“Found: God’s Will” by John MacArthur

For many, high school is a time where decisions about career paths are made, and for me it was no different. Yet, there was always an element of indecisiveness for me because of my uncertainty of the future. Thus, when asked about my future plans for career or ministry, it was easy, simple, and mindless for me to reply, “Oh, I don’t really know. I’m praying that God will reveal His will to me for my life.” Or sometimes I would even turn this into a prayer request: “Could you pray for me, that God would reveal His will for me to me?”

A lot of the material I wrote in a previous post hinges on the presupposition that God’s will is perspicuous and can be found in the pages of Scripture. I was first exposed to this idea in MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will during my freshman year in college. Up until then, an element of immaturity may have played a role in my indecisiveness, but a full and accurate understanding of what the Scriptures teach on the will of God helped me to grow in this regard.

Briefly, as long as five presuppositions are fulfilled, Ps. 37:4 stands as the basic principle by which we can live our lives: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (ESV). There are a couple of different ways that I have interpreted this:

  1. Previously, I had believed that if I delighted myself in God, He would satisfy the preexisting desires that I had in my own heart.
  2. More recently, the view that I hold to now is that if I delight myself in God, He would place new desires in me as a reflection of His will in my life.

I don’t believe that these two interpretations are entirely mutually exclusive. It’s possible that preexisting desires in our hearts may indeed have been God’s will all along, and that He will fulfill them when we seek to honor and please Him first. But from my own experience, my preexisting desires were selfish in nature–I didn’t necessarily want those fulfilled because of His glory, but because of my own gain.

Thus, our desires are placed deliberately by God, and we should follow them! Of course, this hinges on the premise that you have “delighted yourself in the Lord”. John Piper discusses making Christ not only Savior and Lord, but Treasure and greatest delight, in Desiring God:

In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus as your Treasure?” Not just Savior (everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus). Not just Lord (they might submit begrudgingly). The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything?

To expand upon this premise of “delighting yourself in the Lord”, John MacArthur pens Found: God’s Will. From Scripture, he presents five explicit instructions that God has commanded of us, which are His will (Scripture references are provided here):

  1. Saved
  2. Spirit-filled
  3. Sanctified
  4. Submissive
  5. Suffering

Within the pages of the Bible, God has clearly spelled out His will for us. Beyond these things, if these five conditions are true of our lives, then we should do what we so desire, for it is in those desires that God brings about His will for our lives.

Knowing this, our decision-making efforts is a practical implication of these God-given desires. When we live in such a way that desires to honor and please God in all that we do, fighting sin and suffering for His name’s sake, we can know that our desires are placed within us by God and should not cause us to do anything that would cause us to violate our integrity or to misplace our priorities.

Thus, we can go forth and know that whether the outcome of a decision turns out well or not, God is working our circumstances for our good and His glory–we only need to be faithful to act on those desires, because He placed them there for us.

Taking a step back, can we even say that the will of God, as revealed in the list of five items, is manifest in our own lives? I would ask these questions of myself:

  1. Am I saved?
  2. Am I filling my mind with Scripture?
  3. Am I actively fighting sin?
  4. Am I living lawfully?
  5. Am I suffering for professing Christ?

It is only when we glorify God in the specifics that He has prescribed in Scripture, can we then glorify Him in the desires that He gives us in our hearts.

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“To Be or Not to Be a Church Member?, That Is the Question!” by Wayne Mack

And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
-Acts 2:47 NASB

Before coming to Grace Church, I almost never have heard of anyone talk about church membership and its importance. The only time I’ve heard membership referenced was before my baptism at my home church. During the baptism class I asked what the difference was between being baptized with my parents’ Chinese congregation as opposed to with the English congregation I usually attended services at. The different ultimately lied in which church I would be a member of. And ever since then, until now, I’ve never heard a single word said about membership since.

Circumstances, along with my convictions, changed when I began attending Grace Church, where Pastors John and Austin frequently exhorted the church body to strongly consider membership. I couldn’t understand why it was so necessary; after all, it’s just another label… right?

But as I continued throughout the year, I came to understand that church membership was much more than simply a title. The Biblical model presented every single believer in the New Testament as associated with a local church body. It was simply ridiculous for a 1st century Christian to not be part of the local body of believers. You would never ever hear a 1st century Christian say that he “free-roamed” or “church-hopped”. New Testament believers of the early church engaged themselves in their local churches and offered their spiritual gifts to serve those believers whom they practiced their “one-anothers” with.

In To Be or Not to Be a Church Member?, That Is the Question!, Mack produces a convincing argument for why we, as followers of Christ, need to associate ourselves with a local church and become members. He paints a clear picture of why we cannot simply be “lone wolf Christians” and why it is imperative for us as believers to associate ourselves with a local church body through membership. Mack presents ten reasons, with just a few listed here:

  1. Following the “One-Anothering” commands of Scripture
  2. Biblical responsibility to elders
  3. Clarification in differentiating from unbelievers
  4. Public proclamation of one’s faith
  5. Accountability to elders and other believers

From these reasons alone, it’s easy to see why the Christ-follower simply cannot attend a para-church ministry or even attend a single church regularly without becoming a member (Biblical responsibility to elders would be lacking). And ultimately the biggest question to ask yourself is the reverse question: “Why not become a church member?” Christ loved His church enough to lay down His life for it (Eph. 5:25-27). Christian, you cannot love Christ without loving His bride as well! If there is something holding you back from joining a local church body, your salvation itself may be at stake. There is simply no good reason why not to join a church. And yet so many benefits!

Reading this book also gave me clear insight into one of the great responsibilities of church elders. Indeed, church membership is pointless for a church that lacks strong eldership. Biblical passages that Mack uses to argue for church membership have turned the tables on me as I continue looking to pursue church eldership in the future. As church members have obligations to follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), so also have I an obligation to lead my church members in strong Biblical example. I must care for my flock and watch over their souls, because of an account I will have to give for the stewardship that will have been granted to me (Jas. 3:1). And as a church elder, I must exercise church discipline as mandated in Scripture (Matt. 18:15-17). Otherwise, what good am I as a church elder?

But to my readers, I implore you to follow the Biblical example set before you and to join the local church! Do not delay in your ability and opportunity to publicly declare your commitment to the faith and to practice Scriptural commands through your association with your church body. There is a clear answer to the question contained in this title: YES!

“Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)” by Joshua Harris

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart. It expands on some of the core moral issues with our society today, and expounds on some of our cultural (and in some circles, even religious) taboo involving the topic of sexual morality. Material contents include discussions regarding lust, sexuality, pornography, and masturbation from the male perspective. Be forewarned before proceeding. Continue reading

“Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes

Of all the thing absent from my childhood, discipline would probably top the list. As a young boy, I lacked discipline in almost every area of my life. My time after school was spent entirely on playing video games or watching television, with almost no regard to homework, piano practice, or anything else. It would be a constant struggle for my mom to get me to work on anything. Things didn’t really change after I first arrived at UCLA: most of the time I first spent here was playing games and rarely did I study, exercise, or anything of the like. I was your typical sluggard, and that didn’t change until Spring Quarter of my freshman year, when I realized that God is glorified through my work. Doing any work less than high efficiency was robbing God of His glory.

Disciplines of a Godly Man helped me to reinforce my understanding of different disciplines in life, why we need them, how they can be used in our sanctification, and ultimately how they bring glory to God. Hughes examines different areas of the Christian, especially males, and charges us to live out these disciplines because of the implications that it had on our lives as well as leadership in the lives of those in our families and ministries. The Bible calls us to “Discipline [ourselves] for the purpose of godliness… godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8 NASB). Paul exhorts Timothy to live in godliness because of the fruits it yields in his own life and the lives of those around him, and likewise we, as men with responsibilities in leadership and ministry, should do likewise.

Hughes explores a variety of relatable and applicable topics in the areas of relationships, soul, character, and ministry. Each chapter is relatively short and extremely focused in its application, making a chapter a day a short read but exhorting and convicting in nature. A typical chapter includes a survey of our current world and the absence of a proposed discipline in the men of our society today, a few reasons why it is necessary for us as men to have such a discipline, a  Biblical figure that exemplifies such a trait, and several sub-disciplines that entail the overarching discipline of the chapter. Woven throughout each chapter of the book is Biblical exposition and references that lead to a sound understanding of the passages and practical application to a man’s life. The book closes in full circle with an understanding of the gospel and how grace plays a role in our sanctification as we attempt to master over a hundred disciplines as presented in the book.

Disciplines of a Godly Man has had a profound impact on my own life. Through examining several disciplines of a man after God’s own heart, I have been able to grow in my comprehensive knowledge of what entails each discipline. Hughes does a beautiful job of breaking down each great discipline into several smaller ones, making application of these truths relatively simple, practical, doable, and fruitful. Through bathing each discipline in prayer, I have been able to see the impacts of each of these disciplines in my own life as I pursue leadership in ministry and working towards the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

– Col. 3:23-24

“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.

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper

From spending my time at Grace On Campus, I have been continually reminded of and convinced to not waste any precious time that God has bestowed unto me. The time that God has graced me with is a stewardship and, like every other stewardship I have been blessed with, is one not to be taken lightly.

Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life has been a blessing in reminding me of that stewardship that I have been granted. The overarching theme and message of not to live anything less than a wasted life is described in so many unique ways and thus made clear to the reader what encompasses and constitutes such. The encouragement that Piper offers is to live nothing less than a life that is fully committed to living in the light, recognition, and declaration of Christ in His full glory and majesty. He then offers several applications to the believer while consistently tying his message back to Holy Scripture and relating it to the grace that has been granted to us through Jesus’ saving work on the cross.

When we make much of Christ and feast on Him and His goodness in the midst of trial and suffering, putting our ultimate faith and trust in the promises that Scripture offers, we place God in the highest priority of our lives. The resulting full satisfaction in our Savior (not His gifts or His promises, but He Himself), revealed and proclaimed brings Him the utmost glory. In fact, living life for the proclamation of His glory and majesty in our world is the highest calling for any life. Not that He needs us to increase His glory (for He and His glory is self-sufficient and self-dependent on His self-existence as God Almighty), but radically pursuing the life that professes the holiness of God is pursuing the life that will not be wasted. Only by chasing after the highest and most satisfying call for our lives can our lives not be wasted. And that one calling is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NASB).

The most relatable and practical portion of the book for me involves a section of the book where Piper delves into the necessity and significance of Christ-followers in the secular workplace. Secular here simply means not involved with the church, and says nothing about its importance (or lack thereof). Even in our work, which may seem irrelevant to the gospel, we can bring further glory and magnification to our Savior. By living out the true implications of Phil. 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (NASB), we glory in the full sufficiency of Christ and value Him more than anything else in this world. That in turn we can reflect to the rest of the world to show where our true heart and motivation lies, and point others to the gospel through our works.

There is no place for believers who do not live every moment to magnify Christ in his own life and consequentially in the lives of those around them. Every other life,  lived any other way, forsakes the highest call of proclaiming the glories of the sovereign Savior. Every other life is wasted.