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Changing sinful habits requires a change in the way we think.

Lies from the world, the flesh, and the devil can cloud our thinking, making us ineffective and discouraged in our personal battles for holiness. If you’re discouraged and can’t see out of the haze, I invite you to change the way you think about your battle against sin.

Martin Luther said that all of life is repentance. It is a continual battle to conform our minds and wills to God’s perfect standard. This repentance involves taking out the trash of old and unhelpful thoughts that pollute our thinking and filling our minds with God’s powerful truth that gives health and life, leading to holiness.

I’m sure your battle against sin is similar to mine. You’ve had ups and downs, with different struggles in different seasons. While we will never totally rid ourselves of all sin while here on earth, it is important that we keep pressing forward like a football team fighting for yardage. Each moment that we have is like a play where we can move the ball down the field. Sin may cause us to sometimes lose yardage, but we must never give up. The next play we can continue to make progress down the field.1

We need the following five needed mind-shifts in our battle against sin if we are going to make progress and move the ball down the field:

1. Think: “I need to please God” over “I need to feel better about myself.”

If your repentance involves repenting just enough to make you feel better about yourself, it is not true repentance.

If your repentance involves repenting just enough to make you feel better about yourself, it is not true repentance. God wants our whole hearts to repent in order to please Him—not merely to avoid bad feelings or consequences. Fear God more than the consequences of your sin.

2.Think: “I am fully equipped to obey all the time” over “It’s too hard for me.”

If you’ve ever thought you can never break your sinful habits, remember that you don’t have to be a “Super Christian” to live in obedience. In Christ, God has given you everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). No temptation is too strong for you (1 Corinthians 10:13). While this mind-shift won’t mean you’re perfect, it can remind you of Christ’s power to overcome sin and temptation.

3.Think: “I need to live in obedience” over “I need to have victory.”2

This mind-shift focuses on terminology. Many talk about their sin struggles by claiming to have lived in “victory” or succumbed to “defeat.” This terminology can tempt us to think the struggle is something external to us; something not in our control. And in a sense, we are in a spiritual battle—but a spiritual battle that’s already been won at the cross. We should call our disobedience what it is and not try to soften the weight of sin against a holy God.

4.Think: “I need to expose sin” over “I need to hide sin.”

Our sinful nature wants to hide our sins so we don’t get caught or shamed by those who find out. Confession of sins is counter our sinful nature. People who hate their sin love to confess it. Confession brings sin into the light. It brings healing (James 5:16). Instead of fearing confession, we should take joy in it because it is a restorative practice blessed by God (Psalm 32:1-2).

5.Think: “Put sin to death” over “I’ll just try to stay away from it.”

“If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Putting your flesh to death is active—something that doesn’t happen on it’s own. Yet so often in our battles for holiness, we don’t seek to put something to death, but rather try to pretend it will go away. That’s a recipe to fall into the same sin again during a moment of weakness. We need the attitude that John Owen commended when he said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” But putting sin to death isn’t something we were meant to do on our own.

6.Think: “life in the Spirit” over “life in the flesh.”

We are not empty handed in our battle against sin. God is actively working in us and giving us power through His Spirit to fight sin and live righteously. Christian: you need to work hard at living in the Spirit at all times. This means living in obedience so you don’t grieve the Spirit with your sin or quench the Spirit by missing an opportunity to follow His lead.

It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins and be careless in our intake of the Word of God. ― Jerry Bridges

Life in the Spirit is incomplete without the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God). Make God’s Word your delight, part of your daily diet, and a weapon for fighting against the flesh and the enemy.3 Jerry Bridges says it this way: “It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins and be careless in our intake of the Word of God.”4

My prayer is that these six mind-shifts would give you the help and confidence you need to make strides forward in your obedience to Christ by the power of the Spirit. None of us can expect perfection in this life, but by God’s grace, we can continually grow more and more into Christ’s likeness.


1 Illustration borrowed from sermon by Colin Smith called “Move the Ball Forward.”
2 I’m indebted to Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness for this idea.
3 See Romans 8 or Galatians 5 for more on life in the Spirit.
4 Bridges in The Pursuit of Holiness, page 75.

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dc Talk and the Influence of Faith Fortifying Songs by Trevin Wax (I had a very similar experience to Trevin’s)

The Most Simple Yet Profound Command of Them All by Mark Altrogge

The Holy Spirit is Not Our Crazy Uncle by Seth McBee

How Suffering Prepares Us for Heaven by Sarah Walton

10 Things Financially Happy Couples Do Differently

Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell by Molly Hemmingway (Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job)

We Cannot Love God if We Do Not Love His Word by R.C. Sproul

Tony Payne: Can We Talk About Islam?

Recommended Books on World War II for Christian Readers

I consider myself a ferocious reader. I mainly devour Christian theology and ministry books, but also like to read books outside my norm to thinkand experience things—from a different perspective. That includes non-fiction, biographies, and history.

I’ve always been fascinated by World War II because of the unique mix of utter human depravity with amazing acts of courage and valor. Those who lived through the horrors of World War II truly are The Greatest Generation.

I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of recommended books on World War II of interest to Christian readers. I have read 1-4 and have put the rest on my “to read” list. Enjoy!

1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Related Post: The Louis Zamperini Story: Where the Movie Left Off

2. Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of Courage and Faith by Dr. John Woodbridge and Maurice Possley

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist teams up with a university scholar in this compelling, untold historical tale of a young man’s courage at a critical time in United States history, and the saga of a dictator’s pistol that continues today. The time is World War II. Young soldier Ira “Teen” Palm and his men burst into a Munich apartment, hoping to capture Adolph Hitler. Instead, they find an empty apartment … and a golden gun. As the authors trace the story of the man and the gun, they examine a time and place that shaped men like Palm and transformed them into heroes. They also follow the strange journey of Hitler’s pistol.

Related: My Interview with Dr. John Woodbridge on Biblical Authority

3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

“I pray that God forgive them…”

Corrie Ten Boom stood naked with her older sister Betsie, watching a concentration camp matron beating a prisoner. “Oh, the poor woman,” Corrie cried. “Yes. May God forgive her,” Betsie replied. And, once again, Corrie realized that it was for the souls of the brutal Nazi guards that her sister prayed.

Both woman had been sent to the camp for helping the Jews. Christ’s Spirit and words were their guide; it was His persecuted people they tried to save—at the risk of their own lives; it was His strength that sustained them through times of profound horror.

Here is a book aglow with the glory of God and the courage of a quiet Christian spinster whose life was transformed by it. A story of Christ’s message and the courage woman who listened and lived to pass it along—with joy and triumph!

4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

WHO BETTER TO FACE THE GREATEST EVIL OF THE 20TH CENTURY THAN A HUMBLE MAN OF FAITH?

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life—the theologian and the spy—and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland.

5. Hitler’s Cross: How the Cross Was Used to Promote the Nazi Agenda by Erwin Lutzer

Six million Jews dead. The monstrosity of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Third Reich’ remains a stunning chapter in the pages of history. Although the power by which he hypnotized an entire nation is legendary, one question in particular begs an answer: Where was the church of Christ? Seduced by the satanic majesty of the Fuhrer, church leaders throughout Germany allowed the swastika a prominent place alongside the Christian cross in their sanctuaries. Nationalistic pride replaced the call of God to purity, and with few exceptions, the German church looked away while Adolf Hitler implemented the ‘Final Solution’ to his Jewish problem. How did this happen?

In Hitler’s Cross, Erwin W. Lutzer examines the dangers of confusing “church and state,” how the German church lost its focus, the role of God in human tragedy, the parameters of Satan’s freedom, the faithfulness of God to His people who suffer for Him, and America’s hidden cross-her dangerous trends. Hitler’s Cross is the story of a nation whose church forgot its primary call and discovered its own failure after it was too late.

6. When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin Lutzer

According to Dr. Lutzer, the German people’s progression from civility to barbarity was not extraordinary, and more than a few benchmarks from their transition can be observed in present day American society (Do any of these sound familiar?):  The Church is silenced, the economy is king, the lawmakers determine behaviors, the media controls beliefs, the Gospel and nationalism become inextricably tied to each other, and yet, heroes still have power.

This short, manageable book does not suggest the United States is definitely marching toward authoritarian oblivion, but that we – especially we believers – must be vigilant in our stand for truth, justice, and righteousness. We must take note of these lessons from history. The parallels are real, but the conclusion is not a foregone one.

7. Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Edgar Harrell

July 30, 1945–The USS Indianapolis and its 1,196-man crew is making its way toward a small island in the South Pacific. The ship is sailing unescorted, assured by headquarters the waters are safe. It is midnight, and Marine Edgar Harrell and several others have sacked out on deck rather than spend the night in their hot and muggy quarters below. Fresh off a top-secret mission to deliver uranium for the atomic bombs that would ultimately end World War II, they are unaware their ship is being watched. Minutes later, six torpedoes are slicing toward the Indy . . .

For five horrifying days and nights after their ship went down, Harrell and his shipmates had to fend for themselves in the open seas. Plagued by dehydration, exposure, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks, their numbers were cruelly depleted before they were miraculously rescued. This is one man’s story of courage, ingenuity, and faith in God’s providence in the midst of the worst naval disaster in U.S. history.

Listen to an interview with Harrell from The Gospel Coalition:

8. Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

(For those at home keeping score, this is the book my mom added to the list :) )

The True Story of One Woman’s Triumph of Faith

Newlywed American missionary Darlene Deibler Rose survived four years in a notorious Japanese prison camp set deep in the jungles of New Guinea. Thinking she was never to see her husband again, Darlene Rose was forced to sign a false confession and face the executioner’s sword, only to be miraculously spared.

9. Churchill by Paul Johnson

This pick is one that isn’t a “Christian” book, but made the list because it is a great biography of World War II’s main figures – and it is less than two-hundred pages. (Oh yeah, and Albert Mohler recommended it.)

In Churchill, eminent historian Paul Johnson offers a lively, succinct exploration of one of the most complex and fascinating personalities in history. Winston Churchill’s hold on contemporary readers has never slackened, and Johnson’s analysis casts new light on his extraordinary life and times. Johnson illuminates the various phases of Churchill’s career—from his adventures as a young cavalry officer in the service of the empire to his role as an elder statesman prophesying the advent of the Cold War—and shows how Churchill’s immense adaptability and innate pugnacity made him a formidable leader for the better part of a century. Johnson’s narration of Churchill’s many triumphs and setbacks, rich with anecdote and quotation, illustrates the man’s humor, resilience, courage, and eccentricity as no other biography before, and is sure to appeal to historians and general nonfiction readers alike.

10. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Also not a “Christian” book, but a classic that tells the horrors of the holocaust from a young girl’s perspective.

THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (also known as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) is a book of the writings from the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944, and Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The diary was retrieved by Miep Gies, who gave it to Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the family’s only known survivor. The diary has since been published in more than 60 different languages.

You may also enjoy:

What books would you add?

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I’ve reflected recently on what it looks like to steward a blog and social media platform for the glory of God. As a Christian blogger, I know my platform needs to be more than just about page views and retweets – and if that is it’s ultimate purpose, I might as well stop.

Stewardship is an easy concept: Everything belongs to God and is for God. We are to use what He entrusts to us wisely and for His glory.

This easy concept becomes more complex when you factor in our imperfections and selfish hearts that want to twist God’s good gifts and make them all about us.

How, then, can we glorify God in stewarding blogs and social media? My heart has recently been both stirred and shaped in meditating on the following truths and finding God’s purpose for my blog and social media accounts.

I don’t want to waste people’s time. If life is a vapor, then I could potentially be wasting people’s short lives and distracting them by what I post online. To paraphrase (and adapt) the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, “of making many blogs there is no end.” Is what I write or tweet worth readers’ time?

I don’t want to waste my own time. Writing is hard work. It’s hard work I usually love to do, but time that could be spent on other things. There are more important things in life than writing and blogging – therefore, I need to keep good priorities and not flitter (or Twitter) away my time in the online world.

I strive for excellence. Does presenting to God something other than our best work maximize God’s glory? In God’s economy, it might sometimes (in our weakness, He is strong). But I think that excellence in writing, blogging, and social media glorify Him the most. I strive to always grow as both a writer and blogger and to communicate clearly for the sake of readers. This is a small way I can love others and adorn the gospel, which is the most excellent thing imaginable.

As a blogger, I realize I may face stricter judgment. Christian teachers will face greater judgment (James 3:1). Since many learn on blogs; Christian bloggers will likely face stricter judgment as well. This, and because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16), is why I seek to waste no one’s time or be careless in what I write. I don’t have the attitude of tabloid journalists, pursuing controversy for more page views or viral posts. What I write needs to be first true; then profitable for readers; and hopefully as enjoyable as possible for readers.

Blog and social media stewardship involves gift stewardship. God has given His children gifts for the sake of each other for His glory (1 Peter 4:10-11). While there is obviously no biblical mention of a spiritual gift of blogging or social media, I know that I can serve the church with my gifts through those channels – and that is my ultimate goal. This also means that I seek to fan into flame the gifts God has given me for maximum future impact (see 2 Timothy 1:6).

Maximum impact for the Kingdom will come by sharing the work of others. I point to helpful articles, books, resources, and great ministries because there are many people producing valuable content, and I realize that God will be glorified more if I connect people to their work. I also realize that, most of the time, what I link to is a more worthwhile read than what I write!

I blog Christ. Just like Paul claimed to know nothing among the Corinthians but Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), I seek to proclaim Christ, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). I want my public online activity through blogs and tweets to show sinners their need for a Savior and deepen both affections and appreciation for Christ to the praise of His glory.

I admit I’m a work in progress at this whole social media/blogging stewardship thing. But I am grateful for the Lord teaching me these valuable lessons and for the future lessons he will teach me relating to stewardship.

What would you add?

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Paige Cunningham of The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (say that five times fast) was interviewed on the ethics of “three parent babies.” Listen below:

(You may also be interested in a Kindle Deal: Why the Church Needs Bioethics: A Guide to Wise Engagement with Life’s Challenges for $1.99 by John Kilner)

10 Recommended Books on Expository Preaching from Leadership Resources

How Can Work in the Church and Marketplace be Equally Important? by Matt Perman

What is the Measure of a Great Book? By Tim Challies

A Tip for Seminary Students by Mike Leake

Nancy Leigh Demoss’ Advice to Young Writers and Speakers (written for women, but also applicable to men)

Bill Pence shares a good summary of a book that I read (and enjoyed) recently: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

The Limitations of Religion from Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible (see my review of his new book)

Sam Storms on Eternal Security (HT)

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Originally posted at ServantsofGrace.org.

“How can you not know your own father was a serial killer?”

That question fueled the lunchtime discussion between my coworkers and I. A coworker’s friend met the daughter of a famous serial killer. The killer’s daughter confessed to having no idea that her father was regularly killing people during the time she was being raised by him.

“How can you not see it?!” “How does this happen?”

This particular serial killer hid his dark secrets well–and he’s not the only one. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve flipped on the news to see an interview with a friend or neighbor of a terrible criminal. Time after time the interviewees say something like, “He seemed like a nice guy to me–I had no idea he could do something like this.”

Hiding Our Sins

The scary truth is that we all hide sin. We may not be hiding a murderous streak like these examples, but we have other things we work hard at keeping secret.

Some put on the mask of good works, success, religion, or irreligion to cover up their sin. Others mock the need for a mask; like ISIS flaunting their depravity and hatred toward God in front of the watching world. Some claim the need for a mask to hide our sin is artificial, or psychologize everything by saying that if people only had a better upbringing or economic status–everything would be fine. Others just label the sin something not so harsh, like “mistake.”

Even though sin should be so evident to people, many people don’t believe in the sinfulness of humanity exactly because humans are good at covering up their tracks. It’s not natural in our culture to walk in the grocery store and point at the guy stocking shelves and say, “He’s a sinner going to hell!” But if he doesn’t know Christ, that is true.

How can humanity deny the sinfulness of the Holocaust? Of ISIS? Of the mass shootings like Fort Hood or Sandy Hook? We can’t. We can try to explain it away, but no explanation satisfies. I agree with G.K. Chesterton, who wrote that original sin, “is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

Hiding our sin may work in the public sphere for a time, but there will be a day when all will be laid bare before Almighty God. All of our sins–whether a white lie or a double homicide–will be laid before God and we will be held accountable. The masks will be ripped off and the filthy hearts of humanity will be shown for what they are–no matter how good they look dressed up here on earth.

What could be more terrifying than standing before a holy God on judgment day?

Our Glorious Hope

The good news for Christians is that Christ has freed us from fearing that Day through His death on the cross. We have had masks and sins to pay for, but they have been paid and we can live in freedom and honesty–not having to cover our tracks. Colossians 2:13-15 says:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

The good news of the gospel is that this offer is available to all who would believe–whether you’re a sinful youth group kid (like I was), a guy stocking shelves at the grocery store, an ISIS member, or serial killer like David Berkowitz.

Glorious Hope for a Serial Killer

Berkowitz’s mug shot

David Berkowitz is the famed “Son of Sam” serial killer that plagued New York City in the 1970s, murdering six women. Berkowitz had a hard life growing up: he was plagued with seizures, contemplated suicide while young, and lost his mother at the age of fourteen.

His already dark and lonely life grew darker when he began experimenting with the occult after meeting a couple of cult members at a party. This soon took him into deep darkness where he followed the instructions of demons to viciously kill six people over the span of one year from the summer of 1976 to the summer of 1977.

Berkowitz was able to cover his tracks and escape the law for a while, but his sin eventually caught up with him. He was sentenced to 365 consecutive years in prison (one life sentence for each of the women he killed). He describes this prison sentence as being “virtually buried alive behind prison walls.”

While Berkowitz’s situation seemed hopeless, hope was not out of reach.

Ten years into his prison term, a fellow prisoner reached out to him and shared the gospel. Although Berkowitz tried to avoid him at first, his hopeless situation led him to pursue a friendship, clinging onto any glimpse of hope offered. The new friend gave Berkowitz a Bible from the Gideon’s and told him to start reading the Psalms.

Here is what happened next in Berkowitz’s own words:

One night, I was reading Psalm 34. I came upon the 6th verse, which says, “this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him from all his troubles”. It was at that moment, in 1987, that I began to pour out my heart to God. Everything seemed to hit me at once. The guilt from what I did… the disgust at what I had become… late that night in my cold cell, I got down on my knees and I began to cry out to Jesus Christ. I told Him that I was sick and tired of doing evil. I asked Jesus to forgive me for all my sins. I spent a good while on my knees praying to Him. When I got up it felt as if a very heavy but invisible chain that had been around me for so many years was broken. A peace flooded over me. I did not understand what was happening. But in my heart I just knew that my life, somehow, was going to be different.

And something was and is very different from that day in his lonely prison cell.

Today Berkowitz ministers to other prisoners; and although he is behind bars, he has a letter writing ministry sharing his story and warning people of the dangers of the occult. God has even opened the door for him to share his story on national television multiple times.

David Berkowitz’s story proves that Jesus gives us freedom. We can be honest with ourselves and God, and receive forgiveness.

Glorious Hope for You and Me

Your sin probably isn’t as bad as David Berkowitz’s. But if you’re a human being, you have enough sin to damn you for all of eternity.

If you are in Christ, you can be sure your sin is paid for. You won’t have to hide your sin in the same way because we are free to expose it because we can trust in the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from all sin. And although you still battle sin daily, your new heart and new identity in Christ will help you say “no” to ungodliness and do what’s right (Titus 2:11-12). You won’t be so focused on covering your sin because you will be focused on doing good works for the Lord (Titus 2:14). Your eyes will be on Jesus, the One who heard your cry and saved you from all of your troubles.

While some may scoff that serial killers can be forgiven, we should rejoice. It could be us with a harsh prison sentence–not 365 years behind bars, but an eternity of torment and God’s judgment for having rejected the forgiveness that Christ offers. In Christ we can be forgiven.

I don’t know of any better news than this for a serial killer, a serial killer’s daughter, or anyone else.

You can read more of David Berkowitz’s story here.

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