Killing Sin, Simply Put

Be killing sin or it will be killing you. -John Owen

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. -Romans 8:13

I was rebuked yesterday, reminded that the repetition of Christian-sounding phrases doesn’t always communicate exactly what I think they do. In meeting with someone for counseling, I encouraged them to “kill your sin!” only to be met with questions and misunderstanding. You see, it turns out that just saying “kill your sin” doesn’t actually tell anyone what that means. It’s not as if sin is a physical thing that can be taken outside and shoved off a cliff. So what does it mean to kill sin?

Simply put…


Reflections on Genesis 3:15

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Gen 3:14-15).

Herein marks the announcement of God’s plan. A promise of defeat for Satan, a word of assurance to the angels, and a message of hope for fallen humanity. It is all contained here in kernel form.

The significance of this passage can scarcely be overstated. In one short statement the underlying theme and meaning of history is laid bare. Whatever one says about the history of mankind, therefore, whether they’re looking at the specks of some seemingly insignificant incident, or the grand movements of a mighty nation, if this overarching perspective is fundamentally absent from their thinking, the task of making sense of human experience, whether it be the past or the present or the future, will inevitably fail to reflect the deep currents of reality. As a result, […]


Love Brothers, Love Strangers

Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…
Hebrews 12:1-2

“You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?”

Recently I read an older article at Desiring God, where David Mathis told of being in a class on intensive evangelism and being asked this question by Steve Childers, director of Global Church Advancement.  Childers waited, then gave the one word answer.  “Hospitality.”  If you want a further development of Childer’s answer, read Mathis’ article entitled “Hospitality and the Great Commission.”

Childers is correct.  Repeatedly the Bible shows God using hospitality to advance the kingdom of God.  From Jesus eating with tax gatherers and sinners to Cornelius inviting people into his house to hear Peter, the Lord used homes to spread the gospel. Mathis’ post shows how thoroughly Biblical and how often commanded showing hospitality is, especially in our witness to Christ.

Next month our congregation will begin a series of evangelistic services called Stories of Hope.  Rather than only trying to encourage members to invite friends to those services, we have been urging them to pray for and then befriend more deeply those around them.  We do no want their friends only coming to hear the testimonies and gospel story preaching at the services; we want their […]


A Godward Look at Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce. It’s an awful word. There’s some words in the English language that evoke pleasant thoughts and happy images. Divorce isn’t one of them. In fact, for me, there’s few words in the dictionary that conjure up such troublesome connotations. When I hear “divorce” I think of broken hearts, broken families, broken homes, broken children–broken promises. If there’s anything in our society that demonstrates the human heart’s propensity to lie, it’s divorce.

Recently, Gentle Reformation was asked to address the issue of divorce and remarriage. When I was training to be a pastor the problems leading to and resulting from divorce were, in my mind, thought to be some of the most challenging and difficult. This isn’t a fine point of theology we can afford to discuss in an ivory tower or fireside chat. Divorcees aren’t faceless strangers–they’re co-workers, friends, family and church members. But a commitment to Jesus and “all that he commanded” must compel us to speak with clarity, sensitivity, and compassion into a culture that’s addicted to divorce.

Of course one of the difficulties are all the what ifs. There’s a thousand seemingly hopeless scenarios where divorce almost seems to be the only option. But before one can be […]


A Professional Ministry

A number of years ago John Piper famously wrote, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry… The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 2002). The subtitle of the book explains his thesis: “A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry.” A desire to be comfortable and to have a nice career is incompatible with the radical call to follow Christ. While this advice is good as far as it goes, it misses the point that ALL Christians have a radical call to follow Christ and seek His glory instead of our own comfort (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 16:24-25). It also fails to address the fact that, at some level, professionalism in the ministry is a positive good!

Most evangelicals do not go into the ministry to be comfortable.


Brothers, Love Your Sisters

With so much talk of brotherly love in the Scriptures, it is sad that there are too few expressions of it witnessed in familial life. Especially in brothers loving their sisters.  Often it seems that brothers are too busy for sisters and bothered with their interests. With so many young ladies looking for attention in all the wrong places these days, you wonder how different things would be if brothers simply loved their sisters.

Yet that raises the question.  Brother, how do you love your sister?  Here are five simple encouragements.

Listen to her. As my own family of three boys and three girls grew, with the genders alternating boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl, each brother had a younger sister looking up to him.  I noticed every day that the younger sister wanted to talk and tell the older brother what was going on in the home, in her thoughts, in our lives.  Brother, you can learn to love your sister by putting down the ball or turning away from the screen for a few minutes, looking your sister in the eyes, and listening to what she is wanting to tell you.  Let her know that when she needs to talk to someone, you will be one person that will […]


The Psalter: Smartphone of the Soul (revisited)

Note: This article was originally posted over three years ago here at Gentle Reformation. It is re-posted to compliment several of our recent articles on the place of the Psalms in human life.

Smartphones order our lives helpfully, or at least they can. In one tiny device, we carry a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a web browser, an atlas, a notebook, a mailbox, a calendar, a library, an audio and video player, and a million apps that do everything from forecasting the weather to finding a spouse. Yet, their small screens and tiny keyboards limit their usefulness. These devices certainly fall short of desktop capacity. On the other hand, their portability makes them far more powerful for the user than a desktop most of the time.

These tools enrich life and make it more efficient. Like every great human idea, they simply copy God’s pattern. God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his book. But, it’s hard to memorize the whole thing, and it’s not always portable. It’s the desktop. So, the Lord placed the smartphone of the soul right in the center of Scripture.  It’s 150 chapters long, and touches every human need. It does not […]


Audio Picks

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the 2015 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, do so. There was an excellent assortment of speakers and messages.

The topic was sin. They titled the conference: Where Sin Increased: The Rebellion of Man and the Abundance of Grace.

Here are a few that stood out to me:

“What is Sin? The Essence and Root of all Sinning,” by John Piper

“Make War: The Pastor and His People in the Battle Against Sin,” by John Piper

“O, That Day, When Freed From Sin,” by Sam Storms

You can find the rest of the messages here.


The Christian Use of the Imprecatory Psalms

Last week an interesting article appeared on one of my favorite blogs, Reformation 21, entitled “ISIS and the Imprecatory Psalms.” Excited to see how the Psalm portions that involve praying the covenantal curses against the enemies of God would be treated, I eagerly read it.  Author Carleton Wynne, using the fullness of the revelation given to us in the New Testament, makes many good points about the historical rootedness of these prayers, wrongful applications of them, the ultimate fulfillment they will have in the final judgment, and the Christian spirit in which they should now be prayed.  The article is well worth a read.

Providentially, I just completed a teaching course on preaching, where one assignment the students had was to develop a sermon from the imprecatory Psalms.  As we discussed this article, we felt that one thought that runs through the article was a bit unsatisfying.  Though he makes some concession to praying for justice in this life, Wynne seems uncomfortable with prayers for imminent justice when he asks and answers the following question at the end.

So may we pray the imprecatory Psalms today? No, in the sense that Christians today may not pray the imprecatory Psalms with outstretched finger, identifying enemies who do them […]


A Brief History of Psalm Singing

A couple of weeks ago our congregation featured as part of a programme made for the BBC tracing the development of Christian hymns from its roots in psalm singing to the present proliferation of modern praise songs. (If you live in the UK you can still watch the programme on the BBC iPlayer here). It was a great opportunity to showcase (albeit briefly) the psalms in congregational worship. Still flying the flag for Psalmody, and following hot on the heels of Jared Olivetti’s post a few days back about the suitability of the psalms for worship, I thought I’d say a few things about the pedigree of Psalm singers…

Usually if people know anything about the Reformed Presbyterian Church they know that our book of praise is the Psalter. But it’s also very likely that they don’t know why Reformed Presbyterians choose to sing only Psalms. No doubt it seems very peculiar to many nowadays. In an age when we have access to countless thousands of worship songs, why would we choose to limit ourselves to these 150 extremely ancient songs?

Is it because we want to live in the past? Are we like those American civil war buffs who dress up […]