How to Deal with Conflict in the Church

How to Deal with Conflict in the Church

If you live life long enough as a Christian, conflict in inevitable. The New Testament is filled with words that address the subject—often because apostles were correcting local churches or providing counsel on how to pursue resolution and unity. Broken relationships are hurtful within the context of the local church—and they certainly don’t promote the gospel to a lost world outside the church in the local community. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to deal with conflict within the family of faith in order to honor Christ and avoid hypocrisy.

Humility is Necessary

If you approach a situation of conflict, humility is required to achieve healthy and biblical results. If two parties who are in disagreement simply enter the conversation by throwing defensive bombs toward one another—the parties involved will spend their time talking past one another rather than talking to one another. The art of listening is key to conflict resolution. The humility to admit fault is also key to defusing conflicts that would serve as barriers to joyful friendships and Christian unity.

In Psalm 147:6, the Psalmist declares, “The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” In Matthew 23:12, we find the following warning, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It is God’s will for God’s people to pursue peace in a humble and gentle fashion. The one who is haughty and arrogant will never achieve reconciliation and will consistently find himself or herself in the midst of broken relationships. This pattern is not only damaging to the individual—but to the entire church. This is a sinful trap to avoid as a Christian.

Pursue Reconciliation and Unity

Jesus, in his famous sermon, stated the following, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). We want to be called the sons of God rather than children of wrath—like the rest of mankind. It’s essential to pursue peace in order to be called the sons and daughters of God. Richard Baxter once said:

He that is not a son of Peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the Church consequentially; but Division and Separation demolish it directly. [1]

We must likewise remember that reconciliation and unity do not rest upon the shoulders of one party alone. Each party involved in a conflict must value reconciliation more than their own pride. It may be that one individual pursues reconciliation while another individual remains in a state of bitterness and disunity. Paul addressed this issue in Romans 12:18 as he provided the following instruction to the church in Rome:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18–21).

We must likewise recall Paul’s words prior to this paragraph as he instructed the Christians in Rome to be genuine in their love and to outdo one another in brotherly affection (Rom. 12:9-13). Winning the argument is not always the way to reconciliation. Remember that as we gaze at the cross of Jesus Christ and see how Christ saved us through his brutal crucifixion, we will find that reconciliation is not only a workable solution but it’s mandated by God (Phil 2:5-11; Eph. 4:32).

Do Not Change Churches

Is there ever a time to leave a local church? Sure, there are biblical reasons, but if I’m perfectly honest, I believe far too often people leave their local church for unbiblical reasons. I’ve written on this subject in another article titled, “When Should I Leave My Church?“—but we can be quite certain that it’s never wise to leave under conflict. If you believe that changing addresses of where you worship will solve your conflict with fellow believers—you’re simply wrong. You will only change the address of your problems. So long as you never learn to do the hard work of conflict resolution as a Christian—you will find yourself walking a broken road of loneliness and isolation within your local church. Conflict builds walls and the devil is really clever at isolating people in local churches until they become so unfulfilled that they simply change churches. Until a person learns to work through conflict in a biblical manner that honors Christ—this pattern will continue in perpetuity. Ray Ortlund writes the following:

The gospel being what it is and always will be, “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19), our churches should be the most reconciling, peaceable, relaxed, happy places in town. We are so open to enemies, so meek in the face of insults and injuries, so forgiving toward the undeserving — if we do make people angry, let this be the reason. We refuse to join in their selfish battles. We’re following a higher call. We are the peacemakers, the true sons of God (Matthew 5:9). [1]

Have you ever had to provide advice to your child after he had a scuffle on the playground with another child? What advice did you provide him? Did you instruct him to work through his problems and pursue peace and salvage his friendship or did you move him to another school the next day? We must remember that the children and immature believers (as well as the mature believers) are watching how we all deal with conflict. We should not disciple others in our local church to change churches when they experience conflict. The local church is family and what do family members do when faced with conflict? The family works through it together. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. The end result is worth it and Christ will be glorified through a proper and healthy conflict resolution.

  1. Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Selected Treatises, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 4.
  2. Ray Ortlund, “The Ministry of Reconciliation” — Accessed on: March 5th, 2018.


Why the World Is Intolerant of Christianity

Why the World Is Intolerant of Christianity

Tolerance is in vogue politically and socially for every idea, every religion, every agenda, and every social construct other than Christianity.  In recent days, Richard Dawkins has come under fire for his comments about the actions taken at the London Pride parade.  His statements have resulted in the cancellation of a speaking engagement—resulting in a massive firestorm.  The man who’s certainly not a friend of Christianity, tweeted the following on July 23rd:

What this whole dust storm of ideologies revealed is that the tolerance agenda cannot tolerate Christianity.  Why is the world willing to be tolerant of everything under the sun except Christianity?  Even Dawkins notices the prejudices leveraged against the Christian community which we can only expect to grow more intense as the days go by.

The World Murdered the Founder of Christianity

Jesus is the founder of Christianity and the world despised him during his earthly ministry.  Every religious community that was divided on almost all other issues came together in unison on their hatred of Jesus.  The Sadducees and Pharisees were divided on matters of Judaism—but they were united in their angst toward Jesus. Jesus gave the following warning to his followers:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20)

This is why all of the apostles (except John) were martyred for their faith.  They all suffered horrible deaths from clubs, to spears, to an upside down cross, to the beheading of Paul in Rome.  This is likewise why William Tyndale was burned at the stake.  This is why Jim Elliot suffered death at the end of a spear on the river bank in Ecuador.  This is also why Christians who promote the normal gender usage of bathrooms on the campus of Harvard University are reported as “hateful” and “intolerant” to campus social groups and police.  The world hated Jesus and the world will always hate those who genuinely follow Christ (Matt. 16:24).

Christianity Really is Dangerous to the World

When you think about it, Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and all other world religions have no power over the world.  Jesus, on the other hand, has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18-20).  According to the teachings of Christianity, one day—every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:5-11).  If Jesus is not merely a religious lunatic as the world tries to suggest and he really is the devil defeating, death conquering, sinner saving, sovereign Lord—everyone who rejects him will be gathered up like chaff and suffer the judgment of God (Matt. 13:40; 25:41).

Furthermore, Christianity is dangerous to the world in a different manner as well. Christ saves sinners and rescues them out of the power of the devil and the domain of darkness (1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 2:1-10; Acts 26:18).  The world, the flesh, and the devil have an agenda, but Christ conquers and crushes their plans and overcomes their power by the blood of the lamb and the preaching of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18-21; Rev. 12:11). Seven years before his death, at the age of 22, Jim Elliot penned down these words in his journal in the early hours of the morning:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

When genuine Christianity is lived out before a Christless culture, their desire to reach people with the good news of the gospel cannot be stopped even by threats, persecution, and martyrdom.  That’s why true Christians are a threat to this present evil world.  Jim Elliot also wrote the following:

The world cannot hate us; we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!

God answered Jim’s prayer, but what about you?  Does the devil know your name?  Do the demonic powers of this present darkness know the name and ministry of your church?  The world hates Christianity because the world hates Jesus and feels threatened by the sin crushing, devil defeating, soul saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Clothe Yourself for Spiritual Warfare

Clothe Yourself for Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 6:14 in our series through Ephesians on Sunday mornings.  As Paul is coming to the close of his letter to the church in Ephesus and the surrounding cities, he points out the reality that the Christian life is a war—and this war is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual beings surrounding us on a regular basis.

It is extremely important to know your enemy—in any type of war situation.  In modern warfare, before engaging in combat, the leaders teach soldiers about the enemy in order to gain as much knowledge before entering the battlefield.  Since our enemy is not flesh and blood, Paul points out the devil and the demonic band as our spiritual enemies.  Paul says that we should beware of the schemes “μεθοδεία” of the devil.  This particular word is from which we derive the English word methods.  It means cunning and craftiness.  Satan’s schemes are real:

  • Satan blinds spiritual eyes so people can’t see the gospel – 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  • Satan hinders God’s children – 2 Thessalonians 2.
  • Satan deceives the nations – Daniel.
  • Satan opposes the holy angels of God – we see this as he fights with Michael.
  • Satan influences the whole world – 1 John 5.

Satan is a real unique personal being – not a force.

  • Satan is called the anointed cherub.
  • Satan is referred to as the prince of the world.
  • Satan is called the prince of the power of the air.
  • Satan is called the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience.

This is why Paul describes the former lifestyle of the Christians in Ephesus in Ephesians 2:2 by saying, “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

  • Satan is referred to as the prince of the demons – Luke 11:15.
  • Satan is called “Satan” – meaning adversary – 52 times in the Bible.
  • Satan is called “the devil” – meaning slanderer or one who slanders.
  • Satan is called the “old serpent.”
  • Satan is called the “great dragon.”
  • Satan is depicted as a “roaring lion” – alluding to his power.
  • Satan is called the “Evil one” in John 17:15.
  • Satan is called the destroyer in Revelation 9.
  • Satan is the tempter in Matthew 4.
  • Satan is the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12.

This is why Paul said earlier in Ephesians 4:27, “give no opportunity to the devil.”  Moving on from knowing your enemy, Paul points out that it’s essential to clothe yourself for battle by putting on the whole armor of God.  Putting on some of the armor will not be sufficient.  The entire armor is needed for protection on the battlefield.

The first two pieces of the armor Paul addresses are the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.  First, it’s essential to remember that Paul was writing this letter from a prison in Rome—not a hotel beach resort.  As he penned this letter, he was chained to a Roman soldier.  He understood what soldiers looked like and how they were clothed for battle.  He employs this language with imagery to prove his point about the necessity of being prepared for the ongoing spiritual struggle that all Christians face.

In the culture of Paul’s day, everyone wore a long robe (tunic) as a typical outer garment. Men dressed in this manner which provided for comfort and protection against the dry and often windy climate since almost everyone worked outdoors exposed to the sun and elements.

Soldiers would pull up their robe – pulling up and folding their garments and holding everything together with a belt. They would fasten their belt around their waste and it would not only hold in place the outer garment, but it would also hold other pieces of the soldier’s gear.

Consider the purpose of a belt. It secures. It holds everything in place. In this particular scene, Paul is using great imagery. He is pointing to the necessary attitude of a Christian. The follower of Christ must have a mind and heart that is prepared, ready, sober, and fully committed for battle. A half dressed, loosely dressed, casually dressed, solider would never return from the battlefield. Everything has to be in place, secured, fastened, ready, and held tight for the heat of battle.

The word truth “ἀλήθεια” means, “truth; the quality of being in accord with what is true, truthfulness, dependability, uprightness; the context of what is true.”  The Christian is to be a person of truth, one who embraces the truth, one who teaches the truth, one who loves the truth, one who clings to the truth.  The idea here is that the Christian must be convinced of the truth of the gospel and living it out without hypocrisy as he goes off into the spiritual war.  There is no room for passive or loose Christians related to truth.

Paul moves on from the belt of truth to point to another piece of the armor, a very important piece indeed—the breastplate of righteousness.  The solider would go out to war and engage in battle with a breastplate covering his chest area. This plate would be made of metal often having a cloth or leather underside to add comfort and prevent any arrows from penetrating the plate and puncturing the solider in the vital areas of the heart and lungs. In fact this plate would cover the solider from neck to his thighs. It would cover both front and back of the solider.

Paul’s imagery here is key—before you go out to war and engage in battle on the battle field, you must first have on the breastplate of righteousness.  The word righteousness “δικαιοσύνη” actually has a focus on redemptive action or upright behavior.  In this case—both are in view here in Paul’s imagery.  The point Paul is driving home is that a life of holiness is essential to the Christian life.

The call to holiness is seen in places such as Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:16.  Without holiness, no person will see the Lord.  Without the breastplate of righteousness, no solider will survive intense spiritual struggle of the battlefield.  It’s essential to prepare yourself as a follower of Christ for war.  The Christian life is not an easy path to the Celestial City.  It’s a hard path full of many of the devil’s schemes.  Will you be prepared for battle?  Arm yourself.  Clothe yourself for war.

Your Church Does Not Need a Statler or Waldorf

Your Church Does Not Need a Statler or Waldorf

Known for their boisterous heckling—Statler and Waldorf are a pair of cantankerous and opinionated Muppet characters who engage in frequent negative balcony critique.  In short, they are balcony grumps, professional discouragers, and useless critics.  It should be the goal of every Christian man to grow old and avoid turning into a Statler or Waldorf.  Your church does not need either of these characters, and we know this because of what we read in the Bible.

Paul left Crete in the hands of a man named Titus.  It was his job to shut the mouths of the heretics and put things in order in the church.  He was charged with appointing elders to oversee the ministry of the church and to preach the Word.  It would be through the consistent preaching and teaching of the Word that the naysayers would be silenced on the outside and the church would be brought to harmony on the inside.

Paul instructed Titus to train the older men in sound doctrine.  According to Paul, this should result in the aged men becoming “sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2).  Notice the characteristics that Paul insisted must be evident in the men of the church.  In Paul’s day and in our day, the church of Jesus Christ needs faithful men who are worthy of respect and who are healthy in the faith.

Worthy of Respect

The reason that we have Statler and Waldorf characters showing up in the fictional world of the Muppets is because they’re all around us in real life.  We work with these characters, worship with them, and often live in the same house with them.  While they may be profitable for a Muppet Show, they’re unprofitable for the local church.  Paul used a word to describe the wellbeing of aged men in the church.  He said they should be dignified.  This particular word has in mind a life that’s worthy of respect.

Paul likewise pointed out that the aged men of the church should be sober-minded and self-controlled.  The grey beards of the church are expected to be clear headed and self-controlled rather than quick tempered.  Younger men need good examples, and all of the older men of the church should possess the same type of dignified restraint as the elders who oversee the church.

Healthy in the Faith

What makes an older man in the church worthy of respect?  According to Titus 2:2, it’s based on the health and vitality of his faith.  Many older men in evangelicalism are considered to be longtime members of their churches, but their faith is not in good shape.  Older men are known to neglect their faith in pursuit of entertainment, retirement goals, or other superficial things in life.  This results in many aged men turning into useless balcony grumps who are of no value to their local church and poor examples to the younger men who desperately need faithful examples.

When older men become perpetual critics who sit on the sidelines and complain, the church will suffer the following problems:

  1. Perpetual adolescence among the younger men.
  2. Spiritual immaturity.
  3. Laziness.
  4. Discouragement among the younger men (and families) in the church.
  5. Disunity.
  6. Inability to solve problems and reach goals.
  7. Lack of joy.
  8. Burden to the elders who lead the church.
  9. Unhealthy example to the deacons who serve the church.

One of the greatest needs in the evangelical church today is faithful men who finish well for the glory of God.  Far too many aged men die physically mature but spiritual babes. What if the grey beards represented true biblical wisdom in the church?  What if the aged men taught the younger men how to live well and die well?  What if the older men in the church set good examples in the area of evangelism and missions?  What if the mature men of the church were actually mature in the faith?  William Hendriksen writes:

In their attitude toward God let the aged men show soundness in their faith. Let them rely wholly on him and his revealed truth. In their attitude toward the neighbor let them evince soundness in their love. And in their attitude toward bitter trials let them reveal soundness in their endurance or steadfastness. [1]

We can read books and attend conferences about becoming a healthy church, but it will not happen apart from faithful men who possess a healthy faith.  Only then will the men of the church be worthy of respect and honor.  Today’s church doesn’t need a Statler or Waldorf, and tomorrow’s church will not have men like Titus or Timothy if they’re discipled by such characters today.  We must strive to become a Titus 2:2 man rather than a Statler or Waldorf.  Titus 2 is often a chapter quoted in regard to the women of the church, but it’s also loaded with mandates for biblical manhood.

  1. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, vol. 4, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 363.

Stop Calling Yourself a Christian

Stop Calling Yourself a Christian

The longer I serve as a pastor the more apparent it is to me that many people claim to be a Christian, when in reality they’re something else.  That sobering fact could not be any more obvious than it is in the Bible-belt South.  In many cases, people equate Christianity with American citizenship or church membership.  Sometimes people are delivered an improper definition of Christianity through poor preaching or unbiblical evangelistic methods.  No matter how a person ends up in a state of false Christianity, the errors are revealed by their perpetual lack of genuine fruit.

The title “Christian” was first used as a derisive term for the followers of Jesus (Acts 11:26).  Over time, the term has been turned into a badge of honor and taken with great respect by those who follow Jesus.  Just as the term itself has undergone a great change, so has the definition itself.  Today, almost anyone is classified as a Christian who simply embraces the name and refrains from becoming a practicing axe murderer.  Does anyone notice that a vast number of people who claim the name of Christ are not true Christians?

The Necessity of Fruit

Jesus didn’t leave us without proper knowledge on this subject.  All true Christians produce fruit.  Without fruit, a person reveals their lack of true conversion.  Jesus has made it clear that the will of God is for His children to bear fruit.  In John 15:16, we see these words, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”  There is no room for fruitless weeds to be counted as fruit bearing trees.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says the following:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, [44] for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. [45] The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).

According to Romans 7:4, we are to bear fruit for God.  As the workmanship of God (Eph. 2:10), we are chosen in Christ in order that we will bear fruit and this fruit is known as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  If anyone does not bear fruit, they are identified as false disciples and warned of the coming judgment of God (John 15:6).  Abiding in Christ involves the active process of fruit bearing as evidence of real Christianity.  George Whitefield, the famous evangelist from church history, had seen his fair share of false conversions during his ministry.  He once said, “I love now to wait a little, and see if people bring forth fruit; for there are so many blossoms which March winds you know blow away, that I cannot believe they are converts till I see fruit brought back; it will never do a sincere soul any harm.” [1]

The Warning Signs of False Christianity

How many people have bought into the empty and soul-damning lie that praying a prayer and walking down to the front of a church to make a public commitment to Christ is the new birth?  As a result, many people are living in our cities who’ve made such commitments and prayed such prayers, only to cling to them with a great spirit of tenacity as they assure themselves that they’re a real Christian while marching their way to eternal hell.

Perhaps you viewed the statistics put out by Barna Research Group in 2016 that stated 25% of Americans strongly agree that doing good works will result in going to heaven.  Another 30% claimed to “agree somewhat” that good works would earn a person a home in heaven.  In another study published by the Barna Research Group, “about half of Americans agree, either strongly or somewhat, that while he lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins like other people (52%). Just less than half disagree, either strongly or somewhat, that Jesus committed sins while on earth (46%), and 2 percent aren’t sure.” [2]

With a perpetually confused view of the gospel and misunderstood view of God in our nation, it should not be a shock that many false Christians enter the church with a passing statement of affirmation by a local pastor and the church.  This only continues the trend of lost church members who can’t figure out why they aren’t producing real evidence of saving faith.

Consider the following signs of false Christianity:

  • Do you have a lack of passion / desire for God?
  • Do you have a distaste for the Bible?
  • Do you find yourself constantly lacking passion for the local church?
  • Do you constantly find yourself angry with the preaching of God’s Word?
  • Do you have a greater passion and desire for your job or other worldly things than you do for God?
  • Do you find yourself entertained and passionate about the things that God hates?
  • Do you have a lack of love for the things that God loves?
  • Is learning the Bible and things about God boring to you?
  • Do you find it easier to spend money on yourself or to buy worldly things rather than investing it in ministry and missions through your local church?
  • Is your mouth full of gossip and does your heart find joy in rumors and other negative stories about others?
  • Do you spend more time criticizing your pastors than you do praying for them?
  • Do you have a rebellious attitude towards pastoral leadership and a resistance to authority?
  • Do you find yourself doubting your salvation at times only to escape such thoughts by reminding yourself that you once prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and stood before a congregation while making a public commitment of your faith?
  • Do you constantly find yourself looking for something more exciting in your worship service that will please you and satisfy you because the preaching and singing of the gospel isn’t enough?
  • Do you perpetually miss the observance of the Lord’s Supper and it doesn’t seem to matter too much to you?
  • Do you have a lack of desire to pray?
  • Do you have a lack of urgency in sharing the gospel with unbelievers?
  • If asked, would you be able to explain the gospel?
  • Do you believe that it’s possible to please God by doing good deeds?

If you have a consistent lack of genuine fruit and find yourself aligning with the majority of these questions in this list, it would be wise to stop calling yourself a Christian and examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith.  Whatever you might be, you’re most likely not a Christian.  You might have joined a church or been confirmed as a follower of Christ, but without genuine fruit of the Spirit – you have no right to claim the name of Christ.

What you need is the gospel.  Jesus Christ saves sinners, but unless you’re willing to see yourself as a sinner and unless you’re willing to come to Christ as your only hope — you have no right to claim the treasure of His sacrificial death as yours.  Stop calling yourself a Christian if you’re not.

  1. Jim Ehrhard, The Dangers of the Invitation System, (Parkville, MO: Christian Communications Worldwide, 1999), 11-16.
  2. Barna Research Group: “What Do Americans Believe About Jesus? 5 Popular Beliefs” [accessed 11-12-16]


Learning. . . For the Purpose of Godliness

Learning. . . For the Purpose of Godliness

This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.

In the previous chapters, Don Whitney has outlined the specifics of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting and other spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. What exactly is taking place when we read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, and pray? Essentially, these disciplines should lead us to godliness and a life that reflects the glory of God.  In this chapter today, we look at the subject of learning.  Much of our worship and service to the Lord is done with our mind.

Learning Characterizes the Wise Person

Don Whitney does an excellent job of pointing to the wisdom literature and reminding us that wisdom is something we must learn.

  • Proverbs 9:9 – Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
  • Proverbs 10:14 – The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Don Whitney writes, “Learning is a lifelong Discipline, a Spiritual Discipline that characterizes the wise person” (274).  Just as it is with anything else in this life, we must put effort into learning wisdom.

Fulfilling the Greatest Commandment

Don Whitney writes, “There is an intellectualism that is wrong, but it is also wrong to be anti-intellectual” (275).  To love the Lord our God with all of our mind is essential to the Christian faith.  To neglect Him with our mind and pursue everything else under the sun would be an unwise pursuit.  Don Whitney quotes R. C. Sproul as stating:

God has made us with a harmony of heart and head, of thought and action. . . . The more we know Him the more we are able to love Him.  The more we love Him the more we seek to know Him.  To be central in our hearts He must be foremost in our minds.  Religious thought is the prerequisite to religious affection and obedient action. [1]

Learning—Essential for Increased Godliness

Don Whitney quotes Martyn Lloyd-Jones as saying, “Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding” (quoted on 277).  If we are to increase in godliness, we must increase in learning.  We must grow in our knowledge of God, and in order to do that, we must learn some things about God.  To neglect learning God is to neglect the knowledge of God and it will result in a stale Christian life that’s joyless.

Learning is Mostly by Discipline, Not By Accident

Don Whitney writes, “As every dust ball gets bigger the longer it rolls around under the bed, so every mind picks up at least a little knowledge the longer it rolls around on the earth. But we must not assume that we have learned true wisdom just by growing older” (278).  Just as every marathon runner reaches the finish line by the consistent discipline of training and preparation, so it is with the Christian.  We can’t expect to grow in grace if we are not growing in the knowledge of God.  Learning requires discipline – not laziness.

Learning in a Variety of Ways

Don Whitney provides some helpful considerations regarding the different learning methods. Some people read well and others don’t. It helps to know how to learn and each person will be different.  Although some people may learn best through audio and lecture formats, everyone must read.  In fact, we must consider the reality that our God did not send us an .mp3 of the His Word.  He has communicated it to us in written format.  Don Whitney writes, “I’ve always found it true that growing Christians are reading Christians” (281).

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11

Questions to Consider:

1. Will you discipline yourself to become an intentional learner?
2. Where will you start?
3. When will you start?

Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 13 and look at the subject of perseverance in the disciplines for the glory of God. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.

  1. R. C. Sproul, “Burning Hearts Are Not Nourished by Empty Heads,” Christianity Today, September 3, 1982, 100.