Tuesday, March 15, 2011
"In April, 1983, Robert Vierling of Winchester, Missouri, was found on his bed, crushed to death by his sixteen-foot, one-hundred-pound, per Burmese python. Vierling's wife said he had complete trust in the snake and often played with it on the bed. Each of us lives with many unseen snakes, all more deadly than a Burmese python. These snakes, which are constantly with us, are called 'sins' in the Bible. The process of killing them is called mortification. The doctrine of mortification is seldom heard today, partly because the word mortify is a King James term that's rendered 'put to death' in modern translations. But mortification is absolutely critical, for the Bible says that even though killing the snakes of sin in our lives won't get us to Heaven - only the life and death of Jesus Christ can do that - unless we bring deadly violence against them all our lives, we've never experienced the saving work of Christ.
God's Word teaches this in Romans 8:12-13: "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors - not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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." In other words, if we complacently live by the deeds and desires God calls sinful, we will suffer certain spiritual death and its eternal consequences. But if, by the Holy Spirit, we constantly struggle to kill these sinful deeds and desires, we show that we really possess and will forever enjoy eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Mortification of sin is extremely important, but why mention it in a book on simplifying our spirituality? It's here because mortification does simplify the spiritual life by telling us clearly what we must do with the single most complicating factor in our lives - sin - and why. The Bible says we must kill our sins, not tolerate or expose them in the name of grace, or they will kill us.
In our ongoing war with our sins, we should also remember other Bible truths that complement our understanding and practice of mortification. These include the eternal forgiveness of all the sins of all believers through the cross of Jesus, the grace of God preserving His people to the end, and the truth that in this life we'll never experience the permanent removal of all sin or the desire to sin. Consistent with them all is this teaching in Romans 8:12-13 that, regardless of our professed beliefs, one evidence that Christ has truly saved us is a lethal, lifelong fight against every sin we commit.
In January, 2001, the Reuters news network reported the story of South African Lucas Sibanda, who was attacked by a python. Trapped in the snake's constricting coil, Sibanda bit the reptile below the head and kicked and punched until it released its grip. Then he killed the python with a stick.
Pythons of sin will attack and fight against us all our lives. Unless by the Holy Spirit we fight back like Lucas Sibanda, we show that there is spiritual life in us.
Get deadly with your sins."
Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, pg. 128-19
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Dear Friends, I received this today from a friend...some of you know him. His sister Lori is in a local hospital .. the John that's mentioned is Lori's husband.
"As far as my sister, she went unconscious last night in the hospital and her heart stopped. They got it going again thank the Lord, and they put her on a ventilator to keep her breathing. They medicated her heavily last night so she would not fight and try to pull out the tubes and IV's. We will keep praying until He gets the glory out of this. I know something good is gonna happen, the drs are amazed that she has lasted this long. Also be praying for my mother as well as this is very hard on her.
Please have your church pray tomorrow. There is power in agreement of many brothers and sisters.
Also be praying for John he really needs a personal encounter with the Father. John needs to know HIM personally and not just mentally or generally. He needs to know who is he is, Christ, and what authority he has in prayer."
Thank you all!
Monday, March 7, 2011
"I want God and spirituality, but not the church."
More people say this today than ever. Spirituality is in; church is out. Why? For some, the painful memories of previous church experiences keep them away. For others, church problems aren't worth the hassle. For many, church just "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." A sacrificial love for Christian brothers and sisters is one of the first, best, and more reliable evidences of having passed from spiritual death into eternal life through Christ. Anyone who claims to possess this love for God's people. but avoids their regular gatherings, needs to reexamine his relationship with the Father of this family.
Second, anyone who calls Jesus "Lord" must submit to the authority of His Word when it warns against "forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some" (Hebrews 10:25). The New Testament knows nothing of the individualized spirituality of today and nothing of a Christianity that exists apart from the local church.
Remember too that the church is Jesus' idea, not man's. More than that, the church is His body. The apostle Paul reminds us, "Christ is the head of the church; and He is Savior of the body," and "we are members of His body" (Ephesians 5:23,30). Even though it may sometimes appear otherwise, the body of Christ has not been severed from its Head; Jesus is still the Head of the church. Why wouldn't anyone want to actively participate in the only organization on earth where Jesus Christ is the Head? When one of His earliest promises was, "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18), why wouldn't anyone want a part in what Jesus Himself is building?
Look at Jesus' own example. He wasn't a spiritual loner. Twelve disciples always traveled with Him, often teaching and ministering as well. Furthermore, Luke 4:16 reminds us that, "as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." Why did Jesus make it His custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath? Because He would hear the Word of God, worship God, and fellowship with His people there.
That's how participation in congregational spirituality builds our individual spirituality. When we're fed by the preaching and teaching of Scripture, receive the Lord's Supper, sing praises and pray with Christ's people, and talk about the things of God together, the Spirit strengthens us in ways that do not occur when we're alone.
So attend, join, worship in, learn in, give to, fellowship with, and spiritually thrive in a local body of
Christ that's faithful to God's Word. Find teachers and models there who can help with simplifying your spiritual life. Failing this, consider starting some type of small group in the church to discuss or study a book on the subject.
Christian spirituality is not an isolationist, self-absorbed spirituality. True spirituality is relational - not only toward God, but also with the people of God. Proverbs 18:1 teaches, "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." Don't isolate yourself from the people of God. Take God, spirituality, and the church. That's God's plan. His ways are simpler and healthier for our souls than any we contrive on our own."
Excerpt taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life by Donald S.Whitney, pages 35-36
Saturday, March 5, 2011
The Gospel and Prayer
"Because I teach and write about spirituality, occasionally I'm asked to comment on scientific studies about the efficacy of prayer. The research always seems to include the assumption that one person's prayers are essentially as acceptable as another's. One of the flaws with such studies is that they do not associate prayer with the gospel. No one can begin to understand prayer until he grasps what the gospel teaches us about prayer.
The Bible, rather than assuring everyone that God hears their prayers, slams heaven's door against all who think God will hear them despite their sins: 'But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear' (Isaiah 59:2). In one sense, of course, God hears everything. But in this text we're told that God does not hear with a view to answering those who sin against Him. And, of course, since every person except Jesus has sinned against God, the hopes of are dashed of everyone who thinks all it takes for God to hear is for them to pray.
In fact, the Bible is even more shockingly counterintuitive in Proverbs 15:8: 'The sacrifice (which includes the prayer) of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.' Many people seem to think, 'It's true, I'm not a dedicated Christian; but if I get into a difficult situation and humble myself to pray, and I'm really sincere, surely God will accept my prayer.' Or they believe, 'Even though I'm not really a follower of Jesus, if God is merciful and loving, He will look favorably on the prayers of those who come to Him when they're in real need and pray hard enough.'
But this text tells us that, instead of being impressed, the Lord actually abominates these prayers. Why? Because such people believe God should hear their prayers based upon their temporary humility and piety. In other words, they believe their own righteousness - in this case, expressed in a short-lived acknowledgement that they need God's help - obligates God to answer.
Instead of being honored to receive the momentary sincerity of those who want something from Him, God is insulted by their prayers, for they imply that the work of Jesus wasn't necessary. It's as though they're saying, 'The life and death of Your Son weren't needed in my case; it was all a big mistake. I believe You should hear me based upon what I have done - especially in these prayers - and I don't need what Jesus did in order to be heard by You.' Could anything be more offensive to God?
When it comes to knowing God and being heard by Him, Jesus was unequivocal: 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6). Confidence that our prayers are heard cannot come from our sincerity, humility, or need; rather, 'we have confidence to enter the holy places (the presence of God) by the blood of Jesus' (Hebrews 10:19). Until people come in repentance to God through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ - who alone can remove the sin that separates us from God - their prayers will not be answered.
Does God ever answer the prayer of a non-Christian? Many stories claim that He does. In reality, are these 'answered prayers' simply God doing in His providence what He was going to do regardless of the prayers? The clearest ground biblically is this: except for those prayers leading to salvation, we can give no assurance to anyone outside of Christ that God will answer his prayer. It is only through the gospel that we truly begin to pray for only then - after Jesus has made us and our prayers acceptable to the Father - do the promises of prayer in the Bible apply to us.
Once we respond to the gospel in repentance and faith and are adopted into God's family, our newly begun relationship with our heavenly Father becomes markedly prayerful. No longer is prayer just an obligation or a hoop to jump through to get what we want, for the gospel makes prayer a desire and not a mere duty. Through the gospel we receive the Spirit who causes us to cry, 'Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) with a new heavenward, Fatherward orientation. In other words, the Spirit of God causes us to want to talk to God.
Prayer should still remain a discipline, for even with the God-given desire to pray, it's easy to be distracted from habits of prayer by the crush of the responsibilities. But thanks to the grace of God in the gospel, our prayers are always welcome."
Article taken from Tabletalk Magazine, March, 2011
Written by Donald S. Whitney, senior associate dean of the school of theology and professor of biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.