The Alternative to a “Needs-Based Marriage”

“It’s not wrong to desire appropriate things like respect or affection from our spouses. But it is very tempting to justify demands by thinking of them as needs and then to punish one another if those needs are not satisfied. A needs-based marriage does not testify to God’s glory; it is focused on personal demands competing for supremacy. Two people, preoccupied with manipulating each other to meet needs, can drive their marriage down the path of ‘irreconcilable differences.’ This is cultural language that simply acknowledges that a marriage can no longer carry the weight of demands understood as needs. Perhaps though, the saddest part of driving down the road of unmet needs is where we end up. The road of unmet needs leads to nowhere. It is a forlorn, one-lane stretch of me. All it leads to is more of me. It’s worse than a dead end—it’s a circle that never ends.

But sinners who say “I do” have a different road to travel. It is the road of astonishing, undeserved grace—a grace so remarkable that it shows us the problem and then delivers the solution. Have you ever been on a scenic drive so beautiful that it was hard to keep your head from spinning from one vista to the next? The road of undeserved grace is like that. It is distractingly beautiful, because all of our true needs are met in breathtaking array in Christ. But it is a road of constant surprises, because we drive it with full awareness of our sin in light of the cross.”

-Dave Harvey When Sinners Say I Do – Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

Pastoral Persuasion

“There is a sense in which elders can make commands. But since they do not have the power of excommunication at their exclusive disposal, they cannot enforce their commands without the congregation’s assent. This protects them from abusing their authority because they are forced instead to rely on persuading church members according to the Word.

The authority of persuasion is consistent with the regenerate nature of the new covenant community; and along these lines the manner in which apostolic writers like Paul, Peter, and John addressed the church is instructive for elders. Sometimes the apostles spoke to the church as a father would speak to his children. They were affectionate, tender, and patient. Other times they spoke as brothers to other brothers and sisters. Although the apostles were to lead and shepherd the people of God, they were never arrogant in the letters, and they did not bully and push their own selfish agendas. They did not treat the church as if it was full of unregenerate people who must be controlled else they would get out of line and cause difficulty. Rather they appealed to them as those who belong to the same spiritual family and are destined to share in the salvation of God forever. A classic example is Paul’s way of confronting Philemon: ‘Although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love’ (Philemon 8-9). Paul as an apostle could have commanded; instead he appealed on the basis of love. How instructive is this for elders, who don’t have the ability to command in the same way Paul did!”

– Stephen J. Wellum and Kirk Wellum, “The Biblical and Theological Case for Congregationalism” in Baptist Foundations – Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age

The Cure for Disillusionment in Evangelism

“We had come to take it for granted that good organization and efficient technique, backed by a routine of prayers, was itself sufficient to guarantee results. We felt that there was an almost magical potency in the special meeting, the special choir and soloist, and the special preacher. We felt convinced that the thing that would always bring life into a dead church, or a dead town, was an intensive evangelistic mission. With the top of our minds, many of us still think that, or profess to think it. We tell each other that it is so, and make our plans on this basis. But with the bottom of our minds, in our heart of hearts, we have grown discouraged, and disillusioned, and apprehensive. Once we thought that well-planned evangelism was sure to succeed, but now we find ourselves afraid each time that it is going to fail, as it has failed so often before. Yet we are afraid to admit our fears to ourselves, for we do not know what to make of a situation in which our planned evangelism fails. So we repress our fears, and our disillusionment becomes a paralysing neurosis, and our evangelistic practice becomes a jaded and half-hearted routine. Basically, the trouble is our unconfessed doubts as to the worth whileness of what we are doing.

Why have we these doubts? Because we have been disillusioned. How have we been disillusioned? By the repeated failure of the evangelistic techniques in which we once reposed such confidence. What is the cure of our disillusionment? First, we must admit that we were silly ever to think that any evangelistic technique, however skillful, could of itself guarantee conversions; second, we must recognize that, because man’s heart is impervious to the word of God, it is no cause for surprise if at any time our evangelism fails to result in conversions; third, we must remember that the terms of our calling are that we should be faithful, not that we should be successful; fourth, we must learn to rest all our hopes of fruit in evangelism upon the omnipotent grace of God. For God does what man cannot do. God works by His Spirit through His Word in the hearts of sinful men to bring them to repentance and faith. Faith is a gift of God.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

“The Sovereignty of God in Grace Gives Us Our Only Hope of Success in Evangelism”

“Some fear that belief in the sovereign grace of God leads to the conclusion that evangelism is pointless, since God will save His elect anyway, whether they hear the gospel or not. This, as we have seen, is a false conclusion based on a false assumption. But now we must go further, and point out that the truth is just the opposite. So far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility – indeed, the certainty – that evangelism will be fruitful. Apart from it, there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

“We, Who Would Speak for Christ”

“What is needed is this: that we, who would speak for Christ, should pray constantly that God will put and keep in our hearts a sense of His greatness and glory, and of the joy of fellowship with Him, and of the dreadfulness of spending time and eternity without Him; and then that God will enable us to speak honestly, straightforwardly, and just as we feel about these matters. Then we shall be really natural in presenting the gospel – and really serious too.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Evangelism as a Natural Thing

“It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack desire, and are actually reluctant, to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own. It was natural for Andrew, when he found the Messiah, to go off and tell his brother Simon, and for Phillip to hurry to break the good news to his friend Nathanael. They did not need to be told to do this; they did it naturally and spontaneously, just as one would naturally and spontaneously share with one’s family and friends any other piece of news that vitally affected them. There is something very wrong with us if we do not ourselves find it natural to act in this way : let us be quite clear about that.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Substantial Faith

“It needs to be said that faith is not a mere optimistic feeling, any more than repentance is a mere regretful or remorseful feeling. Faith and repentance are both acts, and acts of the whole man. Faith is more than just credence; faith is essentially the casting and resting of oneself and one’s confidence on the promises of mercy which Christ has given to sinners, and on the Christ who gave those promises. Equally repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Saviour as king in self’s place. Mere credence without trusting and mere remorse without turning, do not save.”

-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

“The Chief End of Man”

“…previously, as they now see, man had been centralin their universe, and God had been on the circumference. They had thought of Him as a Spectator of events in His world, rather than as their Author. They had assumed that the controlling factor in every situation was man’s handling of it rather than God’s plan for it, and they had looked upon the happiness of human beings as the most interesting and important thing in creation, for God no less than for themselves. But now they see that this man-centered outlook was sinful and un-biblical; they see that, from one standpoint, the whole purpose of the Bible is to overthrow it, and that books like Deuteronomy and Isaiah and John’s Gospel and Romans smash it to smithereens in almost every chapter; and they realize that henceforth God must be central in their thoughts and concerns, just as He is central in reality in His own world. Now they feel the force of the famous first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and (by so doing, and in so doing,) enjoy him forever.’ Now they see that the way to find the happiness that God promises is not to seek it as an end in itself, but to forget oneself in the daily preoccupation of seeking God’s glory and doing His will and proving His power through the ups and downs and stresses and strains of everyday life. They see that it is the glory and praise of God that must absorb them henceforth, for time and for eternity. They see that the whole purpose of their existence is that with heart and life they should worship and exalt God. In every situation, therefore, their one question is: what will make most for God’s glory? What should I do in order that in these circumstances God may be magnified?”
-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Sovereign Grace and Evangelistic Zeal

“There is abroad today a widespread suspicion that a robust faith in the absolute sovereignty of God is bound to undermine any adequate sense of human responsibility. Such a faith is thought to be dangerous to spiritual health because it breeds a habit of complacent inertia. In particular, it is thought to paralyze evangelism by robbing one both of the motive to evangelize and of the message to evangelize with. The supposition seems to be that you cannot evangelize effectively unless you are prepared to pretend while you are doing it that the doctrine of divine sovereignty is not true. I shall try to make it evident that this is nonsense. I shall try to show further that, so far from inhibiting evangelism, faith in the sovereignty of God’s government and grace is the only thing that an sustain it, for it is the only thing that can give us the resilience that we need if we are to evangelize boldly and persistently, and not be daunted by temporary setbacks. So far from being weakened by this faith, therefore, evangelism will inevitably be weak and lack staying power without it. This, I hope, will become clear as we proceed.”
-J.I. Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God