“Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, I think that you and I can say, that to us the surest fact in all the world is that there is a God. No God? I live in him. Tell a fish in the sea there is no water. No God? Tell a man who is breathing that there is no air. No God? I dare not come downstairs without speaking to him. No God? I would not think of closing my eyes in sleep unless I had some sense of his love shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost. ‘Oh!’ says one, ‘I have lived fifty years, and I have never felt anything of God.’ Say that you had been dead fifty years; that is nearer to the mark. But if you had been quickened by the Holy Spirit fifty minutes, this would have been the first fact in the front rank of all fact, God is, and he is my Father, and I am his child. Now you become sentient to his frown, his smile, his threat, or his promise. You feel him; his presence is photographed upon your spirit; your very heart trembles with awe of him, and you say with Jacob, ‘Surely God is in this place.’ That is one result of spiritual life” (C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon No. 2267, “Life from the Dead,” delivered March 13, 1890 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2267.htm).
Enjoying God Blog
At the close of 2012 quite a few surveys were taken, some of which are rather bothersome. For example, did you know that now more than 50% of all Americans own a smart phone? Of that group, 58% check it at least once an hour. I think this next statistic needs adjustment. We are told that 30% have used their phones during a meal with others. My observation in restaurants today is that it has to be far more than merely 1/3. Nearly 10% have gone on-line during a religious service, and my guess is that it wasn’t to fact-check the pastor or to access an on-line version of the Bible! The most shocking of all is that 21% said they would rather give up sex than their cell phones. Go figure! (The complete polling statistics can be found in The Week, December 28, 2012, p. 20).
We’ve been looking closely at Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11. We now see that learning how to love with knowledge and discernment is absolutely essential if we are to “approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (v. 10).
Paul refuses to let Christians settle for mediocrity. He prays that our love would grow in knowledge and discernment so we can identify what is above average, what is superior, what is of moral and spiritual excellence, what really counts, and pursue it (see Phil. 4:8).
I find it fascinating that when Paul finally gets around to how we should prepare ourselves for the end of the world, for the coming of Christ, he says nothing about stockpiling of food or guns or digging an underground shelter or quitting our jobs or rushing off to the mountain tops. He says we need to be diligent to cultivate a more discerning and knowledgeable love! He tells us that we need to develop greater moral purity and blamelessness.
Learning how to love with knowledge and discernment is absolutely essential if we are to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (v. 11a).
It’s unclear from Paul’s language whether this is the fruit that consists of righteousness or the fruit that comes out of righteousness. It may be both. What’s important to note is that this fruit comes not as a result of our efforts unaided, but through Jesus Christ, which is to say through the empowering that he supplies by his Spirit.
Of this we may be sure: it has nothing to do with “religion” or self-made efforts to impress others with our spirituality.
There are many in the professing Christian church who give mere lip service to the importance of cultivating a spiritual culture and family affection in which love that is characterized by knowledge and discernment
“Sanctification is not by surrender, but by divinely enabled toil and effort” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 90).
I’m continually shocked by the way in which secular theorists and so-called “experts” seek to account for or explain why people commit heinous acts of violence. The most recent example appeared in Wednesday’s edition of USA Today (April 24, 2013). The article was titled, “Tsarnaevs’ Deadly Brotherhood.” The sub-heading reads: “Understanding motivation requires examination of human need for belonging.” The author of the article is James Alan Fox, the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Boston.
Now, I’m quite certain Dr. Fox is considerably more intelligent and widely read than I am, especially in the area of criminology and public policy. And I’m not here to throw doubts upon the role that the “human need for belonging” might have played in the motivation of the two young men who allegedly perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombings. However, may I be so bold to suggest that another explanation is more realistic and true to the case?
Fox begins by reminding us how the younger of these two brothers was perceived by most to be a “good kid.” He even argues that despite Tamerlan’s growing “anti-American ideology” he “showed little indication of having the potential or the desire to commit an extreme act of mass violence.” Fox then wonders “why” would the Tsarnaev brothers have “allegedly engaged in such diabolical crimes?”
He suggests that “the key to motivation could lie not just in some anti-American sentiment but also in the brotherly bond itself.” This bond may have reinforced their negative beliefs about America. It is unlikely, suggests Fox, that these crimes would have been committed “were it not for the close brotherly connection.” Fox then proceeds to cite some of the most heinous and gruesome mass murders in America
“Defeatist Christians who do not fight against sins because they figure they were ‘born this way’ or ‘will never change’ or ‘don’t have enough faith’ are not being humble. They dishonor the Holy Spirit who strengthens us with supernatural power” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 82).
April 24, 2013 2 Comments
In a previous post we saw that one of the two primary characteristics of Christian love is that it is governed by knowledge. We now see as well that true love, the sort of love that will accomplish good in the life of the beloved, must be characterized by discernment. What Paul has in mind with this word is the spiritual ability to make difficult moral decisions in the midst of a vast array of competing and confusing choices. Gullible and naïve love is worse than bad. It is destructive. So what kind of discernment does Paul have in mind?
Love must be the sort that is able to discern when it is appropriate and when it is not appropriate to be generous and supportive. Consider the challenge we all face when confronted with the panhandlers that fill our cities. When is compassion justified? When does giving money to those who beg for it actually hurt them and reinforce their lack of responsibility? When does an act of what feels like kindness actually compound a person’s problem rather than alleviate it?
A love that accomplishes much should be keenly aware of the circumstances and people and timing and consists largely in discretion in speech. We need to be wise and discerning regarding the objects of our love. Although we are to love our enemies, we don’t love them in the same way we love our friends and brothers/sisters in Christ.
We must remember that no matter how passionate we feel, no matter how extensive our sacrifice may be, we have not loved someone well if we fail to awaken them to the perilous condition in which their sin has placed them. If you think loving someone well means you keep silent about both the temporal and the eternal consequences of their beliefs and their behavior, you are sadly mistaken. You are loving in the absence of discernment. If you love someone without speaking the truth to them for fear that it might hurt th
“What sort of parent rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 70).
This past Saturday I spoke at a men’s retreat here in the OKC area. One of the things I focused on was why men struggle so much with repentance. That’s not to say women don’t have their own problems with it, but I typically find that men are less inclined to repent than women. They are more given to rationalization and self-defense. Why? Here are a few possible reasons.
(1) Satan and the world system have led men to believe the lie that their value or worth as men, indeed, as human beings, is dependent on something other than what Christ has done for them and who they are in Christ by faith alone. If a man believes that other people hold the power to determine his value or worth, he will always be reluctant to reveal anything about his inner life that may cause their estimation of him to diminish.
(2) Sinful pride has put them in bondage to a false belief: namely, that their worth or value as a man is dependent on others thinking that they have it all together; that they are so strong that sin could never exert a sovereign power over their lives; that they are too wise and discerning to be taken captive by sin; that they would lose their position in society and in the church if it became known to anyone that they struggle with certain sins (might they lose clients and potential future business opportunities?); that they would no longer be respected and highly regarded as spiritually mature by people in the church (and thus forfeit any chance for promotion) if it were known that they were susceptible to temptation.
In sum, men don’t repent because they are preeminently committed to saving face. They fear exposure because they fear rejection, mockery, and exclusion. And these are fearful realities only to those who do not yet sufficiently grasp that they are accepted, cherished, valued, and included by Christ.
(3) A toxic and dysfunctional church culture has created an atmosphere in which an
April 22, 2013 0 Comments
Today, April 22, 2013, John Piper posted a letter (www.desiringgod.org) that he wrote to a grieving mother following the stillborn death of her son. I, too, have had women in my church who've endured this sort of devastating loss (one as recently as Saturday). I thought many of you might profit from reading it.
Earlier this year, a grieving mother, who recently had given birth to a stillborn son, wrote to me asking for counsel and comfort. The team at Desiring God thought this letter might be helpful to some others, whether other mothers who have lost infants, parents who have lost young children, or perhaps even more broadly.
This loss and sorrow is all so fresh. I hesitate to tread into the tender place and speak. But since you ask, I pray that God would help me say something helpful.
First, please know that I know I don’t know what it is like to give birth to a lifeless body. Only a small, sad band of mothers know that. I say “lifeless body” because, as you made clear, your son is not lifeless. He simply skipped earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, he will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows.
I do not know what age — what level of maturity and development — he will have in that day. I don’t know what level of maturity and development I will have. Will the 25-year-old or the 35- or the 45- or the 55-year-old John Piper be the risen one? God knows what is optimal for the spiritual, glorified body. And so it will be for your son. But you will know him. God will see to that. And he you. And he will thank you for giving him life. He will thank you for enduring the loss that he might have the reward sooner.
God’s crucial word on grieving well is 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, tha