I recently binge-watched the six-part docuseries Cheers. It wasn't at all like I was expecting. And that's a good thing. It gave me a glimpse of what reality television COULD be or perhaps SHOULD be in a more-perfect world. I would recommend it for ...

Thoughts on Cheer and more...

Thoughts on Cheer

I recently binge-watched the six-part docuseries Cheers. It wasn't at all like I was expecting. And that's a good thing. It gave me a glimpse of what reality television COULD be or perhaps SHOULD be in a more-perfect world. I would recommend it for those who are drawn to human interest stories. I would recommend it for those looking for something authentic, genuine and thought-provoking in their reality tv.

It got me thinking. Much like Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK gets me thinking. How VERY LITTLE we know about those we pass by. You can't see another person's pain, loss, grief, heartbreak, heartache. You often can't see their strength, resilience, potential. You can't see another person's joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. What would the world look like if we recognized that we are all walking wounded. That every single person has felt pain, is feeling pain, is healing from pain. Would we be kinder? Would we listen more? Judge less?

The series isn't 100% profanity free so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as family viewing if you've got little ones--but it GOOD.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


First Things First

I am LOVING my ESV Creeds Bible. I have read the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Westminster Larger Catechism. I've started the Heidelberg Catechism. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the first question in both of these catechisms.

The Shorter Catechism

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. [Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11; Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4]

The Larger Catechism

Q.1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer: Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. [Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 73:24-28]

Heidelberg Catechism

1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him. [I Cor. 6:19, 20, Rom. 14:7-9. , I Cor. 3:23; Tit. 2:14.  I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 1:7; 2:2.  John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14, 15; I John 3:8.  John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; II Thess. 3:3; I Pet. 1:5. Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18.  Rom. 8:28.  Rom. 8:15, 16; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14.  Rom. 8:14.]

For the warm, fuzzies it doesn't really get much better than the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. In fact, I think this question would be a GREAT jumping off place for a funeral sermon. At the very, very least I think it would be a great jumping off point for a blog post.

I think you only get the warm and fuzzies about BELONGING body and soul to God if you've realized in your own life the joy of ENJOYING GOD, GLORIFYING GOD, DELIGHTING IN GOD.

So long as you're living for you, putting yourself first, glorying in self...then the idea of belonging to anybody but yourself--especially a kill-joy God--is anything but comforting and a source of hope.

But God isn't a kill-joy. Far from it. A person can have no greater joy, no greater happiness than in finding ALL their joy in God himself. We were MADE for him. We were made BY him. We were made to WORSHIP Him. We belong to him not only because he created us, designed us, purposed us--but because HE redeemed us. His redemption was costly. God himself is our greatest gift, our greatest blessing, our great possession. To live for God is to truly LIVE.

I belong to God. I belong body and soul to God. I belong to God in my life. I belong to God in my death. Jesus has FULLY PAID for ALL my sins...with HIS PRECIOUS BLOOD. Jesus has set me from ALL the power of the devil. Jesus PRESERVES me. Not a hair can fall from my head apart from the will of the Heavenly Father. ALL THINGS must work together for my SALVATION. I am assured by the Holy Spirit of ETERNAL LIFE. The Holy Spirit makes me HEARTILY willing and ready to live for him.

This is a great source of hope and joy indeed to LIVE OUT these doctrines. Doctrine matters.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

11. Growing in Holiness

Growing in Holiness: Understanding God's Role and Yours. R.C. Sproul. 2020. Baker Books. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; christian living; theology]

First sentence: Where we’re going is crucial, but so is knowing how to get there. When we embrace the Bible’s teaching that God created us so that we might praise Him through holy living, it is tempting to seek quick fixes and fast solutions.

It is January. It is perhaps too early to say that I've found my absolute favorite book of the year. Though I can say with confidence that it is absolutely my favorite read of January. I can say this book is all kinds of fabulous. It is a GREAT read.

Earlier this week I reviewed John MacArthur's Sanctification. It was a good book, a solidly good book. But this one was AMAZING. (TRUE, it was twice as long. If MacArthur's book had been equally long, close to two hundred pages, perhaps his book would be equally wonderful and gush-worthy.)

This book covers all aspects of sanctification, aka GROWING in HOLINESS. In other words, it tackles the question: how do I live a life that is pleasing to God?! Or...how do I live out the faith I profess? I believe. I've been baptized. Now what?!

Sproul urges throughout that there are no short cuts to holiness, to growth. That one doesn't just happen to grow, or accidentally becomes holy.

Sproul writes, "If we want to experience greater Christlikeness, we need to intentionally plan to grow. If we want to grow in holiness, we must begin with our Maker, Designer, and Sustainer. Knowing our destination shapes our journey along the way. To grow in holiness assumes a standard to live by. It also assumes One who requires such a standard. So we begin with God as both Creator and Redeemer."

I loved this book--every chapter, every page. It was EXCELLENT. It was OUTSTANDING. If you only read one book on holiness, read this one...

Favorite quotes:

  • "“Work out your 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). Those verses were weighty to me because I began to see that spiritual growth is something that, in the ultimate sense, rests in the grace of God. He is working in us, through us, and with us. But at the same time there is an admonition for us to work out our salvation. I understood even then that spiritual growth, this progress in the Christian life, is a matter of labor, of toil."
  • "I like to be able to see the finish line and give everything I have in a short burst of energy to make it to the end. But that’s not the way the Christian life works. The Christian life is a marathon. You have to learn perseverance. You have to keep on keeping on. You have to know how to press on with the work. The Greek word translated here as “press” indicates applying force, applying pressure (if I may borrow from the word itself). So how does that apply to us? We tend to live from spiritual high to spiritual high. We hope that we will be sanctified in large doses, all at once. We want to relax and celebrate the victory in the 100-yard dash. But the Christian life is different. You run a 100-yard dash. But as soon as you break the tape, you’re exhausted. You fall to the ground, panting and gasping for breath. But then the first thing you hear is, “On your mark, get set, go!” and you have to do it again. You have to press on. We don’t finish this race quickly and that can feel discouraging. But notice why Paul perseveres: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14)."
  • "God is calling us, even now. We usually think He is calling us to do this or that task—to live in this or that city. And those realities are true. But even further, Christ is standing in heaven calling us to Himself. That’s where we have to keep our vision: on the goal line, on the end point, which is exactly where Paul’s vision was set. The reward for all the pain in our souls and for all our patient endurance is Christ Himself. He is the reason we press on toward the mark."
  • "The understanding that I encounter frequently in the church is that creation reaches its pinnacle on the sixth day. That is the day when the image-bearer of God is created and man is given dominion over all the earth. And certainly, in that ordering structure of Genesis, we do see such a rising crescendo that reaches a high point on the sixth day. But there is a great danger in looking at the sixth day as the pinnacle of creation, because the creation account does not stop at day six. There are not six days in creation. There are seven. And if we are moving in a rising crescendo, we must see that the pinnacle, the acme point, is not day six. It is day seven. The seventh day is the highest point of creation."
  • "We can’t stop on the sixth day. We must go to the seventh day and see that the goal of creation is Sabbath holiness to the glory of God."
  • "If we read the Old Testament carefully, we see that the goal of human life is to mirror and to reflect the very character of God. God is holy, and we are to reflect that holiness so that this whole work of growing in sanctification is a growing in holiness. It is a growing within us—not only of redemption, but of movement toward the fulfillment and consummation of the very purpose of our creation. We were made to glorify God and to bear witness to the whole cosmos of God’s character. He demands of His people, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16, which quotes numerous Old Testament passages, such as Lev. 11:44–45)."
  • "Make it a practice every Sabbath to think about why it exists. Ask yourself, “What is this rest toward which my heart yearns?” The Sabbath points to the day when God will remove all our restlessness and when He will welcome us into His eternal rest. We will see Him as He is. We will be holy and blameless in His sight. We will praise Him for all eternity. So again, just as God aims to glorify Himself through our lives in redemption, so also do we see that same aim in creation."
  • "But there’s a certain sense in which God is much more concerned about what we are than about what we do. He looks for greater Christian character and godliness as we are being molded and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)."
  • "Unless I have the Word of God feeding my soul, I’m not going to make very much progress in reaching my purpose of sanctification in this world. Another vital means of grace is prayer. I know that my spiritual development will be stunted radically if my prayer life is weak, so one of my objectives is to be more fervent and active in prayer in order to grow spiritually. Similarly, I need to be involved in worship in the church on Sunday morning. These are various means of grace, and we can state them as objectives in the Christian life. But how do we translate such values into specific, concrete goals?"
  • "The greatest problem in our theology today is that God has been created in a human image. That is why we said earlier that people have been created with a unique capacity to reflect and to mirror God’s character. That means that you, as a human being, have been so constituted, so made, so endowed by your Creator with certain faculties that you therefore have a capacity in creation to reflect or to mirror the holiness of God. You are not holy in and of yourself. But God is holy in and of Himself, and He has called you as His creation to bear witness to Him—to reflect to the rest of the world His very character. Is that not what Christ does in His life of perfect obedience? Does He not fulfill the purpose and the destiny for which humanity was created?"
  • "Oh, what great glory we lost when we sinned. Will it always be this way? The best part of the gospel is that we can confidently answer, “No!” In his first epistle, John tells us, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1–2)"
  • "We shall see God as He is. Not as He is reflected. Not as He is mirrored by the glory of His creation. Not even by the image of His people whom He has made. But we will see Him as He is in Himself. We will look directly into the unveiled face of God, and in that moment the whole fullness of our human spirit will be satisfied as the whole fullness of His beauty will be glorified."
  • "The goal of our lives is to be conformed to the image of Christ. To fulfill the original purpose for which we were created; namely, to reflect the very character of God to the world around us. The first catechism question I learned as a child was from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is man’s chief end?” or “What is man’s principal purpose?” or “What is the goal of the human race?” And the answer I was taught to recite is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I was never able to put those together in my youth because I didn’t think glorifying God could be enjoyable. However, I have since learned that my greatest joy is God’s highest glory. We were made for this very purpose: to glorify the Creator of the universe. We were made for holiness. And when we reject it, we suffer a deprivation—a deep-rooted sense of lostness and restlessness because we are out of sync with the nature for which we were made. But when our souls prize the glory of God, we have the motivation we need to press on toward the goal of living holy lives. The end fuels the means."
  • "If nature takes its course in a Christian’s life, that Christian’s spiritual power would atrophy in five minutes or less. Easy-believism is so destructive."
  • "The great Reformer Martin Luther said that the three principal obstacles to Christian growth are the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’m guessing you’ve heard it put that way before. But have you ever thought about how the world stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth, how the flesh stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth, or how the devil stands as an obstacle to your spiritual growth?"
  • "Sadly, the question in our society is not, “What does God require of me?” The question is, “What is everybody else in the culture doing?”"
  • "But the idea of contending for truth has been one of the noblest virtues of all Christian history. Yet in our day it’s considered a vice—not because God says it’s a vice but because the culture says it is."
  • "One of the tests of our sanctification is how willing we are to be hated, to be persecuted, to be led as lambs to the slaughter in order to stand for the truth of God. But if the world tells me—indeed, if my church tells me—that such stands are taboo, do you see how hard it is? It’s hard enough even when it’s considered a virtue. The world erodes our resolve to be faithful defenders of Christ and instead entices us to imitate its patterns. If we are going to get past these obstacles of the world, we have to fill our minds with the norms, the standards, and the rules of conduct that come from God."
  • "The biggest obstacle I have to my sanctification is my heart of flesh that still clings to wicked desires and evil yearnings. I am still tempted by the idea that sin will make me happy. We sin because we want to sin, and we want to sin because we believe that committing the sin will make us happy. It won’t make us happy; it will give us pleasure, but there is a difference between pleasure and happiness."
  • "If you want to grow in your spiritual life, two things have to happen according to the New Testament. The first is obvious. The old man or the flesh must be put to death. Second, the new man must be nurtured and strengthened. In simple terms, it means that the flesh has to be weakened and the spirit has to be strengthened. We must be strengthened and fortified through the grace of God. And we begin to kill the old man by dying daily."
  • "There’s a sense in which we need to read the Bible with new eyes and hear it with new ears. We must not replace the values of Christ with values that creep in from the culture in which we live."
  • "When we stand before God, we will either stand naked, trusting in our own works and our own filthy rags, or we will stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ, which is given to all who truly put their faith in Him. The worst folly you could ever commit is to assume for a moment that you can stand before a holy God on the basis of your own performance, your own merit, your own works, or your own righteousness. The only righteousness that is holy enough to satisfy the demands of God’s law is the righteousness of Christ. The only way you can have that is by genuine faith."
  • "People may be enamored by a phony Jesus, a plastic Jesus, a Jesus who doesn’t exist. There are those who say, “Yes, I love God,” and then they define God as love and mercy without any demands. I say, “Do you love the holiness of God, or do you get angry when we talk about the holiness of God? Do you love the sovereignty of God, or does that cause you to turn away? Do you love the righteousness of Jesus? Do you acknowledge the fact that He is altogether lovely? Do you want to love Him more?” You can’t truly have that desire unless the love of God is already in your heart—unless you were already made alive by God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 2:5)."
  • "The search for God begins at conversion, but it doesn’t end there. Until people are converted, they are not seeking after God. In fact, the normal image that we find in the Scriptures about our natural fallen state is not that we are searching every nook and cranny of the universe to find some clue to the existence of God. Rather, we are fugitives. We are fleeing from God, just as Adam and Eve fled from the presence of God in paradise (Gen. 3:8). Because of their sin, they went into hiding. They tried to evade the presence of God. And now, while mankind certainly desires God’s benefits—peace, security, forgiveness—we don’t desire God Himself."
  • "Do you love the biblical Christ? Or is the Christ you love merely a cultural Christ? A Christ who never exercises judgment? A Christ who doesn’t call you to commit your life to Him? A Christ who doesn’t call you to repent of your sins? Maybe your view is of a Jesus who is gentle, meek, and mild. He exists to solve all your problems, to answer all your requests, and to give you health and wealth. That’s why it is distressing to hear about the health-and-wealth prosperity gospel. Under that system people can be converted to the promise of prosperity, but they miss the living Christ. What we are called to do is come to the real Christ. Jesus is a real, historical person with a real mission, and He has performed a real act of redemption. And it is Jesus—His person and His work—that must be the object of our saving faith."
  • "The good news is that justification is not the end of the Christian life. It’s the beginning of it. Justification is the beginning of sanctification. It’s not the result of sanctification. We don’t have to wait to be sanctified in order to be justified. We don’t have to wait until we’re righteous for God to regard us as righteous. We are regarded by God as righteous once He transfers to our account the righteousness of Jesus."
  • "Why is sin so enticing? One of the most important distinctions we can grasp is the difference between pleasure and happiness. Sin is pleasurable. It does bring pleasure, but sin does not bring happiness. It brings the immediate feeling of fun or excitement or thrill. It cannot bring what the Bible means by happiness nor the fulfillment, peace, and contentment of a righteous life."
  • "God didn’t give us His Word in a mere one-page summary. Scripture’s basic message of salvation is simple. It can be understood by a child. But the depths and riches of God contained in the biblical revelation are so profound and deep that they can keep the most brilliant person occupied for a lifetime—and they still won’t have plumbed the depths of that revelation. Thus, we are called to pursue the knowledge of God with all our mind so that we can have a mature understanding of God."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

The "Problem" with the Bible

We sadly live in a culture where the Bible is frequently seen not as the Word of God, but the Word of Man. Or perhaps I should clarify my statement: The Word of Many Men, who, BLESS THEIR HEARTS, did their utmost best to try to put into words their beliefs about God, a God who despite their best, most noble intentions, reflects more upon them--the writers--than anything else. Instead of humbly reading the Bible and acknowledging it as THE WORD OF GOD, the TRUE revelation of God Himself, the LIVING WORD, The Word that Comes with POWER and AUTHORITY, we read it as the product of its time and culture, the creation of man.

We live in a culture where God is being shaped, reshaped, molded, remolded, designed, redesigned into the image of this generation. Every generation is playing creator and their creation is God, a God that they can stomach, a God that they can approach with confidence and boldness. Are they even aware they're playing Creator? Perhaps. Perhaps not. You see....
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
The problem with the Bible? It presents a view of man, of mankind, of humankind, of humanity that is distasteful and offensive. The problem with the Bible is that it accuses ALL men--all men, all women, all children--of sin, of being sinners, of being unacceptable, unpresentable, offensive to a holy, righteous, just God. The problem with the Bible is that it quite clearly presents man as LOST, BLIND, DEAF, DEAD (OR AT THE VERY, VERY LEAST DYING), WILLFULLY DISOBEDIENT AND STUBBORN. It presents man as PROUD and STUBBORN and PUFFED UP WITH KNOWLEDGE. It presents man as naturally wicked and disobedient--unable, unwilling to seek God, to worship God, to obey God. It presents man in NEED of a Savior. It presents ONE WAY and only one way to God. A way that demands--commands--repentance, a turning away from sin, from sinful desires, pleasures, lifestyles. It demands a turning TO as well as a turning AWAY. It isn't enough to give up "sins" we must turn to a Savior, follow and obey. It presents a view of God that no one "wants" to believe true: HELL IS REAL AND PUNISHMENT IS FOREVER.

The problem with the Bible? If you approach it with HUMAN eyes and HUMAN understanding and read INTO what you WANT IT TO SAY instead of reading it with SPIRITUAL EYES and SPIRIT-GIVEN understanding, you will find so-called "weaknesses" and "problems."

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The problem with the Bible? We don't like to be pricked, poked, prodded, corrected, disciplined, convicted. We don't want ANY one--not even God--telling us what to do, how to act, what to believe, how to live. We don't mind the occasional warm and fuzzy promise--often take out of context. (That is a promise written TO believers that is subsequently broadened to include anyone who has ever breathed.)

IF the Bible clashes with ME, IF the Bible clashes with what I want, IF the Bible clashes with what I need, with what I desire, IF the Bible clashes with the world, with what the world says is right, with what the world says is good, with what the world says is just...then THE PROBLEM IS THE BIBLE, NOT ME, NEVER ME, NEVER THE WORLD.

God is God is God is God is God. God means what He says and says what He means. Scripture should not be added to, subtracted from, altered, twisted, distorted, warped, erased. Playing around with what Scripture means leads to deadly consequences. It's the work of a PROUD heart, for one thing. When preachers and teachers play around with Scripture, alter the meaning, if their interpretation of what a text "really, truly" means CLEARLY contradicts a passage's clear meaning, and encourages others to believe the same....it takes my breath away.

The problem with the Bible? Me and you. We need to read with spiritual eyes, repentant hearts, opening our minds to the WORD (the Bible) and THE WORD (Jesus Christ). Open minds--open to the Spirit, open to the truth, open to being taught. BUT CLOSED, FIRMLY CLOSED, to the WORLD, to the LUSTS OF THE EYES, TO THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH, TO THE PRIDE OF LIFE. (1 John 2:15-17). We don't need to read the Bible with our hearts in alignment with the WORLD, WITH THE CULTURE, WITH SOCIETY, WITH OUR SINFUL, LUSTFUL HEARTS, WITH OUR POLITICAL BELIEFS, WITH OUR PHILOSOPHIES AND WORLDVIEWS. We need to set our minds on THINGS ABOVE (Colossians 3:1-10). God's truth is the ONLY truth.

The problem with the Bible? We're unwilling to see the bad news is TRUE news. We're unwilling to believe that the bad news is the truth of God and it's about US, me and you, here and now. So long as we can edit out ALL the bad news of the Bible (sin, the fall of mankind, disobedience, wrath, justice, GOD AS JUDGE, the need to repent, our actual need for a Savior, the existence of hell, the exclusivity of heaven, the fact that JESUS IS THE ONE AND ONLY WAY instead of one of many ways) it's fine to believe in Jesus Christ's teaching of LOVE of PEACE of JOY of HOPE. There is no fear of God, because we strip away any and every teaching that might give us a glimpse of a God worthy of being feared.

Run far, far, far away from ANY professing believer who approaches the Word of God as if it were written on a dry/erase board. Turn away from any professing believer who erases what he/she does not want to be true. Reject any teaching that is from man's vain imagination. (2 Corinthians 10:5) The truth is once you start "rejecting" any verse from the Bible as not being true, not being inspired, not being the word of God but just a human idea by a human author, it isn't long before you start rejecting chapters AND verses, whole books of the Bible, whole sections of Scripture.

There will always, always, always, always be doctrines of Scripture that will prove DISTASTEFUL and OFFENSIVE and UNCOMFORTABLE and DISCONCERTING to natural, fallen man. Our very natures--the natures we were born with, our own natural sense of right and wrong, our own natural sense of good and evil, our own desires and wants and needs--will be in conflict with the Word...until we are BORN AGAIN and SET FREE. 1 JOHN 3 reads, "You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:5, 8)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Psalm 119:160
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:19-21

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

10. Sanctification

Sanctification: God's Passion for His People. John MacArthur. 80 pages. 2020. Crossway. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian living; christian nonfiction; theology]

First sentence: We have a clear window into Christ’s continual intercession for his people in John 17. That passage is known as Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer. Its centerpiece is a plea for the sanctification of his disciples: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17–19). Then Jesus pointedly applies that request not only to the Twelve, but also to every Christian in all subsequent generations: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (17:20).

There is nothing quite so satisfying as a concise yet delicious dose of truth to nourish the soul. John MacArthur's Sanctification is a delightful length on a topic that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. For the record, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the doctrine of justification. But I also love, love, love the doctrine of sanctification. The fact that many believers are not familiar with these essential truths is sad.

I am not speaking of familiarity with the exact terms "justification" or "sanctification" but the concepts and truths of these doctrines. Perhaps this is because often there isn't a thorough understanding of sin, original sin, the fall of man. If one doesn't have a proper understanding of sin--what it is, how it separates us from God, how deadly dangerous it is, etc.--then there's a SO WHAT or WHO CARES when it comes to later doctrines like justification and sanctification.

The book is timely and relevant--as truth always is. The focus is more on WHY you should care about sanctification.

Namely, this book is urging--begging--preachers to ACTUALLY CARE. He believes--rightly, in my opinion, that pastors should CARE if their flocks grows in the faith, if they bear fruit, if they are living holy lives and FOLLOWING Jesus. Pastors should not care exclusively about attendance or about feedback and approval. They should not be talking to hear themselves talk...but instead be teaching and preaching with the sanctification of their hearers--their flock--in mind.

MacArthur writes, "Despite the diversity of so many responsibilities, all those pastoral duties ultimately point to one clear and singular goal: the sanctification of God’s people. All the man’s energies and all the faculties of his heart and mind must remain focused on that one long-range goal, and he must never lose sight of it. This is, after all, God’s ultimate purpose for his elect: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). That is how Scripture summarizes the goal of sanctification—not merely to make us appear holy, but to make us truly and thoroughly Christlike."

He addresses misconceptions on holiness and some of the faults of the modern church. Two of the misconceptions are legalism and antinomianism. Chances are you've heard those terms but perhaps struggle to distinguish between these two. MacArthur is great at explaining the differences and pointing out why both are wrong. He writes, "The legalist thinks he’s spiritual because he observes a law; the antinomian thinks he’s spiritual because he doesn’t. Both define the Christian life by what they do with regard to the law rather than stressing the need for the Spirit’s empowerment to conform us to Christ’s likeness. The legalist will never be able to restrain the flesh with his legalism (Gal. 5:17). And the antinomian who refuses even to hear the law because he thinks rules of any kind are a threat to his “liberty” is still in bondage to sin (Rom. 6:15–16)."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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