Fear of God Devotional: Holiness and Pragmatism


What happens when we substitute pragmatism in place of scriptural commands and principles?

Geoff Botkin explains in this video that people in America generally conduct their life in a largely pragmatic manner. But, in order to understand something like holiness, we cannot learn about holiness without first going to Scripture. Our understanding of holiness must be based on the true standards of holiness. This is where we find God’s standard of holiness. That is what we must default to.

But, the American church has drifted so far from Scripture. We may be champions of pragmatism, but our first priority must always be to look to Scripture. We must look at everything around us and ask whether it is lawful, according to Scripture. If there is something that is contrary to the Scripture or it is a tradition of man, we must replace it with what we find in Scripture and then actually practice what Scripture says on the matter.

Colossians 2:8 (NKJV) – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

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The Hottest Thing in the Church Today Is…

The Hottest Thing at Church Today is…

Tim Challies posted a good article about church life today – The Hottest Thing at Church Today. The article is really about pragmatism… and how a new wave of interest in preaching through the Bible could ignite more of the same old saw in pastors – pragmatism.
He begins the article by noting a new study by the Gallup organization,

“According to a new study by Gallup, the hottest thing at church today is not the worship and not the pastor. It’s not the smoke and lights and it’s not the hip and relevant youth programs. It’s not even the organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe. The hottest thing at church today is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus. As Christianity Today says, “Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible.” Praise God.”

Then, Tim says,

“Praise God, but please don’t jump on the bandwagon.”
The last thing we need is a bunch of preachers responding to this poll by suddenly ditching their series on “7 Keys to Successful Relationships” or “5 Secrets to a Happy Home” to dabble in biblical exposition. What we need is for preachers to search the Scripture, then to commit to biblical exposition.

Pragmatism Dies Hard
For decades, the Western church has been dominated by the church growth movement, a movement that drew heavily from the business principles of pragmatism. Pragmatism insists that the end justifies the means. It demands that we establish goals, determine the best means to achieve those goals, then assume that success proves that both the goal and the means are good. As one of the fathers of church growth said, “Never criticize what God is blessing.” According to pragmatism, there is no distinction between what works and what is experiencing God’s hand of blessing. One proves the other.

The church growth movement established the goal of having as many people as possible profess faith in Jesus Christ. To do this, it would need to make church attractive to unbelievers. This demanded changing the services to make them seeker-friendly, changing the music to make it more contemporary, and even changing the gospel to make it less offensive. Of course, it also demanded changing the preaching to make it more palatable and that meant preaching themes and principles rather than preaching the Bible itself. Pragmatism is so ingrained in the very fabric of the church today that it is extremely difficult to root out. Churches that have been immersed in it have to battle tooth and nail against its seductions. They need to retrain themselves to look not to what appears to work, but to what the Bible demands.

My concern with the results of this poll is that it will convince many pastors to change course for pragmatic reasons. They will see that the people want biblical exposition and, therefore, they will provide it. But they will do so not on the basis of biblical convictions, but on the basis of pragmatism. Ironically, to switch to expositional preaching on the basis of a poll is the very essence of pragmatism. It is to determine what the people want, then to assume the right thing is to give it to them.

What God’s People Want and Need
It should come as no surprise that God’s people want God’s Word. A baby wants nothing more than his mother’s milk because he needs nothing more than his mother’s milk. A Christian wants nothing more than God’s Word because there is nothing he needs more than God’s Word. The Christian may not know it or be able to verbalize it any more than the baby can, but within every true believer will be a deep hunger to be fed by spiritual food—food that is found only in the Word of God. Those churches that committed to preaching endless series of sermonettes for Christianettes were starving their people. They were starving sheep in order to entertain goats.

Now Gallup assures us that we’ve gotten it wrong, that what Christians want is the straightforward preaching of the Bible. I’m glad to read these results. I’m glad that God’s people are choosing God’s Word. But I don’t want pastors and their churches to jump on the biblical exposition bandwagon. Instead, I want them to search the Scriptures, to see what God says about the relationship of his people to his Word, to understand the purpose of the weekly gatherings of the local church, and then to commit from this day forward to preach God’s Word to God’s people.

Here’s the thing: Eventually Gallup or Barna or someone else will come up with a new poll that will display new results and mere bandwagoners will veer to this new course. Their deep-rooted pragmatism will drive them to the next big thing. But people who are convinced from the Bible that there is nothing better than to preach the Bible will stay the course. Even when Bible-based preaching is the very last thing people want, these pastors will know it is the very first thing they need.

As you know the NCFIC has always been an advocate of this and our desire to “Focus churches and families on the Word of God by restoring the practice of teaching the whole counsel of God through exegetical preaching of Scripture in the church by biblically qualified elders and daily instruction in homes by fathers and mothers.”

You can read Tim Challies article online here:


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Fear of God Devotional: What is Christ’s Great Commission for the Church?


What is the message of the Great Commission?

Joel Beeke explains in this video that the message of the Great Commission is to bring the Gospel to everyone in the world and to see every unconverted person as a mission field. We are called to be faithful to bring the Word of God to unbelievers that we interact with.

The Gospel is all about how Christ came to do everything for us who are powerless to do anything. We must communicate to the unsaved that our Savior is willing and able to save the greatest of sinners. They are called to repent and believe the Gospel with all their mind, soul, and strength.

Luke 19:9-10 (NKJV) – “And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

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Penance or Repentance

Misunderstanding the difference between penance and repentance will bring disaster in a persons life. It is an eternally significant disaster. The Lord revealed this to Martin Luther as he was translating the Greek New Testament and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate,

Luther had been studying the new edition of the Greek New Testament published by the humanist scholar Erasmus. In these studies he had come to realze that the Latin Vulgate, the official chrurch Bible, had misleadingly rendered “repent” in Matthew 4:17 by poenitentiam agite (“do penance”), thus completely misconstruing Jesus' meaning. Luther saw that the Gospel called not for an act of penace but for a radical change of mind that would lead to a deep transformation of life.1

Penance falls short of repentance in many ways. It tends to focus on the external or outward issue of what the sinner has done rather than what the sinner is. It is frequently aimed toward the ecclesiastical body rather than toward God. It tends to elevate the priest as the absolver of sin more than Christ. It deals with the past more than the fiture. It often diverts attention from the real needs of the soul to some relatively inconsequential acts. Thus you can have “penitent thieves” whose penance consists of paying part of their loot to the church, and “holy men” whose garments are alive with vermin they cultivate to mortify the flesh.2


1. Sinclair Furgeson, The Grace of Repentance pp.13-14
2. Richard Owen Roberts, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel pp. 92-93

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Fear of God Devotional: Church Programs for Evangelism?


How should the Church approach and witness to unbelievers?

Kevin Swanson explains in this video that the Church be balanced in that there must be love shown to both the believers in the Church and unbelievers outside the Church. The Church must reach out to unbelievers but also to the believers. Elders ought exemplify this to the members of the Church. They ought to be opening up their home to strangers and believers alike.

However, it is a delicate balance. A church may lean too far one way where there is no love for believers because it focuses on bringing in unbelievers so much that believers are neglected. The opposite can also occur where there is no love for unbelievers.

John 17:15-18 (NKJV) – “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

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Fear of God Devotional: A Shortcoming Amongst Youth Groups


What is a common shortcoming amongst typical youth groups today?

Paul Washer explains in this video that when he visits a typical youth group, many youth attend only because their friends are there and they are entertained. Unfortunately, oftentimes, the Word of God is not preached and made the focal point of the gathering.

Perhaps one of the most important things that our youth need at that critical stage in life is to be instructed by the Word of God. As they transition into adulthood, they ought to be desiring solid food and not just milk. When we promote an entertainment lifestyle amongst our children and youth, we perpetuate spiritual immaturity when we ought to be encouraging them instead to pursue godliness with all of their might.

Proverbs 13:20 (NKJV) – “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Biblical Evangelism – Effectively Communicating the Gospel


How should Christians more effectively evangelize unbelievers?

Kevin Swanson explains in this video that an effective way to evangelize is to preach the Word of God in a public forum and actually interact and converse with people. Many times, people will simply pass out a tract but not take the time to sit down with an individual and open up the Scripture or pray with them.

We see in Scripture a pattern of individuals actually preaching the Gospel to an individual or to a crowd. We see interaction and conversations between believers and unbelievers. We see believers using Scripture to rebut the ideas and arguments of unbelievers. While evangelizing in this manner may take time and effort, it is something we are called to do as Christians and the reward is great, for the harvest truly is plentiful.

Mark 16:15 (NKJV) – “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Can We Ever Stray from the Commands of God?


Is there ever a situation where we should stray from the commands of God found in Scripture?

Paul Washer explains in this video that much of the modern church’s energy is invested in youth ministry. Generally speaking, it is a key aspect of modern church life. However, the Bible does not command us to delegate a father’s responsibility to disciple and instruct our children to other individuals. There is no commandment in Scripture telling us to do these things. It isn’t the plan that God has commanded.

It is important to remember that successes in youth ministry, no matter how great, does not matter if it contradicts what Scripture commands. Church staff are not commanded to teach and instruct the youth. There never ought to be a situation where the commands of God are trumped by an allegedly superior method or technique created by man.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV) – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

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A Hatred of Sin and Apprehension of the Mercy of God

Here is the section on repentance in Benjamin Keach’s Baptist Catechism:

Q. 94. What is repentance unto life?

A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience. (Acts 2:37; Joel 2:13; Jer. 31:18,19: 2 Cor. 7:10,11; Rom. 6:18)

Please consider coming to our national conference: Repentance – The Reformation Continues – October 26-28 in Asheville NC.

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Fear of God Devotional: The Root Cause Behind the Exodus of Our Youth

What is the root cause behind the exodus of our children from the modern church?

Scott Brown explains in this video that youth ministry is not the cause of our children leaving the church. Rather, it stems from ignoring the things that are plainly taught in Scripture. The root problem is the failure to trust what Scripture has to say and the resulting disobedience of it. In short, we have stopped believing that Scripture is sufficient.

There are a variety of things that have caused this crisis among our youth. But all of them have the same root cause – a lack of appreciation for the Word of God and an appreciation for modern traditions. The Bible can be trusted to guide the way we lead our youth. Yet, the modern church has set aside Scripture and has done something that is foreign to Scripture and actually contradicts it.

Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

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Fish Will Not Be Fishermen

Modern folks seem to feel that they need to become like the world in order to win the world. They think that If they look and talk and act like worldlings, then they will be able to relate with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The world needs to see holiness not worldliness, as Charles Spurgeon declares:

“We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among the men in the same element with them. Fish will not be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man. What is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own, but you cannot save the world. If you are dark and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them. I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”1

Luke 5:10 “and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

1. Spurgeon, C. H. The soul-winner, or, How to lead sinners to the Saviour. Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 2007, pp. 277-278

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Fear of God Devotional: The Comprehensive Nature of the Great Commission

How should Christians view the work of evangelism?

Don Hart explains in this video that evangelism is critically important. We have been given a great commission. We are called not only to make disciples but to make disciples of nations. It is a comprehensive work. We need to influence with the Gospel, not just the people we might meet on the street, but also with the leaders of nations.

Often, Christians lose sight of the comprehensiveness, scope, and reach of the Gospel. It is not just about individuals, but the Gospel also has an impact upon nations. Thus, we are called to evangelize as an individual and alongside our families. We ought to be encouraged that entire nations are to be transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Matthew 9:37-38 (NKJV) – “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

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How Should We Think about Parachurch Ministries?

How should we think about parachurch ministries? The Nine Marks Journal has given us several helpful articles in “Church and Parachurch – Friends or Foes.” These articles deal with issues of accountability, prioritization, the creation of a celebrity culture and… particularly, the centrality of the local church.

In this Nine Marks Journal issue you will read articles like,

Nine Marks of a Healthy Parachurch Ministry, by Mack Stiles

Aaron Menikoff writes about, “Are Parachurch Ministries Good or Evil:Bad and Good Arguments for the Parachurch”

Carl Truman speaks to the issue of, “How Parachurch Ministries go off the Rails.”

Jonathan Leeman deals with the issue of church discipline and, “How Church Discipline Will Save the Parachurch.”

 In, For the Church: How Can You Support Parachurch Ministries? Jeremy Rinne offers help to churches for how to minister to those who are involved in parachurch ministries. 

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Fear of God Devotional: The Four-Fold Way of Puritan Evangelism in the Church

How would Puritan ministers go about evangelizing?

Joel Beeke explains that there were four distinct characteristics of Puritan evangelism.

First, their evangelism was biblical. They always used biblical texts. They were men of the book. Second, they evangelized doctrinally. They knew how to take biblical truths and use Scripture to convict people of sin.

Third, they evangelized experientially. They taught their congregations how the believer experiences the doctrines of grace and what he should experience if he is a true believer. Fourth, they evangelized symmetrically. They were balanced. They taught the gravity and enormity of sin and the beauty of Christ.

Additionally, Puritan ministers not only taught the Gospel from the pulpit, but they modeled an evangelistic lifestyle in their own lives. A minister was the same in the church as he was at home. There was no disconnect. He prayed for his congregation.

Puritan ministers commonly declared, “Wherever I go, wherever I do, and wherever I visit, I must leave the savor of Christ behind me.”

Titus 2:1 (NKJV) – “[S]peak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.”

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Fear of God Devotional: Does Your Home Need to be in Order to Evangelize?

Is there an excuse for a man to not disciple his family?

Kevin Swanson explains in this video that God wants a man to disciple his children. It doesn’t matter if his life is in order or not. The Bible calls for a man to teach the Word of God on a daily basis to all who are in his home. This needs to be something that occurs on a daily basis.

Even if it has been a long day or the father does not feel qualified, a father is still commanded to read and study the Scripture and spend time in prayer with his family. God doesn’t want us to read His Word only if we’re in the right mood or if we’re theologians. We are to be faithful to obey His commands no matter what.

Psalm 119:1-2 (NKJV) – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!”

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