Possessions delude the human heart into believing that they provide security and a worry-free existence, but in truth they are the very cause of worry. For the heart that is fixed on possessions, they come with a suffocating burden of worry. Worries lead to treasure, and treasure leads back to worry. We want to secure our lives through possessions; through worry we want to be come worry free, but the truth turns out to be the opposite. The shackles that bind us to possessions, that hold us fast to possessions, are themselves worries. The misuse of possessions consist in our using them for security for the next day. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. In the strictest sense, however, possessions are intended only for today. It is precisely the securing of tomorrow that makes me so insecure today. “Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matt. 6:34b). Only those who place tomorrow in God’s hands and receive what they need to live today are truly secure. Receiving daily liberates us from tomorrow. Thought for tomorrow delivers us up to endless worry.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger, p. 82.
When the old Christendom spoke of the coming again of the Lord Jesus, it always thought first of all of a great day of judgment. And as un-Christmas-like as this idea may appear to us, it comes from early Christianity and must be take with utter seriousness…The coming of God is truly not only a joyous message, but is, first, frightful news for anyone who has a conscience. And only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor: God comes in the midst of evil, in the midst of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And in judging it, he loves us, he purifies us, he sanctifies she comes to us with his grace and love. He makes us happy as only children can be happy.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger, p. 8.
Nothing is quite so fallacious as to think of sin only in terms of actions; and as long as we think of sin only in terms of things actually done, we fail to understand it. The essence of biblical teaching on sin is that ti is essentially a disposition. It is a state of heart. I suppose we can sum it up by saying that sin is ultimately self-worship and self-adulation; and our Lord shows (what to me is an alarming and terrifying thing) that this tendency on our part to self-adulation is something that follows us even into the very presence of God. It sometimes produces this result; that even when we try to persuade ourselves that we are worshipping God, we are actually worshipping ourselves and doing nothing more.
– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 301.
Just finished reading The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop (a very helpful book, by the way), and in the final chapter the authors provide a number of questions meant to help assess the character of your church that I thought were well chosen:
- Is your congregation clear on the gospel? If you were to ask random members of your congregation what the good news of the cross is, how would they answer your question? There’s no reason eave a congregation of new believers couldn’t be able to do this well. But in many of our churches, we’re not there.
- Is your congregation telling others the gospel? Church planting is the natural result of evangelism, and it won’t work well without it.
- Do your church members teach God’s Word to each other? Is yours a church culture where it’s normal to encourage each other with Scripture?
- Does your congregation take their responsibility seriously to guard each other from sin? Are those conversations both honest and grace-exalting?
- Is most of the pastoring in your church done by the congregation? Is it unusual for a pastoral problem to come to your attention where ordinary members of the congregation are not already at work?
- Do you already see a breadth and depth of relationships that cannot be explained by natural bonds alone? Have these types of relationships come to characterize your congregation?
- Does your congregation trust its leadership? Or is it still typical that disunity erupts when leaders make a challenging decision?
The sovereign freedom of God. Ancient paganism thought of each god as bound to his worshipers by bonds of self-interest, because he depended on their serviced gifts for his welfare. Modern paganism has at the back of its mind a similar feeling that God is somehow obliged to love and help us, little though we deserve it. This was the feeling voiced by the French freethinking who died muttering, “God will forgive – that his job (c’est son metier).” But this feeling is not well-founded. The God fo the Bible does not depend on his human creatures for his well-being (see Psalm 50:8-13; Acts 17:25), nor, now that we have sinned, is he bound to show us favor.
We can only claim from him justice – and justice, for us, means certain condemnation. God does not owe it to anyone to stop justice taking its course. He is not obliged to pity and pardon; if eh does so it is an act done, as we say, “of his own free will,” and nobody forces his hand. “It does not depend on man’s will or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16 NEB). Grace is free, in the sense of being self-originated and of proceeding from One who was free not to be gracious. Only when it is seen that what decides each individual’s destiny is whether or not God resolves to save him from his sins, and that this is a decision which God need not take in any single case, can one begin to grasp the biblical view of grace.
– Knowing God, pp. 131-132.