Sin Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against You

people-men-fight-challengeHave you ever been in an intense wrestling match? Wrestling matches between siblings are often much more entertaining and dangerous than WWE wrestling matches because, frankly, they are much more real. Growing up, I was about six years older than my brother, so I always had a physical advantage over him when we would fight. We didn’t fight all the time, but we always fought when we played games with each other. A game couldn’t pass by without one of us starting a fight. Our fights didn’t just begin the same way; they also always ended the same way—with me on top of my brother and my brother crying for help. In our fights, my brother didn’t stand a chance.

Romans 7:14-25 is all about a bitter struggle that occurs within the soul of every Christian. Paul emotionally and painfully cries out for deliverance at the end of Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul is describing the nature of the war that rages in the Christian mind and heart. It is an intense wrestling match against a formidable opponent. Sin is strong. If you give in to sin very quickly, it is because you are either not in Christ or underestimating the strength of your opponent. In fact, if you are giving in to sin quickly, you don’t even realize the bell has rung! From the moment your heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, there is a struggle with sin that doesn’t end until you die or Christ returns.

Genuinely fighting sin is exhausting. There is a serious temptation to give in because the fight is hard. But the greatest motivation for staying the course in our fight against sin is found in one simple, yet life-changing statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our struggle against sin is one we cannot lose, so it is one we must fight! No matter how hard sin fights against you, and no matter how many battles it wins, if you are in Christ, sin doesn’t stand a chance against you. Because Jesus died on the cross in your place, you will never have to face God’s wrath. He was condemned, so there is no condemnation for you. He became sin. You receive righteousness. Sin doesn’t stand a chance against you because you are united to the one that condemned sin. Nothing provides more freedom and hope to fight sin than knowing God’s wrath has been fully absorbed by Christ and there is none left for you. Justification not only leads to sanctification, it fuels it.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.


Who Will Deliver Me From This Body of Death?: The Slow Death of Sin

pexels-photo-167964A cry for help is unmistakable. My son, Jude, cries a lot. Anyone who keeps him in the nursery understands this. He is also loud. He laughs loud, babbles loud, and cries loud. As his parents, Erica and I can tell the difference between his real cries and fake cries. Sometimes he cries just to get our attention. Sometimes he cries because Jack is crying. Sometimes he cries when he’s hungry or sleepy. Sometimes he cries, because, well, I have no idea! Maybe he cries when he’s bored. Who knows! But there are times when Jude cries because something is really, really wrong.

One day, Jude accidentally locked himself in our bedroom. I was on the phone and Erica was fixing lunch when Jude went in our bedroom, shut the door, and turned the lock. Of course, he didn’t know what he was doing, but when he realized that he couldn’t get out, he lost it! He let out an ear-piercing scream that caused Erica to immediately drop what she was doing and run to the door. This cry for help was unlike any of his other cries. It didn’t take us long to get to him, but for those few minutes, Jude was desperately screaming for help.

After passionately describing the struggle Paul continues to have with sin, you can tell he is on the brink of despair. A Christian who is growing in holiness also grows in awareness of sin. The more we obey God, the more we see how much we don’t obey God. This struggle can lead to despair. Soldiers grow weary after fighting battle after battle after battle with no end in sight. Paul feels the weight of sin’s power and the flesh’s deceit, and cries out in desperation, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The deliverance Paul is crying out for is not related to justification. Paul sees himself as a wretched man because he has realized he cannot escape his sinful nature. As Tim Keller has said, “The more holy you become, the less holy you will feel.” This seems to be the experience of Paul at the end of Romans 7. The He is not crying out for a justifier. He is crying out for a final deliverer. He is groaning inwardly for the final and complete redemption of our mortal bodies. He is longing for the day when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on the immortal (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Your fight against sin within yourself will cause you to long for the day when your desires and actions are no longer divided. You will one day always and perfectly do what you want to do and you will never do the thing you hate.

While longing and groaning inwardly for the day when sin and temptation are no more could conceivably lead to despair in the moment, the purpose of such yearning is to increase our confidence in the hope of Christ’s work on our behalf. In World War II, D-Day was considered the effectual end of the war even though fighting would continue for another year. Once Nazi Germany was faced with a closing two-front war, defeat was inevitable. But harsh fighting raged on. In fact, as the Red Army surrounded Berlin, Hitler sent the youngest boys and oldest men to defend the city. Evil tyrants die hard, and they don’t go down without a fight. Sin and Satan have been conquered on the D-Day of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb, their defeat was sealed. But they have not surrendered. Sin and Satan will continue to fight until they are tossed into a burning lake of fire. Until that day there will be an ever-increasing tension between who we once were in Adam and who we now are in Christ. Only the continual presence of Jesus Christ can solve the problem of sin in the life of a believer. Though sin’s penalty and power have been vanquished in the cross of Christ, the presence of sin is waiting final destruction. Jesus delivers us from sin now by pardoning us before God and empowering us to win our battles with sin. And Jesus will one day deliver us from the presence of sin forever.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Struggle is Real: Indwelling Sin and the Fight Against It

fightWhy did you become a Christian? I’m not talking about the underlying work of God to regenerate your heart. I mean, what was your motivation to follow Jesus? Of course, God has drawn you by his grace to himself. But what was it about the gospel that caused you to turn from your sin and trust Christ? There are many people who come to Christ for all the wrong reasons. We must be careful, because coming to Christ for the wrong reason could mean you haven’t come to Christ at all.

One of the most common wrong reasons for coming to Christ is comfort. If you became a Christian because you were looking for an easy life, you will be sadly mistaken. The Christian life is hard, not because of any outward struggle against other people. The Christian life is hard because of the inward struggle that exists within each person who is being remade in the image of Christ.

Romans 7:14-23 is a vivid description of the inner struggle of every believer. Even though we have died to sin and have been given a “new self,” sin still dwells within us. Sin will continue to dwell within us until we die or Christ returns. To use big theological words, sin will remain in us throughout our sanctification and will only flee our bodies when we are glorified. We walk in victory over sin and death, but not perfectly. We fail to perfectly triumph over sin.

In light of what I believe to be a genuine struggle with the flesh and indwelling sin in the life of a mature believer in Romans 7, it’s important to make a distinction between struggling with sin and succumbing to sin. Paul seems to give us an example of a normal Christian’s experience. Paul’s battle with the flesh rages on because the closer he has drawn to God, the more keenly aware of his sin he has become, which means it is normal for a Christian to struggle against sin.

The more we grow in holiness, the more we will grow in awareness of our sin. And the more aware we are of sin, the more we will fight against it in our inner being. Christians struggle with sin. We are not perfect people who are morally superior to non-Christians. The desires we have to do good and to live righteously are at times thwarted by the flesh. We desire to do good, a desire that comes from the God-wrought work of regeneration. But sometimes our actions don’t always match up with our desires.

What happens when a Christian, who is no longer a slave to sin, capitulates to sin? Believers have been set free from the power of sin, so what does it mean for a Christian to sin? Is a sinning believer a contradiction? No. The tormenting reality of the Christian life is that we are currently living in the eschatological “already, not yet.” It’s important to remember that we are free from the penalty of sin in justification; we are free from the power of sin in sanctification; but we are not free from the presence of sin until glorification.

We await full and complete redemption. We await the removal and destruction of indwelling sin. But as we wait, we struggle. We fight. We war within ourselves until we die or Christ returns. So, the Christian life doesn’t end with the removal of sin on this earth. We don’t reach a state of moral perfection, perfected sanctification, or glorification during our lives on earth.Therefore, it is normal for Christians to sin, so long as they are fighting against it.

However, it is categorically abnormal for a Christian to live in unrepentant sin. It is abnormal for a Christian to habitually succumb to sin. Christians who do not fight against sin aren’t struggling, they are succumbing. This is why I lament small group conversations about ways we are struggling with sin that only describe defeat. If your relationship with sin is only in terms of defeat, you are not telling the story of a Christian. At the beginning of every Life Group, I ask our group to share struggles with sin. But, I clarify that I want them to share ways they are being knocked down by sin and ways they are kicking sin’s butt. This is because indwelling sin is an inherited reality that is not removed even after regeneration. But despite the power of indwelling sin, those of us in Christ have been released from its power and now live as conquerors over sin.

A Christian who habitually succumbs to sin is at best a weak or young Christian who has yet to grasp his new identity in Christ, and at worst he has not been converted. So, how should a Christian respond to indwelling sin? How can we struggle rather than succumb to sin? In the following ways:

  • Love the law of God (Rom. 7:22)
  • Hate personal sins (Rom. 7:15)
  • Refuse to give in.
  • Live in the way of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6; 8:2)
  • Join a church and small group of fellow believers who will help you in the struggle

John Stott once said,

“The Christian life is a life of continual struggle, of victories and defeats, and Christian victory comes only when we totally distrust self, and rely on the provision of God. How frequently we throw works out the front door of justification, and invite them in the back door of sanctification.”

Only Christians can have desires to obey and love the law of God, and even God himself. Christians aren’t people who perfectly conquer sin. Christians are people who refuse to lie in the ruins of defeat. We genuinely struggle against sin without habitually succumbing to sin. We are free to be honest about our struggles with sin because we have access to the power to overcome sin, even when we fail many times along the way.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Don’t Lay Your Crown at the Feet of a Dethroned Dictator

pexels-photo-119562Too much freedom, it has been said, can be dangerous. In fact, in the debates over the abolishment of slavery in the 13th amendment to the Constitution, some leaders who hated slavery were unsure of granting freedom to African-Americans because they weren’t sure what freedom would mean for them. They believed freedom could bring with it more problems than they were ready to handle. Sin is so blinding.

Similar questions could be posed to God, “Isn’t it dangerous to offer grace to rebels? Isn’t it dangerous to set spiritual slaves free? Won’t they only sin more if they know you will forgive them?” Is the freedom of grace dangerous to a person who has been ruled by sin for so long? Should we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?

Paul’s answer is simple and clear enough: “By no means!” Being set free from the power of sin doesn’t mean you have been granted power and privilege to freely sin. By the power of God’s grace in the gospel, you have been set free from the tyranny of sin and its stranglehold on your life. This doesn’t mean you have been set free to openly walk in sin. You have been set free from one kind of slavery into another kind of slavery. We have been set free from slavery to sin and set free to slavery to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). And we cannot serve two masters. Either sin or righteousness. Not both. Nothing but lawlessness (more sin) flows from slavery to sin. But sanctification (more righteousness) flows from slavery to God.

How do you know if your master is sin or righteousness? Ask yourself, “Who do I obey?” Paul says, “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” For the believer, the power of sin is broken, which means we are now free to obey God. Obedience to sin for the Christian is a return to an old kind of slavery that maims, steals, and kills. Sin robs God’s people of joy in him. But Christians are not under the yoke of slavery to sin any longer. So, who do you obey? Sin, which leads to death. Or righteousness, which leads to life.

Christian, God has freely provided his grace in Christ to release you from the tyranny of sin. He has pardoned you from the guilt of sin and he has unshackled you from the power of sin. Rather than trampling over God’s grace through willful or neglectful disobedience, resolve yourself today to trample over sin through concerted and intentional acts of obedience. Growing in grace means learning to live as a free man or woman. Your relationship with your former master will feel strange. He’s still there. He still tries to assert control over your life. For so long it was just natural to give in to him. But now, his commands are null and void. They are empty orders from a trounced tyrant.

One day God’s people will fully reign in power with Christ the King for all eternity. But that reign has already begun. By your divinely declared righteousness on the merit of Christ’s work on your behalf, your coronation over sin and death has begun. Don’t lay your crown at the feet of a dethroned dictator. Sin will never stop demanding your allegiance, but so long as you are connected to Christ, you will never have to bow at its feet.

Walk in the liberating power of God’s grace today. Conquer sin and obey Christ.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Who’s First?: The Relationship Between Faith and Repentance


One of the controversies within The Marrow Controversy, which Sinclair Ferguson has recently dedicated an entire book to explore, is the relationship between faith and repentance. The historic controversy that fueled disagreement and dissent in Reformed Scottish churches some 300 years ago revolved around whether or not repentance precedes faith. In other words, should Jesus Christ–as he is revealed in the gospel–be offered to those who show no signs of repentance? Is it possible to come to Christ without first turning from sin? Where does repentance logically fall in the economy of the gospel? Before or after faith?

Historically, those who have answered that repentance is not necessary for the gospel to be proclaimed or even intellectually and willfully accepted have been accused of antinomianism. Conversely, those who have answered that repentance is necessary for the gospel to be proclaimed and received have been labeled as legalists. In his new book, The Whole Christ, Ferguson deals with the historical, theological, and biblical implications of this issue thoroughly.

The relationship between faith and repentance and where they fall in the ordo salutis isn’t a conversation merely fit for ivory towers and seminary classrooms. Understanding the relationship between faith and repentance drastically impacts the preaching, teaching, and evangelistic ministries of the church. It also takes a right understanding of God’s grace to stand in reverent awe of God’s glory. Understanding God’s sovereign grace in rescuing his people from sin produces Godward adoration. Seeing a big God of booming grace is fuel for the fire of personal holiness and living a God-centered life. So, considering the implications of the relationship between faith and repentance is practically useful for every Christian.

Let’s consider the relationship between faith and repentance for a moment. There is a natural tendency for us to see repentance as a necessary precursor to faith. After all, when we see how good God is in comparison to how bad we are, shouldn’t this cause us to desire to turn from sin and embrace Christ? In order to run to Christ, don’t we first need to turn from our sin?

First, it is important to remember that turning from sin and trusting Christ occur (experientially) instantaneously. The Christian does not know repentance of sin or faith in Christ without the other. Neither is merely an instantaneous action, though. Repentance and faith mark the whole life of a Christian. Ferguson puts it this way:

Repentance is not a discrete external act; it is the turning round of the whole life in faith in Christ…Repentance then is not the punctiliar decision of a moment but a radical heart transformation that reverses the whole direction of life. In the context of faith the repentant sinner is immediately, fully, and finally justified–at the very beginning of the Christian life (The Whole Christ, 100).

There is so much rich truth in that quotation. Repentance and faith begin in an instantaneous moment. But they do not end there. Repentance and faith only end when faith becomes sight and sin is no more. The key issue in the relationship between repentance and faith is whether a volitional act (repentance) can be accomplished apart from the reception of God’s saving grace through saving faith. In other words, can repentance live outside the garden of faith? The Westminster Divines, including Thomas Boston, as well as John Calvin before them would answer emphatically, “Absolutely not!”

True repentance cannot exist outside of true faith in Christ. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, it is only “upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ” that sinners repent of sin. Calvin would write, “Both repentance and forgiveness of sins–that is, newness of life and free reconciliation–are conferred on us by Christ, and both are attained by us through faith.” And with surgical precision, Thomas Boston declared, “In a word, gospel repentance doth not go before, but comes after remission of sin, in the order of nature.”

True repentance cannot exist independently and true faith won’t! For while repentance never precedes faith, it always follows it. Faith motivates repentance. Boston wrote, “Faith then directly grasps the mercy of God in him, and as it does so the life of repentance is inaugurated as its fruit.” Faith is the heart’s glad apprehension of Christ in the gospel, and it is always pregnant with repentance. The heart that is awakened and resurrected to see Christ as a superior treasure has been given new tastes. Sin has for the first time become distasteful to the palette of the soul. And our hearts have had their inaugural good taste of Christ in the gospel.

God is only desired and sin is only despised when the heart receives Christ in his fullness as Savior, Lord, and Treasure. In the words of Edward Fisher,

Sorrow and grief for displeasing God by sin, necessarily argue the love of God; and it is impossible we should ever love God, till by faith we know ourselves loved of God.

No man can turn to God, except he be first turned of God; and after he is turned, he repents…The truth is, a repentant sinner first believes that God will do that which he promiseth, namely, pardon his sin, and take away his iniquity; then he rests in the hope of it; and from that, and for it, he leaves sin, and will forsake his old course, because it is displeasing to God; and will do that which is pleasing and acceptable to him. So that first of all, God’s favor is apprehended, and remission of sins believed; then upon that cometh alteration of life and conversion.

First, we believe that God will do what he promises to do in Christ, pardon our sin by his propitiation. Then, and only then, will we “forsake our old course” and find our sin utterly displeasing to both God and ourselves. Seeing repentance as the fruit of faith results in three implications:

1. Your standing with God is not on the basis of a volitional act of morality or mortification of sin

God’s grace is conferred in the gospel to sinners through saving faith, which is the reception of the gift of God’s grace in Christ. True faith is a glad reception of Christ. It is the product of regeneration–God’s work in giving life to a dead heart. God is not waiting for you to act in a particularly penitent way before uniting you to himself. God saves you in Christ by his grace and through faith.

2.You do not have to wait for signs of repentance before sharing the gospel

Those who have freely received Christ freely offer Christ indiscriminately. It is Christ who saves! Faith is the heart’s glad reception of the whole Christ and all he has done for sinners. The ordo salutis has great evangelistic implications. If you are waiting for signs of repentance before offering Christ, you will likely rarely offer Christ. But because faith precedes repentance, we know the only way for a person to be truly transformed is for them to see and savor the Christ of the gospel. So, offer Christ indiscriminately, knowing that God’s grace in the gospel creates faith, which produces true repentance unto life.

3. If you have trusted Christ you have the power to turn from sin

Because faith precedes repentance and repentance is a necessary fruit of faith, sin has no power over you. Before you trusted Christ, sin had total dominion over you. You were never truly sorrow for your sin. You never adequately desired God or pursued holiness. But after you saw Christ and delighted in what you saw, which is the act of saving faith, sin’s grip has been eternally loosed by the power of the cross. Your life can now be a continuous work of trusting and turning. As Calvin has said, “A man cannot apply himself seriously to repentance without knowing himself to belong to God. But no one is truly persuaded that he belongs to God unless he has first recognized God’s grace.”

Only through the “explosives power of a new affection” will a sinner have a life marked by trusting Christ and turning from sin. This new affection is the product of God’s grace, received by faith, and played out in repentance and obedience.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Shock of Sin and Grace in the Life of a Leader

pexels-photo-26691It’s always difficult to see someone you really respect fall deep into sin. Even the slightest accusation of moral failure in someone you respect changes the way you look at them forever. When we see crucial authority figures in our lives fall into sin, we struggle to trust not only that person, but that position in the future. If you catch one of your parents having an affair, you will struggle to ever trust them again. And you will also have a negative view of marriage, which likely means it will affect your own marriage if unchecked. If you hear about your pastor, teacher, or coach indulging in sin, your trust in them and their position will be shaken. It is so hard to think about people you respect sinning so deeply. It’s one thing to know we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but it’s quite another to see sin creep out of the hearts of those we most respect.

I think about popular pastors who have recently been relieved of pastoral duties due to moral or leadership failures. There was a literal shockwave that ran through my social media feeds when Darrin Patrick and Perry Noble were outed for deep, latent sin in their lives and ministries. In our celebrity pastor culture, it is easy to forget that even the most charismatic leader is not immune to sin. I have lamented the number of times I’ve seen “This doesn’t surprise me” or, “I told you so” in response to the meteoric fall of evangelical leaders like Driscoll, Tchividjian, Patrick, Noble, and others. There is no place in the church for this kind of proud posturing. The shock of sin has drastic immediate and long-term effects on a church when one of her leaders falls.

I believe the life of David is a testament to the shock of sin and grace in the life of a leader. There are many lessons to be learned from David’s fall into sin, but two that help us when leaders in our lives sin revolve around the shock and awe of sin and grace.

David was a man after God’s heart and handpicked by the Lord to lead Israel as king. God even promised that David’s kingly line would culminate in a kingdom that would never end. One day, a Davidic King would sit on his throne and never give it up. David was righteous and desired to obey the Lord. But, David surprised his own people and even us by falling into a deep spiral of sin. He fell for a woman who was not his wife, and was in fact someone else’s wife! Then, in an attempt to cover his sin, David had the woman’s (Bathsheba) husband (Uriah) killed. David gave in to temptation and brought everyone around him down with him. Failing to kill his sin led him to continue in his sin. Instead of confessing his sin and trusting God to cover it with his grace, David tried to cover his sin by killing another man.

Despite David’s shocking downward spiral into dark sin, God’s shows him tremendous mercy. When David was confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet, he confessed his sin to God and received his compassion. David shares what this experience was like in Psalm 51. There are a couple things that do surprise us about David’s sin and God’s grace that really shouldn’t.

First, we are surprised that a man like David can sin the way he did. While we should expect to grow in Christlikeness throughout our Christian life, sin remains in our hearts until we die or Christ returns. Anyone is capable of dreadful sinful actions, because the dreaded enemy of sin has invaded the heart of every person. So, don’t be surprised when you or people you respect sin. Sin should always be unwanted, but it should never been unexpected.

It is a sign of either a healthy or deceived church when the people are shocked when a pastor falls into sin. It is healthy, in one sense, to be shocked at deep sin in the life of a pastor. Christians are on a path of righteousness. They are being conformed into the image of Christ. Day by day, sin is being rooted out of their hearts. However, sanctification isn’t an overnight process. It is a lifelong process. There are many battles–some won, others lost. But, we fight knowing the war has been won by Christ on the cross as he defeated the dominions of darkness and death. While we should expect sin to still be in the heart and life of ourselves and our leaders, our hearts should be broken and in one sense shocked by unrepentant sin in the life of leaders.

Second, we are surprised that God would show David such compassion in the midst of his deep and dark sin. But, we know the character of God. He is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). We should never be surprised at God’s grace, but we should always be amazed by it. Learn from David’s sin and God’s grace that covering your own sin with more sin will never satisfy. However, trusting God’s grace in the cross of Christ to cover your sin will always satisfy.

As deep as sin goes in the human heart, the grace of God in the gospel goes even deeper. Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, Darrin Patrick, Perry Noble, and any other Christian leader who has fallen into deep sin has not exhausted the riches of God’s grace in Christ. The tank of God’s benevolence toward them isn’t on empty. It is as full as it has always been. And assuming these men are in Christ, there is a fountain of mercy and forgiveness for the mountain of sin they have allowed to grow.

The fall of leaders in our lives is devastating. It is detrimental to the influence of a local church and the Church as a whole. No one is helped when a pastor bullies his way to power, commits an affair, or launders money from the church fund. We should guard our hearts from the treacherous lure of sin, knowing that none of us are beyond a Davidic descent into a pit of sin. But we should always marvel at the grace of God, which he bestows on unworthy and fallen sinners like us. As devastating as the fall of broken leaders is, the restoration of repentant leaders by God’s grace is an incomparably sweet reality. Whenever you see a leader in your life fail morally and fall into sin, don’t point your fingers and shake your head in arrogant self-aggrandizement. Instead, bow your head in humble prayer that God would restore these men to himself and their people.

God pursues us in his grace like a relentless mother searching for her lost son at the mall. He will not rest until his children are found! And for those of us in Christ, he will bring to completion the work he began in us (Phil. 1:6).

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Morning Mashup 12/12

Theology and Pastoral Ministry – An excellent piece on the relationship between theological study and the pastorate.

7 Errors to Avoid in Following Christ – Each of these are very helpful.

7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture – This is a great post to help Christians think through the Senate report on the torture of terrorists following 9/11.

The Gospel According to Peanuts – How the Charlie Brown Christmas Special almost didn’t happen. Don’t miss this!

19 Secrets of UPS Drivers – I came across this interesting article on Challies’ blog. I’m glad I did. Lists like this one are too fun.

How Reading Fiction Can Help You Live a Better Life – The kids I minister to hear me advocate for the reading of fiction, a lot! Some of the reasons are found in this article.

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos – Anyone other than me have this problem?

To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labor, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes. —Charles Spurgeon

Morning Mashup 10/01

Had Sex, Dumped Jesus – Study shows that people leave Jesus in the dust after they lose their virginity. A sobering word from Joel Miller.

Why Ebola Isn’t a Matter to Joke About – With a case of the Ebola virus being discovered in Dallas, this disease hits more to home for many more Americans. Check out this startling information about the virus and pray to end Ebola.

No Coasting Into Christlikeness – Don Whitney: “We aren’t merely to wait for holiness, we’re to pursue it.”

From Mars Hill to Me – What causes a pastor to move from simply being a popular pastor, to being a celebrity pastor?

9 Things You Should Know About Atheism – Joe Carter with some things you should know about atheism.

Five Questions with a Former Muslim – Here is an excellent interview with Nabeel Qureshi, a former devout Muslim from a Pakistani-American family.

Read yourself full, think yourself clear, pray yourself hot, let yourself go. –J.I. Packer

Sanctification and False Teachers

20131112 Warning ContentsThe profitable function of Scripture bears witness to its divine nature. In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul writes that “Bodily training is a little profitable, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” This godliness that has value in every way is explained as coming directly from Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Godliness or holiness is forged in the fire of Holy Writ.
God-breathed Scripture is the tool that is used by the Holy Spirit to continually shape us and morph us into the image of Jesus Christ, who is the very image of God. Paul has written elsewhere, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). This means that one striking purpose of our salvation is to be like Christ. Paul is going to show Timothy how Scripture is holistically useful and profitable in his life in order for him to be complete as a man of God—to be like Christ.

So, Scripture is not only supreme in our lives, but it is also sufficient for our sanctification. Paul looks into Timothy’s situation that is filled with false teachers and believers with itching ears who want their sinful passions suited and grounds him in the supreme and sufficient Scripture. Through our Spirit-wrought regeneration and initial saving faith in Christ, which primarily comes through the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:15), we are converted, justified, and adopted. However, we are commanded to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Paul tells Timothy that the primary way for him to do this, in order to be complete, and equipped for every good work, is through Scripture. Paul views Scripture as being useful text by text. Paul gives four ways that Scripture is “profitable” for our sanctification in verses 16-17.

The question I want to pose is this:

Is it possible to be sanctified, to grow in Christ, from the ministries of false teachers?

I have heard many well-meaning Christians say they may not agree with everything Joel Osteen says, but he is just so inspirational. There are many well-meaning Christians who say they are greatly helped by Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and others who so blatantly disregard or deny clear doctrinal truth. In the coming years, more and more popular pastors and Christian leaders will (regrettably so) cave on ethical issues like gay “marriage.” Will Christians be able to grow in Christlikeness from the preaching of pastors who ignore, belittle, disregard, or deny God’s word?

Teaching God’s Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching. The Bible is our supreme source of knowledge and the sole basis through which we glean doctrinal truth. The way for Timothy to recognize and expose false teaching is for him to allow himself to be taught by Scripture. Our hope in Christ is dependent on the fact that the Scripture teaches us in all things true and holy (Rom. 15:4). All of our beliefs about Christ must be based solely on Scripture. In our day, as in the past, the doctrine of the atonement known as penal substitution has been challenged. Did Jesus really bear the wrath of God on the cross in the place of sinners? Or is this a theory developed in the Reformation that teaches so-called, “divine child-abuse?”

The way for us to discern this doctrine is to run to Scripture and immerse ourselves in it. The teachings of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and others must stand against the word of God. They can truthfully be labeled false teachers because of their denial of doctrinal truths that Scripture teaches us. It is the standard of doctrinal truth and the litmus test for doctrinal error. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching. We would do well to teach it without fail in our church and in our homes.

The Bible is distinctively Christo-centric. Jesus is the crux and the focal point of the Bible. Scripture teaches us about Christ and the means through which to be reconciled to God through him. Indeed, Scripture teaches us to make us wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). Because the Bible is sufficient to teach us, we must guard against adding anything to it. The greatest thing that the Bible teaches us is the truth, content, and proper response to the gospel. However, in the 21st century American church, we have belittled the gospel by not speaking of it in the terms that Scripture uses. It is tremendously tempting to create euphemisms to speak of sin and salvation. We speak of mistakes rather than sin. We talk about inviting Jesus into our hearts rather than repentance and faith. False teaching and false believing flourish when well-meaning Christians use cliché when speaking of biblical reality rather than biblical language.

Do we really think we are capable of presenting the gospel in a way that is superior to the God-breathed Scripture?

Glorious Purpose of Scripture

Paul ends this text (2 Tim. 3:16-17) with the purpose of the Scripture’s nature and function in Timothy’s life and in our lives. Scripture is supreme in nature and sufficient in function in order that Timothy would be complete, equipped for every good work. This is the profitable effect of Scripture. Paul says to Timothy, “My beloved child, you belong to God, so continue in the all-supreme and all-sufficient Word of God and you will be complete.” And this is for us in the 21st century. Scripture works godliness in us by the power of the Spirit. Meditation on and memorization of Scripture is the means of grace through which godliness is wrought in us in every area of our lives that we who belong to God may be complete.

This Spirit-wrought profitable effect of God-breathed Scripture is for men and women of God to be equipped for every good work. The Greek word indicates completeness and can be understood as being “super-equipped.” I have found no better description of this phrase than in the words of John Piper. Piper writes,

The Scripture, day after day, reveals to us the greatness and the beauty and the power and the wisdom and the mercy of all that God is for us in Christ so that by the power of the Spirit we find our joy in him, and the ways of sin become distasteful—indeed ugly and repugnant. Yes the Bible gives us many specifics as pointers how to live. But most deeply the way the Bible equips us for every good work is by changing what we find satisfaction in so that our obedience comes from within freely, not by coercion from without. It does this when we read it and meditate on it and memorize it and meditate over it every day.

Through our daily dose of Scripture we are fully equipped through our satisfaction in the God that we see and savor that we can defeat sin and endure suffering to the glory of God. We need teaching that is infused with the power of God’s word.

Stunted Spiritual Growth

Paul is clear that sanctification comes through the teaching of the God-breathed Scriptures. Spiritual growth is stunted from the false teaching of those who deny the essential doctrines within the primary means for sanctification. Christian, you will not grow in Christlikeness from the ministries of false teachers. You will not grow in Christlikeness through preaching that is devoid of the word of God. To be blunt, charismatic preachers like Osteen and the rest may entertain and inspire you, but they will do more for the detriment of your soul than anyone else. The most dangerous kind of predator is the one that attacks in camouflage

Evaluate your preaching pastor. Is he preaching the word of God as it was intended by God? Your soul is on the line. Sit under teaching, of course. But sit under teaching that is consistent with the God-breathed Scriptures. Beware false teachers who belittle God’s word. You will only grow in Christ through the nourishment that comes from Christ-centered, Bible-saturated teaching.

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. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 08/15

10 articles ranging from reaction to the Michael Brown shooting to cold water challenges. Enter your weekend informed, edified, and enlightened. Have a great Friday!

Ripping the Bandages Off Our Racial Wounds – Trevin Wax: “But make no mistake. Privilege is real, and so is oppression. We live in the same country, in different worlds. The town of Ferguson is speaking up; this is the time to listen, and pray for justice.”

Ferguson, Why We Need More Multi-Ethnic Churches – Derwin Gray: “We don’t know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, but what we do know is that black evangelicals and white evangelicals interpret these types of situations very differently. What if black and white evangelicals attended multi-ethnic churches instead of segregated ones? If this Christ-exalting life were to become our reality, we could address racism, oppression, and injustice together. What if black and white evangelicals and other evangelical ethnicities shared life with each other in a local church community and heard each other’s stories and walked in each other shoes?”

Michael Brown and Black Men – Charles Blow of The New York Times: “The killing of Michael Brown has tapped into something bigger than Michael Brown.”

Name of Police Officer in Brown Shooting to Be Released – “On Friday, police in Ferguson plan to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, a source close to the investigation told CNN.” Praying for peace and justice in Ferguson.

Does God View Your Good Works as Filthy Rags? – What does God think of our good works after we are saved? Michael Kruger gives a biblically faithful answer.

Ignorance is Not Excused – Ian Hammond: “The Christians that comprise the dominant culture group are ignorant of many of their offenses to the subdominant culture. This is not an excuse; this is a reality. This is a reality that requires repentance. The Bible is very clear that ignorance does not mean innocence. Ignorant sin is still sin.”

Robin Williams – Heath Lambert: “Robin Williams’s passing serves as a tragic reminder of the urgent need to help troubled people overwhelmed with sorrow.  Christians must respond to Williams’s death with grief over the loss of a precious life.  We must also respond with resolve.  People with depression need many things.  They need medical care.  They need relationships full of love and accountability.”

What the Church and Christians Need to Know About Mental Health – I read many articles about suicide, depression, and mental health in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ suicide, and this one by Ann Voskamp is as important as any of them for churches and Christians.

The Cold, Hard Truth About the Ice Bucket Challenge – William MacAskill: “So, sure, pour a bucket of water over yourself, or go bungee jumping, or lie in a bathtub of beans, whatever. But only do these things if you connect these fundraisers with meaningful behavior change, otherwise your campaign, even if seemingly fantastically successful, could be doing more harm than good.”

Mars Hill Church Cancels The Resurgence Conference – The conference was set to feature Mark Driscoll, J.I. Packer, Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and more. The conference has been canceled due to “unforeseen changes to our speaker lineup.”

If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him lest there be two bad men. –Augustine