FaithHacking_Updated

I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life–ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips which I call “faith hacks.” I am going to share another one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the important disciplines of preaching the gospel to yourself.

Bridges has written in several of his books about the importance of the daily practice of preaching the gospel to yourself. In The Discipline of Grace he writes, “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.” He also gives an overview of the practice: “To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God's holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”

But it is in Respectable Sins that he gives the practical example from his own life. Here is how he preaches the gospel to himself every day:

Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.

I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus' blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus' blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.

What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the only basis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins.

That has been his daily practice for many years. Why don’t you make it part of your practice, and see the difference it makes to begin each day reminding yourself of who you were, and who you now are in Christ.

Do you make it your practice to preach the gospel to yourself? If so, what have you learned? How do you go about it?

John Stott
John Stott

I ought to be continuing my series on bestselling Christian books this morning, but found myself taken with this prayer from John Stott. It was apparently a prayer he would use to begin his day, and it’s a sweet one.

Good morning heavenly Father,
good morning Lord Jesus,
good morning Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, I worship you as the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world.
Holy Spirit, I worship you, sanctifier of the people of God.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.
Amen.

 

PrayerRequestLast night I sat with a group of men from our church and talked about prayer. And, as usually happens, our thoughts turned toward unanswered prayer or prayer that is answered very differently than we had asked or hoped. Why are there times when God seems not to answer? If a good Father would never give his children a stone in place of bread, why does it seem like God sometimes does this very thing?

The best way I know how to answer is to point to the cross. God’s people wanted deliverance from oppression. They wanted a Messiah. They wanted a Savior. Then that Messiah came. That Messiah told them that he was there to deliver them. That Messiah triumphantly entered Jerusalem as the prophecies had foretold. And then that Messiah was brutally murdered.

What happened? What did it all mean? Was this the answer to their prayers?

I think of Jesus’ disciples in the aftermath of the crucifixion, as the sun rose on the Sabbath day and their conquering Messiah lay cold and dead in the grave. They must have been perplexed. They must have wondered. They must have been confused and overwhelmed. Or maybe underwhelmed. Was this the answer to their prayers? What had happened to the promise of victory? When would they receive the deliverance they had been promised.

The Sabbath day came and went. And then they came to the first day of the week and an angelic messenger telling them, “He is not here, but has risen.” The fog began to lift.

What Jesus would accomplish made little sense to them when he described it in advance; what he was accomplishing made little sense while he endured it; what he had accomplished became clear only when they could look back on it. They just needed to wait. It all became clear in time.

And we often find ourselves in the same place. When we pray, and pray earnestly, and praying desiring God’s glory and fame, we know that he will answer and will give what we desire most. But we need to be patient. Like the disciples, we need to look to past, present and future with eyes of faith, trusting that in time everything will become clear.

 

 

31DaysOfPurityThrough the month of March, I have invited you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. We have drawn to the end of the month at last. Here is day thirty-one, the final day in this 31-day challenge.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.  (Jude 1:24-25)

This closes our 31 days together, but it does not close our lifelong pursuit of sexual purity. In fact, we have only just begun. Today we are praying for ourselves and for one another that we would continue to persevere in purity. Keep going, men. The battle is not over. Tomorrow morning you will need to start over in your pursuit of purity. And as you do, remember that the Lord Jesus—and only the Lord Jesus—is able to keep you from stumbling.

One day we will be presented blameless before the Lord and there will be great joy. Though that day is not yet called “today,” it is absolutely certain. Therefore, let us press on all the more as we look forward to that day. Why don’t you grab a friend and go through this challenge again?

Lord, thank you for all those that have prayed and battled for purity these 31 days. I pray that they would continue on in the battle. Help me to continue praying with them and pursuing purity together. Cause us to endure in this great endeavor. May Christ be glorified through us. Transform our hearts and our homes for His name. I am thankful that you are able to keep me from stumbling. Help me press on in purity, all the while looking forward to the day when I will be presented spotless in Your presence. Amen.

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

31DaysOfPurity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-nine:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment that we lose all sense of perspective. We become like the man who stands before the sweeping mountain vista, but will only gaze at the ground beneath his feet. What he sees is real, but it is so small and so limited. We need to lift our eyes to catch the bigger perspective—the eternal perspective. Like Paul, we need to fix our eyes on what is unseen and eternal.

This life matters. But this life is short. When we put our lifespans in the context of eternity, they are but the shortest blip, the shortest dash between the two dates on a gravestone. While another evening of battling sexual sin can seem like the longest and most difficult night of our lives, it is but the shortest tick of the clock in the context of eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Even this temptation, this affliction, is so light when we compare it to the joy that awaits us.

Father, help me to keep my eyes fixed on what is unseen and eternal. Help me to view my life, and my moments of temptation, in the context of eternity. While these temptations can feel so weighty and so difficult, I want to know and believe that they are but light and momentary afflictions compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison you have prepared for me. I long for the day when I will be with you forever. Prepare me for that day by giving me your grace to battle sexual sin today and every day.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-eight:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God tells us that victory over sin is certain—even those sins we have held to for so long. This can be hard to believe when we look to the past and see only failure after failure. It can be hard to believe when sin’s power is so strong and when giving in to sin promises such satisfaction. Yet we must believe that in Christ we are new creations—the old has gone and the new has come. In Christ we are becoming who we are, increasingly taking hold of who we are in Him. Where we once delighted to do evil, we can have confidence that one day we will delight to avoid evil. Where we once hated to do what is right, we can have confidence that one day we will delight to do what is right.

We really can hope and believe for such radical change. However, there may be a long period of time and many struggles between the two extremes. It rarely happens overnight. In that period where you are battling hard against sin, where you are developing new patterns of doing what is right instead of doing what God forbids, be sure to celebrate the small victories. Each of those victories is an evidence of God’s grace in your life. When you choose to do the right thing instead of the sinful thing, give thanks to God. When you have gone longer than you’ve ever gone before without succumbing to the temptation, celebrate with a friend and thank the Lord. Celebrate his grace by praising his name.

Father, I am thankful that in Christ I am a new creation. I believe what you say: the old has passed away and the new has come. Let me be who I am in Christ. Let me take hold of all Christ offers. I thank you for giving me grace—grace to see my sin, grace to hate my sin and grace to overcome my sin. All of this is an evidence of your work in my life, and I thank you for it. Help me to celebrate day-by-day what you are doing in and through me.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

I guess we’ve all been to good weddings and not-so-good weddings. We’ve been to gloriously God-honoring weddings and embarrassingly God-dishonoring weddings. The best weddings, at least in my assessment, are the ones where the couple is willing to step out of the spotlight to ensure that attention is focused squarely on God. The best weddings are the ones where the couple makes much of God, where he is at the very center of it all.

Weddings are big business today. As comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “Weddings are an important event where we spend a lot of money so the bride can pretend to be a princess and marry her prince and live happily ever after.” He isn’t far from the truth. The bride is taught that this is her day, her day to shine, the day to fulfill her dreams and fantasies. And in too many cases, even among Christians, Christ is shoved to the margins.

A Christ-Centered Wedding
Click Cover To Order From Amazon.Com


Into the fray step Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode with their new book A Christ-Centered Wedding. They write, “Marriage is one of God’s good gifts. It is a blessing to all of creation, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Before you can experience the joy of this gift, though, you need to get through the wedding, and the wedding planning. This can be either an uplifting, encouraging experience or a frustrating exercise in trying to please everyone and failing. Many times it’s a combination of the two.” They want to make sure that the wedding and the preparation are uplifting rather than agonizing and that the ceremony is Christ-focused rather than self-focused. And so they wrote a book about rejoicing in the gospel on your big day.

And it’s a good book. A Christ-Centered Wedding is a guide to Christians who want their wedding to point to Christ and to be a reflection of the great gospel message. They cover both the theology of marriage and the practical side of the ceremony, making this a book that is helpful in both theory and application. They begin with a biblical explanation of what marriage is, why it exists, and how it is meant to honor and glorify God. They show how, from the very beginning, God intended marriage to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church.

With that in place, they move to the practical side of weddings, and cover premarital counseling, wedding locations, planning, time lines, music, finances, vows, and pretty much everything else you could think of. They draw from many other people, giving a variety of interesting and helpful ideas. What sets this book apart from the million-and-one other books on weddings is the constant focus on Christ. Every decision matters, from music to flowers, from dresses to sermon texts, from vows to honeymoons. Every decision matters because every decision can be made in a way that honors Christ and focuses on him, or a way that dishonors Christ and steals his glory.

A Christ-Centered Wedding is an excellent and much-needed resource. It is ideal book to give to an engaged couple as they begin to move toward their big day. Every pastor will want to read it and to keep some copies on hand as assigned reading. I appreciate and agree with what Russell Moore says in his endorsement: “The Church has been waiting way too long for this book. How many of us have sat through, or officiated at, train-wreck weddings, wondering how the glory of Christ came to be eclipsed in all this circus? This book, by a wise mother and daughter team, offers guidance and counsel about how to plan a wedding where Jesus is the focus, not an afterthought. I commend this beautiful book to couples pondering marriage, to families planning weddings, and to pastors seeking to navigate through the morass of the modern wedding-industrial complex. This book liberates us to see the wedding as the means to the marriage, and not the other way around.”

 

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day sixteen:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

In the heat of the battle for purity, sexuality can feel like a burden and a curse. We might even find ourselves wishing that God had made us asexual beings, or that he would just take away all those feelings and all those desires. Yet we know that God is a loving Father who looks upon his people with kindness. Far be it from this Father to give us something that is bad for us!

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul addresses some of the sexual immorality among those people. He rebukes the church for this immorality, and gives them this command: Glorify God in your body. This is a command he gives to the married and to the unmarried. Our sexuality has been entrusted to us as a gift from God. We serve as faithful stewards when we use it only in the ways God intends. For those who are married, that will mean regularly and joyfully enjoying sex with your wife; for those who are unmarried it will mean regularly and joyfully denying yourself those physical desires. In either case, it is God who owns our bodies, not us; it is God who owns our sexuality, not us. My brother, be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to you.

Father, you tell me that I can and must glorify you in my body. I believe that you have given sexuality to me as a gift. I may not always understand why you have done this because it does not always feel like a gift. But I do understand that you are good and kind and that you love me. I pray that I would be a faithful steward of this gift, that in that final day you would look at how I have stewarded this gift and say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day fifteen:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The New Testament knows nothing of the lone Christian—the man who claims to be a believer but who deliberately or carelessly allows himself to drift from the local church. Just as the wolf will prowl outside the flock of sheep, looking for the one that strays from the shepherd, Satan prowls the church, looking for the people who stray from Christian fellowship. Every Christian is dependent upon the local church and we neglect it to our peril, for it is in the church that we powerfully experience the means of grace God gives us—the Word, prayer and the sacraments (or ordinances). We cannot thrive or even survive without them. Neither should we expect to.

It is also within the church that we uniquely experience the joy of imitating Christ in putting aside our own desires in order to love and serve others. And so, my brother, don’t simply go to church: Be an active, serving, participating member of that church. Do not expect that you will be able to put sin to death or to pursue holiness without the local church.

Father, I am grateful for the gift of the local church. I am grateful that through the church I am able to experience those wondrously ordinary means of grace. I am grateful that you led me to my church, and I pray that you would help me to commit to it more and more, that I would love the people you bring there, that I would have deep and meaningful friendships there, that I would faithfully serve your people by stirring them up to love and good works.


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day fourteen:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)

God’s Word cuts and cuts deep. This kind of cutting doesn’t always feel like a blessing to those who are living in impurity. It hurts. It convicts. It wounds as it penetrates our hearts and exposes our sin. God’s Word lays us bare before Yahweh. But it also strengthens and sustains. God’s Word is the weapon that He wields (and that we wield) in our fight against impurity. It is through His powerful Word that mountains melt like wax. It was through His powerful Word that your heart came alive. And it will be through His powerful Word that our impure hearts will be transformed into the likeness of His Son.

If we want a passion for God, it will only come through a passion for God’s Word. If we want to be rescued from the land of scoffers and the counsel of the wicked, then we’ll want to position ourselves under God’s Word. It is here that our delight in God will grow. Therefore, let us pray that the Lord would give us an abiding passion for His Word.

Father, we thank you for your Word. Thought it slays me I know that it also restores me. I know that naturally I do not have a passion for your Word. I will not drift into reading and meditating upon your Word. I certainly will not naturally treasure it. But through your Spirit the Word will be a delight to my heart. So, God I pray that you would incline my heart to you. Give me an abiding passion for your Word, a passion unlike any I have known before. Use your Word to conquer my sin and unbelief. 


What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.