Tim and Kathy Keller have released four excellent advent videos this year.
Cornelius Venema writes about how Christians should anticiplate the future with hope:
This is the pattern of the believer’s expectation for the future: it is characterized by a hope nurtured by the Word. It is marked out by a lively expectation of the accomplishment of God’s purpose in Christ. The future does not loom darkly on the horizon as something to be feared. It is something eagerly expected and anticipated, something which the believer is convinced is bright with the promise of the completion and perfection of God’s saving work. It is true that many of the biblical exhortations relating to the future call God’s people to watchfulness and sobriety, warning them against being found unprepared at Christ’s coming (1 Pet. 4:7, 1 Thess. 5:6, Matt. 24:42-45). They often warn the church to remain faithful and steadfast in holding to the apostolic teachings and Word of God (2 Thess. 2:15, Heb. 10:23). In addition, the biblical descriptions of Christ’s coming starkly describe its frightening and terrible consequences for the wicked (2 Thess. 2:8, 2 Pet. 3:12, Rev. 18:10).
But the chief note sounded in God’s revelation regarding the future is one of hope. God’s people eagerly await Christ’s return because it promises the completion of God’s work of redemption for them and for the whole creation. The Christian’s approach to the future is always one of hope nurtured by the Word. The future is bright because it is full of promise, the promise of God’s Word.(The Promise of the Future, Venema, p. 11)
Years from now, historians will look back at our day and observe — among other things — the disproportionate amount of time we spent commuting to work. I’m blessed with a commute that is only about 15 minutes each way, but I know many whose daily traverse eats up hours each day. I’ve recently been convicted that these hours should not be squandered away, but can and should be exploited. Your morning commute can become a very productive part of your daily routine.
Here are a few suggestions for improving your commute:
1. Listen to Audiobooks
If you’re like me, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything you want to. I’ve started taking advantage of several inexpensive (and even free) ways to listen to great books. I once listened to half of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the drive into the mountains. Another time, I listened to Dostoevsky’s 800-page classic The Brother’s Karamozov in about three weeks during my daily commute.
Most public libraries now have audiobooks on CD you can check out for free. I’ve recently discovered the iPhone app OverDrive that allows users to check out and download audiobooks to their phones and listen for 21 days. The biggest selection of audiobooks is at Audible. They offer audiobooks with a no-hassle return policy. I buy 12 credits every year.
2. Listen to Podcasts, Sermons, Classes, and Teachings
I also regularly use my iPod to listen to sermons, teachings, courses, and podcasts that are specific to areas in which I want to grow. You can use your commute to sharpen yourself vocationally and socially, as well as spiritually. Consider areas of your life you’d like to grow, and look for resources you might be able to listen to. Personally, I’m always looking for wisdom on interpersonal communication, leadership, teaching, and writing, and I have discovered several great resources.
3. Listen to Scripture
Keep an Audio Bible in your car and listen to the Scriptures. I prefer the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible. This has been a great aide to my study and teaching. I was once teaching a class on James at church and listened to the book upwards of 20 times as part of my preparation. It was a pretty easy way to become very familiar with the book. I recently committed to a focused study of the Prophets. I’m going to start it by listening through a few times. Reading through the Prophets feels daunting. Listening to them feels much less daunting.
4. Some Time Praying
The daily commute can be a good time to pray for your day. I spend many mornings praying over my deadlines and projects. It’s amazing how quickly prayer can disarm worries and anxieties. Many blog ideas and solutions to problems I’m dealing with have come to me during a prayerful commute. Coincidence? I think not. (Disclaimer: Boundless strongly recommends driving with your eyes open.)
5. Spend Time in Silence
As a general rule, our lives are too noisy. Some avoid the uneasiness of silence altogether, but we are wise to remember silence has long been considered a valuable spiritual discipline. I don’t do silence well or as frequently as I should. But I do recognize that regular times of silence are beneficial. Take a morning once and a while, and spend a portion of your commute in silence.
There are certainly other productive ways to optimize your commute, but most will find a little intentionality goes a long way. If there are audiobooks, podcasts, sermons, classes or other resources you’ve recently benefited from, please recommend them below. I’m always looking for new resources to add to my own commute queue.
These are some of the most important words J.I Packer ever wrote:
To the question; ‘what must I do to be saved?’,
the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the further question; ‘what does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’,
its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.
And to the further question still, ‘how am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things?’,
it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sin, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on his mercy; ask him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write his law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from him. Turn to him and trust him as best you can, and pray for grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desired has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step . . . So do not postpone action till you think you are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to the Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on him till his light rises in your soul, as scripture promises that it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel. Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. ‘l believe – help thou mine unbelief’: this must become their cry.
(J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness)
Each year during Easter week, I try to intentionally carve out space for extra reading, thinking, meditating and praying about what Jesus accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. While I try to think well during these times, my primary goal is to stir up stronger feelings and affections. Even as the Scriptures instructs us to:
- love and serve God with all our heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
- be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)
- delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4)
- let God be the desire of our souls (Isaiah 26:8)
- rejoice and be glad (Matthew 5:12)
In a sense, I want to be wrecked again by the high price Christ paid to atone for my sins and to overflow with love for and faith in our Savior.
This year, I’ve been reading through John Piper’s short book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Piper offers 50 biblical reasons why Jesus died for us. Even a cursory read of the chapter titles can be very inspiring, but the book – which is available as a free PDF – offers two-page explanations of all 50 statements. This Easter, take time to meditate on all Christ accomplished for you through His death and resurrection. May a deeper knowledge, faith and love be yours in Christ Jesus.
Christ Suffered and Died…
- To Absorb the Wrath of God
- To Please His Heavenly Father
- To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
- To Achieve His Own Resurrection From the Dead
- To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
- To Show His Own Love for Us
- To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
- To Become a Ransom for Many
- For the Forgiveness of Our Sins
- To Provide the Basis for Our Justification
- To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
- To Take Away Our Condemnation
- To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
- To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful
- To Make Us Holy, Blameless and Perfect
- To Give Us a Clear Conscience
- To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
- To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
- To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
- To Deliver Us From the Present Evil Age
- To Reconcile Us to God
- To Bring Us to God
- So That We Might Belong to Him
- To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
- To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God
- To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End
- To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest
- To Free Us From the Futility of Our Ancestry
- To Free Us From the Slavery of Sin
- That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
- So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God
- To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
- To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting
- To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him
- To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning
- To Create a People Passionate for Good Works
- To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness
- To Create a Band of Crucified Followers
- To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death
- So That We Would Be With Him Immediately After Death
- To Secure Our Resurrection From the Dead
- To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities
- To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel
- To Destroy the Hostility Between Races
- To Ransom People From Every Tribe and Language
- To Gather All His Sheep From Around the World
- To Rescue Us From Final Judgment
- To Gain His Joy and Ours
- So That He Would Be Crowned With Glory and Honor
- To Show That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good
Taken from: 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
I’ve often pondered what Christ meant when he called us to be watchful. What is the difference between the Christian who is watching and the Christian who isn’t watching? I’ve found great help from J.C. Ryle. Over a hundred years ago, he provided great wisdom on how to watch and keep ourselves in a state of readiness for Christ’s return.
Here are Ryle’s words in their entirety:
I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and cause fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever watch and be on your guard.
Watch against SIN of every kind and description. Think not to say of any sin whatever, “Ah! that is one of the things that I shall never do.” I tell you there is no possible sin too abominable, for the very best of us all to commit! Remember David and Uriah. The spirit may be sometimes very willing — but the flesh is always very weak. You are yet in the body. Watch and pray!
Watch against doubts and unbelief as to the complete acceptance of your soul, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus finished the work He came to do — do not tell Him that He did not. The Lord Jesus paid your debts in full — do not tell Him that you think He left you to pay part. The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to every sinner that comes to Him — do not tell Him, even while you are coming, that you think He lies. Alas, for our unbelief! In Christ you are like Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar — nothing can harm you. The earth may be burned up with fire at the Lord’s appearing — but not a hair of your head shall perish. Doubt it not. Pray for more faith. Watch and pray!
Watch against inconsistency of walk — and conformity to the world. Watch against sins of temper and of tongue. These are the kind of things that grieve the Spirit of God, and make His witness within us faint and low. Watch and pray!
Watch against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that bad money is never marked bad — or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error — merely for the sake of a pound of truth. Do not tolerate a little false doctrine — one bit more than you would a little sin. Oh, reader, remember this caution! Watch and pray!
Watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual, but we may at last do it formally. Most backslidings begin in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some long hidden decay. Oh, watch and pray!
Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness towards others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren — and dim-sighted as the mole about the evil. Let your memory be a strong-box for their graces — but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray!
Watch against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, “Though all men deny You — yet I never will.” And presently he fell. Pride is the high road to a fall. Watch and pray!
Watch against the sins of Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season, then lose their first love, and then become lukewarm. Watch and pray!
Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance — and yet have very bad motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose Antichrist — than to follow Christ. It is one thing to protest against error — it is quite another thing to love the truth. So watch and pray!
Oh, my believing readers, let us all watch more than we have done! Let us watch more every year that we live. Let us watch, that we may not be surprised when the Lord appears.
Let us watch for the world’s sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways, far more than we think. Let us aim to be plainly-written epistles of Christ!
Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is — so will be our peace. As our conformity to Christ’s mind — so will be our sense of Christ’s atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm?
And, above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Let us live as if His glory was concerned in our behavior. Let us live as if every slip and fall was a reflection on the honor of our King. Let us live as if every allowed sin, was . . .
one more thorn in His head,
one more nail in His feet,
one more spear in His side!
Oh, let us exercise a godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions — over motives, manners, and walk! Never, never let us fear being too strict. Never, never let us think we can watch too much.
(Are You Ready for the End of Time? J.C. Ryle)
On the night our Lord was betrayed, He asked his disciples three times to watch and pray and each time they fell asleep (Matt. 26). And consequently, they weren’t ready for what was coming upon them. They failed Christ in His greatest hour of need.
Likewise, Jesus calls us to “stay awake” and watch for His return. Let this be a mark of true Christians in our time, that we are watchful and prayerful. May the Lord find us finishing the work He’s given us to do with hearts burning, “Come Lord Jesus!”
C.H. Spurgeon describes how two groups of people will expereince the return of Christ.
But who can endure the day of his coming . . . ? (Malachi 3:2)
Christ’s first coming was without external pomp or display of power, and yet in truth there were few who could endure its test. Herod and all Jerusalem with him were stirred at the news of the wondrous birth. Those who supposed themselves to be waiting for Him showed the fallacy of their professions by rejecting Him when He came. His life on earth was like a winnowing fan that sifted the great heap of religious profession, and only a few could survive the process. But what will His second coming be? What sinner can endure to think of it? “He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). In Gethsemane when He said to the soldiers, “I am he,” they fell backward. What will happen to His enemies when He will reveal Himself more fully as the “I Am”? His death shook earth and darkened heaven. What will be the dreadful splendor of that day when as the living Savior He will summon the living and the dead before Him? O that the terrors of the Lord would persuade men to forsake their sins and kiss the Son in case He is angry! Though a lamb, He is still the lion of the tribe of Judah, tearing the prey in pieces; and though He does not break the bruised reed, yet He will break His enemies with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. None of His foes shall stand before the tempest of His wrath or hide themselves from the sweeping hail of His indignation. But His beloved blood-washed people look for His appearing with joy; in this living hope they live without fear. To them He sits as a refiner even now, and when He has tested them they shall come forth as gold. Let us examine ourselves this morning and make our calling and election sure, so that the coming of the Lord may not be the cause of fearful expectations. O for grace to discard all hypocrisy, and to be found of Him sincere and without rebuke on the day of His appearing.(Morning by Morning, Spurgeon, 10/15)
“A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be “conformed to His image.” (Rom. 8:29). It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us – to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself – to walk in love, even as Christ loved us – to be lowly minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself. He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth – that He came not to do His own will – that it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will – that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others – that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults – that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings – that He was full of love and compassion to sinners – that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin – that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it – that He went about doing good – that He was separate from worldly people – that He continued instant in prayer – that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God’s work was to be done. These things a holy man will try to remember. By them he will endeavour to shape his course in life. He will lay to heart the saying of John, “He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6); and the saying of Peter, that “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21). Happy is he who has learned to make Christ his “all,” both for salvation and example! Much time would be saved, and much sin prevented, if men would oftener ask themselves the question, ‘What would Christ have said and done, if He were in my place?'”
(J.C. Ryle, Holiness)
Christians never come to the end of their need for God’s Word. There are always new truths and insights to be taught throughout every season of life. Christ’s disciples never come to a point in this life when they can set their Bibles down because their growth is complete.
I was recently shown how consistently the New Testament writers warned against false teachers. It seems to be their regular concern and consistent warning that there would be some who would come and teach false doctrines and lead many astray.
I don’t think many Christians think carefully about whether or not the teachers and leaders they listen to could be false teachers, but the warnings remain. There are false teachers out there and we need to equip ourselves to recognize them. Consider these verses:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits… (Matthew 7:15-16, ESV)
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30, ESV)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18, ESV)
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)
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 4:3-4, ESV)
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3, ESV)
Along these lines, J.I. Packer says it best:
The mark of the false prophet or teacher is self-serving unfaithfulness to God and His truth. It may be that he says what he shouldn’t; but it is far more likely that he will err by failing to say what he should. He will gloss over all the tough questions and issues as did the false prophets in the Old Testament who went around saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14). They wouldn’t speak the tough word calling for repentance nor suggest that Israel was out of sorts spiritually. Instead they brought groundless comfort, lulling people into a false sense of security so that their hearers were totally unprepared for the judgment which eventually came on them. There are teachers in the church today who never speak of repentance, self-denial, the call to be relatively poor for the Lord’s sake, or any other demanding aspect of discipleship. Naturally they are popular and approved, but for all that, they are false prophets. We will know such people by their fruits. Look at the people to whom they have ministered. Do these folks really know and love the Lord? Are they prepared to take risks, even hazard their lives, for Jesus? Or are they comfortable, inactive, and complacent? If so, they are self-deceived, and those who have irresponsibly encouraged their self-deception will have to answer for it. Anyone who is in a position of spiritual leadership who fails to teach the more demanding, less comfortable, “narrow gate” and “rough road” side of discipleship becomes a false prophet.
Packer’s inclusion of those who fail to teach some of the weightier aspects of the gospel is convicting. But he’s right. We must test our own hearts and the teaching of our spiritual leaders, because there will be many who’ll come along and will be easy on the ears, but could be leading us astray or rocking us to sleep. Let us prayerfully consider who is leading us toward Christ and who is leading us away from Him.
Consider what the prophets foretold about the person and work of Christ.
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.”
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Then I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.