Archive for the Gospel Category

Mar 16

Session 9 Recap: Anyabwile, “Contentment With Christ’s Body, the Church”

2014 | by Tim Ragsdale | Category: Clarus 14,Gospel

Editor’s Note: Tim Ragsdale is an Elder at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Thabiti Anyabwile’s message from Sunday morning at Clarus, March 16, “Contentment With Christ’s Body, the Church,” from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.


Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile concluded our Clarus conference with a message from 1 Cor 12:12-27 on contentment with the local church.  He began with a question many of us face: How do we respond to people who say they love Jesus, but choose to pass on the local church?  He came to the realization that until they love the church, they will not see the centrality of the church.  It is a problem of affections; a problem of the heart. Contentment with the church comes from seeing God in the church.

The Church is God’s Work

God arranges the members of the body just as He pleases.  The local church is God’s composition.  It is no accident that you are a Christian and that you have a particular set of gifts.  Do you realize that heaven has touched you?  God has plucked you out of the fire, saved you, sanctified you, filled you with the Spirit and prepared you with his own hands to play a vital role in the local church.  The church is an exquisite thing, and we see the manifold and eternal wisdom of God by observing the church.

God’s Vision for the Church is Glorious

God’s vision for the church is that we be completely united with every member showing equal concern for every other member.  There should be unity in the body despite its diversity (vv 12-14). Like individual works in an author or artist’s larger body of work, we are individual works with great diversity; but we are all his workmanship. Paul is specific in his definition of unity: “That the members may have the same care for one another.” This is what it looks like to break down the barriers that separate us in the body.  We cannot allow our love to be limited some subset of the church.  Pastor Thabiti shared a quote from another writer: “If our fellowship and our love is confined to people like us, that may be little more than self-love spread over a slightly wider area.”

There Are Two Threats to That Vision And Our Contentment in the Local Church

1) Feeling inferior and insignificant, i.e., I don’t matter; I don’t have the gifts of this or that person; I have nothing to contribute.

2) Feeling superior and self-sufficient, i.e., I don’t need anyone else.

The response to both of these threats is threefold:

  • You’re wrong.  Sometimes the most gracious thing we need to hear is a gentle loving correction.
  • Every part is necessary and mutually dependent on other parts.  Counter to culture, in the text we see that the weaker parts are shown greater honor.
  •  If you say you don’t need the body, you’re saying God doesn’t know what he’s doing.  This is pride.

Six Applications

  1. Membership in the Church is a biblical idea and implicit requirement of the Christian life.
  2. Think biblically about leaving a church. Establish in your heart that you will not leave a church unless the gospel is falsified or not preached; or unless there is obvious sinful disorder in the leadership of the church.
  3. Take part in the rounding up of those displaced or discouraged members because every part matters.
  4. Cultivate a love and concern for those who are not like you.
  5. Actively live in a way that makes it clear that need others.
  6. Use your gifts for the good of the whole body.

Mar 16

Session 8 Recap: Phillips, “Contentment With Identity”

2014 | by Peter Arndt | Category: Clarus 14,Gospel

Editor’s Note: Peter Arndt is a Community Group Leader at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Rick Phillips’ message from Sunday morning at Clarus, March 16, “Contentment With Identity,” from Psalm 16. 


In teaching from Psalm 16, Pastor Rick Phillips showed that contentment is a learned attitude. The happiness the world seeks is contingent upon circumstances. Blessedness, on the other hand, is a joy which is not dependent upon the world or circumstances but is rather a gift from God. If satisfaction only comes when times are good, then there is no reason to become a Christian. There is no power in contentment found only in good times. Psalm 16 presents an alternative supernatural power of contentment in all things.

Contentedness In Our Identity

There is a pathway to being content with who we are in Christ that starts with faith that leads to contentment which produces joy. David demonstrated his journey down this path (Psalm 16: 1) as he was being chased and threatened by those who were seeking his life. David responds in prayer by fixing his eyes on God, taking refuge in his protection instead of lamenting the strength of his enemies.  Faith in God prompts him to prayer. We too should pray when afraid and distressed. What a difference for us when we lift our gaze to God, and we meditate on our identity as a child of the King.

As David applies the faith God gives him, his circumstances are unchanged, and yet he is changed. He cheerfully accepts God’s sovereignty in his present trials knowing God’s purposes are good and holy. If we cannot worship God through suffering, there is a mercenary quality to our worship – we want the gifts but not the Giver.

A Principle of the Indirectness of the Christian Life

All humans are seeking joy. Christians find it on an indirect route. If you are seeking to be happy, you never will be. But if you are first seeking God and his praise, you will receive joy as the by-product. God gives us this present joy to anticipate the final joy that we await at the resurrection. Ps. 16:9-10 shows that David’s hope of the resurrection is the guarantee of his joy, and therefore present circumstances are not a barrier of contentment in God.

Jesus’ Example

Our Lord also prayed when he contemplated the cross. As he prayed and submitted he knew God would protect and deliver him through the agony of the cross  and the judgment of our sins (Heb 12:2). The result was a joy and fellowship he will share with the Father through all eternity. We too should know that joy in the fellowship of sufferings we will encounter in this life. Let us not fail to follow the path to contentment and joy or we will miss the fulfillment of our purpose to enjoy and glorify God.

Did Jesus go the cross for my sins, and do I know forgiveness because of the cross? If yes, then I know the love and goodness of God and can trust him in all things. If no, however, then there is no real joy apart from my circumstances. Might we know this true and eternal joy found in the atoning work of Christ!

Mar 15

Session 5 Recap: Phillips, “Contentment With Our Weaknesses”

2014 | by Tim Ragsdale | Category: Clarus 14,Gospel

Editor’s Note: Tim Ragsdale is an Elder at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Rick Phillips’ message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 15, “Contentment With Our Weaknesses,” from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.


Pastor Phillips began by reading 2 Cor. 12:1-10 and by describing how Paul was defending himself against the so-called “super apostles,” not by boasting in his strengths and accomplishments, but by boasting in his weaknesses.

Pastor Phillips gave five points relating contentment and our weaknesses:

1) Christians will have wonderful experiences, but with those they will have suffering and weakness that need to be handled with prayer.

This is the Christian life.  Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a subject of a lot of speculation and is never explained physically, but we can know that it was painful and annoying.  As Christians in this fallen world we can expect our own thorns.  Paul (with his thorn), like the Lord Jesus (Gethsemane) responded to suffering, not with self-pity, but with prayer.

Christians will suffer trials, tribulations, temptations, persecutions, discouragements, and weakness.  “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

2) Contentment is aided by an understanding of God and His purposes.

When Christians can embrace God’s goodness and purpose in suffering, they can know that they are not alone in it. God is using it for good, and in this sense God is protecting them.  Paul recognized the necessity of his suffering, and therefore took comfort in it and embraced it:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

3) Contentment is encouraged by God’s sufficient grace. 

While earthly possessions are not distributed evenly, all believers share equally in the spiritual gifts in the heavenly places – forgiveness, adoption, seal of the Holy Spirit, and position as heir with Christ (Eph. 1). Pastor Phillips then described Joni Eareckson Tada’s story of growing to realize that her life as a minister of the Gospel from a wheelchair was not God’s “Plan B” for her life but was “Plan A” all along.

4) Contentment is experienced as God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

It is in our weakness that God’s power is evident.  Two examples:

Major League Baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky’s tragic shoulder injuries and subsequent amputation tempted him to bitterness, but he learned that God was using and being glorified in him all along.

The missionary William Carey was rejected by his missions agency, weak in every respect by worldly standards and yet proved faithful and fruitful.  His understanding of God’s power inspired him say and live, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

5)  Contentment is manifested as we rejoice in our weakness.

We need only to look to the Cross to see the thorn we deserve. Christ rejoiced in his appointed suffering:

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:2-3)

Jan 1

A Resolution for Your Resolutions

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

Over at the newly redesigned Desiring God site, Jon Bloom published an article on the subject of new year’s resolutions. After unpacking briefly why resolutions are biblical and why annual resolutions are good idea, he presents a single resolution as the heart of all Christian resolve: love. Here’s a bit from his article, “Your Most Courageous Resolution in 2014“:

. . . resolves can either be rooted in our selfish ambitions or in the love of God. We must think them through carefully. So as we make our resolutions for 2014, God wants them to all serve this one great end: “pursue love” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

“Pursue” is a very purposeful word. The Greek verb has an intensity to it. It means to “seek after eagerly,” like a runner in a race seeks eagerly to win a prize.

. . . Let this be the year that we pursue love. . . . Each person’s situation is so unique that we can’t craft strategies for each other to grow in love. It’s something that we must each do with God, though some feedback and counsel from those who know us best are helpful.

But here are some of the Bible’s great love texts to soak in during 2014 that can help loving strategies emerge:

    • 1 Corinthians 13: soak in or memorize it and let each “love is . . .” statement in verses 4–7 search your heart. With whom can you show greater patience, kindness, and more?
    • John chapters 13–15: soak in or memorize them. Ninety-five verses are very doable. You can memorize them in 3–6 months and be transformed.
    • The First Epistle of John: Soak in or memorize it. You can do it! Forcing yourself to say the verses over and over will yield insights you’ve never seen before.
    • Take 2–4 weeks and simply meditate on the two greatest commandments according to Jesus (Matthew 22, Mark 12, Luke 10). Look and look at them and pray and pray over them. You will be surprised at what the Lord shows you.
    • Read Hebrews 13:1–7, take one verse per day and prayerfully meditate on what you might put into place to grow in each area of loving obedience. It may be one thing or ten things.

If you’ve got four more minutes, read Jon’s whole article, “Your Most Courageous Resolution in 2014.” For a plan and some help in reading the Bible in 2014, check out this post from the DSC Blog last week.

Dec 26

Help for Reading the Bible in 2014

2013 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel

Reading the Bible regularly is a really good idea. It’s even more important than eating regularly. As Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

With just a few days left until the start of 2014, we’re posting here some suggestions for how to read through the Bible in a year. Of course, there’s no Bible verse that suggests an annual plan for Bible reading. But, like reading the Bible regularly, it’s a good idea. At least once a year most of us need to take inventory and take some kind of action toward being more faithful with our intake of Scripture.

  • Chronological Reading Plan: Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible, by George Guthrie is a unique resource. This Bible is published with a one year daily reading plan in mind, ordering the Biblical material chronologically along the Bible’s own narrative framework and includes a reading plan. George Guthrie has also published a one year chronological Bible reading plan, Read the Bible for Life.
  • The M’Cheyne Plan with Daily Devotional Commentary: For the Love of God is a two volume series of books written by D.A. Carson providing daily reading to supplement the M’Cheyne reading plan. This plan, named after its designer and Scottish minister in the 1800′s, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, takes you through the Old Testament once and the Psalms and New Testament twice in one year.
  • Several Places A Day: Crossway’s Daily Bible Reading Plan is available as a PDF form to print out as a series of bookmarks. This plan gets you through the Bible in a year, reading from several different places in the Bible each day. Crossway has published 10 reading plans to supplement the ESV, including RSS, email, audio, and print versions daily. Also, the Discipleship Journal “Bible Reading Plan,” by NavPress, takes you through the entire Bible by reading from four different places each day.
  • Just a List of Chapters: The Bible Reading Record, by Don Whitney, is a simple list of every chapter in the Bible. With this, you can read at whatever pace you like and keep track of what you’ve read until you’re through the Bible. This, of course, wouldn’t necessarily be a one year plan, but it could be. To get through the Bible’s 1089 chapters in a year, you need to read an average of 3.25 chapters a day, which comes out to about four chapters per day if you commit to reading five days each week.

If the Bible is new to you, or if you haven’t personally invested in knowing the Scriptures through regular reading, listen to Ryan’s sermon on Psalm 1, “If You Wanna Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life….” For the worlds most complete summary of Bible reading plans, read this post by Justin Taylor. And if you need some help reflecting on some of the spiritual dynamics involved in our struggle to read the Bible, check our Ryan Kelly’s article, “How’s Your Bible Reading Going?” Finally, for a list of helps in understanding the Bible as you read it, check out our post from last year, “Help for Understanding the Bible.”