Grace and Bible Reading

“Show me a person who despises Bible reading, or thinks little of Bible preaching, and I hold it to be a certain fact that they are not yet born again.” ~ J.C. Ryle

I read that quote the other day online and I glanced through the comments afterward knowing I’d see it, the one comment I knew would pop up. Sure enough, I found it, “We’re saved by GRACE!!”

The comment was made to thwart the idea that people do something to get saved, it’s all grace. If Ryle says people are only saved if they read their Bible, then he is ruining grace.

This is typical thinking about grace. We are saved by grace, but there is still something that determines who is saved and who is not. I wouldn’t call it merit, no one deserves salvation, but I would call it “fulfilling conditions.”

The Bible does say we are saved by grace, but it also doesn’t just say that. It says we are saved by grace through faith. God shows grace, we respond to it with faith. Without faith, you have no saving grace.

If faith is our part, it seems important we know what faith is. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Ryle is saying that the saved man esteems God’s Word, because that is what faith is and it is by faith we receive grace!

If a man does not esteem God’s Word there is no way that man has faith, and if he does not have faith, he has no basis to claim he has God’s saving grace.

Furthermore, our faith is placed in Jesus Christ, who is called The Word. If we claim to be saved by Jesus Christ we can’t help but esteem The Word. If we do not esteem the Word, we do not esteem Christ and thus there is no way you could claim to be saved.

We need to be careful with our treatment of the word “grace.” It has come to mean so much that the Bible does not say. There are other words in the Bible besides grace and those other words are there on purpose.

Repentance and Stupid Definitions

Ask most evangelical types today what “repentance” means and they will, no doubt, say, “Repentance means to change your mind.”

OK, fine. That definition is true if the definition of “air craft carrier” is “a boat.”

Repentance certainly does involve a change of the mind. But I’ve heard it so weakly stated that repentance is changing your mind about Jesus. “I didn’t think He was my savior, and then, shazam, all of a sudden I changed my mind and now He is.”

This is not repentance, it might be faith, but it isn’t repentance.

Repentance is deeper than changing your mind, it actually implies a change of heart, rebirth, a new, changed life that ensues from understanding things you’ve never understood before. The changed life is evidence that the mind was changed.

Repentance requires two main things:

1) We must be bad.
2) God must be good.

Both things are true. It’s the goodness of God that brings sinners to repentance. Repentance comes from a sinner who is tired of being bad, he wants to be made good–to be changed.

Proper repentance leads to salvation. Salvation is a spiritual act of God whereby a sinful man is given the righteousness of God and a new righteous life is created, all through faith in the gracious, loving act of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Repentance is a desire to get rid of the old man with his corrupt deeds, and to be made a new man created in righteousness and holiness. It’s a desire for all things to be made new. A complete turning from the old, temporal fixations of life to grasping hold of eternal life and heavenly desires.

That may indeed be a change of mind, but it sure goes way beyond that.

Talking Pigs and Experiencing God

“Imagine that I cart a pig into your living room and tell you that it can talk. You might say, “Oh, really? Show me.” I then wave my wand and the pig starts talking. You might respond, “That’s amazing!” You are not likely to say, “Ah, but that’s just one pig. Show me a few more and then I might believe you.” —V. S. Ramachandran

The point of this quote is that if you experience one pig talking you are unlikely to need more proof that it happened. No amount of non-talking pig proof would convince you that the pig you heard didn’t talk. Your experience trumps all.

People often have “God experiences” in life that they swear happened to them. They saw visions of dead people, mystical experiences of healing, direction-giving or seeing the future.

No amount of Biblical evidence will convince them it didn’t happen, it did and you can’t take that away. Soon experience is trumped over Biblical consistency. There is no longer a unified basis of conversation.

Sometimes it even works the other way. Scripture says in order to be a true believer you have to hate your family, money, self-promotion, etc. “Well, I never did that and I’m saved.”

Because our experience doesn’t back up what Jesus says we assume Jesus didn’t mean what He said.

Making experience trump the Bible is a sure way to get yourself off the strait and narrow. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He is more than willing to use signs and wonders, dreams, experiences or lack thereof to get you to trust your life events over Scripture.

If Scripture is indeed our sole authority for life and practice, let’s make it that. I’m not against experiences; I’m against making experiences the final authority when experiences can be deceiving when God’s Word never is.

Die Sinner! Or Not.

The Old Testament is filled with guys getting judgments from God. Priests offer strange sacrifices and die. Guys get swallowed by the ground for questioning authority. The king has his son die because of the sinful way in which the son was conceived.

One would think with all that judging going on, people would be scared to sin. On the contrary, it seems like the OT is brimming with fine displays of sin.

What’s up with this? Are these people dumber than the average bear or what? Here’s my guess.

If you know that guys who sin die, and you sin and don’t die, hmm, why not? Maybe that wasn’t sin.

Knowing people I can see this “logic” taking hold. We act off of experience not off of correct information. If God kill sinners and I’m not dead, I must be doing fine! I’ll just keep on keeping on then.

No matter what God does, people will twist it into some way to justify their desire to pursue sin.

What should settle the matter for us is that God does not want us to sin. Regardless of the outcome, response, immediate judgment or not, the fact that God doesn’t want us to do it should be enough.

Funny how it isn’t.

Doeg and Why Are You At Church?

In 1 Samuel 21, David is running from Saul and goes to the temple to talk with the priest, get some food, and a weapon. While there, a guy named Doeg sees him.

It says that Doeg is there because he is “detained before the Lord.” The word “detained” means to be restrained or stopped. God was keeping him there.

In the next chapter, Doeg rats out David and eventually is the only man willing to kill all God’s priests. He’s a real dork. Two things to note about Doeg the Dork:

1) He was at the temple! Presumably he went there to worship God! Just showing up to the building where worship takes place does not mean anything about the state of your soul.

2) God kept him there! God knew there was a plan for Doeg’s life, a bad plan, but a plan nonetheless. God keeps him there so all the priests would be killed.

Man can make a mockery of worship, but God’s plans are not mocked. There is a reason for everything.

Why are you showing up at your church? Are you there to truly worship or are you just playing a game? God will use it, one way or the other, but pray He won’t use you the way He used Doeg.

Biblical Case Studies

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22).

I’ve heard this verse spoken about many times. Generally the context is how dumb signs are and signs miss the point completely. A point I don’t necessarily disagree with, but it always strikes me that us Gentiles skip the part of the verse directed at us!

Gentiles, particularly those of the Western mind we in America find ourselves surrounded by, are obsessed with knowledge and wisdom. We want to know stuff.

When we take this into a religious realm, we find an obsession with doctrine and theology, parsing verbs and diagraming sentences, arguing about large words with Latin origins.

I’m not completely opposed to these things, but there is a danger. We can get so wisdomly minded that we miss the point.

One of the reasons people today don’t know their Old Testament is because there are not doctrinally thick passages in it like there are in the NT. We like to stew over Pauline sentences about justification, yet it’s been awhile since we’ve read 1 Samuel.

Yet reading the life of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan and David is highly instructional. The Bible is giving us insight into human nature. They are fascinating case studies.

That’s right, my point is that we should also look for wisdom in the pictures and types of the OT, not just Pauline passages. We are Gentiles after all, this is what we do.

Love and Friends

The number of friends you have does not show you how loving you are.

It seems we forget that. We define love our way and then use our own measurement tool to determine how loving we are. We look at our results, the number of people who like us, and we draw conclusions as to how loving we are.

If I have more friends than you then, obviously, I am more loving than you are. And if you have more friends than me, well, I better try to love a little harder then, eh?

But love does not always keep friends. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). Being accepted by everyone is not a sign of good things.

The proper application is not to go out and be a jerk, however. The proper application goes like this:

Love is honest and brutal, it works out of truth. When you live and share the truth with people it doesn’t always go well. People hate the truth and they’ll hate you for representing truth.

Don’t consider it a strange thing if people hate you, they hated your Savior too. If you are one of the Savior’s kids, there’s no way everyone will like you. No way.

They killed Jesus and He was love personified; never forget that. Love is not friendliness at all costs. Love is the ability to act out of truth because you have a love for the souls of those around you.

Learning About Jesus Is Not Fun

When I was a child my mother sometimes made brussels sprouts for supper. I thought brussels sprouts were perhaps the most disgusting thing ever eaten by man. There is no redeeming value there. None. At all. Gross.

While dreading my plate of brussels sprouts, my father would say to me, “Just eat them, they taste like candy.”

“Seriously? Candy, dad? Have you ever tasted candy? I know candy dad, and these are no candy.” Of course, I never said this, that would be dumb, but I did think it.

I love my father and he was a great man, but this was perhaps one of the dumbest lines of reasoning I’ve ever heard in my life.

It reminds me of the modern approach churches take to convince people to come to them. “Learning about Jesus is fun! It’s just like going to an amusement park, only more Bible-y.”

Now churches certainly have added more amusements, but the degree of amusement is proportional to the degree to which they are not teaching. If you try to convince me otherwise on this statement, I will merely remind you that brussels sprouts do not taste like candy.

Learning, by its inherent nature–we learn by making mistakes, by studying, by practicing, by discipline–is not fun. It can be fun at times and it can have fun results, but the process is akin to torture at times.

When we convince people that “learning about Jesus is fun!” We are setting them up for failure. Anytime it isn’t fun, well, there goes the desire to learn more.

So, allow me to be the first to have told you in a long time: “Learning about Jesus is not fun.” Quite frankly, it will ruin your life. Ah, but then the fun comes!

Jesus is Overdue

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from our local library. The contents of the e-mail are as follows:

“Courtesy reminder –

 The following items are due soon                           Due Date
      The original adventures of Hank                        07/20/2010
      Jesus                                                                               07/20/2010

So, for your information, according to the Rhinelander District Library, Jesus is now officially overdue. I thought you’d like to know.

Proper Expectations

Pyromaniacs has a fine post on how churches evaluate their success. They do not preach what is right, they preach what leads to their anticipated results.

Most churches preach with these ends in mind:

  • Increased “giving” (invariably financial) among churchgoers
  • Increased attendance
  • Increased professions of faith
  • Increased actual (i.e. conversion) baptisms
  • Happier people
  • People who report feeling closer to God
  • Greater book sales
  • Compliant children
  • Better reputation among the lost
  • The problem with these goals is that the Bible does not teach that these things should be expected by teaching the words in the Bible!

    The Bible says that if you faithfully teach the truth of God’s Word you should expect ends like this:

  • Getting murdered by your brother for honoring God in faith
  • Being hated by the most powerful in the land for telling God’s truth
  • Having people run away from your preaching (i.e. a small congregation) because you preach the truth straight
  • Being out of sync with your spouse for remaining faithful to God
  • Being framed, slandered, and killed for remaining loyal to your family
  • Seeing your good name destroyed because of your love for Christ
  • Having co-workers start a vicious slander-and-ouster campaign because of your godly excellence
  • Being abused, even physically, to doing right in God’s eyes
  • Enduring a life of persecution, deprivation, and temporal misery
  • I am always glad to see that I’m not alone in my ways of thinking. The Word is what God has given us and it is what we are to be giving others. All this diversity, let’s all get along and rejoice in our commonality and awesome community, is pure humanism, Tower of Babel, thinking.

    Preach the Word. Preach the Word that says “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

    The Frightened Church

    The World does not want the Church to be True. The world wants a false church: a church that is church enough to appease men’s consciences without touching on actual sin.

    The world wants the church to only speak of grace, acceptance, love and happy thoughts. It wants nothing of judgment, holiness, discipline, obedience or submission.

    The world does not want to stop being the world and those in the world have no real desire to get out of it. It doesn’t want to hear that this might be a problem.

    So the world must make the Church feel awkward, embarrassed, guilty, and beaten. The world must keep the church down if the world hopes to keep itself alive.

    The Church ought to fight this. The fight is not against what the world wants from it; the fight is to be what God wants from it. We are not here to console the world on its way to hell; we are here to confront the world and call men to leave the world and live for heaven.

    A. W. Tozer says it like this, “The world wants the church to add a dainty spiritual touch to its carnal schemes, and to be there to help it to its feet and put it to bed when it comes home drunk with fleshly pleasures.”

    How much of our “compassion” and “love” is merely fear of confronting sin?

    Agreeing With Atheists

    Besides that whole, “there’s no God” thing, atheists can have some good ideas.

    Recently some atheists gathered to do a unbaptizing ceremony. They do not like that they were baptized as kids, so they gathered together and had a mock priest blow dry their hair to “symbolically dry up the holy water sprinkled on their heads in days past.”

    I get this one. Infant baptism is not biblical, it is entirely an invention of human tradition, and has led many people to hell who thought they were “good to go” because they got wet as a kid.

    I do not agree with atheism on many things, but I agree with them on this one. I doubt churches need more hot air blowing around in them, but hey, this is one ok usage of hot air.


    Jerk Pastors

    Occasionally I hear accounts where a person had a horrible thing happen to them and they visited their pastor who blew them off insensitively.

    The last one I heard of was by a woman who was raped. She told her pastor who blew her off by telling her she probably led the guy on to do it.

    Here are two observations I have about these sorts of stories:

    1) Many of them are true. Many pastors are idiots. Also, some people say things and they think they are being clear and the pastor is not sure how to take what was said and insensitive things can be said.

    Pastors make mistakes. I have said things to people I wish I could have taken back. It happens. It’s a bummer when these mistakes lead to harmful reactions. It is also unfortunate that people don’t talk to the pastor about these things and instead just leave and get mad.

    2) People exaggerate to make their own problems seem worse than they are. I know many situations I have had with people where I know exactly what I said and it’s not the way they repeat the story to others.

    One guy stopped coming to church because apparently I told him I didn’t like him anymore. Absolutely nothing of the sort was ever communicated to this guy.

    People remember things in such a way as to make them look better, and, if it helps, to look more victimized. As long as their problems are other people’s fault, they don’t have to fix it.

    One of these two reasons is behind these stories. I’ve been around long enough to know that pastors make mistakes. I’ve also been around long enough to know that people lie like crazy.

    Next time you hear one of these stories, be careful how you respond. It may be true, it may not be. There are always two sides.

    Pride Covers a Multitude of Sin

    A 75-year old grandmother had a serious problem with shoplifting. She consulted a counselor who cured her stealing habit.

    The cure went like this: imagine you getting caught and having your daughter and little grandkids coming to the police station and seeing you in handcuffs. See their faces in your mind.

    Whenever she had the urge to shoplift, she saw her grandkids’ faces and she wouldn’t steal.

    Seems like this is a win: right triumphs over evil. Except examine what it is the counselor used to help her: nothing but her own pride. Getting caught would be embarrassing.

    Christianity often uses this tactic to help people overcome sin. They play the pride card: You’re better than that. Sin is embarrassing.

    God did give us a conscience and I will certainly not deny the power of embarrassment to keep people doing right (depending on who you’re with, however, will change what it takes to get embarrassed!).

    As with this grandma, because she was so afraid to get caught and see her grandkids cry, she also refrained from returning the stuff she stole. She was too good for that too.

    We are not to stop sinning because we are better than that. We are not to stop sin because it will be embarrassing when we get caught. This is not Christianity; that is Pharisaism.

    Christianity says we should not sin because we have been born again and God’s Spirit works in us as we work out imputed righteousness.

    No, it’s not as flashy and does not have drastic images to keep us on the strait and narrow. Because of that, most churches will keep churning out guilt-ridden pride to thwart your sin nature.

    It won’t work. You might stop some sins, but you’ll merely replace them with pride: “Hey, look how good I am, I don’t do those sins any more!”

    Pride does not defeat sin; love does, specifically the love of Christ on your behalf. Christ in you is the only safe way to defeat sin.

    “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    An Immensely Large God

    God is like my wife: just when you think you have her figured out, she does something completely opposite to throw me off.

    God is even more difficult to understand than my wife. God is infinite and my mind is not capable of taking all of Him in. My wife is finite, she’s not all that mysterious, mostly just odd.

    But God, He enjoys throwing us for loops. One of His favorite things to do is to give a statement that defines who He is and then several verses later define Himself the exact opposite way.

    Take Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire.” Ouch. That doesn’t sound good. Who would approach that?

    But then comes Deuteronomy 4:31, seven verses later, “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;)” This is exactly how it appears in the King James. Notice that this statement ends with a winking smiley face.

    He’s playing with us. He’s keeping us off-balance. He’s a merciful consuming fire. What? One thing I do know is what we’re supposed to do about it:

    “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

    God is big. We keep searching after Him and finding more and more. No matter where you are in your faith, you’re not done finding God.

    God Makes People Hungry

    In Exodus 24 God tells Moses to come on up Mount Sinai with a couple priestly guys and the elders of Israel. God is going to reveal Himself to them.

    Here’s the greatest verse, maybe not in the Bible, but probably in Exodus, well at least in Exodus 24,

    “And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”

    That’s awesome! I like having a God that when you see Him you want to eat and drink.

    Actually, it’s rather odd, usually when God or even an angel reveals part of their glory people fall over like they were dead, but this time they have dinner.

    I’m not sure what the distinction is there, but it must have something to do with the circumstances, God inviting them to come.

    One of the first things believers do after things are wrapped up down here is join in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We see God and we eat and drink.

    I love God.

    Old Men Should Rule

    One of my favorite parts of being a pastor is talking to older guys. Not that I have anything against younger guys or non-guys, sometimes known as “chicks.”

    It’s just that I like old guys. They know stuff. They have nothing to lose so they generally just say the stuff they know. They are usually quite funny too.

    But it’s the wisdom and experience that is the greatest.

    One of the tragedies of modern church is that our churches are not at all attractive to most old guys. We keep our youth separated with youth, we keep our old people separated to our old people.

    We have services catering to young people, which most old men make fun of and avoid at all costs. It’s a shame really.

    I wonder what would happen if we let old guys run our churches. More than likely they would be much smaller, but I bet they’d be more mature. We would if we feared the Lord.

    “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”

    Complaining While Reading the Bible

    I’m a whiner. No sense beating around the bush. I complain about stuff.

    There are too many mosquitoes out right now. I can’t go outside. I hate that. Then they get in the house and they always find my ear. I spend hours hitting myself in the head.

    Stupid mosquitoes. One attacks my legs while I type sometimes. He’s elusive. I hate him. Mosquitoes are dumb. God never should have invented them.

    Another time when mosquitoes attack me is when I’m reading my Bible. I sit in my chair with just my reading light on and they attack me. They fly in my ear while I’m reading the Bible. I get mad at them.

    I scream, “Leave me alone you dumb bug, you’re ticking me off and I’M READING THE BIBLE!” I get mad while reading the Bible because mosquitoes slow me down.

    Today while being attacked I read Numbers 11:1

    “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled”

    I hate conviction. It’s as annoying as stupid mosquitoes.

    Minor Victory

    Back in seminary I had to read books by Peter Wagner. When I read them I thought they were, perhaps, the dumbest books I’d ever read.

    They were about church growth and missions and how you can save hundreds of people at one time and other odd things.

    We were supposed to do a review of one of the books and I remember getting a bad grade. The basic problem pointed out by the Wagnerite professor was that I didn’t like it and thought all his ideas sounded awful happy but not very biblical.

    I was reminded of this experience today when I came across a recent quote by Mr. Wagner. Perhaps ol’ Jeffy wasn’t so dumb after all.

    ““I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with the church growth principles we’ve developed . . . yet somehow they don’t seem to work.”
    – C. Peter Wagner

    Hey, a guy has to take his victories when he gets them.

    Spiritual Inheritance

    When God portioned out the Land of Israel to the tribes of Israel, He told the tribe of Levi that they would not receive any land. Instead, God Himself would be their inheritance.

    They were blessed to be priests, people ok’d to approach God and serve Him in the temple. This is much greater than good farmland or anything else physical.

    Perhaps in our day we think, “Who cares? What’s that have to do with me? Where’s the relevance, man?”

    Here’s the relevance, man. We are a royal priesthood. We are made priests in Jesus Christ. Guess what that means?

    It means that we have no earthly inheritance, we are more content with a spiritual inheritance, life in Christ. A life lived above this world, a life lived as citizens of a heavenly country.

    We are not of this world. We do not entangle ourselves with the affairs of this world, but rather we look on those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

    This is our inheritance, so get your eyes off the physical stuff and look forward to the full manifestation of our spiritual inheritance! Live for it!

    Grace More Abundant

    God is gracious and it’s a good thing, too, otherwise there is no chance we could know Him and survive.

    For by grace we are saved, but grace does not stop at salvation. Grace is not a past tense idea for the believer. God’s grace abounds.

    Moses had the guts to ask God to reveal Himself to Moses. This took guts but Moses thought it would be ok because of grace. Moses begins his request with “if I have found grace in thy sight.”

    Mr. A. W. Tozer quotes this verse to prove that once a man finds grace he has a desire to keep finding more. Read what Moses says:

    “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight.”

    Moses has found grace in God and uses that grace to ask for more grace. He giveth more grace and His grace abounds and His grace is sufficient. It is only by His grace that we can ask for grace!

    Worldly Worship

    We are to worship in Spirit, not in physical, fleshly stuff. This has always been God’s idea. All the way back in the Ten Commandments believers were told not to make graven images to worship.

    It should be even easier for us who have the special ministry of the Spirit of the New Covenant. But, alas, we are still human and we would rather walk by sight than faith.

    Churches struggle with this. How do you make people who want to see stuff worship a God who can’t be seen and forbids using see-able things?

    The temptation is to use a little bit of seen things. Certainly a little bit can’t be bad.

    But little bits usually develop into bigger bits. I’ve often wondered if flannel graph Jesus was an issue with God. I really don’t know. I doubt it, but who knows.

    We live in an era where we have to see stuff. We are not content to hear about it, we have to see the highlights. We have to pay $60 a month to get channels we can see. Radio died long ago. Video killed the radio star, man.

    I have no real point, just thinking. We worship in Spirit. I think we should think on that.

    Worshipping in Spirit

    The Samaritan woman, confronted over her number of husbands, decides to talk religion. She wants to know where to worship. Jesus says the famous line, “true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”

    Where you worship will not matter in the new age of the Spirit’s indwelling ministry in believers. But it goes beyond place of worship and extends to what believers do in worship.

    Hebrews 9 says that the Old Covenant was a shadow, now that the real is here, we don’t need the shadows anymore. Even shadows in worship.

    “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”

    Carnal ordinances. The literal reading would be “ordinances of flesh.” The flesh and Spirit fight, they can’t be joined. External rituals are gone.

    If the Old Testament external rituals are gone from worship, how much more the man-made external rituals of worship? We worship in Spirit, not in flesh.

    I imagine this means more than we can comprehend, but it deserves some meditation.

    Results of Abiding

    John 15 tells us to abide in Christ and goes on to explain that keeping His commandments is what abiding is. Why would anyone want to do this. Four reasons

    1) Those who abide in Christ bring forth lots of fruit–John 15:5
    2) Those who abide in Christ get their prayers answered–John 15:7
    3) Those who abide in Christ get God’s joy–John 15:11
    4) Those who abide in Christ receive assurance of His love–John 15:13,14

    Pretty amazing promises! We get all this by abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ means doing His commandments. Don’t forget this point! Abiding in Christ is not referring to being saved specifically, but to obedience.

    Many claim to be saved, to be abiding in Christ, yet complain about why their prayers are not answered, why they don’t have fruit and they lack joy and aren’t sure about God’s love.

    If that is the case, look no further than John’s teaching on abiding. Modern Christianity throws a fit when anyone mentions obeying commandments. “Legalism!”

    It’s not legalism to do what God said. Doing what God said is called faith! The same Christianity that attacks the notion of obeying the commands of God is the same Christianity that wonders if God answers prayers, spends hours of introspection wondering where the fruit is, and is constantly following one worldly trap after another in a desperate search for joy and love.

    The Bible is a large book with a simple message: Listen to God! He loves you. He wants you to be with Him. LISTEN!

    Abiding In Christ

    “Abiding” is one of those Christian terms that has taken on new meaning. We use it generally to mean to wait or stay put.

    When we are told to abide in Christ, we get the idea of stopping, sitting and waiting for Him to show up. A whole theology has grown up around this definition, it’s called Keswick Theology.

    This theology made the phrase “let go and let God” famous. It also popularized the notion of “Christianity is about being, not doing.” If you want more info on it, I can’t recommend more the lectures by Andy Naselli, which you can download here.

    Oh wait, I can recommend them more! Seriously, download them and study them. Brilliant.

    John 15 is the big passage on abiding in Christ. We are told to abide in Him. Since we are told to do so, it implies that we may not be.

    Is abiding in Christ a mysterious thing? Is it Christian nirvana? A heightened state of Jesus awareness?

    Nope. It’s something much more practical. It’s not about yielding, or surrendering, or letting go and letting God. Abiding in Christ is the same thing as “Abide in my love” (John 15:9).

    We’re still stuck with abiding. If we don’t know how to abide in Christ how do we know how to abide in His love? He tells us next: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10).

    Abiding in Christ is not a passive, mental state that soaks in and waits for Jesus to do something in you. Abiding in Christ means abiding in His Word and then doing it. Abiding is not passive, it is very active, doing what Jesus has said.

    Anyone who frames Christianity as a passive state of being is completely missing the point. Christianity is not automatic, it requires effort, zeal, exertion, diligence, agony even.

    When we go all out doing what our Savior desires then truly great things happen.

    Humble Yourselves

    Back in the 80’s there was a Christian song about James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” It went on and on and on, over and over and you now have that tune stuck in your head all day.

    You’re welcome.

    Humility is tough. How does a guy go about being humble? Is the pursuit of humility actually arrogant?

    Usually when a guy, like myself, goes for humility, I assume it has to be in the sight of people. I must act humble, let people walk over me, act shy, be afraid, be timid. Act in such a way that people will think I am humble.

    But the verse says to humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. Do it in front of Him, for Him to see. If you’re doing it for anyone else to see, it’s not humility. It’s what Paul calls a “voluntary humility” that is practiced so a man can be vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind.

    Humility will be seen by people, but it is never done to be seen by people. We humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and let Him decide what lifting up we can handle.

    This simplifies things for me. Hope it helps.

    The Law of Liberty

    Sometimes people, in an effort to separate from the abuses of the Law, go to an equally ridiculous extreme: antinomianism.

    That’s a big word that means “without law.” The term is thrown around a lot, but probably applies a lot fewer times than it is used. Antinomians are people who think they can do whatever, nothing matters, we’re under grace.

    In order to avoid sounding like they believe this, people will use other Scriptural phrases to make it sound better. You might hear something like this:

    “We’re not under the Law. Instead we are under the law of liberty.”

    People use this phrase to mean, I have no idea what, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the phrase “the law of liberty” correctly.

    The phrase appears two times, both in James. The passage from James 2 lets us know exactly what the “law of liberty is”: IT’S THE LAW!

    “For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

    It’s amazing how phrases take on a life of their own. Being under God’s Law is liberty. The fact we think it is horrible dreadfulness is more a statement of us than of the Law.

    Decisions Decisions

    When I was six I decided to be a truck driver. I played with trucks. I looked at trucks. I even talked to a truck driver. He invited me to sit in his cab and pull the chain to blow the horn.

    Best. Day. Ever.

    As I grew I learned more things. Truck driving is not all easy and is rather boring. They don’t make loads of money even though they drive stuff bigger than our car.

    Then I learned that I was legally blind and would never be able to drive. That sort of killed that childhood decision.

    Kids decide things all the time. These decisions are made with incomplete information and childish resolve, which often fades with reality and the awareness of other choices.

    Many six-year olds decide to “accept Jesus.” As they grow they learn more options, they learn that there’s no money in it, they learn that it goes against their very nature and their childish resolve vanishes.

    It is sad to see many kids “accept Christ” and then live horrible lives and constantly be assured that they are saved because they “said the prayer” as a kid.

    People are not saved because they said a ten second prayer as a child. You do not know you are saved because you remember the day you said your prayer.

    You know you are saved because you continue in the faith. This is so frequently said in Scripture it boggles the mind how we’ve seemingly missed it completely.

    Many parents give up teaching their children because “They’re already saved.” They don’t pray for their souls or continue to teach them. They sit back because their job is seemingly done.

    Hell is populated with people who said prayers when they were six. Life is long. The test of time demonstrates whether faith exists, not because a kid said something one time.

    If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

    “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22).

    “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Romans 11:22)

    “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2)

    “. . . to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel,” (Colossians 1:22,23)

    “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:8)

    “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16)

    Worthy of Damnation

    “It is possible to go through life believing that we believe, while actually having no conviction more vital than a conventional creed inherited from our ancestors or picked up from the general religious notions current in our social circle. If this creed requires that we admit our own depravity we do so and feel proud of our fidelity to the Christian faith.

    “But from the way we love, praise and pamper ourselves it is plain enough that we do not consider ourselves worthy of damnation.”

    – A.W. Tozer

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