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The Gospel-Driven Tongue

June 6, 2017

The Gospel-Driven Tongue for promotion

This book has its origin in the pulpit of our congregation, Dutton United Reformed Church. From May 2012 to November 2014 I delivered a series of fifty-five expository sermons on the book of James, and five of these sermons were all about the tongue. With the encouragement of Dan Van Dyke, general manager of The Outlook (the journal of Reformed Fellowship, Inc.), I decided to submit the edited version of these five sermons to be published in installments in The Outlook. Having received good feedback from the readers, I was inspired to put these articles together as a book. I therefore want to thank all the board members of Reformed Fellowship, Inc., for granting me permission to publish these articles in book format and for agreeing to publish the book itself.

I also wish to express my special thanks to Josh Dear for editing my sermon notes to transform them from sermonic form into book form. I am also indebted to Linda Triemstra for polishing my manuscript and to Jeff Steenholdt for designing and typesetting this book.

A big thanks also goes to my dear wife Sarah for helping me improve the manuscript and for her being understanding as I used part of our family time to work on this project.  Finally, I am deeply grateful to God for giving me strength to complete this study.

Here are the endorsements for this book: Gospel-Driven Tongue Cover

“Finally—a simple, direct, practical book on the sins of the tongue… This little book is a must read for all Christians, so that we would do a far better job at bridling our tongues and being more consistently God-glorifying in our daily conversation….I pray that God will use Pastor Najapfour’s book to open our eyes, confess our sins, and change our conversation to that which pleases God, loves our neighbor, and serves to mutual edification.”

Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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“I recommend this fine booklet on the need to discipline the tongue. It will be of real help to all who have a serious desire to make progress in sanctification.”

Rev. Maurice Roberts, Emeritus Minister in Inverness, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and former editor of The Banner of Truth magazine

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“Scriptural, straightforward, simple, and soul-searching, this small book is a must read for all God’s people as they seek to glorify God in their lives, especially through their lips. The study questions at the end of each chapter are also ideal for a group Bible study.”

Mrs. Nenita del Mundo, National Director, Student Missionary Outreach and president of Student Missionary Outreach Bible Training Institute, Philippines 

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Click here, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book.

 

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An interview with Phil Johnson by Rob Ventura

April 4, 2017

Guest Post by Rob Ventura

Phil, please tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been saved? How long have you been married? Do you have children, grandchildren? What do you enjoy doing outside of ministry?

phil johnson

Phil Johnson

 

My family were Methodists for several generations before me, so I spent my formative years going to Sunday school every week in a theologically and politically liberal church where if we ever heard anything about doctrine, it had a left-leaning Wesleyan Arminian slant. I don’t remember ever hearing the gospel declared plainly. We did sing some of the classic hymns of Christianity, and there were responsive readings whose words were drawn from Scripture, but those things made very little conscious impact on me.

When I was in junior high school or thereabout, just old enough to form discriminating thoughts of my own about what we were being taught, I realized that the Sunday school teachers were constantly telling us that we shouldn’t take the Bible literally; Jesus didn’t really say what Scripture attributes to him; and this or that miracle didn’t really happen. And it occurred to me that no one in that church really believed the Bible is true, so I was mystified about why they would want to spend an hour or two every Sunday talking about it. I finally raised that question in class, and the pastor of the church summoned me to his office to straighten me out. He told me if I didn’t change my way of thinking, I might grow up to be a fundamentalist.

          So in high school, once I was permitted to make my own decision about whether to attend church or not, I quit going and took up watching the NFL pregame show on TV instead.

          A few years later, in my final year of high school (barely a month before graduation), a friend of mine became a Christian. He changed overnight from being the class comedian to being the school conscience. Watching the change in his life and character, I began to realize how devoid my own life was of anything holy. I still believed in God, but you’d hardly know it from my pastimes or my reading list. My time and energies were almost totally devoted to politics. I believed good and evil were divided along party lines, and my goal was to gain political power and use it to change the world for good. I believed that by striving to be a knowledgeable, wise, and noble person, I could earn the favor of God.

          But one night the weight of my own guilt prompted me to pick up my Bible and read it. I opened it randomly, intending to read no more than a few (hopefully serendipitous) verses. My Bible fell open to the first page of 1 Corinthians. So I thought it might be a good exercise to read the whole epistle. I had never read that much of the Bible at once.

          The first three chapters of 1 Corinthians are an all-out assault on human wisdom, and by the time I finished those three chapters, I knew I was totally lost, and I cried out to the Lord for help. I kept reading, and while I didn’t understand everything I read, by the time I got to 1 Corinthians 12:3, I understood that I needed to confess Jesus as Lord—and instinctively understood that meant yielding to Him as my Lord. I understood that I needed to become a disciple of Jesus with the same kind of total commitment I had devoted to politics.

          Over the following week, a series of remarkable events kept confronting me with gospel truth. The very next day, I was handed a tract that explained the doctrine of justification. The day after that, a friend invited me to an evangelistic meeting where the preacher preached on the crucifixion from Isaiah 53. When I heard that sermon, I realized for the first time that the Old Testament was pointing to Christ—and from that night until now, I have never had any doubt about the truth of God’s Word. At some point during the course of that week, the Lord opened my heart to believe. That was April of 1971.

          A few weeks later, I found a church in my neighborhood where the Bible was taught and the gospel believed. The pastor of that church heard my testimony and baptized me. In the course of giving him my testimony, I mentioned that I needed to learn the Bible, and that I wanted to serve the Lord in some way with my life. He recommended that I attend Moody Bible Institute, so I filled out an application and was accepted.

          In my final semester at Moody, I took a part-time job proofreading for Moody Press. I loved the work and decided after graduation to stay on and become a book editor. I met my wife, Darlene, exactly 40 years ago, in 1977, when she came to work at Moody Press. We got married a year later and started our family a year after that. We have three sons, all adults now. All of them are believers and still attend Grace Church. (One is a writer for Grace to You online; one is a tax accountant; and one is a police officer with the LAPD.) They are all three married and have given us seven grandchildren. The Lord has greatly blessed us.

 

How long have you been working at Grace to You and what particularly attracted you to Dr. John MacArthur’s ministry?

This is my 35th year at Grace to You. I first heard John MacArthur speak in 1977, shortly after I met Darlene. He came to Moody to speak at a student chapel, and I was in awe of the clarity and biblical content of his preaching. I’d never heard of him before. He had not yet published any major books. And my first thought as a book editor was He needs a literary assistant to help him get his material organized and edited for publication.

          The “Grace to You” radio broadcast debuted in 1978, and I began to listen to John every day. Every time I heard him, I lamented that he wasn’t publishing books. I found his expositions of 1 John especially instructive, because I was wresting with some things Charles Ryrie had written that didn’t sound quite right to me—namely, a chapter titled “Must Christ be Lord to be Savior?” in Ryrie’s Moody Press book Balancing the Christian Life. John brought far more clarity and biblical weight to that question than Ryrie did, I thought.

          Then in 1981 I met John for the first time. He visited the Moody Press offices for an initial discussion about The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series. It was the largest academic-book project Moody had ever initiated, and the meeting was to discuss editorial strategy. A dozen people were involved in that discussion, mostly book editors. I didn’t say much if anything at all during the meeting, but when it was over, I had a moment to talk one-on-one to John. I explained that I was a regular listener, and I suggested he should consider writing a book on the lordship issue. He brightened immediately and said, “I intend to do that. I even have a title in mind: The Gospel According to Jesus.

          That was the start of our relationship. Over the course of the next year, I more or less became the main contact between John and Moody Press. I was intrigued by some material he had preached on worship from John 4:23: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” I took verbatim transcripts of his sermons on worship and edited them for a book titled The Ultimate Priority.

          When my work on The Ultimate Priority was finished, John came to Chicago for some meetings. For some reason, he came via train, and I volunteered to meet him at Union Station and drive him to his hotel near the airport. When we were about halfway to O’Hare and in the middle of a conversation about Robert Schuller and his Self-Esteem doctrine, John suddenly changed the subject. Out of the blue, he said, “You should quit your job at Moody Press and come to work at Grace to You. You could help me with my writing projects.”

          I said, “OK.”

          He said, “No, I’m serious.”

          I said, “So am I.” And within a few weeks, I had moved to Los Angeles, and I have been working at Grace to You ever since.

 

Could you please tell us what you do for Grace to You and what is your favorite part of the work there?

I’m the executive director. There are more than 50 paid employees who work under me, so I have the luxury of being able to delegate virtually all the hands-on duties. We have a team of very competent people, and my main duty is to keep them on task, establish and maintain our policies and procedures, and make sure everything we do is done with excellence in a way that honors the Lord.

The most important part of my job is still the work I do as a book editor—translating John MacArthur’s material from sermonic form to book form. My favorite part is when a major book project is finished. A famous author once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I’d say the same thing about editing.

 

What are some of your favorite books by John MacArthur and why?

  1. The Gospel According to Jesus. People tell me all the time that their lives were changed completely when they read that book. It shatters the false assurance of people who are trusting in something they have done—walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or whatever. It gives a solid, biblical answer to the question of what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me.”
  2. The Vanishing Conscience—editing this book reshaped my understanding of sanctification.
  3. Ashamed of the Gospel—this is the book that first sparked my interest in Spurgeon and helped me understand that all the fads and ministry philosophies that today’s evangelicals hail as “new” and “revolutionary” are really just recycled mistakes from the past.
  4. The Jesus You Can’t Ignore—this is a vastly underrated book, in my opinion. It refutes postmodern efforts to reinvent Jesus as a politically-correct, quietly reserved self-help guru.

 

Who are some of your all-time favorite preachers and authors besides Dr. MacArthur?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, R. L. Dabney.

 

What are some of the dangers that you see in the church today, both in Reformed and non-Reformed circles?

Number one on my list would be a fleshly craving for social and academic esteem, political clout, and the world’s admiration that permeates the evangelical culture. Elite evangelical leaders in particular seem to have a pathological fear of being critical of popular trends and majority opinions, and as a result, the conservative evangelical movement today is neither conservative nor evangelical in the true and historic sense of that term.

I actually have a much longer list of concerns than that, but I blogged about all those issues for nearly a decade, and all that material is still online and searchable via Google, so in the interests of not sounding totally negative, I’ll refer anyone who is interested in hearing more to my now-nearly-defunct blog at teampyro.blogspot.com.

 

Phil, on the weekend of May 5th & 6th 2017, you will be speaking at the Southern New England Reformation Conference in North Providence, R.I., on the topic of Answering the Skepticism of an Unbelieving Generation. Please tell us why you think this topic is particularly relevant and how you plan to address it.

          The Internet has given rise to a hostile, aggressively outspoken brand of militant atheism that seems to be growing and assimilating students from Christian backgrounds who grew up in youth groups that existed to entertain them rather than instruct them. Christian apologists need to be more diligent than ever to answer the barrage of skepticism that is being blasted to the world via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and every other popular social medium. The Bible does answer skeptics, and Christians need to have those answers.

For more information about the Southern New England Reformation Conference please go to: www.gcbcri.org or call (401) 826-3121.

A Bible Verse Every Hunter Should Memorize

December 7, 2016

Every hunter should memorize Matthew 10:29, which reads (in the ESV) as follows: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Another translation renders it this way: “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission” (emphasis mine).

 

What’s the context in which Jesus said this? Jesus had sent out his disciples to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 10:6-7), and he knew that as they did so, they would be persecuted, even to the point of death: “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (v. 22). In order to encourage them to stay faithful to his call, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus assured them that nothing would happen to them without their heavenly Father’s permission.

 

To paraphrase, Jesus was telling them, “Look at those birds. Not one of them can die without God allowing it to die. Of course, you are far more valuable than those birds. So, don’t be afraid, for you can’t die without God knowing about it and allowing it to happen” (see Matt. 10:31).

 

The words of Jesus have practical implications for all of us—and that includes hunters! So, if you are a Christian who hunts, here is what you should learn from this verse:

  1. Hunting can be dangerous, but remember that you cannot die and an animal cannot kill you without your heavenly Father’s permission.
  1. As you shoot an animal, remember that you cannot kill that animal without God’s permission. After all, every animal ultimately belongs to him. “For every beast of the forest is mine….I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).
  1. When you realize that God owns every animal in the forest, it should motivate you to pray before you go hunting, and perhaps even to ask God for permission to kill one of his creatures. You might pray something like this: “Heavenly Father, thank you for creating animals as a blessing to us, and for allowing us to enjoy some of them as food. Will you please keep us safe as we hunt today, and permit us to shoot a deer or two with which we can feed our families?” Have you ever done this before? Since everything that moves in the field is his, don’t you think you should pray to him first before you hunt?
  1. Recognizing that God is sovereign even over the lives of animals should make you a humble hunter. The chief reason that you kill animals when you hunt is not because of what a skilled hunter you are, but rather because God permits you to do so. So, before you start boasting in your own competence or showing off photos of you and your kill on Facebook, take the time first to thank God for allowing you to kill one of his animals. Interestingly, we claim to be Calvinists who acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things, but when we shoot a dear we forget to attribute our achievement to God. In short, we act like Arminian hunters, slighting God’s sovereignty and giving too much emphasis on our ability. Are you a humble hunter who gives the credit to God for your success?
  1. The realization that no animal can fall to the ground without God’s permission should also give comfort to hunters when they return home without a kill. After hunting for many hours, or perhaps even days, it can be very discouraging to go home with nothing to show to your family, and no fresh meat to share as food. However, when this happens, a wise family member can comfort the hunter by saying, “It’s okay. You worked hard and you did your best, but it was clearly not God’s will for you to kill an animal on this trip.”

So, dear hunters, the next time that you go out hunting, please remember to meditate on Matthew 10:29 and to give God all the praise for the blessings that you experience!

 

Note: This post is part of my sermon entitled “God’s Providential Care”(Matt. 10:26-30), preached on November 20, 2016.

 

 

 

 

Clinton, Trump, Johnson, or Others? Advice for Christian Voters

November 2, 2016

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, US citizens will go to the polls to exercise their right to vote for a new president. Since the primary two parties in the US are Democratic and Republican, the focus of the election is on Hillary Clinton (Democratic) and Donald Trump (Republican). But there are other nominees such as Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), Darrell Castle (Constitution), and Evan McMullin (Independent). My objective in this post is to provide basic guidelines for my fellow Christians as they cast their ballots on November 8.

  1. Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to [guide] my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 110:105).
  2. Pray to God for guidance before casting your vote.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him” (Prov. 3:5-6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  3. Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. For instance, are his/her views regarding the following issues biblical? Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ, or will he/she protect your liberty as a Christian. Sanctity of human life. Will the candidate promote abortion, or will he/she fight for the sacredness of life in the womb? Marriage. Will the candidate endorse same-sex marriage, or will he/she uphold the biblical definition of marriage—a union between one man and one woman only? This is just a sample of moral questions we need to ask ourselves as we consider a candidate. As followers of Christ, we must not “give approval to those who practice” what God has declared to be morally evil (Rom. 1:32).
  4. Vote for a candidate who is able to lead our country with justice. Remember that you are not voting for a pastor but for a president. The candidate might not be exactly on the same page as you are theologically, but if he/she is committed to a fair and righteous judicial system, then you may want to consider voting for this candidate.
  5. Cast your ballot in good conscience, realizing that you will give an account to God for every decision that you make. Admittedly, it can be challenging to find a candidate who is both gifted in leadership and righteous in character. That’s why, before making a final decision, seek wisdom from God.
  6. Vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated his/her ability to lead well. Look at the candidate’s track record and ask these questions: What did he/she do to improve our economy, stop crime, and maintain peace and order in our land? Did the candidate abuse his/her political power to serve his/her own interest? Was he/she immoral, corrupt, dishonest, or greedy?
  7. Recognize that from eternity past God has already ordained our next political leader. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Ultimately, it is God, not the people, who appoints a leader (Gen. 45:8). We are only God’s instruments in bringing about His eternal plan. Be willing therefore to submit humbly to God’s sovereign will, trusting that His will is always for our good and for His glory.
  8. If the candidate who wins is immoral, remember that God is able to use even wicked leaders to accomplish His eternal plan (Rom. 13:1-7). Of course, this does not give us permission to vote for bad candidates! However, it should remind us that our greatest hope does not lie with any earthly leader, but with our heavenly Father, who is divinely able to overcome evil for good. Indeed, God in his providence can even use a bad ruler as his “servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4).
  9. Never forget that God is causing all things—including the upcoming election—to work together for the good of His people, conforming them more fully to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Whatever the outcome of the election may be, one thing is certain: God will use this election for our sanctification. We are concerned about peace and prosperity, but God is concerned about our piety and his eternal glory.
  10. Finally, respect those who oppose your political position. Even among Christians, there are varying opinions regarding who should be elected to leadership. So, learn to “agree to disagree,” or better yet, to disagree with kindness. Even if your preferred candidate does not win, you are still to honor the candidate who is elected. You must also obey your new leader, unless he/she instructs you to do something that would require you to disobey God. As Christians, our greatest allegiance is to God. As Scripture exhorts us to do, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Covenant Children Yet Children of Belial

August 9, 2016

In 1 Samuel 2:12-21, we meet the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Pinehas, who were described as worthless. Yes, they were priests, but they were worthless. The actual wording for this text reads as follows, “And the sons of Eli were sons of worthlessness.” The word for “worthlessness” in Hebrew is belial, which derives from beliy (without) and yaal (value). In other words, they were wicked and without any value; they were good for nothing.

 

Why would the Bible describe Eli’s sons this way?

First, the Bible describes Eli’s sons this way because “they did not know the LORD” (v.12). They were aware of Jehovah of course, but did not truly know Him. In Genesis 4:1 we read, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word “knew” in Genesis 4 and the word “know” in 1 Samuel 2 both refer to a personal, intimate relationship. If you do not know God personally, you are like Eli’s sons—worthless before God.

Because Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, they were children of Belial despite being covenant children. “Belial” is used in 2 Corinthians 6:15 as another name for Satan. In that passage we are instructed not to be yoked together with unbelievers. We are also reminded in that same passage that righteousness and lawlessness, darkness and light, are incompatible with one another (2 Cor. 6:14-15). You cannot be both a child of the Devil and a child of God at the same time. You are either a child of God (believer), or a child of Satan (unbeliever). There is no third category.

These observations lead us to ask some personal questions. Do you know the LORD? Eli’s sons even grew up in the tabernacle, but their heritage had no bearing on whether or not they were saved, because they did not know God. The same goes for you and me, growing up in a church cannot save us. “I am religious,” you might say. Eli’s sons were religious too, but religion cannot save you. “I am a spiritual person,” you argue. You can be “spiritual,” and still be spiritually dead. “I am a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon. I am involved in many church activities.” Eli’s sons were in a holy position, involved in many activities of the congregation of Israel, including regular sacrifices and offerings but it meant nothing without a personal relationship with God. As we read in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… and do mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus never knew them, because they never knew Jesus. So, again, my dear friend, ask yourself, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Secondly, Eli’s sons were called wicked because they did not follow God’s law. Belial in Hebrew also means “lawlessness.” 1 Samuel 2:13-16 describes the customs of the priests and what they ought to do. The fat was supposed to be burned and offered to God first (Lev. 7:31). But, in verse 17 of 1 Samuel 2, we learn that the sons of Eli willfully disobeyed this law by demanding their portion of the offering before it was burned on the altar. They chose to disregard God’s law. They were lawless in their blatant and deliberate choice to disregard God’s command. And they never repented of their sin.

Third, Hophni and Phinehas were called wicked because they abused and profaned their office as priests. In their selfish greed, they used their position to their own advantage and for their own profit. They treated the people of Israel with disrespect in the process by taking meat for the offering out of the cooking pot while it was cooking. Hophni and Phinehas even forced the Israelites to give up the meat before they began to offer it (while it was still raw). Furthermore, they committed sexual immorality at the very entrance of the tabernacle. Using their privileged positions for their own gain made them both worthless and lawless in God’s eyes.

 

What other lessons can we take away from this text?

First lesson: You can be a righteous parent but still have a wicked child. Eli was a believer of God and a righteous man. His name means “my God.” When you read the first verse of our text, it might sound as though Eli was a wicked father: “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial” (KJV). Does this mean that Eli was wicked? No, it does not! He had many shortcomings but he was a believer in the Lord. It is possible for godly parents to have ungodly children. This reminds us that we cannot transform our children, but God can. Do not blame yourself by placing unnecessary guilt on yourself for your children’s evil choices, if, by God’s grace, you have done all you could to raise them in the fear of the Lord.

Second lesson: You can be a believer in Christ and an irresponsible parent at the same time. Eli was both a high priest and a civil judge in Israel for forty years (1 Sam. 4:18). Yet, he failed to discipline and correct his sons as he should have (1 Sam. 3:12.). This failure resulted in God’s judgement on Eli’s entire household. As a parent, do not be afraid to discipline your children. It does hurt, but sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to rebuke your children and let them know they are wrong (Pro. 23:13-14, 29:17). “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4).

Third lesson: Our spiritual leaders also have weaknesses. They fail at times. If we only look to our church leaders we will stumble, too. Do not only look to Eli, the high priest. Look to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).” Christ is the only one to whom we can look to for a perfect example. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, not on our pastors, elders, or deacons.

 

Note: This post is a summary of my sermon entitled “Worthless Sons” (1 Samuel 2:12-21), preached on January 10, 2016. Special thanks to Elizabeth Koetsier for helping me with this summary.

 

10 Tips on Handling Our Children’s Anger

June 29, 2016

In his book How to Really Love Your Teenager, Ross Campbell says that “one of the most important areas in which a teenager needs training is in how to handle anger….Anger is normal and occurs in every human being. The problem is not the anger itself but in managing it. This is where most people have a problem” (60). In this post we will learn from God’s Word to see how we can effectively handle our children’s anger and how we can better help them manage their anger.

Before we continue, let us define first the word anger and clarify some misunderstanding about it. According to one dictionary, anger is “a strong feeling of displeasure…aroused by a wrong.” Hence, to be angry or to have a strong feeling of displeasure about something which is morally wrong is not necessarily sinful. In fact, Jesus himself got angry and yet he did not sin (Mark 3:5; John 2:14-16). We can be angry and commit no sin. Also, we have to remember that the Bible never tells us not to be angry. In fact, Scripture commands us to be angry. “Be angry,” says Paul in Ephesians 4:26. However, we must be angry without sinning: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In short, we can be angry but we should not allow our anger to turn into sin. Therefore, when we deal with our children’s anger, it is important to remember the following four points:

 

  1. Anger is not always a sin. And so, we should not be quick to judge our children whenever we see them angry. It could be that their anger is a result of their holy hatred toward sin. For example, your child may be angry because his classmate has taken the name of the Lord in vain. Aristotle once said, “It’s not a sin to get angry when you get angry at sin.”
  1. Righteous anger is permissible. Thus, we should not forbid our children to be angry for righteousness’ sake. The authors of Parenting Today’s Adolescent explain that “God created anger to be an asset, but it gets misused and twisted in a fallen world. In basic terms, anger is an emotional alarm that sounds a warning when something is wrong…. The problem is that most of us don’t know what to do with appropriate anger when we feel it” (163-64). However, let us guide our children so that their anger will not turn into danger. Remember that anger, as someone has said, “is just one letter short of danger.”
  1. Righteous anger is not only permitted but even commanded, as previously noted. And so, we should encourage our children to have a righteous anger—to have a strong feeling of displeasure toward all forms of evil.
  1. Anger is normal. Let us tell our children that everyone experiences anger including parents. They should know that they are not alone in their feelings. But this does not mean that we are going to tolerate their unrighteous anger. By letting them know that we also get angry, we are showing them that we understand them. It is important that children feel understood.

 

Now, here are ten pieces of advice as we handle our children’s anger:

 

  1. Watch yourself when dealing with your children’s anger. Oftentimes when our children are angry we also get angry unnecessarily.
  1. When dealing with your children’s anger, apply the principle of James 1:19: “let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Three principles can be drawn from this verse: (1) Before judging your child, listen first to his full explanation. (2) Talk to your child softly or gently. As Proverb 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (3) As you correct your child, control your temper, lest you mention or do something that will fuel your child’s anger. Henry Ward Beecher remarks, “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” The apostle Paul, addressing the fathers, writes: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). It is better to be silent when we cannot control our temper.
  1. Since your children look up to you as a role model, teach them to manage anger in a God-honoring way by your good example. Ultimately, let’s point our children to Christ—our perfect example—who got angry but did not commit sin.
  1. Help your children understand the main cause of their anger. Then, help them deal with that which has caused their anger. Note that sometimes our children do not know what they are angry about. Sometimes they are not really angry but only frustrated with themselves.
  1. Help your children differentiate righteous anger from unrighteous anger. Ask your child, “At what or with whom are you angry and why are you angry?”
  1. Since anger is normal, help your children express their anger in a right or Christlike way. Children often don’t know how to express their anger in a positive way. Campbell explains it this way: “Children will tend to express anger immaturely, until trained to do otherwise. A teenager cannot be expected to automatically express his anger in the best, most mature way. But this is what parents are expecting, when they simply tell their teen not to get mad. Parents must train teenagers to take one step at a time in learning to deal with anger (How to Really Love Your Teenager, 65).”
  1. Pray for your children regularly, not just when they are struggling with issues of anger. It is a good practice to begin and close with prayer whenever you counsel them. Pray also that the Lord will grant you grace and wisdom as you address your children’s problem.
  1. Help your children develop temperance in their lives. Our children need self-control in dealing with anger. Self-control, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), is a good remedy for anger.
  1. Since self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, show your children their need of the Spirit of God. Doing so will also give you an opportunity to talk about the gospel with them.
  1. Deal with your children’s anger with love. Show love to your children even if you might not like their behavior. Be patient and understanding to them. Once our children feel loved, they will not hesitate to share with us the real cause of their anger. It is sad that some children would rather share their burden with their friends than with their own parents. May it not happen to us!

The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry

May 7, 2016

Guest post by Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker

 

Have you known any martyrs? Church history overflows with examples of sterling Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ. One of Western Protestantism’s most enduring and effective works of literature is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a compilation of histories of Christians suffering in the service of Jesus. Modern times have supplied us with more names, including some that have— in the eyes of sodownloadme Christians—already become almost glamorous at a slight distance, such as those of Jim Elliot or John and Betty Stam. However, while many in the modern West know the stories, few of us have known any martyrs. Few of us have holes in our lives, gaps in the ranks of friends or families, created by our loved one’s death in the service of King Jesus. In some parts of the world, death at the hands of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom is all too common.

It was our privilege to know two of Christ’s martyrs. Since 1999 Pastor Arif Khan and his wife Kathleen (Kathy to her friends) had faithfully labored in Islamabad, Pakistan, where Pastor Arif had planted a church. In August 2007, three people—a disaffected ex-member of the church, his wife, and a gunman from an aggressively Islamic region—made their way by deceit into the Khans’ home and shot our friends dead.[1]

Our friends. The believers. The martyrs.

Why were they there? What had carried them from the comfortable confines of the United States, away from friends and family, children and grandchildren? Why leave their home church? Why stay in Pakistan when reaction to American foreign policy and activity made their existence there increasingly dangerous? Why remain in the face of threats to their lives? Why teach and live so as to seal their testimonies with their life’s blood?

How do you reach this point? Not necessarily the point of martyrdom, but the point of willing and entire consecration, of being sold out for the one living and true God, ready to give all that you are and have for His sake and for His cause?

What would the Khans have said? At least part of their answer—a great part of their answer—would have been for the sake of Jesus Christ’s body, the church. They had a consuming desire to see the church built up so that through those who have been redeemed the manifold wisdom of God would be known to others (Eph. 3:10). They saw the importance of spreading the gospel to a lost world. This man and woman “loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). One of their own pastors said of Arif Khan, “He was a marked man. He talked of dying for Christ as though it was having a mole removed.”[2]

It is not often that we meet people who are willing to spend their energy and even give their lives for the sake of seeing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ established and strengthened. This was the mind of the Khans; it was also the mind of the apostle Paul.

Paul gave his all for the people of God. He loved them at great personal cost. As he writes his letter, Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices even in his prison sufferings because of his love for them. Now he specifically points to the nature and purpose of those sufferings, saying, “I…fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). What does he mean, and what must we understand?

So what does Paul mean? First, we must consider the words of the sentence itself. The word that has to do with “filling up” appears only here in Scripture. It carries the idea of completing something for someone else. The present tense of the verb and the immediate context in which it is used tell us that this was something that Paul was continually doing. When Paul speaks of something “behind of the afflictions of Christ,” the language suggests something lacking, that which still exists or is left over.

Then there is the word afflictions. This word speaks of oppression, tribulation, trouble, or persecution. It is, however, crucial that this word is never used in the Bible to refer to the sufferings that Jesus underwent on the cross for our sins.

Second, we must put this declaration in the context of the whole Colossian letter. The whole point of the letter so far has been to establish Christ’s supremacy as the saving and sovereign head of His people (contrast Paul’s self-owned label in verse 25 of “minister,” not mediator or redeemer).

So, in Colossians 1:14, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The present possession of redemption and forgiveness is based upon the precious blood of our Savior, and not the sacrificial work of any sinner, even one who was an eminent apostle.

Paul says again with reference to Jesus, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:19–22).

There is nothing lacking in the Lord Jesus Christ, either in His person or in His work. All saving fullness dwells in Him, and He is the means by which the Father reconciles men to Himself. Specifically, the terms of that peace He secured are written in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for His people. It is the bloody death of Jesus alone that saves.

In these words there is neither room nor need for any other but Christ. If all fullness dwells in Him, what shall fallen mankind add to Him or His work? If it has pleased the Father to reconcile people to Himself solely by means of the crucified Christ, how can any suggest that Christ is in any way insufficient, especially after His glorious resurrection vindicated all that was said about Him (Rom. 1:4; 4:25)? If peace was already secured through the blood of Christ upon the cross, once for all (Eph. 2:13–14), what place is there for any other grounds of peace?

Indeed, Paul will not let this theme lie: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:13–14).

To take the perfection of Christ and His work and to say that people somehow must add further to it completely misunderstands and undermines the profound nature of what God has accomplished through His incarnate Son. It fails to take account of the complete inability of anyone to please God, let alone save himself, apart from the glorious Jesus.

Would it not be both foolish and blasphemous to seek to insert human effort, positively or negatively, into the divine plan of a gracious salvation? Did Christ not say, “It is finished” (John 19:30)? Paul would surely be the world’s most incompetent debater if he were now to state something that runs directly or even tangentially counter to all that he has just established. He is a wiser man than that.

Third, we must also take into account the comprehensive and consistent testimony of Scripture. The plain teaching of the Word of God is that Christ alone accomplished all that was required for the salvation of His people when He suffered once and for all in their place at Golgotha (see, for example, Isaiah 53:4–6 or Hebrews 1:3; 10:14). There is no deficiency of any sort in Christ’s sacrificial death, and to suggest otherwise opens the door to a host of other empty possibilities, including the notion of works of supererogation (the idea that unusually holy people have a surplus of merit that others can benefit from), the veneration of Mary the mother of Christ, and the concept of penance for sins.

It is already clear that the atoning interpretation is entirely incorrect. Christ’s sacrifice for sin was in no way deficient. The sufferings that Paul underwent had no saving merit: the apostle did not contribute in any way whatsoever in redeeming the people of God. Jesus Christ alone has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Our Bibles make plain that it is Christ alone, through His saving sufferings, who brings us into a right relationship with God the Father.

However, there are other lines of thought in Scripture that we must take into account when working out what Paul does mean. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul states that the saints are many members of one body, the head of which is Christ. The same unity of identity is plain in Matthew 25:34–40, where the works done for Christ’s people are considered as done to Christ Himself (or not, vv. 41–46). This involves unity of mission. In Acts 13:47 Paul appropriates language that Isaiah uses of the Lord Jesus to assume the same gospel role in setting forth the Christ: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” This further implies unity of suffering, and Paul had this ground into his consciousness from the beginning of his ministry: “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks…. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:4–5, 16).

In summary, the sufferings of the body of Christ—the church—are the sufferings of Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13), not in a redemptive, but nevertheless in a real, sense.

 

Note: This article is an excerpt from chapter three of A Portrait of Paul, by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker, with permission from Reformation Heritage Books. The general topic of suffering will be preached on by Derek Thomas at Pastor Ventura’s church in North Providence, Rhode Island, May 27-28, 2016. For more information about this event, click here.

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[1] See Daniel Bergner, “The Believers,” The New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/30/magazine/30khans-t.html for more information about the Khans (accessed June 28, 2010).

[2] Ibid.