Monday, 31 October 2011

The Annoying Thing About Pride Is...

I'm guessing most of us find it quite annoying when we meet proud people. Why is this the case? Why do we dislike it so much when we come face to face with it in others? C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, has some very perceptive and challenging things to say in answer to this:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.

I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards.

I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice.

And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others.

There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.

And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride. . . .

. . . In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?”

The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride.

It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Coincidence?

There is no such thing as coincidence. Behind all things there is a God who rules and orchestrates all things down to the smallest detail. All things are in His hands. This means that there is no such thing as an insignificant event.

Think about this. Is there anything significant about a workman turning up on time and doing the job he's supposed to be doing? It might not seem like it, but just listen to this:

In 1857, a day or two before preaching at the Crystal Palace, I went to decide where the platform should be fixed; and, in order to test the acoustic properties of the building, cried in a loud voice, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was being done, heard the words, and they came like a message from heaven to his soul. He was smitten with conviction on account of sin, put down his tools, went home, and there, after a season of spiritual struggling, found peace and life by beholding the Lamb of God. Years after, he told this story to one who visited him on his death-bed. (Charles Spurgeon)
Insignificant? I think not.

How about a simple matter of getting some cinema times wrong? A bit of a nusciance perhaps, but not particularly significant? A few years ago I was part of a church that was handing out tracts at the local cinema to people coming out of Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. However, one man misread the cinema times.  He ended up handing out tracts to people coming out of the cinema, saying "This might help explain what you've just seen". The problem was he was handing them to people coming out of Scooby Doo 2! There may well be those rejoicing around the throne of Jesus in the new creation all because they made the fairly insignificant choice to watch see Scooby Doo 2, and because one man failed to read a few numbers correctly.

There is no such thing as coincidence because God is a God who rules over all things. Because God is providentially working in all things there is no such thing as an insignificant event.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Glorifying God in Death

How do we glorify God in death? J. C. Ryle says this on how the Christian ought to face death in a way that will glorify God:
We may glorify God in death, by being ready for it whenever it comes. The Christian who is found like a sentinel at his post, like a servant with his loins girded and his lamp burning, with a heart packed up and ready to go, the man to whom sudden death, by the common consent of all who knew him, is sudden glory–this, this is a man whose end brings glory to God. We may glorify God in death, by patiently enduring its pains. The Christian whose spirit has complete victory over the flesh, who quietly feels the pins of his earthly tabernacle plucked up with great bodily agonies, and yet never murmurs or complains, but silently enjoys inward peace–this, this again, is a man whose end brings glory to God.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Lord Reigns

What difference does it make to you that the Lord reigns? It ought to make all the difference in the world, and it ought to radically shape the way we view the world around us and the circumstances that we find ourselves in. John Newton has some helpful words to say on this great truth:
And now, how shall I fill up the rest of my paper? It is a shame for a Christian and a minister to say he has no subject at hand, when the inexhaustible theme of redeeming love is ever pressing upon our attention. I will tell you then, though you know it, that the Lord reigns.

He who once bore our sins, and carried our sorrows, is seated upon a throne of glory, and exercises all power in heaven and on earth. Thrones, principalities, and powers, bow before him. Every event in the kingdoms of providence and of grace is under his rule. His providence pervades and manages the whole, and is as minutely attentive to every part, as if there were only that single object in his view. From the tallest archangel to the meanest ant or fly, all depend on him for their being, their preservation, and their powers. He directs the sparrows where to build their nests, and to find their food. He overrules the rise and fall of nations, and bends, with an invincible energy and unerring wisdom, all events; so that, while many intend nothing less, in the issue, their designs all concur and coincide in the accomplishment of his holy will. He restrains with a mighty hand the still more formidable efforts of the powers of darkness; and Satan, with all his hosts, cannot exert their malice a hair’s breadth beyond the limits of his permission.

This is He who is the head and husband of his believing people. How happy are they who it is his good pleasure to bless! How safe are they whom He has engaged to protect! How honoured and privileged are they to whom He is pleased to manifest himself, and whom He enables and warrants to claim him as their friend and their portion! Having redeemed them by his own blood, He sets a high value upon them; He esteems them his treasure, his jewels, and keeps them as the pupil of his eye. They shall not want; they need not fear; his eye is upon them in every situation, his ear is open to their prayers, and his everlasting arms are under them for their sure support. On earth He guides their steps, controls their enemies, and directs all his dispensations for their good; while, in heaven, He is pleading their cause, preparing them a place, and communicating down to them reviving foretastes of the glory that shall be shortly revealed.

Oh how is this mystery hidden from an unbelieving world! Who can believe it, till it is made known by experience, what an intercouse is maintained in this land of shadows between the Lord of glory and sinful worms? How should we praise him that He has visited us! for we were once blind to his beauty, and insensible to his love, and should have remained so to the last, had He not prevented us with his goodness, and been found of us when we sought him not.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Justice and the Death of Muammar Gaddafi

Since the death of Muammar Gaddafi last Thursday there have been varying reactions to the events that led to his death. On the one hand some have rejoiced that justice has been done, and that his reign of terror has come to an end. On the other hand others have questioned the justice of how he came to his end, ought he not to have been tried in court first before being executed?

Mike Ovey, principal of Oak Hill theological college, has written a very helpful piece looking at these reactions to Gaddafi's death and how we, as Christians, ought to be thinking about and responding to these events. You can read the article by clicking here.

Tuesday Teaching| Hosea 3 - 'The Lord Loves'

We come to the third sermon in our series in the book of Hosea with Philip Jensen. This week we're getting our teeth into Hosea chapter 3 - enjoy.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Microscopes or Telescopes?

Are you a microscope or a telescope? There is a big difference between the two. John Piper explains:
David said, "I will magnify God with thanksgiving." [Psalm 69:30] The word "magnify" can be used in two different senses. It can mean: make something appear greater than it is, as with a microscope or a magnifying glass. Or it can mean: make something that may seem small or insignificant appear to be as great as it really is. This is what our great telescopes help us begin to do with the magnificent universe which once upon a time spilled over from the brim of God's glory. So there are two kinds of magnifying: microscope magnifying and telescope magnifying. The one makes a small thing look bigger than it is. The other makes a big thing begin to look as big as it really is.
When David says, "I will magnify God with thanksgiving," he does not mean: "I will make a small God look bigger than he is. He means: "I will make a big God begin to look as big as he really is." We are not called to be microscopes, but telescopes. Christians are not called to be con-men who magnify their product out of all proportion to reality, when they know the competitor's product is far superior. There is nothing and nobody superior to God. And so the calling of those who love God is to make his greatness begin to look as great as it really is. The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as he really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God.

Friday, 21 October 2011

How to Know the Will of God

None of us can escape making decisions. We are confronted daily with decisions, from seemingly insignificant choices such as "What cereal should I have for breakfast?", to much bigger and life-shaping decisions such as "Who should I marry?", or "Should I marry or not?" As we seek to make these decisions, how do we know what God's will for our lives is? How do we make the decisions that will please God?

Over at his blog Tim Challies has written a very helpful series of short articles on this tricky, and often misunderstood, subject of guidance and decision making. You can read them by clicking on the links below:

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Pride of Prayerlessness

There are many reasons for our prayerlessness - lack of time, lack of energy, the pressures of caring for a young family, lack of concentration. All of these are significant things that make the battle for prayerfulness a difficult one. However, I want to suggest that the battle goes much deeper.The battle against prayerlessness goes to the heart. At its heart our prayerlessness is not ultimately because we are disorganised or pressed for time. Rather, at the heart of prayerlessness is pride.

There are two major ways that prayerlessness reveals our pride, both of them are inseparably linked:

1) We have too high a view of ourselves
One of the reasons why we find it a struggle to pray is that we have too high a view of ourselves. One major way that this shows itself is our failure to see ourselves as helpless. We do not clearly see ourselves as a creature dependent upon our Creator. That is, we fail to recognise that we're utterly dependent upon God for all things.

This is pride. the reason we do not see ourselves as dependents is because we want to see ourselves as self sufficient. Essentially what this means is that we want to make ourselves God. Think about it. God is the only one who is completely self-sufficient and who depends upon nobody. He is the Creator who "gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:25) Therefore, he is not "served by human hands, as though he needed anything." (Acts 17:25). He is the source of all life, therefore He is not dependent upon anybody of anything. If He was He would not be God.

When we try to see ourselves as self sufficient we are seeking to put ourselves in the place of God. We want to be those who have no need of anybody else. This is a denial of the fact that we are creatures, and a necessary part of our creatureliness is that we are dependent upon our Creator. When we seek to be independent we seeking that which belongs to God alone, we are seeking to enthrone ourselves in God's place.

It will be quite helpful for us to think awhile on Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar saw himself as self-sufficient, when he said "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power..." (Daniel 4:30). He prides himself on his power, on his ability to provide for himself. As soon as he says these words, God humbles him, making him like one of the animals of the field. He shows him just how dependent he really is upon God. God is the one who has given him this power and his kingdom. He is utterly dependent upon God. If this is true of the most powerful man in the world at the time, how much more is it true of us.

2) We have too low a view of God
A wonky view of ourselves will naturally mean that we have a wonky view of God. Our knowledge of God andour knowledge of ourselves are inseperably liked. If we change one we change the other. If we alter our view of oursleves, this will have profound effects on our view of God.

In light of what we've seen above this means that our prayerlessness stems from too low a view of God. If we don't come to Him as those who are utterly dependent upon Him for all things, what does this say about our view of God? Implicitly say that we do not recognise that He is the Creator upon whom we are dependent. Essentially it means that we try to de-God God. We try to make Him less than God.

Instead of seeing God as the Creator, this thinking tries to lower Him to the level of a Creature. By failing to depend on Him for all things we are implicitly denying that "from him and through him and to him are all things." (Romans 11:36). We are denying that He is all-sufficient, that all we need comes from Him. We are also denying His power, that He is able to give us all we need.

Paul's sermon in Acts 17 is worth taking time to think over. Paul reminds us that God is the Creator God  (verse 24) who is not dependent upon man for anything (v25-26). Psalm 104 also gives us a powerful reminder that all things are dependent upon their Creator. All look to Him "to give them their food in due season." (verse 27). When God humbles Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, it reveals that He alone rules, and that none can restrict Him, "none can stay his hand" (verse 35). He is all sufficient and all powerful. The more we recognise this, the more we will be humbled to regognise our rightful place before Him.

Where do we go from here?
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6). Where we need to go from here is to humble ourselves before God. We need to recognise afresh who we are and who God is. He is the Creator and we are His creatures.

More than this, we need to recognise ourselves as sinners dependent upon His grace. We need to recognise our sinfulness in exalting ourselves over God, and dishonouring Him by denying His all-sufficiency. We need to bow humbly before Him saying with the tax collector: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13), and look to Him for forgiveness. We can do this with confidence because of the cross of Christ. He is the one who is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). Therefore, "[i]f we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).

The more we recognise who we and who God is are this the more we shall be humbled before God and forced to kneel before Him. Humility is the soil in which the flower of dependent prayer grows. The more we meditate on the greatness of God, which He has revealed to us in Scripture, the more we shall see ourselves in our proper place and be humbled. The more we are humbled the more naturally we will give ourselves to God-exalting prayer.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

From Every Tribe and People and Nation

What is the purpose of diversity in the church, and why is the church called to call diverse people to repentance and faith in Jesus? Here are some helpful thoughts from John Piper:
The reason God decreed that the gospel would obtain people from every tribe and people and nation is that the aim of the gospel is the glorification of his grace and this ingathering of diverse peoples into one Christ-exalting, unified people who would glorify the power and beauty of his grace more than if he had done things another way. There is a strong confirmation of this in noticing that several texts which command the pursuit of all ethnic groups are explicit that this pursuit is for the glory of Christ.

For example, in Romans 1:5, Paul says that his apostleship was given "to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ's] name among all the nations." In other words, the pursuit of "all nations" (all ethnic groups) is for the glory of Christ. Similarly in Romans 15:9, Paul says that Christ did his own missionary work in coming into the world "in order that the Gentiles [or nations] might glorify God for his mercy." The aim of Christ's pursuit of the Gentiles (the ethnically different ones) is for the glory of God's mercy, which was shown supremely in the death of Christ.

Accordingly, the consummation of the missionary mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) is described in Revelation 5:9 as persons from "every tribe and language and people and nation" worshiping the Lamb and declaring the infinite worth of his glory. So the apostolic vocation (Romans 1:5) and the messianic example of Christ (Romans 15:9) and the consummation of all missions (Revelation 5:9) have one explicit aim: to display the glory of Christ through the ingathering of a hugely diverse and unified redeemed people.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Hosea 2 - 'True Love and False Lovers'

Last week we began a new series in the book of Hosea with Philip Jensen. We continue this week with Hosea chapter 2 - True Love and False Lovers.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Why do you do what you do?

What is it that makes us do what we do? Jonathan Edwards has some very helpful insights on the nature of our affections and how they affect our actions. The languge here may be at first hard to read, but bear with Edwards because he is well worth working at and understanding:

Such is man’s nature, that he is very inactive, any otherwise than he is influenced by some affection, either love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, or some other. These affections we see to be the springs that set men agoing, in all the affairs of life, and engage them in all their pursuits: these are the things that put men forward, and carry them along, in all their worldly business; and especially are men excited and animated by these, in all affairs wherein they are earnestly engaged, and which they pursue with vigor. We see the world of mankind to be exceeding busy and active; and the affections of men are the springs of the motion: take away all love and hatred, all hope and fear, all anger, zeal, and affectionate desire, and the world would be, in a great measure motionless and dead; there would be no such thing as activity amongst mankind, or any earnest pursuit whatsoever. It is affection that engages the covetous man, and him that is greedy of worldly profits, in his pursuits; and it is by the affections, that the ambitious man is put forward in pursuit of worldly glory; and it is the affections also that actuate the voluptuous man, in his pursuit of pleasure and sensual delights: the world continues, from age to age, in a continual commotion and agitation, in a pursuit of these things, but take away all affection, and the spring of all this motion would be gone, and the motion itself would cease. And as in worldly things, worldly affections are very much the spring of men’s motion and action; so in religious matters, the spring of their actions is very much religious affection: he that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Offense of Grace

God's grace is offensive. By nature we do not want God to be gracious to us because it offends us.

Now, it might sound a bit odd to say that, so let me explain. We are by nature proud. Because of this we do not naturally delight in the idea that salvation must be by grace alone. Why? Because that means that all the glory goes to God alone, and we want to take some of that glory for ourselves. We want to be able to contribute something to our salvation, so that we can be honoured. In effect we want to rob God of the praise that is rightfully His. Charles Spurgeon in a sermon from Isaiah 55:1 says:
Pride is woven into man’s nature. The prodigal became a prodigal through his love of independence, he desired his own portion of goods to do as he liked with. After he became a prodigal his time was occupied with spending — he spent his money riotously; he loved to play the fine gentleman and spend. Even when the prodigal came to himself the old idea of paying was still to him, and he desired to be a hired servant, so that if he could not pay in money he would pay in labor.

We do not like to be saved by charity, and so to have no corner in which to sit and boast. We long to make provision for a little self-congratulation. You insult a moral man if you tell him that he must be saved in the same way as a thief or a murderer, yet this is no more than the truth. For a woman of purity to be told that the same grace which saved a Magdalene is necessary for her salvation is so humbling, that her indignation is roused, and yet it is the fact, for in every case salvation is “without money and without price."

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Almost every believer I've spoken to admits that they find prayer a struggle. Many of us struggle to set aside more time to pray, and when we do pray we struggle with the fact that we find our prayers to be cold, and distracted. Why is this? J. C. Ryle puts his finger on one of the reasons when he says:
How is it that many true believers often pray so coldly? What is the reason that their prayers are so feeble, wandering and lukewarm, as they frequently are? The answer is very plain: their sense of need is not so deep as it ought to be. They are not truly alive to their own weakness and helplessness, and so they do not cry fervently for mercy and grace. Let us remember these things. Let us seek to have a constant and abiding sense of our real necessities. If saints could only see their souls as the ten afflicted lepers saw their bodies, they would pray far better than they do.
Therefore, let us work hard at recognising the reality about ourselves, that we are creatures who are utterly dependent upon our Creator, sinners utterly dependent upon a gracious Saviour. The more we recognise our weakness and helplessness, the quicker and more urgently we will run to our Father's throne of grace in prayer.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Hosea 1 - A Hellish Marriage

This week we begin a new series of Tuesday Teaching posts. Over the next few weeks we're going to be working through the book of Hosea with Philip Jensen. This week we begin at the beginning, in Hosea 1.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Are We Really Concerned About Justice?

I'm sure many of us will be familiar with people accusing God of wrongdoing. When they look out on a world that is filled with evil, whether it be the latest murder investigation saga on the news or the feeling that they have been personally mistreated, many people question whther a just and good God can exist.

However, we have no right to put God in the dock. For one thing, we are the creature and He the Creator, so we are in no position to exalt ourselves to become His judge. What is more, if we were really concerned about justice we would be be questioning why God is treating me so well. Yet no one complains about that. I've never heard anyone get worked up over the fact that God is treating them far better than they deserve. How can God allow me, a sinner who has dragged His glory through the dirt and rejected the rule of the Lord of the universe, to still live? What is more, how can God forgive and welcome such sinners to be part of His people? Nobody asks these questions, yet this is what we ought to be concerned about. How can God be right and say that I am right when I'm wrong?

The answer to this is found in the cross of Christ. John Stott writes:

No one can now accuse God of condoning evil and so of moral indifference or injustice. The cross demonstrates with equal vividness both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner. For now, as a result of the propitatory death of his Son, God can be ‘just and the justifier’ of those who believe in him. He is able to bestow a righteous status on the unrighteous, without compromising his own righteousness.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Steve Jobs

Media all across the world has been abuzz with tributes to Steve Jobs, the former head of Apple, who died on Wednesday. Jobs' work has significantly shaped the technology that many use, and the way we use it.

A number of helpful Christian articles have been written in light of this about Jobs, his legacy and the implicit message behind his life and work with Apple. Here's a roundup of just a few such articles for your thinking and reading pleasure:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thrilled by the Depths

Are you bored of the gospel? The Christian faces a huge temptation to grow weary of the gospel and move on to something new and exciting. That is why many make a shipwreck of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19)and move on to other gospels (which are no gospels at all - Galatians 1:6-7). They think that they know the gospel, have seen all that there is to see in it, and are now looking for the next exciting thrill.

But such thoughts betray a wrong understanding of the gospel. The gospel is not like a child's Christmas present, which is exciting at first but, after a few months, the novelty wears off. We might better think of the gospel like we think of the depths of the ocean. There is always more to explore, we can always go deeper and see new depths. Thus, excitement is not found in looking to move on from the gospel to something new, rather real excitement will be found in diving deeper into its inexhaustable depths. A true diver never grows bored of exploring the depths of the sea, neither should the Christian grow weary of the infinite riches of the gospel.

Tim Keller has some helpful words to say on this, and what implications it has for us. He says:
The angels never get tired of looking into the gospel. This means there is no end to gospel exploration. There are depths in the gospel that are always there to be discovered and applied, not only to our ministry and daily Christian life, but above all, to the worship of the God of the gospel with renewed vision and humility.

The underlying conviction in my preaching, pastoring, and writing is that the gospel—this eternally fascinating message craved by the angels—can change a heart, a community, and the world when it is recovered and applied.

It is one thing to understand the gospel but is quite another to experience the gospel in such a way that it fundamentally changes us and becomes the source of our identity and security. It is one thing to grasp the essence of the gospel but it quite another to think out its implications for all of life. We all struggle to explore the mysteries of the gospel on a regular basis, but we should strive to immerse ourselves in it and allow its message to influence our life daily.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Write On!

A while ago I wrote a couple of posts on the idea of preaching to ourselves (see below for links). This is where we seek to get into the habit of speaking to ourselves rather than listening to oursleves. It is cultivating the practice of reminding ourselves of and exhorting ourselves with the truths of the Bible. In this post I want to think about one practical way that we can help ourselves to become better self-preachers. One simple way I have come to find invaluable in this battle is to get into the habit of writing.

What do I mean by writing? What I especially have in mind is using pen and paper as we study the Bible, meditate on it and seek to apply its truth to ourselves. In this post I want to commend to you the practice of writing as you read the Bible, as you meditate on and think through the implications of the Bible. I want to encourage you to keep a notebook with your Bible and to take notes as you read.

I want also to suggest that writing is better than typing. I know that many people use laptops  iphones, ipad and many more gadgets and these, used rightly, can be extremely valuable tools. However, in my experience I find that writing better serves preaching to ourselves. There is something about the physical action of forming the words with a pen on paper that helps us in a way that typing words into a screen cannot (However, I'm well aware of the irony that I'm currently typing this on my laptop instead of jotting it down on a piece of paper!).

Getting into the habit of studying and thinking with a pen can greatly help us as we seek to preach to ourselves. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. Here are some of the great benefits that we gain from using the pen and paper in our Christian life:

1) Writing Helps us to Think Clearly
As we write we force ourselves to articulate clearly the thoughts that have been buzzing around in our heads. Thoughts that are not articulated can have the tendancy of being vague. Frequently I find when I come to write down thoughts, which seem clear in my head, I find that my thinking is not as clear as I think it is. Making ourselves write down the thoughts that are roaming around in our heads, as clear and simple as they may seem, greatly helps us to become clear thinkers.

Any preacher will tell you that one of the things that makes for a good sermon is the fact that it's clear and easy for the listener to follow. When it comes to preaching to ourselves, surely we want to be clear about what we are telling ourselves as we seek to press home Bible truths to ourselves. The discipline of writing will help us to do that. It will help us to think clearly about the Bible passage we're studying, and to think clearly as we seek to apply it to ourselves.

2) Writing Helps us Understand
This point is closely related to the previous one. The more clearly we are able to think about and express something, the better we understand it. I have heard it said that you don't really understand something, unless you are able to explain it to a small child. The more clearly we think about and seek to articulate something, the deeper we grow in understanding it.

If writing helps us to think more clearly about the truths of the Bible as we study it, it follows that it will also help us to deepen in our understanding of those truths because we are forcing ourselves to articulate as clearly and concisely as possible what we are seeing as we seek to mine the riches of Scripture in dependance upon the God who has given it to us.

3) Writing Deepens Impressions
It has often been said that "expression deepens impression". When we express the truths that we've heard to others, or simply on a page, it deepens the impression that the truth leaves on us.

Again and again I find that when I preach and teach the Bible I become more sure of those truths, treasure them more deeply and cling to them more tightly. This is because, in making myself think through how I might best and most clearly express those truths, they make a deeper and more lasting impression on me. I become more aware of the reality of those truths, and therefore I love them all the more.

The same is true when we make oursleves express on paper the great riches we are mining from the Bible as we study it. The more we seek to express the truths of the gospel using pen and paper, the depper the impression they will make on us. The more we express clearly the magnificence of Jesus as He is revealed in the pages of Scripture, the more precious He becomes to us.

4) Writing Helps us Remember
I suspect that I'm not the only one who finds that the physical action of writing helps me to remember things better. There is something about the action of going throught the actions of forming words on the page that burns them into my brain for longer. I'm in the habit of always carrying a notebook around with me. This is because I'm in the habit of constantly forgetting things. It has been my experience that I remember things much better if I jot it down in a notebook. Even if I don't come back to that page, I find that I'm more likely to remember because I've gone through the motions of writing it down which has burned it a little deeper into my memory.

5) Writing Endures Longer Than Thoughts in Our Head
It is a simple fact that something written down can have a far longer lifespan than a thought in our head does. A trip to the local library reminds us of this. There are libraryloads of books that have outlived their authors by hundreds of years.

Now I'm not suggesting that our aim in taking notes as we study the Bible is to create a Christian classic that will last for hundreds of years. What I simply want to point out is that getting into the habit of writing will serve us greatly as we seek to cultivate a lifetime of preaching to ourselves. I have no idea what I was thinking (or even what passage of the Bible I was reading) on the 23rd February 2008. However, because I've written notes as I read the Bible that day, I am still able to benefit from that morning's study of the Bible years later. The discipline of the pen and paper will serve us in years to come, it will endure in a way that our memories can't.

Now, we need to be clear, none of these five points are here to deny the fact that it is God alone who gives us understanding as we read the Bible. The best and clearest thinking, the most proficient writing and the most dilligently stored notebooks are worth nothing if He does not open our eyes, unstop our ears and  soften our hearts as we come before the Bible. we need constantly to pray with the Psalmist, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." (Psalm 119:18).

However, our thinking is not inconsistent with the fact that it is God who gives us understanding. Paul calls Timothy to "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:7). It it precisely because it is God that gives us understanding that allows us to think and work hard as we study the text of Scripture. It is through our hard work, and dilligent sweating over the text of the Bible, in humble dependance on Him that He gives understanding. Getting into the habit of writing can, under God, be a great means to us better grasping and applying the truths of Scripture to ourselves.

So, brothers and sisters, can I commend you to 'Write on'!

Previous Posts:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tuesday Teaching| A Name Better Than Sons and Daughters

It's another Tueaday which means another Tueaday Teaching post. Next week, God willing, we shall be starting a new series of sermons. This week we have a one off sermon from John Piper, taken from a series he preached on marriage, looking at the theological significance of the single Christian. Piper gives us a very helpful theology of singleness which is a great encouragement to single men and women in Christ.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Heart of the Bible

John Flavel helps us to read our Bibles better by pointing our what stands at the heart of Scripture:

The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the very marrow and kernel of all the scriptures; the scope and centre of all divine revelations: both Testaments meet in Christ. The ceremonial law is full of Christ, and all the gospel is full of Christ: the blessed lines of both Testaments meet in him; and how they both harmonise, and sweetly concentre in Jesus Christ, is the chief scope of that excellent epistle to the Hebrews, to discover; for we may call that epistle the sweet harmony of both Testaments. This argues the unspeakable excellency of this doctrine, the knowledge whereof must needs therefore be a key to unlock the greatest part of the sacred scriptures. For it is in the understanding of scripture, much as it is in the knowledge men have in logic and philosophy: if a scholar once come to understand the bottom-principle, upon which, as upon its hinge, the controversy turns the true knowledge of that principle shall carry him through the whole controversy, and furnish him with a solution to every argument. Even so the right knowledge of Jesus Christ, like a clue, leads you through the whole labyrinth of the scriptures.