Christian biographies can show us how God uses ordinary people to accomplish great things for the cause of Christ. From one of our Ask Ligonier events, John MacArthur reveals which biographies have most impacted him.
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In every generation, every culture there is a dominant prevailing spirit. The Germans coined a word for it, Zeitgeist, a term that joins two common ideas together. Zeit is the German word for "time," Geist is the German word for "spirit." So Zeitgeist means "spirit of the time" or "spirit of the age."
The contemporary Zeitgeist in which the Christian lives is one of secularism. The emphasis is on this world, on this time. Little attention is given to things that are above and beyond this world. Eternity is rarely considered, save for brief moments at a graveside. What counts is the here and now. To live for the moment, for the gusto of the present, is the spirit of this world.
The secular spirit of this world has its own modern trends and emphases, but in its essence it is not new. Every generation has its own form of secularism. We are earthbound creatures. Our focus is on this world.
The same was true in Jesus' day. He repeatedly called His disciples to look beyond the present. He lifted our gaze to the eternal. "Store up treasures in heaven," He said. He called us to weigh the matters in the balance of eternity "What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
The world or the soul? Please the world or please God? This is the issue of every generation. To be conformed to this world is to risk the loss of one's eternal soul. The world places little value on the soul. A body in the hand is worth two souls in the bush, according to the Zeitgeist of our generation. The world spirit invites us to play now and pay later, though the emphasis is on the now. This is the popular way to go.
For the Christian to resist the seduction of this world he must risk going against the tide. He must be willing to risk the loss of pleasing men to gain pleasing God. Hence Jesus said, "Blessed are you when they shall revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12).
The key words in this beatitude are "for my sake." The nonconformity we are called to is not simply nonconformity for nonconformity's sake. Anyone can call attention to himself by being a maverick. It is the "for my sake" that separates cheap nonconformity from the genuine article. There is no virtue in being "out of it" indiscriminately. Our nonconformity must be selective. It must be at the points that matter.
It is easy to trivialize nonconformity. We can reduce this to simplistic externals as the Pharisees did. Authentic nonconformity rests upon transformation. The apostle Paul adds a positive mandate to the negative prohibition. He said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).
It is the prefix that must be changed. The prefix "con-" ("with") must yield to the prefix "trans-," which means "across," "beyond," or "over." It is not enough for Christians to drop out of society. The call to transformation does not mean withdrawal from the world. We need no more monasteries. We are to go beyond the forms of this world. We are to effect changes in the world. The perspective of Jesus is beyond the forms of this world. We neither surrender to the world nor flee from the world. We are to penetrate the world with a new and different spirit.
There is a timeworn Christian saying that has become a cliché through its use: "We are to be in the world, but not of the world." To be of the world is to be worldly. It is to conform to t his world. To drop out of the world is to be a nonconformist without transformation.
The theater of God's redemption is this world. It is to this world that God came in Christ. Christ refused to allow His disciples to hide in an upper room with the doors locked by reason of fear. No booths were allowed to be built on the mountain of Transfiguration. We are called to be Christ's witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem is in this world. Judea is in this world. Samaria is in this world. The ends of the earth are still on this earth. So we should not flee this world. But, oh, how many Christians try to do so. And in doing so, they may actually be displeasing the God who wants the world to be redeemed, not escaped.
This excerpt is adapted from Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul.
We live in a world that needs awakening. Millions of people do not know Jesus Christ. The church itself needs renewed zeal for the truth, for spiritual growth, and for missions. Scripture reveals how this awakening comes about: by a powerful movement of the Spirit of God. It also tells us that when just two men—Paul and Silas—prayed, the earth itself shook (Acts 16:25–26). So we are dedicating the entire year of 2020 to pray for awakening, and we hope you will, too.
To help as many people as possible, we produced this free prayer guide. Download it today at PrayForAwakening.com, find it in the PrayerMate app, or order the prayer booklet in packs of ten to share with your loved ones.
To use the guide, find the prayer that corresponds to the current week. Each week of the month focuses on a different group to pray for, starting with you and your family and expanding to the world and the global church. You can also share your desire to #PrayForAwakening on social media.
JULY PRAYER FOCUS:
- Week 1: Pray that you and your family will put no confidence in the flesh or human methods but rather lean on God to bring awakening. “We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil. 3:3)
- Week 2: Pray that your church will be committed to making true disciples of the next generation so that renewal continues. “You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children.” (Deut. 6:7)
- Week 3: Pray that your nation will be turned upside down and changed through the preaching of the biblical gospel. “They dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.’” (Acts 17:6)
- Week 4: Pray that God will raise up Christians who are willing to go to the ends of the earth, to the most out-of-the-way places in order to proclaim the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
We hope this prayer guide encourages you this year and in future years. Join us in praying fervently for a mighty movement of God’s Spirit today, thankful that He has graciously promised to hear us, and confident that He will answer our prayers according to His will.
The term “evangelical” has meant different things to people at different times. In this brief clip, W. Robert Godfrey explains where the word comes from and how it was used from the 16th to the 20th century.
The word "evangelical" was widely and popularly used amongst American Protestants in the 19th century. Almost all American Protestants would have been willing to say that they were evangelical. And that's the irony in the middle of the 20th century, that we end up with non-evangelical Protestants who get the label "mainline." Who made them the mainline? Now, I don't know exactly where the phrase "mainline" came from. If I were a better historian, I'd know. I know if you live in Philadelphia, "mainline" just means the rich people who live out in the posh suburbs. I don't think that is probably where "mainline Protestant" came from. It assumes that there are these mainline denominations who represent the sort of history of American Protestantism, and then in the later part of the 20th this kind of large conservative evangelicals. Well, the irony of that is in the 19th century, almost all Protestants thought of themselves as evangelicals. The label "evangelical," the phrase of "evangelical Christians" really originates in Germany in the 16th century, where the Protestants there identified themselves as evangelicals over against the Roman Catholics. And so, in the 16th Germany, "evangelical" meant someone who accepted the authority of the Bible to understand the gospel. “Evangelical,” after all, is just a Greek word for the gospel, for the good news. To this day, the German Lutheran Church is known as the Evangelische Kirche, the Evangelical Church. In the 19th century, something parallel went on. Although there were Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and many others, they were also still thinking of themselves very significantly as evangelical. Because, what united them was their commitment to the Bible, their commitment to the gospel, and their commitment to evangelism. So, almost no Protestants in America had much trouble with the label “evangelical.” Indeed, it was very, very positive because it was a way of giving expression to the unity of Protestants across denominational lines.
Over the years, countless people have been encouraged and comforted by R.C. Sproul’s teaching on the topic of suffering. From one of our live events, Dr. Sproul conveys how the truth of God’s Word ministered to him amid his then declining health.
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The official blog of Ligonier Ministries, founded by theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul in 1971 to help Christians know what they believe, why the believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.