Monday, May 9, 2011

I've been reading a lot lately about biblical counseling, and doing a lot of thinking about the nature of sin, guilt and legalism. I'm putting some of these thoughts together, and seeking to determine their relationship with one another.

  1. Humans are created for worship. Worship is the supreme enjoyment of it's object which overflows in verbal praise and acts of service. The foundation for worship is the experience of joy. Worship goes awry when anything besides God is treasured and praised. This type of worship ends in slavery and death. Worship directed toward God ends in endless joy (Ps. 16:11) and life (Jn. 17:3) God has saved us "so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

  2. Christians have been justified in the cross. Jerry Bridges said, "God wants us to find our primary joy in our objectively declared justification, not in our subjectively perceived sanctification." (Jerry Bridges, 'The Discomfort of the Justified Life) Josh shared last week that Satan's primary strategy in the life of a believer is to make them feel guilty, in spite of the fact that God has declared them innocent.

  3. The Guilty, Joyless, Legalistic Christian. I short-circuit God's gift of joy and peace when I allow my sin to drive me into a pit of guilty despair. Somehow, I feel that I must punish myself because of my sin. I must reject the gifts God is giving me (beauty, family, fellowship, laughter and a thousand other blessings) to wallow in shame.

  4. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. I cannot be satisfied in God when I am punishing myself for my sin. I am denying the cross and seeking to make up whatever difference there is between my performance and God's perfection. The subtle shift here is that while God has removed my sin as far as the east is from the west, I am placing it at the center of the relationship and am unable to get past it and delight in God through Christ.

  5. "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you." "...if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." "Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good." Part of putting sin to death requires you to orient your heart around God's heart. Because God hates sin and is offended by it, so must I. The root of idolatry and the pleasure of sin must be severed in order to delight in God. "Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet."

  6. The degree to which I hate my sin is the degree to which I am able to cherish Christ. As this chart shows, only as I see the cross with accuracy, placing a higher view on God's holiness and and a right understanding of my sin's offensiveness. I need seek the grace of godly sorrow, which is able to produce true repentance. Instead of feeling the weight of sin and letting the cross be the punishment for it, I bypass my sin and find some other punishment (usually wallowing in guilt and self-condemnation) that seems to fit the crime.

Friday, April 8, 2011

3 Years...Seriously?'s been 3 years since I posted here. I don't know what to think about that. I've changed jobs twice. I've had a kid. Crazy. Reading back over these posts has been interesting. It's been a long time since I thought about a lot of the things I wrote...somehow they seemed more important back then. Not that they aren't important anymore, or any less true. I just feel like I was laying some foundations back then which have been built on since then. Where do I go from here? Do I turn this into a family blog? A link blog? Theological? I don't know...but I do know I need to write more. I need to be able to cultivate the ability to turn loose thoughts into understandable and explainable ideas. Maybe I'll be back in 3 years...maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"If God gave you all of His gifts, and yet withheld His presence, would you be satisfied?"
John Piper, God is the Gospel

Monday, March 31, 2008

Taken from the SmartChristian Website


I titled this post based on Jesus’ statement found in Mark 8:36, What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The reason that I chose this convicting passage is because over the years I have watched many Christians who became zealously active in partisan politics actually “lose their souls.”

That is, they lost their unique public witness as a Christian; they began to act contrary to the character of Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit; and they became agents of division within the church itself.

Below I offer 10 biblical guidelines on how Christians can engage in politics without “losing their souls.”

1 - Christians must never allow ourselves to equate the biblical Kingdom of God with any human political party or nation (John 18:36; Isaiah 9:7; Matthew 6:33, Philippians 3:20, Revelation 11:15). As Christians we must be diligent in maintaining and perserving the distinctiveness between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We must never fuse the two. The great “utopian illusion” that easily enters our politics is that peace, harmony, and prosperity for all can be brought about in the world through human political means.

2 - Christians must never allow ourselves to elevate a specific politician to a messianic or savior status (1 Peter 3:15). In our entertainment and celebrity culture, it is becoming more common for people to infuse politicians with almost a messianic or savior status. In other words, people begin to believe a politician’s extrordinary promises and that they actually can single-handlely produce almost supernatural social results. As Christians, we have one Lord, and we must resist all attempts to exalt any human politician to unrealisitic heights.

3 - Christians must not just vote, but more importantly, we must pray for our government and the leaders of all political parties (Matthew 5:44, 1 Timothy 2:1-2). In our polarized political society, many Christians are tempted to bless the politician or political party they support, and curse the other one they don’t. How unbiblical! The Bible is clear, we are to pray for all political and government leaders, even our political enemies.

4 - Christians must always remember that our ultimate security is in Christ and in the unshakeable kingdom of God, no matter what presidential candidate or party wins (Hebrews 12:26-29). One of the dangers that many Christians seem to often fall into is that we begin to elevate the outcome of presidential elections to an apocalyptic status. In other words, if our presidential candidate or party does not win, we begin to see it as the end of the world. This is what I call the “Y2K complex.” When we allow ourselves to understand politics in apocalyptic terms, we at the same time express an unbelief in the sovereignty and Lordship of God over his creation and human history. Yes, elections have real consequences for people, but in the larger scheme of history, don’t worry, no matter who becomes our president, God is in contril and will take care of things.

5 - Christians must never allow ourselves to bring the divisiveness and polarization of political parties into the church, the family of God (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:11-12). We cannot allow partisan politics to divide the body of Christ. Invidual Christians have freedom of conscience before God and the Bible, and as a result, we must accept the fact that there will be diversity of political opinions in the church. We must never allow diverse political perspectives cause conflict and divisions in the church.

6 - Christians must never allow ourselves to demonize or dehumaize another person - no matter what politician it is - because every single human has been created in the image of God (Colossians 3:8, Matthew 7:1, James 4:12). Christians must not engage in demeaning and judging other people, no matter whether we agree with them politically or not.

7 - Christians must never engage in angry confrontational arguments, instead of being open to learn through civil debate and dialogue (James 1:20, Philippians 2:14-16, 2 Timothy 2:14). When we interact with other people with hard-core dogmatic positions, we demonstrate an ugly pride that demeans the character of Christ. As Christians we must humble ourselves, understand that as humans we are limited in our understanding, and that we all can learn more about the very complex issues that face our nation. Christians must always engage in politics through a path of reason and civility.

8 - Christians must never allow ourselves to become so intertwined so closely with one political party that we forfeit our independent identity as followers of Christ. When we do, we lose the prophetic voice to speak and clarify biblical truth to all politicians and political parties (1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 4:15, Romans 3:4).

9 - Christians must never allow ourselves to engage in partisan politics by supporting divisiveness between races, between male and female, between rich and poor, and between the young and old (Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Electorial politics is all about dividing society into specific voting blocks. And as a result, politics usually divides our society, instead of uniting it. Christians must always function as peacemakers and reconcilers in the public square, and resist every temptation to join the political tactics of dividing people for political gain.

10 - Christians must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of simply cursing the darkness through negativity, instead of constructively engaging our world as perserving salt and illuminating light (Matthew 5:13-16). The cultural and missional mandate of kingdom Christians requires us to stop cursing the darkness and start lighting more candles that reflects God’s truth, compassion, and love.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Reflecting Glory

Before considering the meaning of the image of God in man, I think it is helpful to understand the purpose of the image. All images exist for the purpose of directing the observer’s attention and thoughts to the reality represented by that image. When we travel to historic places and see statues of famous people, we are prompted not necessarily to consider the beauty or greatness of the statue itself, but to remember the life and accomplishments of the person represented by the statue. Photographs of family and friends are quite worthless in and of themselves, but are treasured as prized possessions when they remind us of what someone was like and our time shared with them. In the same way, the image of God in man is not given for the purpose of exalting or glorifying man, but that we may learn something about the nature of God.

In the Genesis creation account, God creates animals and plant life, darkness and light, land and sea and many other things. He does not, however, bestow upon any of these elements the status of being made in the image of God. This quality is given to man alone.

Because of this, we can learn about the meaning of God’s image in man by drawing comparisons between man, who has been made in God’s image, and other elements of God’s creation not created in His image.

Part of God’s image in man means that man is able to exercise free choice. My understanding of nature is that animals do not have the freedom to choose, but are driven by instincts of self-preservation and other environmental factors. Where apparent choices are made, the animal is simply seeking to avoid pain or death, or to find food, or to reproduce. Animals do not have free choice, but are ruled by their natural instincts of self-preservation.

Humans, on the other hand, have been given freedom to choose those things that are contrary to self-preservation. Oddly enough, these choices which run contrary to self-preservation are the very choices, in many cases, which God has required from us.

A look at the Ten Commandments is very revealing on this subject. The fourth commandment (Sabbath) requires that God’s people rest on the seventh day of the week. As a result, they cannot engage in many activities which serve their need for survival. The sixth commandment (murder) prohibits man from putting to death one who would cause him harm, whether to his person or to his possessions. The seventh commandment (adultery) restricts man’s procreative desire. The eighth commandment (steal) prohibits man from taking what does not belong to him so that he may have increased security. The ninth commandment (false testimony) requires that man tell the truth even when it does not benefit him. Finally, the tenth commandment (covet) requires that man be satisfied and content with the things that he has without seeking to hoard possessions or provisions.

Now, let’s return to our discussion on the image of God and how free choice plays a part in manifesting God’s image through humans.

In Hebrews 1, it is said of Jesus that He is the “exact representation of [God’s] being.” Romans 8:29 says that the goal of the Christian life is to be conformed to this image. This means that as we seek to conform our character to that of Christ’s, our lives will more fully reflect the image of God in us.

How is this life to be pursued? How is God’s image more fully reflected in our character? Through faith! It is my contention that God’s image is most fully realized in us when we make choices not based on the desire for self-preservation as the animals do, but based on our faith in the truth of God’s Word, which many times runs contrary to our desires for self-protection and self-preservation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the normal Christian life, which is a life lived by faith. He says that when people strike you on the cheek, you don’t go into self-protection mode, but offer your assailant the other cheek. When someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, you give to them your cloak as well. When you are tempted to worry in self-protection, look to God who clothes the lilies of the field and the sparrows in the sky. And when you are tempted to retaliate against an enemy to protect your own interests, you love and pray for them “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

Heresy and Humility

James 1:21
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Suffering in the Christian life is an inescapable reality. Paul said, "it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." (Phil. 1:29) Believers suffer through the deaths of those close to us, suffer from the consequences of sin, from physical and mental illness, from persecution, from relational strife and from wars and rumors of wars, among other things.

This intense suffering can become difficult for followers of Christ to understand. If we hold to the Biblical teaching that God is good, all-knowing and all-powerful, we are presented with a dilemma in our understanding of suffering.

As Epicurus noted:Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, Then how come there is evil in the world?

The problem of evil. Why does God let it continue? Does He enjoy seeing His creation in pain and agony? Are the God-ordained purposes of evil worth the pain that evil brings?

One way that recent Bible scholars have attempted to reconcile this dilemma is by promoting the idea of open theism. This doctrine teaches the openness of God, that God does not know "the end from the beginning." He knows all of the possibilities, but He doesn't know which possibility will actually occur. We have 4 cards in our hands, and God has no idea which one we will play. Therefore, God is not to blame for your suffering, because He is not all-knowing. God had nothing to do with 9/11, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, or the 2004 Tsunami. All of these events caught Him by surprise, and He cannot be blamed for the horrific suffering that came as a result. Does this sound like a God you can trust?

Back to the verse at the top.

Open theism, while perhaps well-intentioned, does not "humbly accept the word..." but rather pridefully asserts it's own ideas over and against the simple truth of God's Word. How much Scripture do you have to deny to arrive at open theism? How many prophetic verses and promises of God are nullified by open theism?

This doctrine has "a form of godliness, but denying its power." It seeks to vindicate God, while at the same time making suffering unendurable for the believer. How can there be purpose, good purposes, in suffering if God has nothing to do with it? How can I "consider it pure joy" whenever I fall into trials? How do "all things work together for good" if God is missing from the equation?

Power comes when we fall into the all-knowing, strong arms of a good and loving God. We can see ourselves as more than victims, we can see ourselves as revolutionaries, entrusted with the Spirit and gospel of Christ for the purpose of world transformation. Whenever children of God are persecuted or endure any form of harsh suffering, it is an occasion for Christ, the hope of glory, to be revealed through us to a lost humanity.

One revolutionary put it this way: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

Kind of hard to do if you can beat God in poker.