Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Holiness (Page 1 of 2)

So Much More Than Manners

Say ‘Thank You!’

As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.

give thanks

Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.

Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.

I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.

Some Findings

I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.

That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.

Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness

And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.

ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. …  19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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Four Little Words

What is the likelihood you’ll be at church on Sunday? 50%? 75%?

Recently, I heard an experienced urban minister reflecting on the reality that in most urban contexts, among most young Christians — even reformed evangelicals — church attendance peaks at around 2-3 Sundays per month.

Before you judge, honestly evaluate your own attendance over the past little while. I say that because for most of these young people, if you were to ask them, they would indicate that they are very committed. In their own perception, they are more likely to be there than not, whether or not the facts bear that out. Many think they are more faithful than they are.


That’s been on my mind today because I’ve been studying about Jesus. Here’s what I read:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and he entered the synagogue as was his custom on the Sabbath day and he rose to read… (Luke 4.16)

Four little words stuck out to me. Did you catch them? ‘As was his custom.

If there are things we tend to not like as younger people, particularly younger evangelicals, it is commandments and customs. We don’t like to be told something is necessary. But if something is good, shouldn’t it be customary? If Jesus made it his custom to go and hear the reading and explanation of the law for the first 30 years of his life before beginning his ministry, shouldn’t that inform some of our customs?

I was further rebuked by this statement from Josephus:

‘He [Moses] appointed the Law to be the most excellent and necessary form of instruction, ordaining, not that it should be heard once for all or twice or on several occasions, but that every week men should desert their other occupations and assemble to listen to the Law and to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of it, a practice which all other legislators seem to have neglected’ (Ag. Ap. 2.17 §175).

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Why Should I Go to Church?

Why should I go to church?

It’s a question that every Christian has asked at some point or another. Whether it’s because we’re sick, tired, having a hard time seeing the point, or at relational odds with someone there, we’ve all asked the question.

There are, of course, many ways to answer. The simplest is that we’re commanded to (Heb 10.24-25) and since our lives are not our own, but were bought with a price, we must obey. But for the Christian who wants to reflect on it more, there is much more to be said.

A few years ago I heard Matt Schmucker from 9 Marks say that absence from church (in an ongoing or regular sense) is either a result of sin or a gateway to sin. I wholeheartedly agreed with him on an anecdotal level. This was true of all people that I’ve known. But why is that?

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How Could I Sin?

A prayer for growth in holiness:

Father, how could I sin?

Having seen your hatred for sin and your love for righteousness, how could I sin?

I have seen the fullness of your just anger borne by Christ for me. How could I be speak angrily to others?

I have seen your patience with me through decades of rebellion. How could I be impatient with others?

I have seen how you work the evil of others for good. How could I be bitter?

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When Not Doing Something Is Sin

sinSome time ago I posted an article listing all the ‘sins’ of the New Testament. There I argued that if committing an act is actually sin, then we ought to use New Testament words and categories to discuss it.

One major question that arose from that article, however, was this:

‘Those are all the sins of commission (things that you do when you shouldn’t), but what about sins of omission (good things that you know you should do, but don’t do)?’

How can we identify those? Are they the same for everyone?

How can I inform my conscience to know when I’m not doing what is good for the sake of actually doing what is best? How can I tell the difference?

How can I know when it’s okay to not do something good? How can I know when not doing something is actually sin?

1. Ensure you’re working in biblical categories.

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and then love your neighbour as yourself. That is the law that must govern you. Nothing else. Recognizing that you’re bound by this law, and then freed to do as you please is remarkably liberating.

2. Realize that you have gifts and you are a gift.

You are a gift to the church, a part of the body, and you have gifts that must be used for the building up of the body. No one else can be you or use your gifts. So the specific ways that God has gifted you and the specific needs of the specific family, church, and community in which he has placed you need to be taken into account.

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You Are Provoking Me

There are certainly lots of curious things that happen in sections of Old Testament narrative. But one of the more curious realities of the Moses narrative, to me, is the fact that Moses is not allowed to go into the Promised Land. It’s not the fact that he’s forbidden that seems curious, but the fact that he seems repeatedly to blame his sin on the people of Israel (see Deut. 4.21-22 for example).

On this, D.A. Carson writes:

Of the many lessons that spring from this historical recital, one relatively minor point — painful to Moses and important for us — quietly emerges. Moses repeatedly reminds the people that he himself will not be permitted to enter the land. He is referring to the time he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20). But now he points out, truthfully, that his sin and punishment took place, he says, “because of you” (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-27; Deut. 4:21-22). Of course, Moses was responsible for his own action. But he would not have been tempted had the people been godly. Their persistent unbelief and whining wore him down. (For the Love of God, vol. 1. Read the full entry here.)

In other words, the persistent sin of the people of Israel had finally provoked the meekest of all men on the earth (Num 12.3) to sin. And now he was paying for it, ‘because of [them].’

Do you see what happened? When they persisted in unbelief, rebellion, and sin, it discouraged and disheartened even the most faithful. Holiness and the battle against sin, for the people of Israel, was something essentially communal. However one person acted effected others.

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Why I Am Discouraged / Encouraged by Slow Growth


This morning I was thinking about the sin that remains in me and how stubborn it is. I was frustrated that I’m not more holy already and discouraged by the pace of my growth in holiness.

As I contemplated the gospel and how it relates to my pace of growth in holiness I was first discouraged and then encouraged. Here’s what I mean.

Slow Growth is Discouraging Because It’s Not Right

My friend Rony preached at our church this Sunday from Colossians 1 and reminded us that the gospel is effective — it bears fruit and grows in the whole world and advances in us as well. In the gospel we are ‘strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might’ for gospel-living.

Or, as Jesus said, ‘A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.’ Or, as John said, ‘By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’ Paul rhetorically asked, ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’

In Christ I have become a new creation and that new creation ought to look different. Growth should be evident and righteousness manifest. When it’s not, that’s discouraging.
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