Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: CJ Mahaney

The Guy I Don’t Want to Be

There are lots of things I don’t want to be. Right near the top of the list is stupid. I definitely don’t want to be stupid. Whatever it takes to avoid being the stupid guy, I want to learn that and be that.

Proverbs 12.1 tells us who the ‘stupid’ guy is, from a biblical perspective. It says ‘Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.’

I think there are at least a few ways that you can be biblically stupid, in keeping with this verse. I’ll try to tease a few of them out.

1. Fight Back

One way you can hate reproof is by fighting back against it. If someone corrects you, you resort to pointing out the log in his eye, you draw attention to her hypocrisy, or maybe you accuse them of having impure motives in bringing that correction to you. Either way, you’re hating reproof by turning the attention away from the reproof on to something else. That’s one way to be stupid.

2. Believe You Are Superior

Another way, though, that I think is far more subtle–and perhaps more common in our circles–is to politely receive the reproof (outwardly), while all the while thinking to yourself how ridiculous it is. We smile outwardly and in the best impression of feigned humility we can muster we thank the person for their reproof. But in our minds we think, ‘I’m actually far superior to this person spiritually–how dare she think she (of all people!) is qualified to bring me reproof!’ And then we go on our way, unchanged, not heeding the reproof. That’s another way to hate it… and to be stupid.
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Are You Cheerful?

Today in the car I was listening to a message by CJ Mahaney on Luke 17. He made a comment just in passing about this phrase from  James 5.13: ‘Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.’

CJ pointed out that James doesn’t assume that just because we’re cheerful, we’ll allow our cheerfulness to show. What a shame! If we are cheerful, we are actually instructed here to ‘sing praise.’ That is, if you are cheerful, let others know! Let your outer demeanour match your inner joy.

As he went on to note, too often, like the lepers in Luke 17, we simply receive gifts, enjoy them, and move on like a spoiled child at a birthday party. I need to hear this. If God has given me gifts that make me happy, I need to let my happiness show. It will give him glory, and my joy will invite others to participate in my joy with me.

Has God been gracious to you today? Have you received from him better than you deserve? Has his grace cheered you today? Then sing! Let others know! Give him glory. Let your cheerfulness be seen!

Two Great Fears, One Great Hope

The whole of the blog world has been abuzz lately for a number of issues surrounding the new Calvinist movement amongst evangelicals. First was news of CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries going through some serious trials. Then John MacArthur and Co. have launched an all-out assault on the ‘Young, Restless, Reformed’ movement. It’s not just John, of course, it’s his internet / media people, as well as Phil Johnson and the Cripplegate bloggers and many others as they take on Driscoll and others of his ilk with unprovoked attacks and uninvited criticism.

Critics are everywhere and responses are just as numerous. And many criticisms–on both sides–are valid to some degree or another.

My First Fear

My first fear in all of this is division: the creation of schisms in a movement that has until now been rooted in the gospel and sought to be ‘together’ despite differences on secondary issues. Here’s the thing: the new Calvinism is awesome. It’s awesome because it’s a return to the gospel-centrality of the New Testament. It’s a return to the vision of the transcendent and immanent God who works all things mysteriously yet wondrously for his own glory and for the good of his people. Inasmuch as we have recovered a biblical emphasis on the gospel and the God of the gospel, this movement rocks. And it is changing things. Even TIME magazine recognized it.

But that’s kind of the problem: If the world recognizes it, Satan does too. And Satan, who loves to sow discord and divide Christians, will do his best to divide this movement so that he can keep it as small and ineffective as possible. Division is his work. My first fear is that this baby-of-a-movement will have its growth stunted and strength limited if we become divided and lose our focus on the centrality of the gospel.

My Second Fear

My second fear for our movement is that some of the past criticisms may prove true now. Not the criticisms that have been levelled by John MacArthur & Team, but the criticisms we have heard since the very first T4G Conference: That we are a movement that makes too much of people, that we are worldly in our following of ‘celebrity Christians.’

What is God doing right now? With the issues surrounding CJ, the self-discreditation of John MacArthur, the rampant attacks on Driscoll for all his uniqueness … what is God doing? Maybe he is giving us as a movement an opportunity to show that while we are eternally thankful for our leaders, we have not deified them. Not one of them is without sin. Not one of them is any more justified than any of us. So what if they are full of mistakes and sin? Will we lose faith? Will we give up? Will we move on to the next fad in evangelicalism and the next big celebrity Christian? My second fear is that these criticisms of our idolizing of men would be proven true as some of our heroes in the faith are brought down from their pedestals… even just a little bit.

My One Great Hope

My one great hope is that in all of this we would follow the one man who is actually worthy of complete emulation–our Lord Jesus. He was falsely accused and misunderstood. He was wrongly mocked. But he still loved. He faithfully entrusted himself to God who alone judges justly.

Jesus knew that if he entrusted his cause to God, he would not be abandoned. He knew that only God searches hearts, and that it is before his own master each servant stands or falls.

Here’s my hope and prayer: That we, as a collective movement, we be so compelled by the example of the humble Saviour that we would follow his lead, through slander, distraction, misunderstanding, betrayal, and whatever else comes our way. I pray that we would not be like previous generations who were so quickly distracted from the gospel to side issues (like dress or drink), that we would–for the sake of the protection of our gospel unity and witness–refuse to defend ourselves.

I pray that we would now, like never before, prove the critics wrong: Not through our great arguments or air-tight self-defences, but through our meakness, humility, and rock-solid commitment to unity in Christ. I pray that we would prove them wrong by looking to Jesus and taking our lead from the one who deserves celebrity status.

My great hope is that we would not let this be a tool of Satan to divide and distract, but that we would see it as the hand of God giving us opportunity to display the centrality of the gospel in action.

Patience Compels Patience

A baby me

Writing this series and looking back over many of the things I’ve learned has made me realize something: I am a slow learner. I simply, truly, honestly cannot believe that even knowing the grace of God, it has taken me so long to know such small growth.

When I speak of being a slow learner, I don’t mean that I’m unintelligent, I mean that even what I do know I often have yet to learn in the sense of applying truth and being changed by it.

That, it seems, is impossible to rush. Yet this questions plagues me: How could it be that I still live the way I do when I know the things I know?

How long will God be patient with me? Will his patience eventually, finally, just give out?

As always, the gospel speaks comfort. The gospel takes this truth and gives me positive direction moving forward so that I am not left in despair. CJ Mahaney, in a message to pastors, recently quoted JI Packer:

Appreciate the patience of God. Think how he has borne with you, and still bears with you, when so much in your life is unworthy of him and you have so richly deserved his rejection. Learn to marvel at his patience, and seek grace to imitate it in your dealings with others; and try not to try his patience any more.

To this, CJ adds:

“Think how has borne with you, and still bears with you, when so much in your life is unworthy of him.” When you’re 56, you appreciate a statement like this more than when you were 25. I appreciated God’s patience then; I just appreciate it more now. He has patiently borne with me for 31 more years. My wife, my children, and the men I serve with in ministry know how true it is: there is so much of my life that is unworthy of him.

That rings true for me. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen the patience of God. I’ve gloried in it. My life, literally, depends on it. Now, heaven forbid, that I would ever be impatient with others. I need to hear what CJ says:

When I am impatient with others, I have temporarily lost sight of God’s patience with me. At the root of my impatience is self-righteousness and pride. Daily remembering God’s patience with me protects my soul from sinful impatience with others.

Having had this season to reflect on God’s grace in my life and his patience with me in protecting me and keeping me and bearing with me these 30 years, I pray that I would be patient with others. I pray that I would never for a moment be impatient at the slow growth of those around me. I pray that I would never be frustrated with them more than I’m frustrated at myself. I pray that I would love with a longsuffering love that hopes all things and patiently waits for God’s power to bring change.

But I know I’ll fail. I’m a slow learner. I’ll forget his patience with me and I’ll get impatient with you. And when I do I’ll need to experience his patience with me again. I’m so thankful for his gospel-patience. It’s my only hope.


** This concludes the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday. Thanks for joining on the journey! **

Tired Isn’t Always Bad

It is a Monday. When I first conceived of writing this post it was a Monday morning. Monday mornings are tired times, generally speaking, for preachers.

This morning, I was tired.

As I was going about my morning routine, I thought to myself, I should have some coffee when I get to work. That will help make me alert. But as I was driving in to the office I began to think about it a little more. I think I’m afraid of being tired. I didn’t know why that was.

There are times when I definitely don’t want to be tired; times when I want and need to be firing on all cylinders, and so I thank the Lord for the gracious gift of coffee or sugar or whatever else helps restore mental alertness. But I didn’t need coffee this morning. The jobs I’m working on currently are more mundane jobs of scheduling, planning, catching up on e-mails, etc. and I can do those just fine without any stimulant… even on a Monday morning!

So why would I be want coffee? Why would I be so upset at the thought of being tired? I think the answer lies in what CJ Mahaney so astutely points out in Humility with regard to tiredness and sleep:

The fact is, God could have created us without a need for sleep. But He chose to build this need within us, and there’s a spiritual purpose for it. Each night, as I confront my need again for sleep, I’m reminded that I’m a dependent creature. I am not self-sufficient. I am not the Creator. There is only One who will ‘neither slumber nor sleep’ (Ps 121:4), and I am not that One.

Sleep is a gift, but it’s a humbling one. It’s a matter of only hours, at most, before you’re ready to again receive God’s gift of sleep. When that time comes, let me encourage you to pray something like this: ‘Lord, thank You for this gift. The fact that I’m so tired is a reminder that I am the creature and only You are the Creator. Only You neither slumber nor sleep, while for me, sleep is something I cannot go without. Thank You for this gracious, humbling, refreshing gift.’

What CJ says about preparing to go to sleep can be applied to being tired throughout the day as well. If I use my tiredness right, it’s not something I should be afraid of; rather it has become an opportunity to grow in humility.

So why am I afraid of being tired? Because I’m proud. Because I live a in a self-created illusion that I am somehow self-sufficient. Rather than seizing this opportunity to thank God for the physical reminder that he is God and I am not, I try to mask the symptoms of my creatureliness, my weakness, and my limitations and pretend that I am God… that I will not grow weary.

So this morning… I drank no coffee. I’m glad that I’m tired. I’m glad that God never is. I’m thankful for this reminder and I pray the Lord uses it in an ongoing way to stretch me and grow me in humility.

CJ May Be Done…

As I posted before, CJ Mahaney’s blog has been featuring parts of his chapter on modesty from the forthcoming Crossway book called Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.

You can read the summary post here. It contains an index with links to each of the seven sections and some additional application questions as well. The application questions are broken down into three categories: For your mind, for your heart, and for your life. Go check it out; it will be well worth your time.

While CJ may be done posting on this topic, I thought I’d point out some further resources on modesty of dress and why it is so absolutely important to the Christian walk.

It is my hope that these resources will help you form a biblically informed worldview, which encompasses clothing as a representation of what is going on inside the heart (of both women and men).

CJ on Modesty

There are few Christian authors who can combine real cultural and spiritual insight, genuine love for the gospel, and humility while addressing everyday situations and life issues. One who I love as a preacher and a writer is CJ Mahaney.

CJ is currently through 4 of what will be 7 posts that are excerpts from the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008), which CJ is editing. In this series CJ is giving excerpts from his chapter on modesty.

CJ focuses on the heart behind the clothes–which I love! Choice of clothing is like any other decision a person makes: it reveals something about a person’s desires, motivations, etc. Pastorally, there are all kinds of issues surrounding modesty that can be addressed both in guys and girls.

Here’s are a couple of the comments I’ve appreciated so far…

Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline. We must start with the attitude of the modest woman. 

Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality. 

Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.

There’s an inseparable link between your heart and your clothes. Your clothes say something about your attitude. If they don’t express a heart that is humble, that desires to please God, that longs to serve others, that’s modest, that exercises self-control, then change must begin in the heart. 

For modesty is humility expressed in dress.

A woman’s taste for beauty can be an imitation of God’s character, but it can also become corrupted. And such was the case in this first-century church. Paul exhorted the women who professed godliness: “You should not dress in a way that resembles those who are extravagant, or worse, intent on being seductive or sexy. You must not identify with the sinful, worldly culture through your dress.” Paul was writing not to condemn attractive attire but to address its corruption by association with worldly ideals and goals. 

Please know that I don’t write as a self-appointed critic. I am simply a concerned pastor who charitably assumes that most Christian women who dress immodestly are ignorant of the war with lust that men confront on a daily basis. They probably don’t have a clue what goes on in a man’s mind and what effect their bodies have on the eyes and hearts of men young and old. 

But I want no one to be ignorant after reading this chapter. …

And I don’t want you to be ignorant. So go check out CJ’s blog and follow this series as he posts. It will be well worth your while!

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