Why we should want someone to become a Christian

There are positive reasons and negative reasons why we would want someone to become a Christian; things that would be good for that person and things to avoid. Here are the positive reasons, the negative are the flip side of each of these. Some of these a Christian will only know imperfectly now, but will know perfectly in the new creation.  We can use these as we pray for others.

These aren’t in any order of priority.

1. They will be forgiven and not face God’s anger at their rebellion against him.
2. They will be adopted into his family as his sons and daughters, knowing him as their heavenly Father.
3. They will have the gift of the Holy Spirit living in them, experiencing the presence of Jesus Christ.
4. They will experience the power of the Holy Spirit in them enabling them to break the hold of sin over them.
5. They will become part of the family of God, belonging to the global, and a local, church, experiencing fellowship.
6. They will live to bring God glory.
7. They will have eternal life, being with God forever.
8. They will know satisfaction in God.
9. They will have a clear conscience.
10. They will have a purpose in life.
11. They will have hope for their future, whatever their circumstances are now.
12. They will know God’s creating, saving, Fatherly love for them.
13. They will know the truth.
14. It pleases God!
15. They will be able to pray, to talk with their heavenly Father.
16. They will have confidence in the promises made to Christians in the Bible.
17. God’s Kingdom will grow.


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Church unity – Biblical Church Revitalization – Brian Croft


Over the last few months I’ve read a few books on church life including this one by Brian Croft.  I think it is more relevant to the American context than the UK but I loved the following story (pages 87-89)

“Lasting spiritual life comes through a pursuit of God’s design for His church. It is when the older teach and mentor the younger; when the younger seek the older for wisdom and godly examples; when men and women embrace their unique roles with other men and women; when black, white, rich, poor, slaves, and masters unite under the reality of having been saved by the blood of Christ in the power of the gospel. Where that unity is found, life comes with it. 

A turning point in the revitalization work in our church came on a Saturday morning work day. One of our young single brothers from Scotland, Mike, chose to work outside, trimming shrubs with an older couple and long-time members in the church, Howard and Mae. My first concern with this scenario was that Mike was from Scotland and has an accent that reflects it. 

Mae-let’s just say she’s not from Scotland. She’s from Kentucky! Mae has been working hard to plant trees and shrubs at our church longer than Mike has been alive. Additionally, Mike had quite a bit of experience trimming shrubs back in Scotland, so there was another legitimate concern that he may not receive well the instruction from Mae about how to do this. Mae likes to give instruction on these things. They worked all morning together and I had heard nothing. 

Lunch ended. Mike and I went outside to look at the shrubs. As he showed me the fruit of his labors Mike went on and on about how much he loved getting to work with Howard and Mae. He talked about how much he learned about the history of the church from them and what was going on when this tree was planted and that bush was placed in the ground. That was a relief, but I had yet to talk to Mae. 

The next morning was Sunday. Just before the service started, Mae walks up to me with a big smile on her face and said, ‘Boy, I really like that Mike! He is a good worker! I don’t understand much that he says, but I like him a lot.’ Do you see the unifying power of the gospel in that? Here are two people of different age, gender, social-economic class, and even nationality who could find all kinds of reasons to dislike the other. And yet they are unified because of their love for Christ and our church. With spiritual eyes they are able to look upon the other, see the value they are to one another, and embrace God’s design for the local church. 

So, who is my brother/sister? It is first and foremost any person who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and has been transformed by the power of the gospel. It is a sinner saved by God’s grace who may be of a different generation, different race or ethnic group. It may be someone who lives on the other side of the tracks from you or speaks a different language than you. It may be your boss, or one of your lowly employees. A church that needs revitalization needs to take a hard look at this question, Who are the kinds of people who are not welcome in our church? Dying, divided churches cannot find true, lasting spiritual life if they are not willing to receive and love all those who belong to Christ. Regardless of how different someone may be from us, if they belong to Christ-they are your brother or sister. God’s design is that this motley crew of God’s redeemed people come under the one banner of ‘Christ and Him crucified’ and experience a love and fellowship that magnifies the true unifying power of the gospel.”

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That Incredible Christian AW Tozer – the importance of self-judgment.

This book is a collection of editorials written by AW Tozer in the 1960s, but most are just as relevant today.  Some remind me of Tim Keller’s way of thinking, such as the following article – the importance of self-judgment (pages 115-118) – which helps us see think through our idolatries, without mentioning the word.

“Hardly anything else reveals so well the fear and uncertainty among men as the length to which they will go to hide their true selves from each other and even from their own eyes.

Almost all men live from childhood to death behind a semi-opaque curtain, coming out briefly only when forced by some emotional shock and then retreating as quickly as possible into hiding again. The result of this lifelong dissimulation is that people rarely know then neighbours for what they really are, and worse than that, the camouflage is so successful that mostly they do not quite know themselves either.

Self-knowledge is so critically Important to us In our pursuit of God and His righteousness that we lie under heavy obligation to do immediately whatever is necessary to remove the disguise and permit our real selves to be known. It is one of the supreme tragedies in religion that so many of us think so highly of ourselves when the evidence lies all on the other side; and our self-admiration effectively blocks out any possible effort to discover a remedy for our condition. Only the man who knows he is sick will go to a physician.

Now, our true moral and spiritual state can be disclosed only by the Spirit and the Word. The final judgement of the heart is God’s. There is a sense in which we dare not judge each other (Mt 7:1-5), and in which we should not even try to judge ourselves (1 Cor 4:3). The ultimate judgement belongs to the one whose eyes are like a flame of fire and who sees quite through the deeds and thoughts of men. I for one am glad to leave the final word with Him.

There is, nevertheless, a place for self-judgement and a real need that we exercise it (1 Cor 11:31, 32). While our self-discovery is not likely to be complete and our self-judgement is almost certain to be biased and imperfect, there is yet every good reason for us to work along with the Holy Spirit in His benign effort to locate us spiritually in order that we may make such amendments as the circumstances demand. That God already knows us thoroughly is certain (Ps 139:1-6). It remains for us to know ourselves as accurately as possible. For this reason I offer some rules for self-discovery; and if the results are not all we could desire they may be at least better than none at all. We may be known by the following:

1. What we want most. We have but to get quiet, recollect our thoughts, wait for the mild excitement within us to subside, and then listen closely for the faint cry of desire. Ask your heart, What would you rather have than anything else in the world? Reject the conventional answer. Insist on the true one, and when you have heard it you will know the kind of person you are.
2. What we think about most. The necessities of life compel us to think about many things, but the true test is what we think about voluntarily. It is more than likely that our thoughts will cluster about our secret heart treasure, and whatever that is will reveal what we are. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
3. How we use our money. Again we must ignore those matters about which we are not altogether free. We must pay taxes and provide the necessities of life for ourselves and family, if any. That is routine, merely, and tells us little about ourselves. But whatever money is left to do with as we please-that will tell us a great deal indeed Better listen to. it.
4. What we do with our leisure time. A large share of our time is -already spoken for by the exigencies of civilised living, but we do have some free time. What we do with it is vital. Most people waste it staring at the television, listening to the radio, reading the cheap output of the press or engaging in idle chatter. What I do with mine reveals the kind of man I am.
5. The company we enjoy. There is a law of moral attraction that draws every man to the society most like himself. ‘Being let go, they went to their own company.’ Where we go when we are free to go where we will is a near-infallible index of character.
6. Whom and what we admire. I have long suspected that the great majority of evangelical Christians, while kept somewhat in line by the pressure of group opinion, nevertheless have a boundless, if perforce secret, admiration for the world. We can learn the true state of our minds by examining our unexpressed admirations. Israel often admired, even envied, the pagan nations around them, and so forgot the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the law and the promises and the fathers. Instead of blaming Israel let us look to ourselves.
7. What we laugh at. No. one with a due regard for the wisdom of God would argue that there is anything wrong with laughter, since humour is a legitimate component of our complex nature. Lacking a sense of humour we fall that much short of healthy humanity. But the test we are running here is not whether we laugh or not, but what we laugh at. Some things lie outside the field of pure humour. No reverent Christian, for instance, finds death funny, nor birth, nor love. No Spirit-filled man can bring himself to laugh at the Holy Scriptures, or the Church which Christ purchased with His own blood, or prayer or righteousness, or human grief or pain. And surely no. one who has been even for a brief moment in the presence of God could ever laugh at a story involving the Deity.
These are a few tests. The wise Christian will find others.

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Why Christians can respond to aggressors with love.

Triumph of the Lamb cover

I have found Dennis Johnson’s commentary on Revelation (Triumph of the Lamb) really helpful as we’ve been looking at Revelation on Sunday evenings.  Discussing the picture of Jesus Christ given in Revelation 19 he quotes from Miroslav Volf who is explaining why Christians can respond to aggressors with love.  I didn’t explain this very well when we looked at the passage so putting it here as further explanation

“Miroslav Volf, reflecting on his Croatian people’s suffering at the hands of Serbian aggressors, concludes that only the biblical confidence that God will bring the unjust to justice at history’s end can enable victims to respond to their attackers with nonviolent grace in the present. “The presupposition of God’s just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it.”; He anticipates, “My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West.” To his objectors he proposes that they imagine themselves lecturing on the thesis “we should not retaliate since God is perfect non-coercive love” to people living in a war zone, whose villages have been plundered and burned, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, and whose fathers and brothers have been murdered. “Soon you will discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die.?’” Page 271

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Ephesians 5: The picture of marriage

Marriage Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund’s book “Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel” looks at what we can learn about marriage through the Bible.  Genesis is clearly foundational but Ephesians 5 is central!  Here is what he writes in one section about the “breathtaking reason why human marriage exists”, page 100.

“here in Ephesians 5, the “Therefore” points back to the fact that we are members of Christ’s body. So then, why do people feel the stirrings of romance and start spending time together and take long walks hand in hand and long for one another when apart and write poetry and sing along to “our song” and fall so head over heels in love that they finally jump into the mega-commitment of marriage? There is a reason for this very human experience. And the reason is not only what God did back in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve but also, and even more, what God has done in uniting Christ with his church. The eternal romance – not, in the final analysis, the love of the couple getting married but the love of Jesus for us and our joyful deference to him – the eternal love story is why God created the universe and why God gave us marriage in Eden and why couples fall in love and get married in the world today. Every time a bride and groom stand there and take their vows, they are reenacting the biblical love story, whether they realize it or not. The Son of God stepping down out of eternity, entering time, taking on flesh, pursuing and winning his bride as his very heart and body with his inmost, sincerest love so that he can fit her to be with him forever above-that dramatic super – reality is the breathtaking reason why human marriage exists. It is truly profound. And Christian married couples have the privilege of making the mystery of the gospel visible in the world today by living out the dynamic interplay of an Ephesians 5 – quality marriage.

We should not think that Christ and the church are the metaphor in this passage, but the reverse. Christ and the church are the reality of realities, and our Christian marriages are the metaphors.”


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I Dared to Call Him Father: Bilquis Sheikh: A good example of dealing with idolatry.

“If opposition to my slowly evolving Christian life was lessening from my family, it was still coming from within me at times. I was yet a very private person, possessive, counting my land and garden my own.

Across the lawn from my house is a road leading to the servants’ quarters. Growing next to this road is a tree called the ber, which has a red fruit similar to the cherry. That summer after the Mitchells left, children from the village (perhaps encouraged by reports of a change in my personal ity) began coming right onto my property to climb the ber and help themselves to its fruit. The intrusion was bad enough, but when their shouts and squeals interrupted my rest time, I leaned out of my window and ordered the gardener to chase the children away. That very day I had the gardener cut the tree down. That would solve the problem permanently!

As soon as the tree was destroyed I realized what I had done. With the tree gone, so was the joy and peace of the Lord’s Presence. For a long time I stood in my window staring at the empty place where it had been. How I wished now that the tree were still there so that I could hear the joyful shouts of the children. I realized what the true Bilquis Sheikh was like. All over again I knew that in my own natural self I would never be different. It was only through the Lord, through His grace, that any change could ever take place.

“Oh Lord,” I said, “let me come back into Your Presence again please!” There was only one thing to do. Scattered throughout my garden were large trees heavy with summer fruit. The very next day I issued an open invitation to the village children to come and enjoy! And they did too. Even though I’m sure they tried to be careful, branches were broken, flowers trod upon.

“I think I see what You’re doing, Lord,” I said one after- noon after the children had gone home, and I was surveying the damage. You found the garden itself to be a place that stood between us. You are weaning me even from the garden! You’ve taken it away to give to others. But look how they were enjoying it! It’s Your garden. I give it up to them with great pleasure. Thank You for using this to bring me back into Your comforting Self.””

Pages 123-124

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The Pursuit of God A.W. Tozer

Some words from a prior age that are just as relevant today, pages 94-98.  It’s a long read for a blog post, but I think it’s worthwhile.

“A satisfactory spiritual life will begin with a complete change in relation between God and the sinner; not a judicial change merely, but a conscious and experienced change affecting the sinner’s whole nature. The atonement in Jesus’ blood makes such a change judicially possible and the working of the Holy Spirit makes it emotionally satisfying. The story of the prodigal son perfectly illustrates this latter phase. He had brought a world of trouble upon himself by forsaking the position which he had properly held as son of his father. At bottom of his restoration was nothing more than a re-establishing of the father-son relation which had existed from his birth and had been altered temporarily by his act of sinful rebellion. This story overlooks the legal aspects of redemption, but it makes beautifully clear the experiential aspects of salvation

In determining relationships we must begin somewhere. There must be somewhere a fixed center against which everything else is measured, where the law of relativity does not enter and we can say “IS” and make no allowances. Such a center is God. When God would make His name known to mankind He could find no better word than “I AM.” When He speaks in the first person He says, “I AM”; when we speak of Him we say, “He is”; when we speak to Him we say, “Thou art.” Everyone and everything else measures from that fixed point. “I AM THAT I AM,” (Exodus 3:14) says God, “I change not” (Malachi 3:6)

As the sailor locates his position on the sea by “shooting” the sun, so we may get our moral bearings by looking at God. We must begin with God. We are right when, and only when, we stand in a right position relative to God, and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigor of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use. We can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is. Some of the most rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead. In those holy moments the very thought of change in Him will be too painful to endure

So let us begin with God. Back of all, above all, be- fore all is God; first in sequential order, above in rank and station, exalted in dignity and honor. As the self-existent One He gave being to all things, and all things exist out of Him and for Him. “Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who and what He is, and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.

The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His. And this not judicially, but actually. I do not here refer to the act of justification by faith in Christ. I speak of a voluntary exalting of God to His proper station over us and a willing surrender of our whole being to the place of worshipful submission which the Creator-creature circumstance makes proper.

The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world’s parade. We shall find ourselves out of adjustment to the ways of the world, and increasingly so as we make progress in the holy way. We shall acquire a new viewpoint; a new and different psychology will be formed within us; a new power will begin to surprise us by its upsurgings and its outgoings.

Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.

“Be thou exalted” (Psalm 21:13) is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is a little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let the seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually, “Be thou exalted,” and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once. His Christian life ceases to be the complicated thing it had been before and becomes the very essence of simplicity. By the exercise of his will he has set his course, and on that course he will stay as if guided by an automatic pilot. If blown off course for a moment by some adverse wind, he will surely return again as by a secret bent of the soul. The hidden motions of the Spirit are working in his favor, and “the stars in their courses” (Judges 5:20) fight for him. He has met his life problem at its center, and everything else must follow along.

Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to his God. He does not by this degrade himself as a man; rather he finds his right place of high honor as one made in the image of his Creator. His deep disgrace lay in his moral derangement, his unnatural usurpation of the place of God. His honor will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all he finds his own highest honor upheld.

Anyone who might feel reluctant to surrender his will to the will of another should remember Jesus’ words, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). We must of necessity be servant to someone, either to God or to sin. The sinner prides himself on his independence, completely overlooking the fact that he is the weak slave of the sins that rule his members. The man who surrenders to Christ exchanges a cruel slave driver for a kind and gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

Made as we were in the image of God, we scarcely find it strange to take again our God as our All. God was our original habitat and our hearts cannot but feel at home when they enter again that ancient and beautiful abode.

I hope it is clear that there is a logic behind God’s claim to preeminence. That place is His by every right in earth or heaven. While we take to ourselves the place that is His, the whole course of our lives is out of joint. Nothing will or can restore order till our hearts make the great decision: God shall be exalted above.”

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