Killer Q & A

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Hey TD!

Those who went to the Ligonier conference last week were treated to a wonderfully rich time of teaching, theology, and a deeper knowledge of the God of the Bible.  This was the Upward Prong of our 3-pronged approach to the Christian life.

One particular treat were the Q & A sessions – one with Dr. RC Sproul and one with the rest of the speakers.  There is always lots of candor and humor that accompany the insight and truth shared.

Below is a Q & A session from LIgonier’s National Conference a couple of months ago with Dr. RC Sproul, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Dr. Steven Lawson. Below is the list of questions discussed:

Questions:

1. Dr. MacArthur, can you tell us about the Shepherds Conference? (1:09)
2. How do you explain the term “Reformed” to a someone unfamiliar to Reformed teaching? (2:34)
3. Is our still heart deceitfully wicked after we are born again? (4:47)
4. How should I share the gospel when it could cost me my job? (7:08)
5. Is it biblical to say God “loves you” to believers and nonbelievers alike? (9:32)
6. What does it mean when we confess that Jesus has a reasonable soul? (13:05)
7. Dr. MacArthur, you spoke at 2016 Shepherds Conference about clergy malpractice. What did you mean by that? (17:08)
8. How can I best prepare students to live their faith out in public schools? (19:17)
9. How do I counsel a Reformed mother who is married to a Roman Catholic? (22:25)
10. With the rise of seeker-sensitive churches, how do we understand biblically ‘seeking’ God? (25:02)
11. How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false? (32:23)
12. How is the current cultural climate forcing the “mushy middle” out of the church? (35:55)
13. Giving the failure of ecumenical movements, how do you promote unity in doctrine? (37:59)

Note: Answers given during Panel Discussions reflect the views of the individual speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries.

Enjoy!

TD – RSVP NOW for “Discovering the God of the Bible”!

2017 Regional Conference

Hey TD!

This weekend, we will have an amazing opportunity to go Upward and engage with God through deep, rich, God-focused theology! TD will be heading to Ligonier Ministries’ “Discovering the God of the Bible” conference on Friday and Saturday!

This will be a fantastic opportunity to not only hear the exploring and preaching of God’s word with excellence, but it will be an opportunity to hear the legendary John MacArthur in person.  Being under his preaching in itself is a treasured experience..  As he is closing in on 80, I don’t know how many more opportunities you will have.  His preaching itself is worth the price of admission.  Speaking of admission, the price for you TD’ers is … FREE!  Unfortunately, that’s not true for TD leaders 😦

The cost for TD’ers is FREE, but you do have to register!

You do have to register, however.  So, if you are able to come Friday or Saturday or both, please contact your small group leader ASAP and give him/her your name, age, mailing address, email address, and when you can go.

We will meet at church at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.

I need to turn in our registration on Wednesday morning!  Let us know ASAP! – Arthur

Schedule

Friday, June 09 2017

Start End Description Speaker
6:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.

Sovereign Over All

“The Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2). God is Lord of all, sovereign over everything in creation, actively governing it to fulfill His good and holy purposes. This session will present the biblical doctrine of the sovereignty of God, explaining how His sovereign providence is a comfort to believers.

Julius Kim
7:00 p.m. 8:00 p.m.

Holy, Holy, Holy

“The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). The one, true God is set apart from all other gods—indeed, apart from all creation—in His holiness. This session will explore the holiness of God, emphasizing its importance in understanding who God is.

Stephen Nichols

Saturday, June 10 2017

Start End Description Speaker
8:30 a.m. 9:30 a.m.

A God Merciful & Gracious

God revealed Himself to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). This session will discuss the mercy and grace of God, making sure to note that these attributes are understood rightly only against the backdrop of God’s perfect justice and righteousness.

W. Robert Godfrey
10:15 a.m. 11:15 a.m.

None Other

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5). Counterfeit religions and philosophies present views of God or the gods that are ultimately the creation of humanity’s imagination. The God of the Bible, however, is like none of these beings. This session will consider the uniqueness of God in a world full of false gods.

John MacArthur
11:15 a.m. 12:00 p.m.

Questions & Answers

A questions and answers session with Dr. R.C. Sproul (live via video).

12:45 p.m. 1:15 p.m.

Optional Session: Learning to Love the Psalms

Throughout history, Christians have turned to the book of Psalms to inform their worship, prayers, and understanding of Christ. This session will look at the significance of the biblical psalms and why we should turn to them in worship and in private study.

W. Robert Godfrey
1:15 p.m. 1:45 p.m.

Optional Session: Seeing Christ in all the Scriptures

Christ Himself testified to the fact that Scripture leads us to Him (John 5:39). This session will consider how the Old and New Testaments testify to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Julius Kim
2:00 p.m. 2:50 p.m.

Question & Answers

A questions and answers session with Drs. W. Robert Godfrey, Julius Kim, Stephen Nichols, and John MacArthur.

3:30 p.m. 4:25 p.m.

The Lord Is My Salvation

“The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Ps. 27:1). God is the source and goal of our salvation, and He saves people from His wrath for the sake of His glory. This session will look at the Lord as the One who initiates, sustains, and completes our salvation, directing us to live lives of gratitude and worship for what He has done for us.

John MacArthur

The Gospel in Asia

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Hey TD,

In light of TD’ers heading to love and serve orphaned children, typical children, and college students in China and Taiwan this summer in Jesus’ Name, I’d like for us to pray for these trips and get an overview of what God is doing in Asia.

I read the following article a few weeks ago in Tabletalk magazine and would like to share it with you.  Pray about it and ask the Lord what He wants you to do in response.  Your response can come in many forms, big and small.  But there should be some response of some sort, even if it’s to pray. – Arthur

The Gospel in Asia

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The advance of the gospel in Asia over the last century has been extraordinary. Christian churches are growing and thriving in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and of course South Korea, which boasts some of the largest churches in the entire world. Yet the gospel is also taking root in countries where we might not expect it to. For example, a movement of Reformed churches is growing in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Moreover, the exponential growth of the house church movement in China is remarkable considering that the Communist government places strict restrictions on the activities of Christian churches. Clearly, the work of the gospel in Asia is something we rejoice over, continue to pray for, and look for opportunities to support.

PLANTING THE SEEDS

The roots of the modern evangelical movement are often traced back to the First and Second Great Awakenings in North America. These revivals have a mixed legacy, but we can be thankful for their emphasis on conversion and evangelism, which sparked a global missionary movement that ultimately marked the nineteenth century as the great century of Protestant mission work. Protestant missionaries traveled to Africa, South America, and Asia spreading the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. While we cannot ignore or fully disentangle the Protestant mission movement from the often-brutal historical context of Western imperialism, which led to many European countries’ annexing territories around the world and the subjection of indigenous people groups, missionaries did plant the seeds of the gospel throughout the world—including Asia.

A good example of planting seeds was the missionary work of Robert Morrison, who was sent by the London Mission Society to China in 1807. He was one of the first to translate the Bible into Chinese and bring the gospel to southern China. James Hudson Taylor followed Morrison, arriving in China in 1853. Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, with a focus on reaching the interior of China, away from the more popular and lucrative port cities. Unique for his time, Taylor and his colleagues chose to dress and eat like the local Chinese as a way of identifying more closely with those to whom they were trying to minister. The work of Morrison and Taylor introduced the gospel to China, and their legacy lives on today.

Another example of gospel seeds being planted in Asia and bearing amazing fruit occurred in Korea, where the first Protestant missionaries arrived in the nineteenth century. Protestantism grew during the early twentieth century with the famous revival (1907–10) in the northern city of Pyongyang. As a result of the revival, Christianity was firmly established and would play a crucial role during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Christianity served as a point of resistance against Japanese occupation, and especially against the imposition of Shintoism. After Korea gained independence, Protestant Christianity continued to grow, and today South Korea’s population has the highest percentage of Christians in East Asia.

THE GOSPEL IN ASIA TODAY

Asia is a vast region, and each country has a distinct story about the gospel’s spread. No country is the same, but the Holy Spirit is working to bring the same gospel to each country. Here are three examples that will give us a glimpse into the work of the gospel in Asia today.

THE GOSPEL IN KOREA

After the Korean War, South Korea continued to see tremendous growth in churches and ministries. The fervency for evangelism and discipleship gripped Korean Christians, resulting in tremendous growth for the church in Korea. The numbers today are astounding. The largest church in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church, with more than three hundred thousand congregants. Yoido Church is a Pentecostal church, but many Korean Presbyterian churches have membership numbers in the tens of thousands. The Hapdong denomination which is a conservative Reformed Presbyterian denomination similar to the Presbyterian Church in America, has a membership of more than three million. In comparison, in 2015 the PCA reported a total membership of slightly more than 370,000. The largest Presbyterian church in the Hapdong denomination has a membership of more than 75,000.

The astounding growth of the church in South Korea has led to estimations that Christians make up nearly 29 percent of the population. This is one of the highest percentages of Christians in any country besides the United States. But the Korean church is not content to see the gospel impact only their country. Korean missionaries are now going out to the entire world in the same way their nineteenth-century Western predecessors did. Korea is often listed as the nation sending the second-highest number of missionaries, with the United States still sending the most missionaries of any country in the world.

THE GOSPEL IN CHINA

It is notoriously difficult to assess the growth and state of the church in China. In 1949, when the Communists defeated the Nationalists for control of the country, it is estimated that there were five hundred thousand Christians. With the Communist government’s restrictions on religion, many Christians gathered together in unregistered churches, avoiding public activities and gatherings that would draw scrutiny from officials. Yet all accounts point to the fact that the church in China, even under these hostile circumstances, grew and continues to grow. Chinese Christians are not deterred in their desire to spread the gospel even in the face of severe government opposition. Many scholars estimate that there are close to sixty million Christians in China. One scholar projects the growth to reach two hundred million by 2035. In comparison, there are 159 million Christians in the United States, and that number has been declining each year in recent decades. Consequently, China could eclipse the United States in total number of Christians in the next two decades. If the growth in China continues, Communist China will have one of the largest Christian populations in the entire world. The potential for the Chinese church is great. Not only is there an enormous opportunity for evangelism and church planting in China, but also for missionaries to be sent from China, especially to regions such as the Middle East where it may be more difficult for Westerners to gain entry.

THE GOSPEL IN INDONESIA

One last example is found in Indonesia. The country comprises a series of islands and is the largest Muslim country in the world. In the midst of this Islamic stronghold, the evangelist Stephen Tong started a growing Reformed evangelical church movement. Tong’s church in the capital city of Jakarta averages four thousand attendees each week. He has also founded a seminary and a Christian school, and he has planted multiple churches throughout Indonesia. Tong holds gospel rallies throughout Indonesia, where he preaches to thousands in stadiums and other open-air settings.

As his ministry has grown, Tong’s impact has extended beyond Indonesia to other Asian countries. He has established a regular preaching tour every week to Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; and Taipei, Taiwan; in addition to his Sunday preaching in Jakarta. Recordings of many of his sermons and lectures have circulated throughout the Chinese-speaking communities, earning him the reputation as one of the most influential preachers in Asia. Tong is likewise committed to Reformed theology and has introduced many in Asia to this rich biblical tradition.

THE GOSPEL MOVING FORWARD

The gospel is moving forward in Asia in unprecedented ways. Borrowing the words of Jonathan Edwards, who ministered during the First Great Awakening, this too is the “surprising work of God.” The gospel seeds that were planted more than two centuries ago have produced great spiritual fruit. What can we as Christians in the West do to support this movement of the gospel? Let me close by making a few suggestions.

1. Pray for the work of the gospel in Asia. 
Many brothers and sisters are serving in countries where there are enormous challenges and significant dangers.

2. Participate by reaching out to and sharing the gospel with foreign students and workers in your community from Asia
In this age of globalization, there are many students and workers from Asia coming to the United States for short periods of time. As they hear and receive the gospel in America, they will return to their home countries with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

3. Finally, if you have the opportunity, go and travel to Asia and see for yourself what the Lord is doing
Contact missionaries and churches and ask what their needs are and how you can go and help. I am certain it will be a life-changing experience.

© Tabletalk magazine

Dr. Jeffrey K. Jue is provost, executive vice president, and Stephen Tong Chair of Reformed Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a teaching elder in the PCA.

Happy Reformation Day!

Hey TD!

Hallelujah! It’s October 31! Of course you too are excited to celebrate … Reformation Day … right? Yup, you know it’s that time of year again, where we look back and commemorate a single event on a single day that changed the world … 499 years ago.

If you need brushing up on this day the world celebrates, then thanks to Dr. Stephen Nichols and Ligonier Ministries, I encourage you to read, listen, and prayerfully ask God for another reformation in our world, and then live out your life with Reformation courage and compassion in the name of the Reformer our world needs, Jesus Christ. – Arthur

What Is Reformation Day?

FROM Oct 31, 2016 Category: Articles

A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast.

First, there is the young bishop—too young by church laws—Albert of Mainz. Not only was he bishop over two bishoprics, he desired an additional archbishopric over Mainz. This too was against church laws. So Albert appealed to the Pope in Rome, Leo X. From the De Medici family, Leo X greedily allowed his tastes to exceed his financial resources. Enter the artists and sculptors, Raphael and Michelangelo.

When Albert of Mainz appealed for a papal dispensation, Leo X was ready to deal. Albert, with the papal blessing, would sell indulgences for past, present, and future sins. All of this sickened the monk, Martin Luther. Can we buy our way into heaven? Luther had to speak out.

But why October 31? November 1 held a special place in the church calendar as All Soul’s Day. On November 1, 1517, a massive exhibit of newly acquired relics would be on display at Wittenberg, Luther’s home city. Pilgrims would come from all over, genuflect before the relics, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of years off time in purgatory. Luther’s soul grew even more vexed. None of this seemed right.

Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.

Tweet thisTHE CHURCH’S TRUE TREASURE IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

One of Luther’s 95 Theses simply declares, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That alone is the meaning of Reformation Day. The church had lost sight of the gospel because it had long ago papered over the pages of God’s Word with layer upon layer of tradition. Tradition always brings about systems of works, of earning your way back to God. It was true of the Pharisees, and it was true of medieval Roman Catholicism. Didn’t Christ Himself say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?” Reformation Day celebrates the joyful beauty of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is Reformation Day? It is the day the light of the gospel broke forth out of darkness. It was the day that began the Protestant Reformation. It was a day that led to Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and may other Reformers helping the church find its way back to God’s Word as the only authority for faith and life and leading the church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It kindled the fires of missionary endeavors, it led to hymn writing and congregational singing, and it led to the centrality of the sermon and preaching for the people of God. It is the celebration of a theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural transformation.

So we celebrate Reformation Day. This day reminds us to be thankful for our past and to the Monk turned Reformer. What’s more, this day reminds us of our duty, our obligation, to keep the light of the gospel at the center of all we do.

Click here to learn more about Reformation Day in Stephen Nichols’ special episode of 5 Minutes in Church History.

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and teaches on the podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

The Church and Discipleship

discipleship-the-key-to-spiritual-growth

Hey TD,

We will be continuing our look at a key to spiritual gowth – discipleship.   When reading this article a few weeks ago, I found myself highlighting most of the article.  It’s a valuable article to read.  May we take it to heart. – Arthur

The Church and Discipleship by Jay Bauman

W hen I was fourteen years old, I had my first summer job: historical tour guide. I led tours through a well known historical site in a small, quaint town in the upper Midwest United States.

On my first day on the job, my boss handed me a large manual and said I needed to learn all of the historical facts of the site to be ready to give tours. The problem was, I didn’t have a lot of interest in learning the facts. So, I skimmed through it just to get enough basic information to start giving tours.

I ended up being a poor tour guide as a result. People started asking me questions on my tours—a lot of questions, the kinds of questions that history buffs love. What did the people eat? What did they wear? What was a typical day like? And I didn’t really know the answers, so I just started making things up. People seemed to like the answers I was giving, so I just continued on with my half-truths to pass the tours and to pass the time.

One afternoon, my boss told me that he was going to come on my tour the following morning. I was scared to death. I knew that I had been telling half-truths and didn’t know the manual. And one evening would not be enough time for me to learn everything I should have already known. I was in trouble. And since I had been lying on these tours for so long, I was confused about what was really true and what was a lie. I didn’t even know the facts anymore. In essence, I had begun lying even to myself.

The following morning, my boss went on my tour. That same day, I was fired.

Sometimes our discipleship efforts in the local church mirror this experience. Someone is converted in the context of our local church. Perhaps they even seem to have had a powerful encounter with God. We hand them our manual (a Bible), and we assume that this is sufficient for their long-term development. We don’t check in with them to see how they are doing. We don’t walk with them. As long as they are attending church services and performing their religious tasks, we assume everything is OK.

Yet, when we look a little closer, we see that they have not learned the Word, that they have not applied the Word, or even that they don’t know the Word. And often, they have begun to lie to themselves about basic truths of Scripture. They needed discipleship. But what we gave them was a service opportunity, something just to keep things running at our church. We just left them alone until something stopped working.

“But true discipleship is not just about hanging out … It’s about progressively becoming more aware of our sinfulness and of God’s holiness. It’s about the cross’s looming larger and larger in our lives as we embrace gospel truths.”

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). All power on heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, who gives power and a call to us. Making disciples means that we embrace this call by accompanying people along their way. Some churches call this “doing life together.”

But true discipleship is not just about hanging out. True discipleship is about embracing gospel truths in the context of a biblical community that results in life change. It’s about visibly seeing sanctification in the life of a new believer. It’s about progressively becoming more aware of our sinfulness and of God’s holiness. It’s about the cross’s looming larger and larger in our lives as we embrace gospel truths.

Gospel-centered churches understand this. The true measure of a church’s success is not its size but whether it is making disciples. We have a vast problem in our churches, not only in American churches but in churches around the world. We have many “conversions” but few disciples. We have many “conversions” but few who embrace the lordship of Christ.

Sometimes, under the guise of “leadership training,” churches try to stimulate some form of holiness in new believers. Often, they teach business principles sprinkled with Scriptures that are taken out of context. But leadership training is not the same as discipleship. Many churches talk about vision, potential, and human flourishing endlessly, but it is not true discipleship unless we are teaching gospel truths about sin, confession, and repentance. It is not true discipleship unless we are leading people to the cross.

The Apostle Paul calls us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Disciple-makers understand that people need help putting on the new self.

True disciple-makers are not just interested in developing leaders, or superficial tour guides. They are interested in seeing the cross loom large in the life of a new believer. They are passionate about sanctification. They are passionate about teaching gospel truths. And the result of this kind of biblical discipleship is amazing—people and churches whose testimony truly reflects God’s character, bringing much glory to Jesus.

Rev. Jay Bauman is founding pastor of Igreja do Redentorin Rio de Janeiro and founder of the church-planting network Restore Brazil.

Supernatural Friendship

BIBLE-VERSES-ABOUT-FRIENDSHIPloyalty

Hey TD!

With so much formerly-unquestioned institutions, definitions, relationships, etc. being redefined and made hazy in our culture today (i.e. marriage, gender, sexuality, etc.), the idea of true friendship hasn’t been immune; and neither has Christian friendship.  As with everything else, we need to go back to God, the Author of friendship, for the right and proper idea and intention for friendship.

I read a great article on Christ-driven friendship this morning in Tabletalk magazine by Ryan Townsend (Executive Director of 9Marks in Washington D.C.) and thought that it would be good for the rest of you to read and consider for yourselves and for God’s honor. – Arthur

Supernatural Friendship

by Ryan Townsend

One of my favorite songs in high school was U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

It captured my youthful angst and dissatisfaction in this world and its friendships. Now, I had a great childhood, and I’ve always been a happy extrovert. But I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and never experienced the full joy of Christian fellowship until I found Jesus—in a local, evangelical church on Capitol Hill, when I was twenty-three years old. God used friendships in this church to bring me to Christ (Matt. 5:16). Then, the Lord used (and is using) these relationships to help me grow in Christ (Col. 1:28). This has been the greatest existential joy I’ve experienced here on earth (Ps. 34:8). It makes my heart long for heaven, where we will have unending, joy-filled fellowship with God and all believers (Rev. 21:3). So, friendship is deeply important for the Christian life and ministry. And the church is foundational in all this. Here are three reasons why.

Blood-Bought Fellowship

The Apostle John tells us, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This verse captures the relationship between the gospel, the church, and friendship. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, and we have genuine, joy-filled fellowship with God and with one another—if we walk in the light, that is; if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus. This means that the church is a blood-bought community that grounds us in real relationship—with our Creator and with one another. It gives us real friendships that are unlike any other.

Biblical friendship, then, is a committed love that unites us in fellowship and allows us to finish the race and fight for faith together, through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). And a local church is the gospel setting in which these friendships take place and allow God’s love to reverberate into the world. The church is the community where we serve King Jesus and learn to walk in a manner worthy of Christ—together, with friends. This community thereby allows us to encourage and exhort one another in the faith through the friendships it creates.

Encouragement and Exhortation

During high school, I visited England. We were driving one afternoon in the country, and I remember seeing a flock of sheep for the first time in my life, stumbling down the road right in front of us. I had never seen sheep so closely before. I thought sheep were white, but they’re not. Up close, they’re dirty—and messy and stupid. Some were falling into the ditch by the roadside; some were going the wrong way and biting at each other. But after ten minutes or so, with the help of the shepherds and the sheepdogs, they all made it home safely to the sheepfold.

In the same way, stronger and weaker Christians need one another—for love, discipleship, and encouragement. You see, we’re often like those sheep. We snap at one another and are easily swayed off the path. We fall into ditches and go the wrong way, but, by God’s grace, by being together in a flock, we can make it down the road.

This means we’re better stuck in the middle of the flock, even if it inconveniences our lives now. Why? If you know your own heart well, you know that it is actually more dangerous to be alone or on the edge of the flock because we’re prone to wander. Older men and women in the faith are commanded by Paul to disciple and encourage younger Christians (Titus 2). Younger Christians are also called to care for and love older Christians. That means that in the church, there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. God has bound us together as one body in Christ and commanded us to care for one another (Heb. 10:24–25).

By joining a local church, stronger and weaker Christians make their love for Christ definite by loving others in a committed fashion. These friendships become the instrument that enables us to:

Encouragement is a powerful antidote to unbelief. And friendships are a great gift of God that bring us together in covenant love.

By God’s grace, they enable us to carry out the countless “one another” commands and make disciples who image His holy, pure, unified, and loving wisdom (Eph. 3:10). This brings us to the third reason why friendships are important to the Christian life.

A Display of God’s Glory

When Christians covenant together in genuine fellowship, these friendships image God well and put His character on display as the gospel unites people across great barriers amid great diversity.

In his book Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson tells us:

Ideally . . . the church itself is not made up of natural “friends.” It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common ancestry, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. . . . In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.

We sacrifice our comforts, preferences, resources, time, and habits to help foster unity in diversity, and serve as a picture of supernatural, God-glorifying friendships that image God in our communities, commend the gospel, and bring joyful satisfaction and blessing in our own lives.

So, ultimately, friendships are important for the Christian life and ministry because they create a supernatural, compelling community that displays and protects the gospel, transforms lives and communities, and shines as a beacon of hope in a dark world. This is God’s plan for the local church (Eph. 2:13–3:21), and He carries it out for our good and His glory.

© Tabletalk magazine. For permissions, please see our Copyright Policy

Ryan Townsend is executive director of 9Marks in Washington, D.C.

When “Honoring” God’s Word Doesn’t

Hey TD,

Have you ever been so desirous to honor God and keep His Word that you actually break His Word in doing so?  I have.  And I’ve had it done to me.  And neither have been right, nor felt right (though the latter feels much worse initially, the former arrives in due time).

Here’s a reading from Tabletalk magazine that speaks to this propensity of ours.  Learn and apply.  You’ll be thankful you did (and so will your family and friends!):

Making Void the Word of God

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to [a]be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” Mark 7:9-13

Zeal without knowledge puts one in great spiritual danger, and we see this demonstrated in Jesus’ clashes with the Pharisees and scribes regarding their extrabiblical traditions.  No one could question the zeal of these sects to keep God’s law. So concerned were they to make sure they did not violate the Lord’s commandments that they developed what they called a “fence around the law” consisting of various regulations designed to help ensure that the Mosaic law was obeyed.  They reasoned that people would certainly be innocent of transgression by observing those extra regulations.  Judaism’s system of kosher laws is a classic example. (Modern Judaism is based more on the traditions of the rabbis than on the Old Testament) Exodus 23:19; 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21 all say, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  Over time, the kosher law that milk and meat products should not be eaten together developed out of a desire to keep the commandments of these passages.  After all, if one never puts meat and milk together, one will certainly never boil a young animal in its mother’s milk, even accidentally.

That extra rule is legalistic enough, but even worse are rules that end up causing direct transgression of the commandments. Legalism is a problem because misplaced zeal for the law can lead one to violate the law without even realizing it. One tradition of the Pharisees, the Corban rule to which Jesus refers in today’s passage, took a good thing—giving gifts to the temple—and turned it into a means by which God’s law was broken. One commentator likens the Corban rule to the modern practice of deferred giving, which allows individuals to deed property and other gifts to another at death while retaining control over the gift in the meantime. Under the Corban rule, Jews could pledge something to the temple and have it pass into the temple’s possession at their death, but while the givers lived, they stewarded the property and lived off its proceeds.

In itself, such a rule was not evil and in fact could be a good thing. The problem was that the Pharisees and scribes were allowing people to use the Corban rule to escape their obligations to other parts of the law. According to the Corban rule, men and women who made gifts to the temple in such a way were free from having to support their elderly parents. This broke God’s command to honor our fathers and mothers (Mark 7:9–13).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry comments that “it is the mischief of impositions, that too often they who are zealous for them, have little zeal for the essential duties of religion, but can contentedly see them laid aside.” Like the Pharisees, we can be obsessed with good but optional things (giving extra gifts to the temple) in a way that makes us break God’s law. Let us have zeal for God’s law, but let us not let it develop into legalism that makes us break it.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 20:12
Proverbs 23:22
Matthew 15:1–9
Ephesians 6:1–3

– Reproduced from Tabletalk magazine, May, 2016 Issue, “John 3:16,” May 16, 2016 devotion, “Making Void The Word of God.”