Our Deepest, Primary Problem

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Edward T. Welch

It is one thing to acknowledge that we occasionally do wrong; it is something else to acknowledge that what we did was sin – it was against God…

Even among Christians, sin is not always seen as our deepest or primary problem.  For example, if I were to reflect on the problems of my day, they might include my finances, children, wife, health, weight, reputation, lack of lasting contributions, car, leaky faucet, or environment-endangering lawn mower.  Even when I am an obvious wrongdoer, I still can think that sin is not my primary problem.  It is one of those problems that come up occasionally; it is not, I feel, a core feature of my very being.

Yet the fact that I do not feel like sin is my primary problem does not prove anything.  Sin by its very nature is more often quiet and secretive than loud and public.  For every overt episode of rage, there are dozens of jealousies, manipulations, white lies, and malicious thoughts, none of which immediately register on the conscience.  And, according to Scripture, the greatest sin of all is even more covert: I do not love the Lord my God with my whole mind and heart.  If our failure to consistently worship the true God is the key feature of sin, we are sinners all.

Notice what happens when we lose sight of these biblical teachings.  If sin is not our core problem, the gospel itself – the thing of first importance – is marginalized.  The good news that Jesus proclaimed and offered is that there is forgiveness of sins, not through our own attempts to please God, but by placing our confidence in Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection.  If sin is not our primary problem, then the gospel of Jesus is no longer the most important event in all of human history.


Prayer Changes Things

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10).
  • By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15).
  • By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).
  • By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19).
  • By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14).

Isn’t Life Life?

Just How Pro-Life Are You Really?
Michael Horton

Not long ago, a friend and I went through the drive-through window at a fast food spot. The fact that the server had a thick foreign accent, characteristic of fast food franchises in Southern California, and that my friend never shied away from making his racism a matter of public record, made me cringe as I prepared for the inevitable. Sure enough, this friend made some typically racist remark. The sad thing is, he’s a pastor. The odd thing is, he’s a rabid opponent of abortion. But is he consistently pro-life?

Evangelicals raise no qualms when the United States commits millions to Israel or spends millions on a military campaign to free a tiny, but wealthy, oil state with no regard for democracy, but when it comes to talking about the emergency in Somalia, Africa, with hundreds dying every day from starvation, the sentiment seems to be, “We have our own problems here at home.” Evangelicals rightly protest the murder of the unborn and decry the silence of those who refuse to defend those who have no voice to defend themselves. Nevertheless, that same silence hovers secretly over the same impassioned group when children die senselessly after they are born. Shouldn’t there be an outrage of equal proportions? Isn’t life life? Or are we just caught up in the glitz and glamour of political debates? Are we really pro-life?

Link: Complete Article

Asking for Strength to Rebel

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

…if we see iniquity in our lives and harbor it in our hearts when we pray, we are asking God for the strength we need to curse Him. We are petitioning God for more strength to disobey Him further. Just as [someone is] not about to lend his gun to those who would kill him, God is not about to honor our requests made out of sinful hearts.

“What sacrifice does God require?”

All About Heresy
Michael S. Horton

After all, it was Cain who murdered Abel over a point of theology. The question was, “What sacrifice does God require?” God showed what sacrifice pleases him when he rejected the plant covering that Adam and Eve had sewn together. Instead God sacrificed an animal and covered them with its skins. Abel placed his faith in the coming Messiah, who was promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15, by offering an animal sacrifice. But Cain brought plants as his sacrifice. Men and women have always been seeking to appease God themselves. Their consciences tell them that they are sinners and that God must judge sinners. But instead of turning to him for mercy, they set up their own righteousness and worship. Cain murdered Abel over the definition of the gospel; Cain became the father of church persecutions throughout history. This is even clearer in Hebrews 11, where we are told that Abel was accepted because he trusted the promise by grace alone through faith alone.

Link: Complete Article

“I Will Never Leave You”

J.C. Ryle

Hebrews 13:5b

for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let every believer grasp these words and store them up in his heart. Keep them ready, and have them fresh in your memory; you will want them one day. The Philistines will be upon you, the hand of sickness will lay you low, the king of terrors will draw near, the valley of the shadow of death will open up before your eyes. Then comes the hour when you will find nothing so comforting as a text like this, nothing so cheering as a real sense of God’s companionship.

Stick to that word, “never”. It is worth its weight in gold. Cling to it as a drowning man clings to a rope. Grasp it firmly, as a soldier attacked on all sides grasps his sword. God has said, and He will stand to it, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

NEVER! Though your heart be often faint, and you are sick of self, and your many failures and infirmities overwhelm you – even then the promise will not fall.

NEVER! Though the devil whispers, “I shall have you at last; yet a little time and your faith will fail, and you will be mine.” Even then the Word of God will stand.

NEVER! When the cold chill of death is creeping over you, and friends can do no more, and you are starting on that journey from which there is no return – even then Christ will not forsake you.

NEVER! When the day of judgment comes, and the books are opened, and the dead are rising from their graves, and eternity is beginning – even then the promise will bear all your weight; Christ will not leave His hold on your soul.

Oh believing reader, trust in the Lord for ever, for He says, “I will never leave you.” Lean back all your weight upon Him, do not be afraid. Glory in His promise. Rejoice in the strength of your consolation. You may say boldly, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear.”

No Mere Man

Napoleon Bonaparte

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of people would die for Him.

Remember to Whom You Are Speaking

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

Several recent books would have us believe that all we have to do is follow certain steps and God will give us whatever we ask. The authors say, in effect, “Follow this procedure or use these specific words and know for certain that God will give in to your requests.” That’s not prayer; that’s magic. That’s not faith but superstition. These are gimmicks intended to manipulate the sovereign God. But the one who prays like this forgets the One to whom he is speaking.

A Kind of Death Which Leads to Life

John Stott

Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

…there is a kind of life which leads to death, and there is a kind of death which leads to life…What the world calls life (a desirable self-indulgence) leads to alienation from God which in reality is death, whereas the putting to death of all perceived evil within us, which the world sees as an undesirable self-abnegation, is in reality the way to authentic life.

Respect Makes the Task Easier

Does Prayer Change Things?
R. C. Sproul

Before I can be motivated to do something difficult for someone, I need to have a certain amount of respect for that person. When someone asks me to go out into the world and endure persecution and hostility from angry and contrary people, I have to respect that person deeply. Only then does that task become easier.