Throwback Thursday: John Bunyan on Prayer

bunyan_j_2John Bunyan, a Baptist Minister, was born in 1628 and died in 1688. Since he was a Baptist in that day and not a licensed minister, it was illegal for John Bunyan to preach. Bunyan was thrown in prison for 12 years. It was during that imprisonment that he wrote his most famous work The Pilgrim’s Progress (it has been regarded as one of the most significant works in English literature, having been translated into more than 200 languages and has never been out of print since 1678!).

Since Bunyan spent 12 years in prison, there is much to learn from the way he prayed and how he prayed. Bunyan prayed both in public and in private. Since prayer is communication with God, it is a way for believers to grow in their relationship with God. Bunyan says in prayer you grow in familiarity with God. For instance, the more I am in communication with my wife, the more I enjoy talking to my wife, and the more I want to talk to my wife. So in prayer, believers grow in communication with the one they love. Communication presses for more communication.

Because he was not licensed by the church of England, Bunyan was imprisoned, however, he could have been released from prison if he would have quit preaching the gospel. This should say something to Christians in our day and days to come that whatever happens we should never abandon the gospel by which we have been saved. Also, I do not think John Bunyan, when he was in prison, prayed for more comfort in his cell. I believe by what he has written that he prayed for his life to be made much of for the sake of the gospel. Christians should not be praying for more comforts at home. For example, I should not pray, “God, please give me a 72 inch flat screen tv so that I may sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day”. That is a comfort. That is not something that is necessary for life.

More often than not in our “Americanized Christianity”, we are not satisfied with the grace that God shows to us in giving us food, water, breath, etc. I am right there too. It is by the grace of God that I have food on the table to eat. For Evan Knies to pray for more comforts in the den is just silly. Evan Knies needs to pray, “Jesus, Thank You, for putting breath into my lungs, may I honor you with my life today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the time that I am on this Earth because only what is done for you will last!”. It is impossible for me to say that I am gospel centered and yet not pray. In prayer, Evan Knies is humbled, because he knows he can not make it on his own and he is pleading to God to show mercy.

Bunyan said this on prayer,

“Prayer is sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God”.

I am thankful to God for John Bunyan. He was a man who did not abandon the truth in the Word of God nor did he make prayer a separate entity in his life. Prayer is an attribute of a Christian (Matt. 6, Acts 1:14, Rom. 12:12, Col. 4:2). John Bunyan was a man centered on the gospel of God, so he was also a man of prayer.

Lord may I make much of Christ through this decaying body because only what is done for Jesus Christ will last!

1557562_10153227664651515_1796309980_nEvan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.

25 Ways Jesus Interacted With People

Yelin-bergpredigt-ca1912Jesus interacted with many different kinds of people from many different walks of life in his three year ministry. He interacted with adults and children, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, the religious and the irreligious, the healthy and the sick. In thinking through the best ways to do evangelism and ministry, looking to how Jesus related to the people he came to save is a great example for us to follow. Evangelism involves much more, though not less, than repeating a message or telling a story. Evangelism involves interacting with various kinds of people in various kinds of situations. Everyone is not like us and effective evangelism involves getting to know people and dealing with them where they are. In order to become more effective evangelists in our community, Jesus, the evangelist par excellence serves as an example of how we should interact with people for the sake of the gospel. I gathered the following list from a class I took at Boyce College this summer lectured by Bruce Carlton. Here are 25 insights that we can glean from Jesus’ interactions with various people in various situations.

  1.  Jesus goes where people are.
  2. Jesus sees people as people.
  3. Jesus treats all people as having needs regardless of social, racial, or economic status.
  4. When there is an opportunity, Jesus seeks to respond immediately.
  5. Jesus is able to discern when people show spiritual interests.
  6. Jesus identifies genuine seekers and spends time with them personally.
  7. Jesus demonstrates to people that he cares about them.
  8. Jesus is culturally sensitive.
  9. Jesus commends people for their positive qualities.
  10. Jesus listens to people’s stories.
  11. Jesus shows interests in what others are interested.
  12. Jesus communicates to people on their level.
  13. Jesus often asks probing questions.
  14. Jesus always has a positive attitude.
  15. Jesus appeals to Scripture.
  16. Jesus shares his own testimony.
  17. Jesus avoids arguing with people.
  18. Jesus confronts sin.
  19. Jesus presents the gospel clearly.
  20. Jesus always displays God’s grace.
  21. Jesus ministers to the whole person: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
  22. Jesus does not allow himself to become distracted from what he wants to communicate.
  23. Jesus always brings people to a point of making a decision.
  24. Jesus challenges people to exercise faith.
  25. Jesus respects people’s freedom.

One thing I have gleaned from the way Jesus evangelized and did ministry is this: I have a lot to learn.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/23


Defending Tony Dungy’s Right to Have an Opinion - Four insightful thoughts about the castigation of Tony Dungy’s “controversial” comments on Michael Sam.

A First Glimpse at ‘Look at the Book’ - Check out this preview of what John Piper’s coming venture Look at the Book is all about. I have been influenced by Piper more than by anyone else and Look at the Book is like a dream come true for me. If you like Piper, you will love Look at the Book. See a glimpse into how Piper traces the augment in 2 Tim. 3:14-17

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Birth Control’ - This has been my favorite read this month so far. What an important article from Karen Swallow Prior. She is very insightful in her opposition to liberals like Rachel Held Evans on speaking correctly when speaking about birth control. She also raises concerns I have had over why Hobby Lobby did not oppose all forms of hormonal birth control that have abortifacient mechanisms.

A Challenge to Women - Women often feel limited to what kinds of ministries they can or should do in the church. Here is a list of around 80 ministries for women to consider.

How Rory McIlroy Stacks up to Tiger and Jack - Rory McIlroy, at the age of 25, won this past weekends Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. At 25, McIlroy has already won three majors and some are making comparisons to legends like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. This article examines whether such comparisons are accurate.

The Size of LA County - Check out this map to see if your state is smaller than Los Angeles County. More than likely, it is.

Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you. –Tim Keller

Watch Your Mouth: Christians, Hypocrisy, and Self-Control

self control in wood type

Christians have been called out of sin and into holiness. Like a mirror, Christians have been called to reflect the glory of God to the world. However, how often have you seen Christians reflect the glory of their selfish ambitions or the glory of their sinful natures? How often have you, Christian, found yourself mirroring a broken and vile image—the image of your fallen nature, the image of your cosmic rebellion against God? If you are not a Christian and find yourself frustrated with the hypocrisy you see in Christians, join the club! Christians are (or at least should be) equally disgusted with the hypocrisy they exhibit at various times and places.

One of the things that causes moral hypocrisy in the life of a Christian is a lack of self-control. Lack of self-control is a catalyst for open and active sin. The command of God to demonstrate self-control in our lives seems daunting. How many times have you intended, yet failed, to hold your tongue? Yet it is in this area of life—the life of the tongue—that if we do not demonstrate self-control, we will harm both non-Christians and fellow Christians alike. The tongue causes more hurt than anything else in the church. Factions are often created in the church by hurtful speech. Even churches who are unified in doctrine and creed can be divided as a result of a lack of self-control of the tongue. When the tongue is allowed to run rampant, like a serial murderer escaped from prison, there is the probability of more casualties. Self-control polices our tongues.

The Beginning of Self-Control

The Bible warns very gravely of guarding our speech. James, the brother of Jesus, writes in his epistle, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (Jam. 3:2). Do you see how crucial your speech is to the rest of your behavior? James can say this because our speech reflects our hearts. It was Jesus who said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). He would later say, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matt. 15:18). If you want to guard your speech, guard your heart. Take an inventory of what you are feeding your heart. What are you watching? What are you hearing? What are you reading? What fills your mind on a daily basis? Answers to these questions will help gauge how carefully you are guarding your heart. Are you striving to purify your heart or are you flippantly allowing it to be defiled? God empowered self-control begins with actively guarding the heart with the sword of truth.

The Nature of the Tongue

If you are not sold on the corruption of your tongue from your own experience, then allow James to educate you on the powerful nature of the tongue (speech). James compares the tongue to three things: (1) A bit in the mouths of horses, (2) a rudder for ships, and (3) fire. James is conveying the fact that the tongue in relation to our speech, though small and even subtle, is very powerful and has the potential to destroy our entire person if not controlled. Jesus conveyed similar language when he said that it will be by our words that we will be judged (Matt. 12:37). James wrote earlier that control of the tongue is an example of true religion (Jam. 1:26). This is sufficient evidence that our words carry distinct power. They have the power to build up and the power to tear down. They have the power to save our souls and the power to destroy our souls. Why? Once again, Scripture over and over depicts our words as the perfect reflection of the condition of our hearts. Do you desire to know the condition of your heart? Listen to your own words.

Motivation to Be Self-Controlled

The tongue is humanly untamable, a restless evil, and full of deadly poison (Jam. 3:8). What is most evil about our tongues? Hypocrisy. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing” (Jam. 3:9-10). Fellow Christian, we do so much harm to both others and ourselves when we use our tongues in praise to God on Sunday morning and then use our tongues to curse others throughout the week. In the words of James, “these things ought not to be so” (Jam. 3:10). Christian, let your speech be consistent with the new heart you have been given.

While our speech can hurt our witness to the lost, it can also hurt fellow Christians. I fear that while we may be careful what we say at church events to visitors or non-Christians, we become lazy with our tongues with fellow believers. In the church, there are many ways that we can harm one another with our tongues. Here are some examples that exist within the confines of small groups and various ministries:

  • Rumors
  • Misrepresenting the truth
  • Always talking about ourselves
  • Sarcasm
  • Putting down others’ ideas
  • Correction without love
  • Interruption
  • Cursing/Inappropriate language

I know that I have used my tongue to harm other Christians in many of these ways. This is not something we should gloss over. We should pursue the control of our speech, so that we can point fellow Christians and non-Christians alike to Christ. Self-control is a demonstration of satisfaction in God. Self-control says that I am more satisfied in obeying God than I am in gratifying a selfish desire to elevate myself over others. If you are like me and you struggle with self-control in various areas, especially with your speech, ask God to grant you such control.

One professor once taught me, “Self-control for a Christian includes God-control through the Spirit.” This is so encouraging. We are not alone in our efforts to control our speech. We are not alone in our efforts to guard and purify our hearts. Instead, we must strive to work in sync with the God who is committed to our final sanctification when we will one day only use our tongues for one purpose—the perfect reflection of the glory of God. Mirror God’s glory today through what you say.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. –James 4:8-10

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

When Together Really is Better


In their book Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis present a radical and daring approach to the church and ministry. They dare to return to the biblical definition of the church and use the New Testament church as an example of how to “do church.” There are no Christians anywhere on the spectrum who would argue that their local church or approaches to church are perfect. From Reformed circles to the “emergent church” movement, we all can agree there is need for reform in the church, particularly with regard to how the church reaches the lost.

Chester and Timmis have much experience with this in their church-planting ministry, The Crowded House. While attempts at church reform are far from simple and indeed carry many complex issues with them, Chester and Timmis show that the only hope for church reform is to return to the basics, to radically “reshape around gospel and community.”

When we contemplate the best ways to reach the lost, we tend to automatically jump to programs, methods, and approaches. While programs, methods, and approaches are inevitably necessary to consider and employ in our efforts to reach the lost, there must be two pillars present in order for all outreach ministry to be anchored. In fact, I believe unless ministries in the church are anchored by these two pillars, they are ultimately futile. They are gospel and community.

This makes me think of my pastor and what he is trying to instill in our church. This year he has essentially been emphasizing these two pillars–gospel and community. He has infused a phrase that expresses the latter: “Together is Better.” Like a battle cry, this is a catchy phrase that induces feelings of unity and community. However, I hope our church family (myself included) has not overlooked the dual partner with this emphasis on community–the gospel. Together is not better if we are not together for the gospel. Together is not better if we are not actively seeking to reach the lost with the gospel. Together is not better if we lose sight of the gospel and focus solely on community. Pastor Norm gets it. He has a vision for ministry and evangelism that fuses gospel and community in an inseparable way. While our summer feeding program is designed to take care of physical needs in our community, which we meet together, the ultimate purpose of this ministry is to actively share the gospel and see children and adults trust Christ. I have noticed that his desire for the propagation of the gospel has fueled his desire for a tightly knit community of believers, and vice-versa. Oh, FBCEB may we stay the course, continue to catch this vision, and sink our feet deeply in the pillars of truth and unity, gospel and community.

If we are not careful, we can easily abuse these two pillars. It is possible to be focused on the gospel while forsaking community. It is of little benefit to know our Bibles through and through, yet not love one another and love the lost. We can become premier theologians, but if this focus on the gospel does not spur us on to love each other deeply in community for the sake of a unified effort to reach the lost, there is a serious disconnect within our hearts.

Similarly, though dangerous and even frightening, there is the possibility that we can have a kind of community without the gospel. We can forsake the gospel for community, which is the most prevalent option in many local churches. When we try to reach the unchurched by watering down the gospel, not preaching the Bible, and relying solely on an attractive community, we will be reaching them with a sense of belonging, but leaving out the one thing that created the community that we have. We are not after a large group of people who like each other. We are after a community of believers, seeking to glorify and enjoy God in every area of life. We are after the picture we saw yesterday; a new believer confessing her faith and expressing a desire to be baptized. The unity we felt when we hugged and welcomed her was worthwhile because it was unity in the gospel.

At the end of the day, we can fearlessly pursue various ministries and even new ways of “doing church” so long as these two pillars are anchoring our motives and guiding our vision–gospel and community. When we lose sight of either, our ministries will ultimately fail in either effectiveness or significance. Any ministry that is gospel-centered, yet lacks community will send a confusing message. Any ministry that is community-centered, yet lacks the gospel is a waste of time. If we want to be a “total church” or a church that mirrors the early church, above all else we must keep the gospel central within the confines of community. Change in the church is good, as long as we never change our focus on the gospel and our lives in community. Together is definitely better when we are together in the gospel and for the sake of Christ in our neighborhoods and in the nations.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/21


ISIS Forces Last Iraqi Christians to Flee Mosul - NY Times: “By 1 p.m. on Friday almost every Christian in Mosul had heard the Sunni militants’ message — they had until noon Saturday to leave the city.”

When You Should NOT Submit to a Church - Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks carefully counsels Christians that there are certain situations when they should not submit to a church and its leaders, but instead should flee. His list of the characteristics of an abusive church and church leader is spot on.

Six Ways Your Phone Is Changing You - Tony Reinke: “What is life like now because of the smartphone? How has the iPhone changed us? These self-reflective questions may seem daunting, but we must ask them.”

To the Ends of the Earth - Check out this interview with professor Michael Haykin where he discusses his new book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy.

Cyclist Switches Tickets on Malaysian Flights - A Dutch cyclist says he was scheduled to be on both Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 and MH17 only to switch his tickets at the last minute. He calls it luck. I call it providence. Check out this amazing story.

Seattle Sounders Make a Wish Come True - The Seattle Sounders of the MLS made 18 year-old Xander Bailey’s wish come true. Bailey, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, started for the Sounders on Saturday and even took a shot from a Clint Dempsey pass. Don’t miss the full story.

The Road to Jericho and the Border Crisis - Russell Moore: “America’s southern border is engulfed in a humanitarian crisis, as refugees fleeing violence in central America, many of them unaccompanied children, seek safety. As Christians, we must recognize both the complexity of this situation and what it means to be people of justice and mercy.”

Revival is simply biblical Christianity allowed to be itself, taken straight, without inhibiting traditions or trends. –Ray Ortlund

The Pastor and His Family


There may be no greater issue to speak of in the life of the pastor than the balance and sensitivity that must be given to his ministry and family. Though I am not currently a pastor or a father, I am preparing for the ministry and these reflections on the possible future that lies ahead of my wife and me have sobered my mind. Pastors and pastors’ families are looked to for much and often supported little. I hope this leads you to pray for your pastor and seek tangible ways to serve him and his family. The great burdens that can often be on a pastor when balancing church ministry with family are often glamorized in this discussion, but I believe that despite the dilemma of balancing church with family, the pastor can find tremendous grace in the God who called him into this work for the kingdom.

High Calling

The calling of a minister is a high and demanding calling. In fact, when one thinks of all the work that goes into pastoral ministry, it is easy to conclude with Charles Spurgeon when he said, “Don’t do ministry if you can do anything else.” While this may be a bit over-the-top, the demands of ministry coupled with the demands of family can seem overwhelming. Every marriage and family will face problems and hardships. This is unavoidable when two, three, four, or five sinners live together. However, problems in marriage, parenting, and general familial issues are heightened in the life of a minister because his life is under a microscope viewed by the eyes of his congregation and community. While every husband and father is to lead his family in the way of the Lord, love and protect his wife and children, and guard them physically and spiritually, this task is heightened for ministers due to the nature of the calling.

Higher Caller

However, at this point it is important to remember the nature of the Caller and not just focus on the nature of the calling. While the calling can seem burdensome, particularly when it comes to balancing pastoral ministry and family life, it must be remembered that our Caller’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). Our caller abounds in power, grace, mercy, and love. And it is by his grace that we labor. We are enabled to do all that God calls us to by the One who has defeated all sin and death. The pastor will often feel weak and inadequate to perform the ministerial duties and balance them with familial duties. However, so contrary to the world, this is good, for when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10). Paul was content with all of his hardships and weaknesses because of the greatness, power, and grace of his Lord and his God. The grace of Jesus is sufficient for pastors to fulfill their duties as pastor-husband and pastor-father.

Despite the fact that the ministry is demanding, Derek Prime wisely notes, “but God’s will is never that we should be so busy that we neglect those closest to us” (On Being a Pastor, 268). This is very important to understand. Our family takes priority over our pastoral ministry. We are to sanctify our wives and children first. Our family takes precedent over our church. However, the two are linked. Prime and Begg assert “New Testament qualifications for church leaders link spiritual usefulness in the home with spiritual effectiveness in the body of Christ” (Ibid. 261). They continue with an insightful and bold statement: “If we neglect our families, we eventually undermine our entire pastoral and teaching ministry” (Ibid. 262). Inexplicably, a pastor’s leadership in the home directly correlates to his leadership in the church.

The Pastor as Husband and Father

With all of this in mind, the pastor’s relation to his wife and children is of utmost importance. The pastor must give proper attention to and be sensitive to the needs of his wife. The wife of a pastor is often under just as much pressure as the pastor. Prime and Begg make an astute observation when they write; “More is required of our wives than wives of men in other callings and professions. They cannot be separated from our work as other wives can be from their husbands’ employment” (Ibid. 270). She is often looked to lead the women’s ministries and teach the women’s Bible studies and small groups. She also has the pressures of maintaining a hospitable home constantly. There will be many unplanned and unanticipated visits from church members needing counsel. Particularly if the pastor works out of his home, there will be times of frustration where his wife will feel neglected, as he will be at home, yet absent.

The wives of pastors will know all aspects of his work and will therefore not only deal with the pressures of maintaining the home, but will also deal with her husbands pressures as well. There will also be more pressure on the pastor’s wife in the raising of children. More judgment and less grace are often shown to the parenting of the mother whose husband is the pastor. Due to these realities, the pastor must be focused and intentional on giving his wife and children the attention, love, and leadership they need and deserve.

A pastor’s wife and children need attention from her husband and their father. This means that the pastor needs to be faithful in taking a day off from ministerial duties. An entire day needs to be given to his wife and family. Barring emergencies, all the attentions of the pastor must be given to his family joyfully. And that is the key. It should be a joyful means of grace for the pastor to get to walk with, talk with, laugh with, and play with his wife and children. A pastor’s wife and children must see that they take priority over the church.

Pastors must love and lead their wives and children. I couple these together because a husband who loves his wife and a father who loves his children will lead them. Practically, nightly Scripture readings, times of prayer, and catechism exercises should be implemented and taken seriously and joyously. A time to love and lead your family in the ways of the Lord is not something to take for granted. Not only should pastors pray for their families in their own devotion/prayer time, they must pray with their families. There is no better way for children to learn how to pray than from their father. Wives also desire to be led in the truths of Scripture, so time should be taken either before bed or early in the morning to read with her, pray with her, and counsel her.

Pastors Need Grace

In closing, it is a daunting task as a pastor to balance pastoral ministry with family. I hope you have seen how, much like you, your pastor has a lot on his plate. What makes the pastor and his family more stressful than most other families is the fact that his family is under a microscope. Help your pastor and his family by holding a telescope up to their eyes pointed toward Christ, instead of holding a microscope to dissect their lives. Like you, pastors need grace. Pray for your pastor today and seek opportunities to lighten his burden. Pastor, remember you have a loving Chief Shepherd who empowers you as under-shepherd to fulfill the task that he has called you to. The ultimate question pastors face is this: “How can I structure my day so that I fulfill my pastoral duties and give time to my family (Ibid. 267)?” How pastors answer this question is vital to both his faith family and his immediate family.

I am humbled by the possible future that is ahead of me. The more I prepare for ministry, the greater the realization is that I may have a faith family and family at home to love and lead. I know I will need grace. May all pastors walk in the empowering grace and love of Jesus and faithfully love and lead their families while loving and leading their flocks.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Baptists and Baptism: Correcting a Communication Problem

Raised arms womanWhat happens when a beloved doctrine is misconstrued to lead to disobedience to Jesus? Baptists are always faced with a dilemma with regard to their doctrine of baptism, at least intellectually. I have had multiple discussions with fellow Baptists who literally see no need to be baptized or to baptize others because baptism is not necessary for salvation. Baptists teach and believe that baptism is an outward sign of an inward change that is not necessary for salvation. This means that someone can believe in Jesus, not be baptized, and still be justified.

The problem with this belief comes when someone trusts Christ in a Baptist church and then refuses to be baptized. This same person wants to serve in the church, faithfully attend church, and even take part in evangelism and missions. However, they do not want to be baptized and they feel justified to feel this way because, after all, baptism is not necessary. The problem with Baptists and baptism isn’t our doctrine of baptism, but our communication of it. Anytime we talk about baptism, we wave the flag with the word UNNECESSARY written across it. We communicate baptism as something that we should do, but we certainly do not have to do. Our doctrine is faithful to Scripture, but our communication can be so far from the biblical witness that it has the potential to damage the faith of those we evangelize. Of course, this is not the case in many Baptist churches, but in my experience, I have seen a communication problem that needs to be corrected with regard to baptism, which I believe will result in greater obedience to Christ and proper desire for baptism.

Jesus commands his disciples, based on his universal authority, to proclaim the gospel in all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). We see Peter do this very thing in Jerusalem a short time after Jesus’ ascension. In Acts 2, Peter begins to make disciples by calling all men and women to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). This is the first example of obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19. Jesus commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We see two normative partners to repentance and faith in Jesus. They are baptism and discipleship. It is normative in the New Testament for believers to be baptized and discipled.

Baptism is ordained by the Lord Jesus in this passage to be a symbol that signifies the repentance and faith of a person in Jesus. In most cases, the biblical pattern is this: a disciple made is a disciple baptized. Jesus sees belief and baptism as being normally inseparable. This makes sense, because becoming a disciple of Jesus includes dying to your old self and walking in newness of life with Christ. So, baptism is the symbolic act of conversion that represents this death and resurrection. Baptism is thus a normal component of disciple-making because it outwardly signifies an inward change of heart—death to sin and life to Christ.

It is apparent that the early church saw the direct connection between faith in Christ and baptism as well. In Acts 2:41, Luke writes that after Peter preached his first sermon, “those who received his word were baptized.” Baptism directly followed belief in Jesus, because those who have been redeemed by Jesus have an insatiable desire to obey Jesus and outwardly signify what had just happened to them. Their love for Jesus breeds obedience to him.

The apostle Paul also saw a direct connection between belief and baptism. In writing to the Romans, Paul simply assumed that every Christian had been baptized. He writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Paul is essentially assuming here that every Christian he was writing to in Rome had been baptized. The truth is that the New Testament knows nothing of a believer who refuses baptism. So, when we make disciples, we baptize them, because baptism is a normative partner to belief.

This in no way insinuates that baptism is a necessary component or work for salvation. This is why I am using the term “normative.” In the absolute sense, baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. We even see one such example in the New Testament. Jesus indicates in his conversation with one of the criminals being crucified next to him that this man had believed; yet he obviously was not taken down from the cross to be baptized. But Jesus still responded to his belief by saying, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). And in any similar situation, I think we are safe to say that baptism is not necessary. For instance, deathbed confessions and the like do not require baptism, because we are not saved by works, but by grace.

However, I think it is also fair for us to say that if that criminal or any other person in a similar position was aware of the command of Christ to be baptized (or any command for that matter), his heart would desire to obey him. You see, baptism is a matter of the heart. Obedience or disobedience to Christ is the physical response to a spiritual desire, either positive or negative. This is what James meant when he wrote “faith without works is dead” (Jam. 2:17, 26). The hearts of Christians desire to obey Christ, even in our fallen, yet redeemed condition. It is abnormal for a professing Christian to not be baptized. And it is abnormal for a professing Christian to deny the significance of baptism.

So, because of the authority of the Son of God over all things in heaven and on earth, our mission as the local church and as Christians is to make disciples of all nations, with baptism and discipleship normally following suit. As Baptists, I pray we would remain committed to our doctrine of baptism while becoming more biblically accurate and fervent in our communication of it. Baptism is not an absolute necessity, but it is a normative partner. At the end of the day, there is a serious heart issue with a professing believer who refuses baptism. We cannot overstate the seriousness of refusing baptism. Refusing baptism is willful rebellion against Jesus. May we be quick to reprove those who refuse baptism for the good of their souls.

Baptism is a fundamental. It is a fundamental Christian doctrine for the church. It is a fundamental act of obedience to Christ. If we miss it, neglect it, or ignore it, we are missing, neglecting, and ignoring the one who commanded it, the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. So, with Peter I plea, “Repent and be baptized!” With Jesus I plea, “Become a disciple by faith, and be baptized!” And with Paul I plea, “Believe and be baptized.”

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Calvin’s Christian Hedonistic Vision of God


The way we think about God shapes the way we think about everything else. This goes much further than denying or accepting God’s existence. The way we understand God’s nature, character, and relation to his creation is reflected in the way we live. To think that our theology of God is not formative in our daily lives is to be shortsighted. Take John Frame’s definition of theology for example, which presupposes a direct connection between understanding of God and practical living. Frame writes, “theology is the application of Scripture, by persons, to every area of life” (Systematic Theology, 8, emphasis added).

In the same vein, John Calvin once wrote, “For until men recognize that they owe everything to God…they will never yield him willing service” (Institutes, I.II.1). Clearly, the way we think about God directly affects our lives. So it is vital to continue shaping and refining our knowledge of God. To do this, we must dive deep into Scripture and search for the God of the Bible refusing to come up until we find him. Since God has made himself known in his word, we can confidently give ourselves to diligent study of holy Scripture. Not just any vision of God will do. Only a vision of God that matches the biblical witness and only a vision that accurately portrays a God worthy of knowing will do.

John Calvin’s vision of God has often been characterized (more like caricatured) as a big bully, moral monster, and even as the very essence of the devil himself. However, even a meager study of Calvin’s writings will show that this is far from the case. Sure, Calvin viewed God as a massively sovereign being whose glory is incomparable and his ways inscrutable in his dealings with sinners. However, what I have recently been seeing in my weekly reading through Calvin’s Institutes is that his doctrine of God is predicated on something so sweet and delightful–God’s role as satisfier. Calvin was a Christian hedonist.

Calvin believed God is only worthy of supreme worship under one primary condition—that he can satisfy human hearts. He writes, “Moreover, although our mind cannot apprehend God without rendering some honor to him, it will not suffice simply to hold that there is One whom all ought to honor and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of every good, and that we must seek nothing elsewhere than in him” (I.II.1). God is honored and adored when we come to him with nothing in order to be supplied or satisfied. God, according to Calvin, is not to be honored if we have to bring anything to the table. Calvin goes so far as to say, “you cannot behold him clearly unless you acknowledge him to be the fountainhead and source of every good” (I.II.2). If we supply anything, then he is not worthy of our honor and adoration. However, because he is the cause of all things “we may learn to await and seek all these things from him, and thankfully ascribe them, once received, to him” (I.II.1).

True and sincere devotion to God is not found in a God who is merely big, grand, sovereign, gracious, and merciful. True and sincere devotion to God is found when the God who is the sovereign is the satisfier. According to Calvin, “[U]nless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly to him” (I.II.1). God is worthy of relentless devotion and highest honor primarily because he is a fountain from which every good flows.

Let me show you why this is the best news possible for man and why this vision of God is the greatest of them all. Calvin believed God is most honored when we come to him as the fountain of every good and to “seek nothing elsewhere than in him.” This means that in Calvin’s doctrine of God, God is honored by our delight. He is honored by our empty souls coming to him for sustenance. This is great news, because from birth we are both empty and hungry. We are both dry and thirsty. Our hearts long for joy. Our souls crave satisfaction that will last. God is the best of all beings because he is a fountain of overflowing joy that will never run dry. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11, emphasis added). It is in fact this fullness in God that makes him so desirable. God is the fountain of joy and “from this too would arise the desire to cleave to him and trust him” (I.II.2).

When we come to God with our dry hearts and thirsty souls to drink from his fountain, we greatly honor him. A world-class chef is most honored when his guests receive his meal with delight more so than if they bring their own measly dish. Calvin saw God in this same light. He is most honored not when we merely ascribe worship to him for his greatness, but when we come to him in our emptiness to be sustained and satisfied.

Calvin’s doctrine of God is so helpful for daily Christian living. “Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him” (I.II.1). Unless God the sovereign is God the satisfier, there will be no motivation for godly living. Oh, but when we seek to honor God by being filled by him, our devotion to him will be fueled. Yes, even all of our efforts to kill sin is best motivated not by dread of a God who punishes, but love for a God who provides greater satisfaction. “Besides, this mind restrains itself from sinning, not out of dread of punishment alone; but, because it loves and reveres God as Father, it worships and adores him as Lord” (I.II.2). A God who is merely big is not worthy of taking risks for. But a God who can supply satisfaction even in the face of persecution and death is worthy of full devotion and glad risk-taking for his renown.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica and their dog, Simba.

Morning Mashup 07/18


Campbellsville University Has Not Changed…and THAT is the Problem - Pastor Andrew Dyer, a Campbellsville alum, analyzes the recent decision of Campbellsville University to sever ties with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Dyer speaks from experience and shows why we should not be surprised by this decision.

Orienting on Homosexual Orientation - On one of the most pressing issues facing the church, I have found Nick Roen to be a very insightful and significant voice through the various posts he has written on homosexuality. Here Roen discusses sexual orientation and attraction, and how Christians struggling with same-sex attraction should deal with it.

Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America? - Alan Noble ponders, “Are some Christians being unfairly shamed out of the public square?” In the wake of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision and the monthly defeat of bans on gay “marriage,” holding to an evangelical and biblical morality is becoming increasingly unacceptable. This is a helpful analysis of the situation.

A Church for Exiles - Carl Trueman: “We live in a time of exile. At least those of us do who hold to traditional Christian beliefs. The strident rhetoric of scientism has made belief in the supernatural look ridiculous. The Pill, no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.”

Help Your Kids Say ‘No’ to Porn - Jen Wilkin: “We may stall on the sex talk, but the world will not. If we delay introducing the topic because of personal discomfort, shame, or uncertainty about how to begin, our children will form their first ideas about human sexuality based on the reports of their peers, the images on their devices, or the pop-ups that introduce them to porn. They will also assume their parents are not willing or equipped to handle discussions about sex.”

Dating Advice You Actually Need - There is much dating advice to be given to Christian teenagers and twenty somethings. Derek Rishmawy uses his experience in college ministry to offer some excellent and fundamental  dating advice. He writes, “I’ve come to see that there is one key mark of a maturing relationship centered and continually centering itself on Christ: both of you are absolutely committed to each other’s involvement in the local church.”

All 50 States Captured in Lego - Does Lego accurately represent your state? Not sure if we should all be amazed or insulted.

The question is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit. –John Piper