There are at least two reasons why the gospel writers give us such extensive material on the Jewish religious leaders of the first century (e.g., scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees). First, Jesus exposes the spiritual character of the Pharisees in order guard his disciples from becoming entangled with and influence by those who are in the grip of religious hypocrisy (see Matt 16:6-12; 23:1-12; cf 2 Tim 3:5). Second, the negative example of the Pharisees help uproot our own residual hypocrisy because Christians are all recovering legalists from one degree to another. Continue reading “Are Christians Hypocrisy Hunters?”
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to notice my mom would often repeat a proverbial phrase in response to my anxious musings about the future. “Bloom where you’re planted,” she would quip as I worried openly about what I should do with my life. I wasn’t a Christian at the time, and I was right in the thick of my teenage years, so these sayings—she had a host of others—would, to borrow another idiom, “float in one ear and out the other.” What hath horticulture to do with a young man’s concern over the future?
When I trusted Christ during my sophomore year of college, my passion for the Scripture turned insatiable. I desired to know the truth and talk about it with others. My parents were already Christians, so it was natural that our conversations would often turn to the Bible. It was sometime after my conversion that I was talking with my parents, probably pondering over concerns about the future, when my mom again unearthed her agricultural wisdom: “Bloom where you’re planted.” But this time she added, “Where is that in the Bible?”
In the spring of 1741 Jonathan Edwards visited and ministered to a small congregation in Suffield, Connecticut. This little church was without a pastor for a short time but was blessed with a few excellent servants, including Edwards himself and the great evangelist George Whitefield.
A few months after Edwards visited the church, Elizabeth Hatheway, a member of the congregation, asked Edwards for some spiritual guidance. In response, Edwards wrote this young lady a lengthy letter with 19 points of advice on Christian living. Several years later, the letter was published under the title, Advice to Young Converts. It is currently published along with Edwards resolutions by P & R Publishing.
On point #3, Edwards gives some timely advice on how to listen to sermons.
When you hear sermons, hear them for yourself, even though what is spoken in them may be especially directed to the unconverted or to those that in other respects are in different circumstances from yourself. Let the chief intent of your mind be to consider what ways you can apply the things that you are hearing in the sermon. You should ask, What improvement should I make, based on these things, for my own soul’s good? Continue reading “How To Listen To a Sermon: Eagerness and Examination”
Here are some of the best words I have read (or heard) on how a Christian should judge the spiritual condition of another professing Christian. They are taken from the Religious Affections, pages 110-111.
The true saints have not such a spirit of discerning that they can certainly determine who are godly and who are not. For though they know experimentally what true religion is in the internal exercises of it, yet these are what they can neither feel nor see in the heart of another…They commonly are poor judges and dangerous counsellors in soul cases, who are quick and peremptory in determining persons’ states, vaunting themselves in their extraordinary faculty of discerning and distinguishing in these great affairs, as though all was open and clear to them. They betray one of these three things: either that they have had but little experience; or are persons of weak judgment; or that they have a great degree of pride and self-confidence, and so of ignorance of themselves. Wise and experienced men will proceed with great caution in such an affair.
When there are many probable appearances of piety in others, it is the duty of the saints to receive them cordially into their charity, and to love them and rejoice in them, as their brethen in Jesus Christ.