

June 1, 2010

Pastor David wrote yesterday from Alis:

Hi, everybody!  Here´s the quick rundown, as I don´t have much time at
the moment.

– The team is healthy and encouraged.  Our translator, Robert, is the
best I´ve ever had in Peru.  I hope we can have him on every trip.
He´s that good.

– John Henson is virtually fluent in Spanish.  His ability to
communicate is amazing, and he seems completely in his element.  I´m
astounded at how the Lord provided Colby for us last year and John
this year.  God is good!

– Big news: Juan and Delia are out of town.  You heard me.  They are
supposed to return this afternoon, but we´ll see.  Nevertheless, we
had a great day yesterday.  Juan Jose, Lucilla, and Andrea are here
and warmly welcomed us.  Marheena and her family were very glad to see
us too.  We actually held a morning and evening service yesterday,
both of which went really well.  We sang, we prayed, and we studied
the book of Jonah together (chaps. 1-2 in the morning, chaps. 3-4 in
the evening).  There was much good discussion about the Lord´s mercy
toward us when we disobey as well as his love for the nations.  We
also talked a lot about his power and about our need to care about the
lost.  Everyone was very engaged, even the little kids.  It was a lot
of fun.  If Juan and Delia return, we hope to meet with them tonight.

– Marheena is having us over for lunch in 5 minutes, so I must wind
this up.  After lunch, we will go to Tomas to encourage the believers
there.  Tomorrow we hope to go to Miraflores, Vitis, and Huancaya.
Aaron, we are hoping Juan will be willing to make a trip to Lauros
with us to see Justo on Wednesday or Thursday.  We´ll have to see what
his schedule is like.

– One last quick note: an Adventist group has solidified and has a
sign up over their meeting place here in Alis.  Also, the IEP seems to
be meeting periodically now, with Alfonzo as the reinstated “leader”.
I know no other details right now about either group.  I hope to learn
more from Juan and Delia.

Grace and peace in Christ,
David

For clarification, the IEP (Evangelical Church of Peru) is the denomination that initially planted churches in this region in the 1950’s. For more than a decade most of these churches have lay dormant with no regular meetings. Alfonzo was the “leader” (i.e., pastor) of the church, but what the locals would describe as a “bad testimony” (unrepentant immorality) led to his removal when we arrived in Alis over 1 year ago. However, the IEP has not been worshiping with the small church we have planted for various reasons, but primarily because we are not IEP. The news that Alfonzo has been “reinstated” is surprising, but I am hopeful it is because he has repented and has been restored. We need to continue to pray for unity in the gospel in Alis.

Kevin DeYoung often posts are often practical and helpful. This one is no different.

Are Christians Meant to Feel Guilty All the Time?

I imagine there are plenty of Christians who rarely feel the sting of conscience or the pangs of regret. But I also know many, many Christians (including the one I see in the mirror) who easily feel bad for all the things they are not doing or are doing less than perfectly. In fact, I’m convinced most serious Christians live their lives with an almost constant low-level sense of guilt.

How do we feel guilty? Let me count the ways.

  • We could pray more.
  • We aren’t bold enough in evangelism.
  • We like sports too much.
  • We watch movies and television too often.
  • Our quiet times are too short or too sporadic.
  • We don’t give enough.
  • We bought a new couch.
  • We don’t read to our kids enough.
  • Our kids eat Cheetos and french fries.
  • We don’t recycle enough.
  • We need to lost 20 pounds.
  • We could use our time better.
  • We could live some place harder or in something smaller.

What do we do with all this behind the scenes guilt? We don’t feel stop-dead-in-our-tracks kind of remorse for these things.  But these shortcomings can have a cumulative effect whereby even the mature Christian can feel like he’s rather disappointing to God, maybe just barely Christian.

Here’s the tricky part: we should feel guilty sometimes, because sometimes we are guilty of sin. Moreover, complacency as Christians is a real danger, especially in America.

But yet, I don’t believe God redeemed us through the blood of his Son that we might feel like constant failures. Do Peter and John post-Pentecost seemed racked with self-loathing and introspective fear? Does Paul seem constantly concerned that he could be doing more? Amazingly enough, Paul actually says at one point “I am not aware of anything against myself” (1 Cor. 4:4). He’s quick to add, “I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” But it sure seems like Paul put his head on the pillow at night with a clean conscience. So why do so many Christian feel guilty all the time?

1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all it’s scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1).

2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do more for Christ (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christlikeness as something we are royally screwing up, when we should it as something we already possess but need to grow into.

3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.” Look at the list above. None one of the items are necessarily sinful. They all deal with possible infractions, perceptions, and ways in which we’d like to do more. These are the hardest areas to deal with because no Christian, for example, will ever confess to praying enough. So it is always easy to feel terrible about prayer (or evangelism or giving or any number of disciplines). We must be careful that we don’t insist on a certain standard of practice when the Bible merely insists on a general principle.

Let me give another example. Every Christian must give generously and contribute to the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-11; Rom. 12:13). This we can insist on with absolute certainty. But what this generosity looks like–how much we give, how much we retain–is not bound by any formula, nor can it be exacted by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). So if we want people to be more generous we would do well to follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians and emphasize the blessings of generosity and the gospel rooted motivation for generosity as opposed to shaming those who don’t give us much.

4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy. Paul had a clean conscience, not because he never sinned, but, I imagine, because he quickly went to the Lord when he knew he was wrong and rested in the “no condemnation” of the gospel (Rom. 8:1). If we confess our sins, John says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We aren’t meant to feel borderline miserable all the time. We are meant to live in the joy of our salvation. So when we sin–and we’ll all sin (1 Kings 8:46; 1 John 1:8)–we confess it, get cleansed, and move on.

This underlines one of the great dangers with constant guilt: we learn to ignore our consciences. If we are truly sinning, we need to repent and implore the Lord to help us change. But if we aren’t sinning, if we are perhaps not as mature as we could be, or are not as disciplined as some believers, or we are making different choices that may be acceptable but not extraordinary, then we should not be made to feel guilty. Challenged, stirred, inspired, but not guilty.

As a pastor this means I don’t expect that everyone in my congregation should feel awful about everything I ever preach on. It is ok, after all, for people to actually be obedient to God’s commands. Not perfectly, not without some mixed motives, not as fully as they could be, but still faithfully, God-pleasingly obedient. Faithful preaching does not require that sincere Christians feel miserable all the time. In fact, the best preaching ought to make sincere Christians see more of Christ and experience more of his grace.

Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt. And that’ s a good thing all the way around.

This post by Justin Taylor was helpful.

The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:

You are not _____;

You should be _________;

Therefore, do or be ________!

Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).

This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).

The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”

This “become what you are” way of speaking is strange for many us us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.

We see this all throughout the NT. Here are a few examples of this gospel logic and language:

“You really are unleavened” (indicative),
therefore “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” (imperative). [1 Cor. 5:7].

“You are not under law but under grace” and you “have been brought from death to life (indicatives),
therefore “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body. . . .
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness,
but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (imperatives). [Rom. 6:12-14]

“Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness (indicatives) . . .
[therefore] now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (imperative). [Rom. 6:18-19]

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (indicative),
therefore, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (imperative). [Gal. 5:16, 24]

Pastor, are you encouraging your people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus?