An open letter to those entering college and searching for a local church to join

This was contained in an e-mail I wrote to my brother. He’s starting his first year at Biola University, a Christian institution in the cozy city of La Mirada, CA. Even though he attends a school where everyone professes to be Christian, there is a huge emphasis placed on the fact that Biola University is NOT a church. Rather, its students should be going out to join and serve local churches during Sunday mornings, so the entire campus closes down and they do not offer a chapel service during that time.

I wrote this letter to him urging him to consider some of the things that I would place strong emphasis on in a church. Although he might not end up choosing those things (and neither may you), they are things strongly worth considering and the things that I would place at highest importance.

I wanted to find you a solid church with a strong body of believers that can help you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

Do you remember Resolved? Steve Lawson told us that he knows everything about what we believe from the church that we attend. It is so true; the church that you choose to attend will shape your beliefs about everything and it is imperative and extremely important to find a church because it will change the way you view God, the Bible, the world, and your life.

I want you to find a church that preaches the Bible as the inerrant and completely trustworthy Word of God, completely sufficient to showing us how to live (2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:21) because you cannot have a proper view of God without first having a proper view of His revelation, the Bible.

I want you to find a church that emphasizes the true roles of men and women in the household (Eph. 5:22-33), because it will immensely help you to have a proper view of marriage (if you choose to do so someday) by showing you the roles that the men and the women play in that relationship as a reflection of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church.

I want you to find a church that will help you to have a proper view of the end times (eschatology) because as Uncle Alan [my youth pastor] always says, the beliefs that you have about the end times will shape how you choose to live your life now.

And most importantly, I want you to attend a church that has a proper view of the gospel and of grace: that proclaims the magnificent truth of the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allows us to live lives pleasing to God, ALL BECAUSE OF GRACE (Rom. 12:1, Rom. 6:1-2, 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

These are the imperatives that I would greatly stress for those of you beginning college this fall and are looking for a church to attend. The church that you choose to attend will be the greatest place of growth in your life, and where you decide to go to church will determine the beliefs and views of God, the Bible, the world, and yourself when you finish college and enter the so-called “real world”. Make it worth it, make it your home, and make it your place of service because it is an eternal institution, a small glimpse into the everlasting Reality to come (Matt. 16:18).

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changwinston:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. Amen.” 

(It is reported Edwards reviewed these resolutions once a week. Resolutions 1-21 were written in one setting in New Haven in 1722 at age 19.)

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.  

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things. 

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again. 

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. 

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.  

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.  

7. Resolved, never to do any thing which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. 

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30. 

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. 

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.  

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.  

12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.  

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.  

14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.  

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.  

16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.  

17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.  

18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.  

19. Resolved, never to do any thing which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.  

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.  

21. Resolved, never to do any thing which, if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. 

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.  

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.  

24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.  

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.  

26. Resolved, to cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.  

27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.  

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in, the knowledge of the same.  

29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept. 

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.  

31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of, this Resolution.  

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Proverbs 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?,” may not be partly fulfilled in me.  

33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. December 26, 1722.  

34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.  

35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. December 18, 1722.  

36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. December 19, 1722.  

37. Resolved, to inquire every night as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself; also at the end of every week, month and year. December 22 and 26, 1722.  

38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s Day. Sabbath evening, December 23, 1722.  

39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.  

40. Resolved, to inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could with respect to eating and drinking. January 7, 1723.  

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. January 11, 1723.  

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.  

43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12, 1723. 

44. Resolved, that no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. January 12, 1723.  

45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. January 12 and 13, 1723.  

46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.  

47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly at the end of every week whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5, 1723.  

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.  

49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.  

50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.  

51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.  

52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.  

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in Him, and consecrate myself wholly to Him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.  

54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved, to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.  

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and torments of hell. July 8, 1723.  

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.  

57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9 and July 13 1723.  

58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27 and July 13, 1723.  

59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act goodnaturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.  

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.  

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21 and July 13, 1723.  

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man:‹knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord’s June 25 and July 13, 1723.  

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. January 14 and July 13, 1723.  

64. Resolved, when I find those groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those breakings of soul for the longing it hath, of which the Psalmist speaks (Psalm 119:20), that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23 and August 10, 1723.  

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to Him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26 and August 10, 1723.  

66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.  

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire what I am the better for them, what am I the worse for them, and what I might have got by them.  

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23 and August 10, 1723.  

69. Resolved, always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. August 11, 1723.  

70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. August 17, 1723. 

Source: http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/archive/pdf-english/roje.pdf

“This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence” by John Piper

The sanctity and meaning of marriage has been defiled and destroyed in a world where divorce, premarital sex, and homosexuality is so prevalent, even among professed Christ-followers. Through his powerful exposition of Scripture, Piper sheds light on the true, Biblical basis and purpose of marriage. As its basis, marriage is foundationally the doing of God, and ultimately the display of God. And the ultimate purpose of the existence of marriage is to reflect the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church.

In Mark 10:6-9, Jesus clearly illustrates the fact that marriage is of God, and that “God has joined together” the two so that they “become one flesh”. It is solely God’s work in holding together two sinners in the blessed, God-ordained covenant called marriage. And marriage, temporary and only lasting in our earthly lives, points to something greater. Paul notes in Eph. 5:31-32 that marriage parallels and reflects the union and covenant between “Christ and the church”. Piper builds and uses this foundation as the Biblical, grace-centered basis for the rest of his book, which ultimately elevated my limited understanding of the beauty of the marriage covenant.

I want to include a small excerpt of the last paragraph of this book because Piper’s beautiful words of thanks to his wife show the culmination of my thoughts, and ultimately those of the diligent reader as well. Piper articulates and conveys his extremely high view of marriage in such a perfect manner that allowed me to finish this book knowing for sure what I have learned and developed in terms of my view of marriage:

Noël, if we live another twenty years (till I am eighty-two and you are eighty), the marriage will be sixty years old. And judging from what I see in the Bible and my memory, it will have been a momentary marriage. But it has been so much more than momentary. It is a parable of permanence written from eternity about the greatest story that ever was. The parable is about Christ and his church. It has been a great honor to take this stage with you. What exalted roles we have been given to play! Someday I will take your hand, and stand on this stage, and make one last bow. The parable will be over, and the everlasting Reality will begin.

Reading this small excerpt even now, for the twentieth time, almost moves me to tears. It truly exemplifies the beauty of this temporary, momentary marriage convenant that God allows us to model, pointing back to the love that Christ has for us, his church.

The result of the diligent reader is a massive reconstruction of his or her view on the beauty of marriage. It explains Biblically why we have specific roles in the family, with the husband exerting leadership and headship over his submissive wife. It details Biblically why divorce is so despicable in the sight of the Lord in defiling this sacred institution. It Biblically instructs on the practical applications of reflecting the worthy love between Christ and His church displayed in the marriage covenant. And it even includes chapters on singleness and its importance, which is not any less (and may even be greater) than the role of marriage in our world.

This book is a must-read, and how providential that it is available free online from the Desiring God website: http://dwynrhh6bluza.cloudfront.net/resources/documents/5218/bmm.pdf?1340647786. I implore you to go through it and experience the radical love of Christ for His church in this temporary institution. Because when this earth fades away, and marriage with it (Matt. 22:30), we will all experience this bridal convenant in future glory with the Christ who sacrificed His own life on our behalf. Oh, what a glorious day it will be!

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris

The first time I heard of Joshua Harris was back in middle school. At the time, a lot of what he said, and what I remembered, was head knowledge; I was simply too young with not a lot of relationship experience to apply what I was learning. I simply thought that I was already following what God wanted me to do: avoid dating until “the time was right”, and not to do it like the rest of the world (which was pretty obvious to me).

But reading through “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” more recently (during the Resolved conference, actually) gave me a further glimpse into what Harris really examined in his book. It’s not about “dating correctly”, and it’s certainly not about “not dating at all”. Rather, it’s an examination of our own hearts when we pursue relationships with the opposite gender, and realizing that there is much more than just the “pursuit of happiness” in our relationships.

God created marriage ultimately as a reflection of the gospel, as Paul describes in Eph. 5:22-33. It’s a picture of service and sacrifice between the husband and the wife. If we could only picture dating relationships in that same manner: placing the other’s interests above our own.

Today’s view of the modern concept we call “dating” is so skewed towards pleasing oneself and fulfilling one’s own fleshly desires. From this selfishness spurs sexual sin and ultimate heartbreak as we carelessly give away our hearts to someone fallible, rather than entrusting it to the One who is constant, never changing, ever loving, and ultimate truth. He who gave His Son for our sake deserves everything in return, including our uppermost affections and desires, that He may be glorified in us in our pursuit of following and loving Him.

Although the biggest theme that Harris expounds in “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” is that “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment”, I honestly think its something even greater. The ultimate goal of the book, based a lot off of the concepts found in Elisabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity”, is looking at our hearts. Are we striving after Jesus first and foremost? Do we long to love Him more and to make much of Him in our daily lives? And are we allowing that servitude permeate even our relationships? It’s when we truly realize that dating is less self-gratifying and more sacrificial-loving that we understand God’s highest priority in our relationships with one another: to bring Him the most glory, honor, and praise because He is most worthy.

That being said, much of the book examines emotional purity in two aspects: setting Christ as our highest thoughts in our own lives, while working to defend the emotional purity of those of the opposite gender. Rather than using relationships to satisfy even the smallest lustful cravings, we need to look towards bringing Christ more glory through those same relationships. And that means keeping our eyes and hands off of one another and focusing on expanding Him and His Kingdom in our singleness. Because in a world where dating is so flawed and self-seeking, why not just skip it altogether, for His glory’s sake?

I’ve heard many mentors in my own life say to take “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, the prequel to “Boy Meets Girl”, with a grain of salt. And although there are definitely some ideas in Harris’s book that are not most practical even in its proper context, the overall message of the book is clear, and one that I continue to seek prayer for and to hold dear: Making much of Christ first, and allowing everything to fall in place, including relationships, from that highest calling. Defending my own emotional purity, as well as those of the brothers and sisters around me, so that He may be made known and glorified in all that we say and that we do.