Category Archives: Sanctification

Quotes from Semester 1 at Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2017

We’ve just finished our first semester here at Sydney Missionary Bible College, where I’m studying towards a Masters of Divinity.

It’s been exhausting on some fronts – adjusting to life in Australia with a young family, scrambling to build new friendships and relationships, grieving as NZ friends move on with their lives. I don’t think we’ve ever been as sick with colds and flus as this past 6 months.

It’s been enriching on many fronts – drinking from multiple fire hoses gushing with theology, observing examples of godliness, and catching the passion to bring Christ to all the nations – literally. What a special place this is to be prepared for a lifetime of gospel ministry in NZ.

I’ve noted down for posterity what others have said this semester – nuggets of wisdom worth retaining longer than all my ephemeral InstaFaceTweets combined. Most of these were from lectures and chapels; some were from conversations over lunch and dinner with staff and students; a few are quotes from other places. I hope some of them are helpful to you.


Church History: Early Church to 476

“If learning church history doesn’t contribute to your godliness and discipleship, then it hasn’t done its job.” – Stuart Coulton

“The Crusades. Nazi Germany. How could ‘Christians’ do such evil things? They were Christians who failed to critique the values of the world around them.” – S.C.

“We carpet bomb a city to save democracy [Dresden]. Should we kill a man for denying the Trinity [cf. Calvin and Servetus]? Church history gives us provocation and tools to wrestle with these propositions.” – S.C.

“What and where it happened is not as important as why it happened.” – S.C.

“Early Christianity stood out by its holiness. Is our church today known for its quality of life? What difference has Christ made to me?” – S.C.

“You work out what the error is by the way the truth is articulated.” – S.C.

“The difference between an ascetic and and aesthetic comes down to chocolate. The ascetic says no. The aesthetic says, ‘Only Lindt will do.'” – S.C.

“The church sometimes stops at bishops and creeds, but pays lip service to Scripture.” – S.C.

“The church has a need for many things, but what it really needs is good doctrine. We live in a world where pragmatism is the most popular authority. So assume nothing. Go back to Scripture and ask: is this truth biblical?” – S.C.

“Christians in the West treat Revelation in ways that John would be horrified. Does reading Revelation move you to pray for the persecuted church? If not perhaps we’ve missed John’s purpose for the letter.” – Rachel Ciano, Persecution and Apologists

“Fast growth in the early church meant nominal Christians with shallow roots. Christians lived in a time of peace, so were unprepared; many gave themselves up. May it be a lesson to us not to be caught unprepared.” – R.C. on the Edict of 250 AD requiring Christians worship the Roman Emperor.

“‘For the church to be marginalised is not a bad thing. It has better eyes to see from the edges.'” – R.C. paraphrasing Miroslav Volf

“If you’ve found something new that no one has ever thought of before, be careful. People have been thinking about things longer than you.” – R.C.

“One of the greatest things about church history is that you’ll never hero worship anyone. You see their black spots; everyone has feet of clay.” – S.C.

“Don’t write these guys off [early monastics]. Otherwise we’ll have nothing to learn. These monks asked: what does it look like to seriously follow Jesus? Part of me is provoked… How much am I prepared to follow Jesus?” – S.C.

“FF Bruce suggests that the Reformation is all about Augustine’s doctrine of the church colliding with his doctrine of salvation.” – S.C.

“If you find yourself separated from the majority of the church, then show some humility.” – S.C. summarising Augustine’s argument about the church

 

Church History: Middle Ages to Pre-Reformation

“Augustine’s view is that we are dead in our transgressions. Pelagius’s view is that we are not dead in our trangressions. The Bible teaches that you’re a prince [in Christ] and a worm. You’re totally depraved and you’re touched by grace.” – S.C.

“Herulean Oduvacar is the perfect name to drop into a dinner party conversation. He was the first non-Roman to sit on the throne. You think Donald Trump is shocking!” – S.C.

“In the Middle Ages, nobody believed in the separation of church and state. The issue at this time is which side is in charge.” – S.C.

“Don’t defend the Crusades. They are a complete blot on the Christian church.” – S.C.

“We are tempted to promote the cause of Christ using instruments of the world. But Zechariah 4:6 reminds us that it’s ‘not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit.'” – S.C.

“The real outrage with Luther was not that he had beer, but that he got married.” – S.C.

“The priesthood of all believers has politically explosive implications.” – S.C.

“One of the temptations for us is to lack confidence in the power of God’s Word. ‘You need topical. You need something else.’ No – it is the means by which salvation is accomplished.” – S.C.

“Lutheranism today is different to Lutheranism 500 years ago. Calvinism remains influential over the years, perhaps because it left a more systematised doctrine.” – S.C.

“Luther is all about stuffing the ark – ‘get them in’. Calvin wants to transform the ark – ‘sanctify them'”. – R.C., on the difference between Luther and Calvin

“One reason laments have lost their place in today’s worship is that we have a problem with saying ‘God, you did it.’ Withhold nothing from the sovereignty of God.” – R.C.

“Your church building says a lot about your theology.” – R.C. on church architecture

“Most of South America is Roman Catholic because of the Jesuits. While Protestants were infighting, they became a worldwide RCC. Parochialism is the enemy of the gospel. Don’t debate each other at the expense of gospel proclamation.” – R.C. on the Catholic counter-reformation

 

 

Pastoral Theology

“To pray for God to be glorified in your life is a dangerous prayer.” – Stuart Coulton, Pastoral Theology

“Beware the disjunct between the handling of God’s word for others, and practising God’s word for yourself.” – S.C.

“Small talk is addressing the 95% of a person’s life. If you are disinterested in 95% of a person’s life, then continue to hate small talk.” – S.C.

“What God does in you will shape what He does through you.” – S.C.

“[I] didn’t realise how dangerous Stuart’s prayer was until later in the year.” – student in the valley.

 

Biblical Theology

“In my class, the answer is usually Jesus, or context.” – Alan Thompson

“Here’s four approaches to the Bible:
1. Exegesis – what’s in the line?
2. Biblical Theology – what’s the timeline?
3. Systematic Theology – what’s the bottom line?
4. Historical Theology – what’s the church’s line?”

– adapted from A.T. explaining the role of biblical theology

New Testament Greek

“Learning Greek shouldn’t make you proud, but make you humble.” – Janet Riley

“Learning Greek is like Jacob wrestling with the angel. You need to hold on to that word and say: ‘I will not let you go until you bless me!'” – Rob Plummer on dailydoseofgreek.com

 

 

 

Old Testament Foundations

“We’re going to look at some of the greatest literature ever written.” – Kit Barker

“In time you’ll learn to use dictionaries, commentaries and journals. But nothing replaces a careful, repeated reflection of the text. Keep asking: what is God doing with this text then and now?” – K.B.

“The Pentateuch is meant to persuade you to obey – it’s not to be held at arm’s length. It’s meant to shape us, transform us into better men and women than we were.” – Geoff Harper

“Genesis records history, but it also critiques our own hearts. It’s less about what the sun is made of, but why it is there.” – G.H.

“There’s a diversity of views out there [on Genesis 1-2], but we are Christian. It’s very unwise to die on this hill. We need to love people who are different.” – G.H.

“To help us understand the literary artistry in the Tower of Babel story, let’s read The Gruffalo and see if you can spot any artistic devices.” – G.H.

“[In the Joseph story] Judah’s repentance is real. He’s willing to be Benjamin’s substitute, to be a slave so Benjamin can go free. We see the necessity for repentance to precede forgiveness. If we repent, we’ll get reconciliation.” – G.H.

“As Christians we need to be careful not to have an Islamic [i.e. dictated] view of Scripture. It’s OK if divine inspiration is more complex than we thought. We have a God who stands behind it.” – G.H.

“Let me make some bold statements: Leviticus is not just a relic of Israel’s history; it’s your history. It’s not redundant, but essential. You can’t understand Jesus unless you understand what’s in Leviticus: atonement, forgiveness, care for the foreigner, blood, sacrifice, holiness. So study Levicitus to understand Christ better.” – G.H.

“Leviticus is a wonderful evangelistic text. Lots of people are terrified about being unclean before a Holy God. Jesus is the one who makes us clean. Leviticus pushes us to talk about this.” – G.H.

“To remove wrath from the cross is foolishness. What then did he die for? Then there’s no sense in which God demonstrates his love.” – K.B.

“[The wrath of God] is not just an Old Testament problem. In fact, the NT is far more violent — in both the crucifixion [of Jesus] and in the unleashing of God’s fury on all who reject him.” – K.B.

“The more we understand and accept God’s wrath against rebellion, the more we appreciate the love of God and what Christ suffered.” – K.B.

“One generation is all it takes to lose the nation – to be worse than the culture you’re in. So we must pass on the life-giving words to the next generation.” – K.B. on Judges

 

Preaching Class, Principal’s Hour, Student Chapels

“The goal of preaching is not just to make smarter sinners. That’s what’s called dump truck preaching. The goal of preaching is to give God’s Word, to point people to their saviour, and live for his glory.” – Malcolm Gill

“It’s easy to do dump truck preaching. It’s much harder to be simple.” – M.G.

“‘My son’s birthday party’ – could be kids with party hats, or as it turns out, an adult son released from prison. Find out who you’re speaking to!” – M.G. on evaluating your audience

“In preaching you bring a meal out from the kitchen. You don’t take them into the kitchen and show them all the ingredients.” – M.G.

“If you’ve come to bible college, there probably is a Messiah complex about you. But our effectiveness in ministry is solely by God’s grace. The gospel gives us both confidence and humility in gospel ministry.” – Mark Adams, on 1 Cor 15

“Genesis 38 pictures a man in the midst of rebellion, confronted with his deception, then immediately acknowledging this wrongdoing, who becomes a new person. God transforms the hardest of hearts.” – Kit Barker

“People have a right to see in us a radical reflection of Jesus.” – S.C., on Matthew 5

“Jesus had nothing to add to the commandments except one thing: he kept them.” – S.C. quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The Old Testament is the gospel in bud; the New Testament is the gospel in flower.” – S.C. quoting JC Ryle

“As Bob Dylan sang, ‘You’re going to have to serve somebody.’ The question is, who? Who will you give your heart to?” – S.C., Matt 6:19-34

“There is a difference between having strong convictions and lacking respect for others with whom we disagree.” – S.C., on Matt 7:1-6

“One of the dangers of college is that our skillset outstrips our character. So begin with a command like this: don’t judge.” – S.C.

“Some advice for bible college graduates – don’t whine, don’t shine, and don’t recline.” – from an OT lecturer at Moore College

 

Other quotables

“Competence without character in Christian service is not just unattractive, but incredibly dangerous.” – S.C.

“Ministry Matters [hearing from missionaries every week] will help us lift our eyes away from parochialism and our tendency to only look locally.” – S.C.

“Some cultures don’t even have a word for guilt in their language. How do you explain Romans 3 to them?” – Richard Hibbert, on cross-cultural communication

“[Why are we missionaries in an unsafe country?] Safe is relative. You could be in Australia and get hit by a car. Is Christ worthy for West Asians to praise? If so then it is worth being here for the sake of the gospel.” – X+X, missionary family with young children

 

 

Interview: David talks about memorising scripture

Scripture memory doesn’t save; only Jesus can do that. But I’m convinced that the practice of intentionally memorising the Bible is a habit of grace that is worth cultivating for God’s glory, and the good of His people.

To encourage myself and others with this, I’ve interviewed a few people that I respect and look up to, learning from them what they do, what they don’t, how they struggle, how they persevere with the spiritual discipline of scripture memory.

“I have stored up your Word in my heart
That I might not sin against You.”
– Psalm 119:11

Previously:


One of the things that came to mind when I first met David Chang was: “Wow! Check out that hair!” But crazy hair aside, Cheryl and I have really appreciated getting to know him as a friend over the years. David is currently a member of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church in Hamilton, and works for the Waikato DHB as a Speech Language Therapist. So he thinks about words and speech all day long!

David kindly took some time out of his schedule to chat about the blessings of scripture memory.


1. Share with us a Bible passage you’ve memorised.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and holy lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

2. What are some passages that youve committed to memory?

  • Romans 8:1-17
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • Titus
  • Ephesians 1-2
  • 1 John 1-2
  • A few of the Psalms!

 

3. What convinced you to start memorising Scripture?

My first extended passage that I memorised (Romans 8) was because it was such a critical chapter of Christian living. I was really strengthened and encouraged by it and wanted to commit it to heart.

The first book I memorised (Philippians) was because The Resurgence (Christian blog site) posted a challenge in December 2010 to memorise the book of Philippians by Easter 2011. A friend then started a Facebook page to encourage a bunch of friends to take up the challenge.

Since Philippians, I have just sporadically decided to commit texts to memory, both individually and with friends.

4. How do you choose which passages to memorise?

I have not been particularly systematic in selecting passages to memorise. However, here are some reasons that have contributed to picking a text:

  • Passages that are currently being preached through at church.
  • Passages that have been a great reminder/encouragement to me during a season of life.
  • Passages that friends have wanted to memorise together.

And so far, all of the above also meet the vague criteria of not being overly long (e.g. Not the whole Gospel of Matthew/Mark/Luke/John) to memorise.

5. Do you suggest memorising whole books of the Bible or selected verses? What are the pros/cons?

There is a place for both:

Whole Books

+ You revisit the same books over and over and over again, that you become very familiar with the text – the flow of the arguments, the themes, the emphases. At times I have found that I am so familiar with the text that I can identify with the thoughts and emotions of the author as he writes to the point that the way he thinks and his priorities start rubbing off on me.

+ You understand passages in their correct context, and start using/applying them in appropriate situations. 

– Some books are just too big to commit to memory – they will take a very long time.

Selected Verses

+ You can bring verses to mind that cover a range of topics – from verses that address different aspects of theology, to verses/promises to cling to in different circumstances.

– It is easy to accidentally strip these verses of their context.

6. What are some of the blessings youve experienced in committing Scripture to memory?

I have found that while I am memorising a particular text, the text will often very naturally come to mind as I go about my day and I’ve come to see how particular texts are relevant to different situations – even in situations that you have never thought of.

For example, while I was memorising Philippians, Phil 4:6-9 was a great reminder to me when I wrestled with something that made me anxious and stressed. People often think of Phil 4:6 in those situations, but the fact that I had vs. 8 + 9 also committed to memory reminded me that, a lot of what made me stressed/anxious were actually uncertainty of the future or things that “could happen” and helped me to redirect my thoughts to things that were “true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise”.

Also, I’ve grown in my love for some of the ‘less-famous’ passages of the Bible, simply because you see how these texts can be as edifying as the “famous” passages.

Also, during times of memorising scripture, the text that I’m memorising can often just roll off my tongue in my interactions.

 

7. OK – walk us through your step-by-step method of memorising Scripture.

My method has evolved through the years, but if I was to pick a new text to memorise tomorrow, this is what I would do:

  1. Read through the passage twice a day for two weeks. This helps significantly in becoming familiar with the text, the argument and how the author/translators phrase things. While this may initially feel like a waste of time because you want to just get stuck in, I have found doing this helped make the memorising easier and quicker.
  2. Start at the beginning. Cover the text and try and recite as much as I can – if I completed step 1, I am always surprised with how much is already committed to memory.
  3. Uncover and check whether you were correct. If so, repeat again. If not, repeat again.
  4. Once I correctly recite the passage 2-3 times in a row, I add the next sentence to the end and try and recite the whole text from the beginning (Repeat 2-4).
  5. If it is a long passage, I do some chunking. When I reach a natural break (e.g. end of a chapter), I stop adding to the end of what I have already memorised (as in step 4), and just start afresh from the next section.
  6. Once I’ve memorised each “chunk” I try to tie them together by reciting the whole passage.

“… We are often in the habit of filling in these “empty” times with social media, but it can surprise you how much you can achieve in these times.”

8. What are some practical tips you can share that can help us be more successful with Scripture memory?

  • Keep track of verses by counting with your fingers – this avoids awkwardly adding of numbers as you recite passages which can disrupt the flow of the text. While this may not be as helpful (compared to saying the numbers out loud as you recite) when people ask you to immediately recite a specific verse, it is surprising how effective it is. It also helps with recognising if you’ve missed a verse while you’re reciting.
  • Step 1 in the above question – reading through the passage quite a bit before you start is surprisingly effective.
  • Recite together! Find 1-2 other people and do it together once a week. It can take just 30min. I did this before church with two other guys once, and it was very enjoyable.
  • Try and recite in your “empty” times. The good thing about reciting Scripture is you don’t actually have to use your eyes or hands that much – so you can do it when you’re stuck in traffic, waiting at the bus stop, riding the bus, sitting on the toilet, when your eyes are tired and don’t want to look at anything, showering, walking, etc. We are often in a habit of filling in these “empty” times with social media, but it can surprise you how much you can achieve in these times.

 

9. Any other words of encouragement for those of us having a go?

  • Pray, pray, pray. Our God is Sovereign and in control of all things, including our brains. Ask for his help.
  • Just get started – the idea is more daunting and seem more impressive than it actually is. If you commit to it and do it regularly, it is probably not as hard as you think.
  • Take your time – some people are better at memorising than others – but everyone can do it!

 

Resources and helps:

The best contents page I’ve ever read – Thomas Brooks, Precious remedies against Satan’s devices

Our church has been going through the book of Ephesians. We’re at the part where the Apostle Paul gives final instructions (more like marching orders) to his readers:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…” (Eph. 6:10-11)

Paul calls us to know the opposition, and then stand firm against his scheme. And so during my reading this week, I worked through the contents page of a helpful book on the topic of spiritual warfare called “Precious remedies against Satan’s devices” by Thomas Brooks. I found it incredibly helpful. Have a look for yourself (I’ve marked in red the ones I found particularly helpful in my own walk):

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN [12 devices and their remedies]

  1. By presenting the bait and hiding the hook: For remedies, consider that
    • we ought to keep at the greatest distance from sin and from playing with the bait
    • sin is but a bitter sweet
    • sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses
    • sin is very deceitful and bewitching

  2. By painting sin with virtue’s colours: For remedies, consider that
    • sin is never the less vile by being so painted
    • the more sin is so painted the more dangerous it is
    • we ought to look on sin with that eye with which within a few hours we shall see it
    • sin cost the life-blood of the Lord Jesus

  3. By the extenuating and lessening of sin: For remedies, consider that
    • sin which men account small brings God’s great wrath on men
    • the giving way to a less sin makes way for the committing of a greater
    • it is sad to stand with God for a trifle
    • often there is most danger in the smallest sins
    • the saints have chosen to suffer greatly rather than commit the least sin
    • the soul can never stand under the guilt and weight of sin when God sets it home upon the soul
    • there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction

  4. By showing to the soul the best men’s sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, and their repentance: For remedies, consider that
    • the Spirit of God records not only the sins of the saints, but also their repentance
    • these saints did not make a trade of sin
    • though God does not disinherit his sinning people, He punishes them severely
    • God has two main ends in recording the falls of His saints

  5. By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy: For remedies, consider
    • It is the sorest of judgements to be left to sin upon any pretense whatever
    • God is as just as He is merciful
    • sins against mercy will bring the greatest and sorest judgements on men
    • though God’s general mercy is over all His works, yet His special mercy is confined to those that are divinely qualified
    • the saints now glorified regarded God’s mercy as a most powerful argument against, and not for, sin

  6. By persuading the soul that repentance is easy and that therefore the soul need not scruple about sinning: For remedies, consider that
    • repentance is a difficult work above our own power
    • repentance changes and converts the whole man from sin to God
    • repentance is a continued act
    • if repentance were easy, the lack of it would not strike millions with terror and drive them to hell
    • to repent of sin is as great a mark of grace as not to sin
    • Satan now suggests that repentance is easy, but shortly he will drive his dupes to despair by presenting it as the hardest work in the world



  7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin: For remedies, consider
    • certain scriptures expressly command us to avoid occasions of sin and the least appearance of evil
    • there is no conquest over sin unless the soul turns from the occasions of sin
    • saints now glorified have turned from the occasions of sin as from hell itself
    • to avoid the occasions of sin is an evidence of grace



  8. By representing to the soul the outward mercies enjoyed by men walking in sin, and their freedom from outward miseries: For remedies, consider that
    • we cannot judge of how the heart of God stands towards a man by the acts of His providence
    • nothing provokes God’s wrath so much as men’s abuse of His goodness and mercy
    • there is no greater curse or affliction in this life than not to be in misery or affliction
    • the wants of evil men are far greater than their outward blessings
    • outward things are not as they seem, nor as they are esteemed
    • God has ends and designs in giving evil men outward mercies and present rest from sorrows and sufferings that cause saints to sigh
    • God often plagues and punishes those whom others think He most spares and loves
    • God will call evil men to a strict account for all the outward good that they have enjoyed

  9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses, sorrows and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness: For remedies, consider that
    • all afflictions suffered by Christians turn to their profit
    • all such afflictions only reach their worst, not their best, part
    • all such afflictions are short and momentary
    • all such afflictions proceed from God’s dearest love
    • it is our duty and glory to measure afflictions not by the smart but by the end
    • God’s design in saints’ afflictions is to try, not to ruin, their souls
    • the afflictions, wrath and misery consequent upon wickedness are far worse than those linked with holiness

  10. By causing saints to compare themselves and their ways with those reputed to be worse than themselves: For remedies, consider that
    • to be quick-sighted abroad and blind at home proves a man a hypocrite
    • it is far better to compare our internal and external actions with the Word than to compare ourselves with others worse than ourselves
    • though our sins may not appear as great as those of others, yet without repentance responding to mercy, we shall be as certainly damned as others



  11. By polluting the souls and judgements of men with dangerous errors that lead to looseness and wickedness: For remedies, consider that
    • an erroneous vain mind is as odious to God as a wicked life
    • it is needful to receive the truth affectionately and plenteously
    • error makes its owner suffer loss
    • it is needful to hate and reject all doctrines that are contrary to godliness, that lead to self-righteousness, and that make good works co-partners with Christ
    • it is needful to hold fast the truth
    • it is needful to keep humble
    • errors have been productive of great evils

  12. By leading men to choose wicked company: For remedies, consider that
    • there are express commands of God to shun such company
    • wicked company is infectious and dangerous
    • it is needful to look upon the wicked in such terms as Scripture describes them
    • the company of wicked men was once a grief and burden also to saints now glorified

 

III. SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SOULS FROM HOLY DUTIES, TO HINDER SOULS IN HOLY SERVICES, TO KEEP THEM OFF FROM RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCES [8 devices and their remedies]

  1. By presenting the world in such a garb as to ensnare the soul: For remedies, consider that
    • all things here below are impotent and weak
    • they are also full of vanity
    • all things under the sun are uncertain and mutable
    • the great things of the world are hurtful to men owing to the corruption of their hearts
    • all the felicity [happiness] of this world is mixed
    • it is needful to get better acquainted with, and assurance of, more blessed and glorious things
    • true happiness and satisfaction does not arise from worldly good
    • the value and dignity of the soul is to be a subject of contemplation

  2. By presenting to the soul the dangers, losses and sufferings that accompany the performance of certain religious duties: For remedies, consider that
    • all such troubles cannot harm the true Christian
    • saints now glorified encountered such dangers, but persevered to the end
    • all such dangers are but for a moment, whereas the neglect of the service of God lays the Christian open to spiritual and eternal dangers
    • God knows how to deliver from troubles by troubles, from dangers by dangers
    • In the service of God, despite troubles and afflictions, the gains outweigh the losses

       

  3. By presenting to the soul the difficulty of performing religious duties: For remedies, consider that
    • it is better to regard the necessity of the duty than the difficulty of it
    • the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to the obedient soul and thus make the service easy
    • the Lord Jesus has Himself engaged in hard service and in suffering for your temporal and eternal good
    • religious duties are only difficult to the worse, not to the more noble part of a saint
    • a glorious recompense awaits saints who serve the Lord in the face of difficulties and discouragements

  4. By causing saints to draw false inferences from the blessed and glorious things that Christ has done: For remedies, consider that
    • it is as needful to dwell as much upon scriptures that state Christian duty as upon those that speak of the glorious things that Christ has done for us
    • the glorious things that Christ has done and is now doing for us should be our strongest motives and encouragements for the performance of our duties
    • other precious souls who have rested on Christ’s work have been very active and lively in religious duties
    • those who do not walk in God’s ways cannot have such evidence of their righteousness before God as can those who rejoice in the service of the Lord
    • duties are to be esteemed not by their acts but by their ends



  5. By presenting to view the fewness and poverty of those who hold to religious practices: For remedies, consider that
    • though saints are outwardly poor, they are inwardly rich
    • in all ages God has had some that have been rich, wise and honourable
    • spiritual riches infinitely transcend temporal riches, and satisfy the poorest saints
    • saints now appear to be ‘a little flock’, but they belong to a company that cannot be numbered
    • it is but as a day before these despised saints will shine brighter than the sun
    • the time will come even in this life when God will take away the reproach and contempt of His people, and make those the ‘head’ who have been the ‘tail’

  6. By showing saints that the majority of men make light of God’s ways and walk in the ways of their own hearts: For remedies, consider that
    • certain scriptures warn against following the sinful examples of men
    • those who sin with the multitude will suffer with the multitude
    • the soul of a man is of more worth than heaven and earth

  7. By casting in vain thoughts while the soul is seeking God or waiting on God: For remedies, consider that
    • the God with whom we have to do is great, holy, majestic and glorious
    • despite wandering thoughts it is needful to be resolute in religious service
    • vain and trifling thoughts that Satan casts into our souls are not sins if they are abhorred, resisted and disclaimed
    • watching against, resisting and lamenting sinful thoughts evidences grace and the sincerity of our hearts
    • we must labour to be filled with the fullness of God and enriched with all spiritual blessings
    • we must labour to keep up holy and spiritual affections
    • we must labor to avoid multiplicity of worldly business

       

  8. By tempting Christians to rest in their performances: For remedies, consider that
    • our choicest services have their imperfection and weaknesses
    • our choicest services are unable to minister comfort and aid in days of trouble
    • good works, if rested upon, will as certainly destroy us as the greatest sins that we commit
    • God has met our need of a resting place in Christ Himself


       

       

IV. SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING, QUESTIONING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION [8 devices and their remedies]

  1. By causing saints to remember their sins more than their Saviour, yes, even to forget and neglect their Saviour: For remedies, consider that
    • though Jesus Christ has not freed believers from sin’s presence, He has freed them from its damnatory power
    • though Jesus Christ has not freed believers from the vexing and molesting power of sin, He has freed them from the reign and dominion of sin
    • it is needful to keep one eye on the promise of remission of sin, and the other eye on the inward operations of sin
    • believers’ sins have been charged to the account of Christ as debts which He has fully satisfied
    • the Lord has good reasons for allowing His people to be troubled with sinful corruption
    • believers must repent of their being discouraged by their sins

  2. By causing saints to make false definitions of their graces: For remedies, consider
    • there may be true faith, even great faith, where there is no assurance
    • the Scriptures define faith other than Satan tempts the saints to define it
    • there may be true faith where there is much doubting
    • assurance is an effect of faith, not faith itself

  3. By causing saints to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence: For remedies, consider that
    • many things, though contrary to our desires, are not contrary to our good
    • God’s hand may be against a man when His love and His heart are set upon him
    • Cross providences are sent by God to work some noble good for saints
    • all the strange and deep providences that believers meet with further them in their way to heaven

  4. By suggesting to saints that their graces are not true, but counterfeit: For remedies, consider that
    • grace may mean either the good will and favour of God, or the gifts of grace
    • there are differences between renewing grace and restraining grace, between sanctifying and temporary grace (to particulars given)

  5. By suggesting to saints that the conflict that is in them is found also in hypocrites and profane souls: For remedies, consider that
    • the whole frame of a believer’s soul is against sin
    • a saint conflicts against sin universally, the least sin as well as the greatest
    • the conflict in a saint is maintained for several reasons
    • the saint’s conflict is constant
    • the saint’s conflict is within the same faculties
    • the saint’s conflict is blessed, successful and prevailing

  6. By suggesting to the saint who has lost joy and comfort that his state is not good: For remedies, consider that
    • the loss of comfort is a separable adjunct from grace
    • the precious things still enjoyed are far better than the joys and comforts lost
    • the glorified saints were once in the same condition
    • the causes of joy and comfort are not always the same
    • God will restore the comforts of His people

  7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against: For remedies, consider that
    • many scriptures show that such relapses have troubled saints
    • God nowhere promises that such relapses will not happen
    • the most renowned of glorified saints have, on earth, experienced such relapses
    • relapses into enormities must be distinguished from relapses into infirmities
    • involuntary and voluntary relapses must be distinguished
    • no experience of the soul, however deep or high, can in itself secure the soul against relapses

  8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound: For remedies, consider that
    • the best of Christians have been most tempted by Satan
    • all the saints’ temptations are sanctified to them by a hand of love
    • temptations cannot harm the saints as long as they are resisted by them

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DESTROY AND ENSNARE ALL SORTS AND RANKS OF MEN IN THE WORLD [5 devices and their remedies]

I. DEVICES AGAINST THE GREAT AND HONOURABLE OF THE EARTH

  1. By causing them to seek greatness, position, riches and security: For remedies, consider that
    • self-seeking sets men upon sins against the law, the Gospel, and Nature itself
    • self-seeking exceedingly abases a man
    • the Word pronounces curses and woes against self-seekers
    • self-seekers are self-losers and self-destroyers
    • saints have denied self and set public good above personal advantage
    • self hinders the sight of divine things: hence prophets and apostles, when seeing visions, were carried out of themselves

  2. By causing them to act against the people of the Most High: For remedies, consider that
    • all who have acted against the saints have been ruined by the God of saints
    • the Scriptures show that God gives victory to His people against their enemies
    • to fight against the people of God is to fight against God Himself
    • men of the world owe their preservation from instant ruin, under God, to the saints

II. DEVICE AGAINST THE LEARNED AND THE WISE

  1. By moving them to pride themselves on their parts and abilities, and to despise men of greater grace but inferior abilities: For remedies, consider that
    • men have nothing but what they have received, gifts as well as saving grace coming alike from Christ
    • men’s trusting to their parts and abilities has been their utter ruin
    • you do not transcend others more in parts and abilities than they do you in grace and holiness
    • men who pride themselves on their gifts and set themselves against the saints will find that God blasts and withers their gifts

III. DEVICE AGAINST THE SAINTS

  1. By dividing them and causing them to ‘bite and devour one another.’ For remedies, consider that
    • it is better to dwell on the saints’ graces rather than on their weaknesses and infirmities
    • love and union best promote safety and security
    • God commands and requires the saints to love one another
    • it is better to eye the things in which saints agree rather than those things wherein they differ
    • God is the God of peace, Christ the Prince of peace, and the Spirit the Spirit of peace
    • it is needful for the saints to make more care and conscience of maintaining their peace with God
    • it is needful to dwell much upon the relationship and union of the people of God
    • discord is productive of miseries
    • it is good and honorable to be the first in seeking peace and reconcilement
    • saints should agree well together, making the Word the only touchstone and judge of their words and actions
    • saints should be much in self-judging
    • saints should labor to be clothed with humility

IV. DEVICE AGAINST POOR AND IGNORANT SOULS

  1. By causing them to affect ignorance and to neglect and despise the means of knowledge: For remedies, consider that
    • an ignorant heart is an evil heart
    • ignorance is the deformity of the soul
    • ignorance makes men objects of God’s hatred and wrath
    • ignorance is a sin that leads to all sins

 


You can read the whole book here.

Interview: Angela talks about memorising scripture

Scripture memory doesn’t save; only Jesus can do that. But I’m convinced that the practice of intentionally memorising the Bible is a habit of grace that is worth cultivating for God’s glory, and the good of His people.

To encourage myself and others with this, I’ve interviewed a few people that I respect and look up to, learning from them what they do, what they don’t, how they struggle, how they persevere with the spiritual discipline of scripture memory.

“I have stored up your Word in my heart
That I might not sin against You.”
– Psalm 119:11

Previously:


a_robb_photo

I first met Angela Robb at a bible conference that our church in Howick hosts each year. Since then, I (and others) have been encouraged by her love for Christ and committed service to His people. I was quite struck by the fact that, prior to a conference with messages from Philippians, Angela had memorised the entire book beforehand!

Angela moved to Rolleston, Canterbury in February 2016 where she is now a member of Rolleston Baptist Church (and before that, Shore Baptist Church in Auckland’s North Shore). With her family she has spent time living in both Canada and China. At the moment she spends her week studying at the Tim Training Course in Christchurch, working part-time on a pig farm, and keeping in contact with friends while seeking God about future plans. She is also working on publishing her first book as a way to encourage others by sharing of God’s faithfulness to her through a season of personal struggle with chronic fatigue.

Angela has kindly offered to share her experiences with memorising Scripture.


1. Share with us a Bible passage you’ve just memorised.

– James 1:1-18 (ESV)

 

2. What are some passages that youve committed to memory?

I’ve memorised several psalms over the years – such as Psalm 1, 8, 19, 23, 25, 84, 90, 103, 121, and half of Psalm 119. I’ve also memorised the books of Ephesians and Philippians, as well as various other passages, such as portions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), God’s call to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3), and some of Paul’s prayers (Col 1:9-14, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, etc.). These are all passages that at one time I have been able to recite word for word, though I must admit they do not all come to mind as readily as they used to.

 

3. What convinced you to start memorising Scripture?

I first started memorising Scripture because it was something we did as children, both in my family and at my church. We often had passages from our church’s Sunday school that my mum and dad would teach to us at home during our family Bible reading (either in the morning with my mum during homeschooling, or in the evening around the dinner table with my dad).

I think I first became personally intentional about it as a teenager, when I came across an article about memorising bigger portions of the Bible and was inspired by the lofty goal of memorising the whole new testament in five years (see link in resources listed below). It started well, but with other life responsibilities needing my attention, I think I was only finishing Ephesians about five years later! The practice I had in learning what worked well (and what didn’t work so well) in memorising Ephesians gave me good experience to apply to future Scripture memory.

 

4. How do you choose which passages to memorise?

I choose passages for a variety of reasons. For example, I’m currently memorising James 1:1-18 with my pastor’s wife and a few others.

At the moment I am doing a Bible course in which we regularly give talks from assigned passages. I generally try to familiarise myself with the passage beforehand. I find memorising it is a great way to both pay attention to the details in the passage and also have it in mind for ready access it to meditate on whenever I want.

I might choose to memorise several of the prayers of Paul if I’m wanting to grow in the area of prayer (as I read through D. A. Carson’s book “Spiritual Reformation”), or I might choose to memorise a passage related to a series we are going through at Church or Bible study group. For example, I memorised the book of Philippians to prepare for a conference where it was being taught.

I often memorise passages relating to a particular “current event” in my life, such as learning Psalm 90 when I am moving to a new place. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 is a big help if I am struggling to love a difficult neighbour and need help in remembering that it is Jesus’ love, not my own, that I can rely on. Memorising particular passages to address particular issues is particularly helpful.

 

5. Do you suggest memorising whole books of the Bible or selected verses? What are the pros/cons?

If you are just starting out, I’d recommend starting with selected verses. These will be less intimidating to memorise, take less time to learn, and are more immediately practical. For example, one of my favourites is 2 Corinthians 9:8 when I am feeling anxious or intimidated about an upcoming situation. However, something to be aware of in memorising smaller passages is that you may miss the bigger meaning of the verses if you are not familiar with the context.

Whole books take a bit of extra time and effort, which can feel quite intimidating if you haven’t memorised much before, and a bit discouraging as progress can feel slow. On the other hand, the challenge can be quite motivating. So think about where you are starting from and plan realistically. I appreciated memorising the book of Ephesians (which did take me a long time, but now seems firmly stuck in my long-term memory) as it covered so many areas. The security of our adoption in Christ, being saved by grace alone, practical instructions for how to live a saved life, insight into the work of Christian ministry and the purpose of the church, how to fight spiritual battles, are just a few of the issues addressed.

If you are just starting to memorise, starting small with selected verses and then working up to longer passages and eventually to whole books would probably be a good idea. Long-term, I think memorising both whole books and selected verses is a good idea – just like we can enjoy both full meals and smaller snacks.

 

6. What are some of the blessings youve experienced in committing Scripture to memory?

I think the biggest blessing is just how immediately available the word of God is when you have it stored up in your heart. It’s more accessible than your phone. You don’t even have to open your eyes or put in headphones. Stored up Scripture means you can think about it as you go for a walk or talk with a friend or drive in the car or fall asleep at night. Verses will often come to mind even when you aren’t intentionally trying to remember them.

For example, I might be about to have a difficult conversation with a friend. As I talk with God about it, He might remind me of Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” With that in mind, I might realise I need to go and apologise to my friend because I didn’t speak in the way God wanted me to, or I might be instructed in how I will speak to my friend again in a way that is more honouring to Him. God’s Word is incredibly powerful and you could say that the more we have memorised, the more He has to work with in bringing various verses to mind at appropriate times.

I also find that the actual discipline of Scripture memory gives me a particularly good opportunity to observe the details of a text, to notice particular words or phrases, and to meditate on it in more depth, letting it correct my thinking and direct the way I live. It takes mental effort and a good amount of perseverance, but it is definitely worth it.

 

7. OK – walk us through your step-by-step method of memorising Scripture.

The main way I learn a passage is simply by reading and reciting it. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Read through the whole passage aloud (to get a general grasp of the main flow and message).
  2. Choose a smaller section to work on for this occasion and read aloud.
  3. Read the first verse (or part of a verse) aloud several times.
  4. Try to recite it while looking away from the page (check the page again if stuck).
  5. Repeat reading and reciting aloud until reciting easily and accurately (at least three times in a row without looking and without a mistake).
  6. Move on to learn the next line in the same way once the first line is comfortable.
  7. When second line is easy and accurate, recite both together until comfortable.
  8. Continue for each line (learning individually and then reciting altogether) until finished either the allotted time or the allotted verses for that occasion.
  9. Move on to other activities for the day, but try to practice them when opportunities are available (washing dishes, driving, brushing teeth, falling asleep, etc).
  10. At the next set aside occasion read the whole passage aloud, review previously learned verses, and then work on the next section of the passage as you did for the first, reciting them altogether at the end before finishing.

Keep reviewing your new verses if you want to keep them in your mind. However, if it does get rusty, you can simply return to your original memorising method and relearn them. It will be much quicker the second time round.

 

8. What are some practical tips you can share that can help us be more successful with Scripture memory?

  • Keep it simple. If all you do is just read and recite aloud (as described above), it should be quite effective and will help you avoid overcomplicating the process. Starting simply makes it easier to simply start.
  • If a passage contains a list, sometimes I will come up with acronyms to make sure I don’t leave something out or miss the order. For example, for the forces that we fight against in Ephesians 6:12, I remember RAPS – the Rulers, Authorities, cosmic Powers and Spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Find acronyms that are memorable for you, but don’t stress over them. Just use them as needed.
  • Make up a tune and sing the words you are learning (often you can find the verses already set to music by others – try searching online if you have the time).
  • Print the verses out and stick them where you’ll see them often- like on the bathroom mirror or next to the kitchen window or by a light switch.
  • Write the passage out by hand – copy it as you first learn it, then write it from memory and compare with the passage afterwards to check for accuracy.
  • Find a friend to who is willing to check your progress (or even memorise with you). This helps with overcoming both pride and discouragement.
  • Take time to think about what you are memorising. What is God saying in these words?
  • Use actions to help you remember the words.
  • Move while you memorise – jumping, skipping, walking, jogging, etc. This works best for reviewing rather than reading (though you can keep a verse card or Bible nearby or in hand and check it as you go).
  • Review your verses while doing everyday activities – brushing your teeth, driving (safely!), or falling asleep.

9. Any other words of encouragement for those of us having a go?

  • Expect it to be hard. Scripture memory is not only mental exercise, but a spiritual battle. Be prepared to put in committed effort. It will take self-control on your part – but we know that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), so we can trust God to grow this good fruit in us, even as we memorise. The discipline will make you stronger and it will get easier over time.
  • Ultimately, the goal is for God’s Word to dwell richly in our hearts and transform our lives. Don’t simply store up arsenal, but use these weapons for warfare. As you memorise, pray that God will cause his Word to work powerfully and grow us in holiness. Pray that we won’t get puffed up with head knowledge, but that we will be humbled as He touches our hearts.
  • Finally, keep the goal in mind. Jesus persevered for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2), and it is helpful for us to do the same in whatever hard thing we undertake for His sake. Remind yourself of the reasons for practising this discipline – for God’s Word to dwell richly in your heart (Col 3:16), to wash you clean (Eph 5:25-27), to keep you from sin (Psalm 119:11), to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness, complete, and equip you (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Ask God for help in memorising His Word, and do it for your holiness, the good of others, and the glory of His name.

 

Some suggestions for further reading and listening:

Why memorise?

How to memorise:

Scripture songs:

 

 

9 specific ways to esteem others better than yourself

In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he gives a gospel-centred approach to our relationships and shows how selfishness is cured by understanding the only truly selfless person, Jesus, and his humility in going to the cross for our sins.

Philippians 2:3-8: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“Me”-centredness is everyone’s default mode of operation. And it’s an area of ongoing work and growth in my life. It’s one thing to know that because of the gospel, we esteem others better than ourselves. But what does it look like in practice? That’s what I often struggle with.

Last weekend we visited some friends who’ve recently joined the exodus out of Auckland. We saw a really helpful list on their fridge that lists 9 specific ways to esteem others better than yourself. I thought it was good enough to share here:

Specific ways to esteem others better than yourself

  1. Don’t assume that others have exactly the same evil motives as you find in your own heart (love “believes all things’, 1 Corinthians 13:7), but rather put the best possible interpretation on their actions.
  2. Look for those virtuous qualities in others that you know you are most in need of yourself. Then seek their help in acquiring those qualities.
  3. Don’t assume that your time, money, energy, thoughts, and opinions are more valuable than your neighbour’s.
  4. When making a decision, consider not only how that decision will affect your own interests, but also how it will affect the interests of others.
  5. Be alert not only to your own needs, but also to the needs of others.
  6. Demonstrate your high estimation of others by commending them for those qualities that are biblically worthy of praise.
  7. Guard your heart from developing a patter of critical, condemnatory, accusatory, judgemental thoughts about others. (Such thoughts make it very difficult, if not impossible, to esteem others better than yourself).
  8. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  9. Remind yourself often that God has given to you everything you have to be proud of and that He has often used others to get you where you are. Thank God and thank thouse whom He has used to bless you.

(from Pleasing People by Lou Priolo)

My favourite suggestion is 8 – how wonderful would it be if Christians were known for “never putting anyone down, except onto prayer lists” (as Don Carson once said about his dad).

The one that I find the hardest is 7. How about you?