If you can take the time, each of these links is worth reading, watching, or listening to. There is a lot to digest here, but I highly recommend all of this. These resources have been instrumental in helping me to shape my thinking on this issue.
As we come back to this passage in 2 Peter, open up the text and read it again. We’re considering 2 Peter 1:3-15.
Remember the wonderful reality of God’s love for us, and his work through Christ, bringing us into close fellowship with himself. This is a state of existence that we cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like in glory. But even now, realizing that in this world we are in some sense partaking of that glory today – it is beyond comprehension, and causes the heart to worship.
Because of what I have tasted here on earth of this unfathomable glory, my desire is now turned to the triune God himself. I love being in God’s word day and night. I hear of his love for me, and what he has accomplished. I so desire that every thought, word, and deed would be filled with love for the God who loved me. God’s work on my behalf produces faith in me.
As those who have been called by Christ and have come to him, we have faith in him. This faith is the starting point of Christian life. My feelings about my faith will ebb and flow, but my faith is not in my feelings. My faith is in God himself, who changes not, and I must keep my eyes fixed there. The moment I start analyzing my faith, and how much I have, and how much I feel, I will sink as Peter did when he took his eyes off of Christ. Turn your eyes away from yourself, and toward your God. Let your eyes of faith behold him in majesty.
I want to take a second to think on the text in 2 Peter 1:3-15. I’m planning to write several posts on this short passage, so bear with me as I work my way through. In this first post, I want to think about verses 3-5. If you haven’t already, take a second to read those verses.
God has desired that we should be partakers of the divine nature. Just take a moment to think about that – that God would want to bring us that close to Himself! As those who are united with Christ, we are thereby drawn into this relationship. But we cannot be brought into this close relationship if we are corrupted by sin, and are living in darkness. God’s holy character cannot allow this.
God had to do something for us, and so he granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. We were dead and sinful. Our nature was in a dead and corrupt state in original sin, and we need his divine power to give to us all things that pertain to life and godliness: the two things we so desperately need. Because God wanted us, he took it upon himself to do what was necessary to bring us to himself.
Next, we are immediately instructed about what all these things are. It is not a bunch of random things that God put in a gift basket and left on our doorstep. Rather, it is the knowledge of – or relationship with – Christ himself. We need Christ to call us to himself. This call is not a dinner bell that you can ignore if you don’t feel hungry. It’s not a recommendation that you can take or leave. When Christ calls his sheep to himself, they come to him. We come to him and find rest and joy.
Furthermore, as those who have been called, we have been granted what Peter calls “precious and very great” promises. This has an echo of 2 Corinthians 1:20 where Paul says that God’s promises find their “Yes” in Christ. God has united us to his Son, and we benefit from the wonderful promise of God to save those that are in Christ. Bringing us into close relationship with himself. And so we see that it is precisely because of these promises, that we are made to become partakers of the divine nature.
And then, the last phrase we will consider today. I find such joy in this truth: we will escape the corruption and sinful desires of this world. How amazing is that! I am so ready to put off this sinful flesh. I cannot wait to experience the full reality of the blessing Christ has bestowed on me. While I long for that day, I also take such comfort in this life because when I do fall, Christ is by my side ready to restore me. Ready to strengthen me through the Spirit within. I can actually please God in this life, as the Spirit grants righteousness in me. It’s a wonderful thing to experience!
In scripture, there are several directives to walk in the light (1 John 1:6-7, Ephesians 5:8) and warnings against walking in darkness (Isaiah 59:9, John 11:10, Job 5:14).
Sin and wickedness are clearly darkness. Separation from God and rejection of what is good fill out that picture of utter darkness. For the light we see Christ Jesus (John 8:12), God the Father (1 John 1:5), and the Holy Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 5:9). Walking in the light involves the entire Godhead working in us to enable us to live rightly.
I want to also highlight another aspect of the light that I think may demonstrate a practical way in which we can obey these commands to walk in the light. Consider the words of the Psalmist in 119:105.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
One of the primary ways we can be sure our path is illuminated is to have God’s word direct us daily. We all know we shouldn’t walk in darkness, but without the light to drive it away, we will inevitably walk in the darkness despite our best efforts.
Daily come before God and ask him to use his word to light your path. He delights to use his word powerfully for his children, and you can rest in the comfort of the pages of scripture, knowing that there you find light for your path, water for your soul, and health for your spirit.
Do you want to increase your attention span? Have you found yourself unable to concentrate on something or follow the flow of a sermon?
The remedy won’t happen on its own. You will need to work at increasing your attention span. Here are some practical things you can do, in no particular order:
- Put your phone away in church. You don’t need it.
- Related, bring a physical copy of God’s Word to read from.
- Block off time for personal worship each day, and stick to it, no matter what. Make sure your phone/computer are put away. You don’t need them for this.
- Use pen and paper to write things down.
- Delete TikTok. You don’t need it.
- Delete Instagram. You don’t need it.
- No really. You don’t need it.
- From time to time, have a silent commute to work. I know this sounds scary, but you don’t need to fill every space in life with media.
- Limit your news consumption. It’s not as helpful as you think.
- Read a physical book.
- Avoid multitasking where possible.
- Learn to actually listen, and not just have opinions and witty responses.
- Memorize scripture.
- Memorize catechism.
- Don’t check your phone in the morning until after you’ve showered and spent time in the Word and prayer.
- Learn all the verses to a hymn.
Take a second to consider how much time you spend doing the following activities.
- Working at a job
- Home projects
- Family time
- Watching TV shows (Netflix, Cable, Disney)
- Watching/Reading News
- Video games and phone games
- Board games, card games, misc other games
- Listening to secular music
- Listening to secular Podcasts/audiobooks
- Reading books (non-Bible, and non-Bible-based)
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Reddit)
- Online video (YouTube, TikTok)
- Praying & worshipping
- Reading God’s Word & worshipping
- Studying God’s Word
- Applying God’s Word to your life
- Talking with others about God’s Word and encouraging them from God’s Word
- Learning catechisms
- Singing praise to God & worshipping
- Reading other books that help you understand scripture and learn truth
- Listening to sermons/teaching
- Listening to Christian podcasts/audiobooks
- Listening to sacred music
If activities in Section 2 are regularly keeping you from Section 3 activities, do not be surprised that you
- feel coldness toward the things of God
- feel distant from Christ, and find no personal relationship, or enjoyment in prayer
- fall into sin and make excuses
- lack assurance of salvation
- are confused about what it means to walk in the Spirit and be filled with Him
- are bored in gathered worship
- find the ministry of the Word from the podium unaffecting and inapplicable
Simply attempting to do less of Section 2 and more of Section 3 will result in one of two things: self-righteousness, or burnout. You must not do this on your own. You have to have God with you in this, or your efforts are worse than useless.
If you find yourself as described above, and don’t know what to do to change, fall down on your face before God and earnestly plead with Him to redeem your soul from the fires of Hell that you are falling toward. It’s not a pretty picture, but you need a violent wake up call or you will be forever lost in torment and agony for eternity, with no recourse. Having chosen the things of this world rather than the things of God, you should not be surprised with where you end up.
At the same time, do not think that just because you are scared of Hell, that you will be rescued from it. You must flee into the arms of the Savior, find rest in Him, find joy in His countenance, marvel in His love to you, and submit your entire self, entertainment, down time, work time, drive time, indeed - every last moment to Him. Every thought and desire taken captive to Him. He calls the shots, not you.
Ask that God would give you a heart of repentance, faith, trust, submission, and obedience. You cannot truly conjure these in yourself. They must come from God, or else you are deceived.
Pray all the more earnestly that He would manifest in you all the fruit of the Spirit. Again, you cannot by sheer force of fleshly will produce this fruit. You may be able to produce a lackluster imitation, but never the full fruit. It must be worked into you so you can work it out.
“Try harder”, and “do better” are not the answer. Christ is the answer. You must lose yourself in Him. That means you don’t make much of yourself. You must decrease, and He must increase. Humility should be the hallmark of your life and character.
If you belong to Christ, there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from him. You are so securely held by his tight embrace.
Now if you hear this wonderful truth and rejoice that you do not have to make any effort to live according to God’s word or submit yourself thereto, then I would have you take an honest evaluation of yourself. At the beginning I said “if you belong to Christ.” If you consider yourself as such, and yet it is your heart desire to run headlong into wickedness, or even just dabble at its doorstep, then seriously consider: regeneration does not leave the converted unaffected. Run now to Christ and repent of your gross disregard of his person and work. Come before him and plead with him to melt your heart of stone and create within you a pure clean heart.
Jesus our Lord has said that if you come to him, he will not cast you away. A broken and contrite heart he will not despise. Come into the arms of the Savior and enjoy the full bliss of the sweetness of the opening statement that you are his, forever!
Matthew 14:12-23 I’m not quoting this whole passage here. I encourage the reader to read the full text.
In our day there is a large focus on self. Common terms are “self-care” and “me time” among others. In this passage, we see a pattern from the Savior to emulate in our Christian lives as regards “me time”.
First: Time alone is good
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” v.13
Jesus wanted to be by himself for a time after hearing the news of the death of John the Baptist. We can learn that alone time is not inherently a bad thing. At risk of getting ahead of myself, we must also note here that alone time can be misused and improperly prioritized. In the current day, we believe that we must misuse our alone time in order to be true to ourselves. We believe that we must improperly prioritize alone time if we are to live effectively. Please note that the concept of alone time is a good thing. We must learn from the pattern of Christ what the time, place, and context for alone time should be, if we are to use it rightly as Christians.
Second: Time alone is put after service to others
While on his way to retreat, Jesus was interrupted by the masses of people. It seems as though prioritizing alone time over these people was not thought in his mind. He had compassion on them, healed them, and fed them. He did not withdraw further until he had taken care of the needy that were in front of him. How frequently we seek to be alone, and are faced with those who need help. We see this particularly of our children. They, like the masses, seek us out and try to get in front of us. Are you moved with compassion? Do you seek to meet their need graciously, without contempt, with a loving spirit, putting them before yourself, not begrudgingly, without frustration that they interrupted your alone time again? Or have we so bought into the idea that alone time is so paramount, that any attention we can muster toward our children is filled with frustration and perhaps anger? Follow the pattern of Jesus in this: that we seek the good of others before the good of ourselves.
Third: The use of alone time
"He went up on the mountain by himself to pray." v.23
As I mentioned in the first point, there is a proper use for alone time. You may have noticed that I haven’t been using the term “me time” in the last few points. This is intentional, because of what we learn from Jesus and the use of alone time. Alone time is not “me time.” Rather, it is time with God in prayer. Social media influencers and psychologists constantly tell us what our alone time should be, and encourage the misuse of the time. We should instead find what scripture shows us, and learn that our alone time should be in prayer. If your use of alone time is self-centered, self-gratifying, entertainment-based, scripture-neglecting, and prayerless, look to the pattern of Jesus our Savior, and learn from his use of alone time, and seriously evaluate your alone time.
This is a hard lesson, because we have largely bought into the mindset of the world. We like to think we aren’t influenced by social media influencers, but it is often the case that they shape our thoughts more than scripture does. We like to think that we can resist the secular humanist approach of psychologists, but we have internalized their beliefs more than we realize.
I would encourage you to spend any alone time with a God-focused mindset, and not a self-centered one.
"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name." Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
Jesus, who was God incarnate, sought not to be delivered from the hardship and suffering that was laid out for Him, but rather was chiefly desirous that the name of the Father would be glorified.
How often do we encounter hardship, suffering, trial, or even minor discomfort, and rather than first seeking that God would glorify His name, we seek that He would “save us from this hour.” God may not deliver you from your hardship for a myriad of reasons. His perfect plan includes trials and difficulties (John 16:33). It should be our mindset as His children (Galatians 4:6) and His servants (Ephesians 6:6) to pray that God would glorify His name through the circumstances He has called us to.
We may never see the bigger picture. But God does not call us to see the bigger picture. He calls us to trust Him, to glorify Him, and to rest in His care. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) does not insinuate that we shall see the bigger picture if we fear the Lord. Rather that fearing the Lord is wisdom. To walk in wisdom, to be wise, means that we live our lives under His rule, trusting in Him. God is the only one with true wisdom (1 Timothy 1:17), and it is our place to trust Him, fear Him, and serve Him in our actions (James 1:22).
Do not spend time and effort in exploring just how far you can go, or what all you are "allowed" to do in Christian liberty.
Rather, prayerfully search out what is crowding out Christ in your life, that you may cut it out to serve Him.
“Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.”
~ Oswald Chambers
Another reminder of how easy it is to think of prayer as a means to an end, or to think of Christ as a means to an end. However, if we understand that Christ is the goal, that He is what matters, it will help us understand that since prayer is my communing with Him, and with the Father, then there is no greater work than to be engaged with God in prayer. Being filled with the Spirit will produce a prayerful man. You cannot be filled with the Spirit and remain un-prayerful.
It’s easy to get caught up with the things of life, or even in other Christian activity and think that in those things will be found the greatest work that can be done for the church, when truthfully the biggest impact we can make on our lives and in our church is through the ministry of prayer.
And even just reading this, it can feel as though prayer is overwhelming, mundane, boring, or meaningless, and we feel guilt in thinking those thoughts, but it’s how we often react. This reaction leads to inaction in prayer, and we feel even more guilty, perpetuating the cycle. This is why being busy with other things is so appealing. It’s much easier to serve the church on a workday than it is to serve the church in an hour of prayer.
Let us recalibrate how we view our spiritual service to one another, to God, and to the church at large. Pray that God would make us men of prayer.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
In the Equip Hour on Sunday we were discussing this verse, and pondering this question: How can love be commanded? I can’t change myself to love something if I don’t really love it. It just is the way it is. Right?
I think we are helped by Augustine’s prayer: “Grant what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt.”
Jesus not only commands us to love one another, but He grants it in those whom He has chosen. He gives them His Spirit to work out this love. Notice that the first fruit of the Spirit is indeed this love. Christ has not given a new commandment and left us to ourselves to obey it. He gives to us what we need to live according to His commands.
You may ask, “What if I don’t feel loving toward someone?” or “Suppose I showed love to someone out of duty, without any heart or feeling behind it?” When you don’t feel like you want to love, you must choose do to so anyway, in spite of feelings. A few reasons:
- Your feelings about your love for God and others doesn’t dictate anything about whether or not you are to obey.
- Love (when Biblically defined) is not a feeling or emotion.
- When you choose to love, going contrary to your feelings, this is full evidence of Christ granting what he has commanded you. Now you see first-hand that the Holy Spirit is working in and through you.
- Pushing past wrong feelings and emotions, showing love to others in spite of our fleshly sinful tendencies, may have the effect of changing our feelings and emotions to be in alignment with the reality that Christ has called us to.
Consider now that Christ says, “Just as I have loved you.” How can our love be just as that of our Lord Jesus? Now understand this: He has given His Spirit to us. If we have His very Spirit within us, and if the love we show is not our own love, but the fruit of the Spirit in us, then we truly do love each other just as He loves us.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
It is all too common for us to set about resolving our situation by devising plans, however innocent, reasonable, or good they may seem. We must see here in this passage a lesson for us.
Just like the man with the infirmity, we have devised a plan for how to fix ourselves. “I just need someone to carry me to the water.” We hear Jesus voice and our first thought is how He can help us accomplish the plan, and we pray earnestly that He will help us in our plan. We forgot to pray for the root issue, but rather we pray according to our own devisings.
But, just as the man with the infirmity, we must submit to Jesus and His plan for making us whole. We must abandon our plans to go down to the pool, and instead find the pure sweetness of the mercy of Christ to us. We find true rest in His plan, even when we do not as yet know it. Submit yourself to Jesus and abandon your plans to Him, knowing that His plan is best.
In the middle verse of O Holy Night we find precious phrases that overwhelm our hearts. Taken straight from scripture. Words given to you by God to draw you to Himself.
In all our trials born to be our Friend
- John 15:13–16 - Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
You were chosen from before the foundation of the world. You were fore-loved (foreknown) by God. Out of sin you have been called - called into friendship with Christ. Christ’s friendship with us is readily apparent when we consider that He has laid down His life to redeem us. He has demonstrated the greatest love for us.
In this specific passage, Christ has addressed his disciples, and has given two reasons for why His is calling them friends:
- Christ’s friends are those who do what He has commanded
- Christ’s friends are those to whom He has made known the revelation from the Father
How amazing then is the two-fold work of the Holy Spirit, working in you to follow the commands of Christ, and providing to you the whole of sacred Scripture! Christ has reached to you by sending His Holy Spirit, drawing you to Himself as a close Friend.
This is truly beyond all that we could ask or think: Christ is our Friend!
He knows our need
- Romans 8:32 - He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
- Matthew 6:32–33 - …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The fact that God knows our need is one of the greatest comforts we can have in this life. God’s knowing is not merely the theoretical, or encyclopedic knowledge of His people and their needs. His knowing is an active knowing. He knows, and He acts. What more evidence do you need than this: Your number one need has been dealt with permanently. Before you were, God has acted. He delivered His Son up for you.
O dear ones - God knows, and acts!
Now then heed this call, as Christ’s friend: Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. Don’t worry about all these things being added to you. You have no need of worry! God knows, and he acts! Rest fully in His care.
To our weakness is no stranger
- Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
You may not find words to fully describe your state or weaknesses. However, because He is no stranger to the weakness of the human frame, and suffered temptations as you have, He knows how you are feeling. He knows the strength you need. He knows.
And He acts!
If I want to preach the gospel, I can only use my own voice; therefore I must train my vocal powers. I can only think with my own brains, and feel with my own heart, and therefore I must educate my intellectual and emotional faculties.
I can only weep and agonise for souls in my own renewed nature, therefore must I watchfully maintain the tenderness which was in Christ Jesus. It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organise societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.
True and genuine piety is necessary as the first indispensable requisite; whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.
~ Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my Students
I know that Christians are to be involved in spreading the gospel, and discipling each other. And I know that both of these functions are not the exclusive job of the minister in the pulpit.
That means I am called to these things as well. In reading this book by Spurgeon, even though it is directed to those in the seminary who are on the path to the podium, I find direct application as a member of the laity.
If I am looking to impact those around me for Christ and His kingdom, then I should humbly hear the admonition of Spurgeon to those in the ministry, as I am in the ministry as well (although to a somewhat lesser extent).
I’ve made it a few pages into the book, and there is already so much to consider, and the call for a real examination of the heart is so genuine — I must strive for Christ myself.
I should not first and foremost search the scriptures to prove a point, to win an argument, or even to help another believer in their walk. I myself must submit to scripture.
How tragic if I should read the Bible and miss the application for my own heart. How devastating to have been searching the scriptures for years in order to win arguments, and never have my heart drawn to Christ.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Will I never fear evil? Will I be stoic and unmoved when I see evil rise against me, or my own sinful desires well up within me? I think not. Rather, think in this light.
As the sheep is lead by the shepherd, there is still fear on the part of the sheep when a wolf is spotted, or when it gets wanders and gets stuck. However, there is a different level of fear on the part of a sheep who does not have a shepherd with a rod to defend against the wolf, or a staff to rescue.
The terror that overcomes a sheep who must fend for itself is unknown to us as the sheep of the Good Shepherd. We are not frightened as one who must rely on self to be his own strong tower or deliverer, having not the strength to wield a rod or staff. Even as you say, “You are with me,” hear the Savior say, “I am with you.” (Matt 28:20)
I did a quick word search through the Psalms for "thanks", and was struck by how the rest of the verse provided context either for the reason for giving thanks to God, or the way in which thanks is being rendered. This has been a great blessing for me today, and I hope it will resonate in your heart as well. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
“…telling all your wondrous deeds.”
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints…”
“In God we have boasted continually…”
“I will praise the name of God with a song…”
“…We recount your wondrous deeds.”
“…from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”
“…I will glorify your name forever.”
“…let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”
“…make known his deeds among the peoples!”
“…tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”
“…you are my God; I will extol you.”
“…for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”
“…the upright shall dwell in your presence.”
“…all your saints shall bless you!”
Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1, 2, 3, 26;
“…for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
While reading through Deuteronomy 28, I came away with an overwhelming sense of how seriously God takes sin, and it made me stop and evaluate: Do I have a hatred for sin like He does?
I want to live my life as far from sin as I possibly can. I want to come again in repentance every time I fall and stumble through the weakness of the old man. I want to rejoice when I see the fruit of the Spirit manifest in my life.
Since I have been adopted as His son, I do not fear the curses pronounced in this chapter as a consequence for my sin. However, I cannot let myself use this as an excuse to let some sins slide. I know a few things:
- I love my Redeemer.
- From the drawn out description of the judgement on sin in this chapter, I know how seriously God takes sin.
- I know that everything I think, say, and do, are done right in front of God.
- God has given me His Spirit to give me success in the battle over sin.
How recalcitrant to think that I can commit such heinous acts in God’s immediate presence. Yet how sweet to know that in the very moment where I’m working at righteousness, I know that I have with me the one who fulfilled all righteousness, who can help me get it right!
To rephrase the hymn writer’s lyrics:
If we had confidence in our own strength,
our efforts would be a lost cause;
If the right Man wasn’t on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Because Christ Jesus is on our side, we know that our striving is not in vain. It is no longer futile to strive after righteousness now that we live as those whom He has adopted. It is finally possible to live before God and to please Him with righteous works lived out in this world.
We need to take time to make sure we understand clearly what the Bible says about certain issues, and to discern what is right and wrong.
During these times of study, edge cases will arise. A situation you are aware of, are living through, or have read or heard about may come to mind, and cause you to wonder how the Bible would address that.
I would strongly suggest writing down those situations as you think of them, and avoid addressing them during your time of purposeful study. Why am I recommending this? After all, shouldn’t we seek to understand these more difficult matters?
The reason I’m saying to wait is that, during this season of study and prayer, it would be very helpful to first seek to understand what God has laid out in scripture. Once we understand the principles, design, and purposes that God has put in place, then we can start applying it to those edge cases.
Now, here’s where it gets difficult: You start looking at those edge cases from the biblical basis that you have studied out. It is tempting to want to form a general principle based on how we answer the edge case. However, this is not the time to establish general principles. Edge cases are edge cases because they need to be addressed on a case by case basis.
This is difficult because it means that we can’t settle a get-out-of-jail-free card based on one edge case and apply it universally. We will have to do the hard work of applying scripture to the edge cases, every time they come up, even when they seem similar to other edge cases we’ve seen before.
Why is it different each time? Because we are talking about different people each time. We all agree that no two people are alike, but yet we don’t want to take the time to address the individual people involved in an edge case. This leads to assumptions being made, and incorrect conclusions being reached.
Just to state the obvious: I am not saying that the truth we see in scripture is different for different people, or that what’s true for one person is not true for someone else. I’m just saying that when dealing with edge cases, we need to treat them with the care they need. And the best way for us to do that, is to be firmly grounded in the bedrock of truth, which is the Word of God in power.
In the Christian life, we are repeatedly called to live in self-control. Now typically when we think of self-control, we think of it as restraining ourselves or abstaining from something. This is a completely valid application of self-control, and is very helpful. This might be called, more precisely, self-denial.
I think that self-control has another aspect to it — that we also make ourselves do something we ordinarily would not do. There is self-control to stop doing things, and a self-control to start doing other things.
Our natural state does not want to read scripture or pray. However, we must make ourselves do these things. As those who have been saved, we must pursue these activities, since our flesh will fight against us in this endeavor. It’s always easier to not do it.
As God’s people, He has given us His Spirit to work mightily in us to do not only the things I mentioned earlier, but all the fruits of the Spirit.
As you control yourself to do these things, realize this: self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Give glory to God when He gives you victory in self-control through His Spirit!
When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He did so using a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Light during the night, and some darkness during the day.
When Jesus came to redeem His people, we read of light during the night as the heavenly host came to announce His birth, and we see darkness during the day when He went to the cross.
Below is a list of words that we encounter in the world quite frequently, but when we do, we need to be on our guard. These words have been redefined in our culture. We need clarity around these words where confusion has reigned in recent times.
So what can we do? It’s not practical to rehash definitions every time these words come up, is it?
While it can seem like you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, by communicating the truth behind these words, it allows us to accurately communicate with unbelievers about the mercy and holiness of God. We need to speak clearly with those around us concerning our faith, and they cannot know what we mean if they are operating on different definitions.
It’s not as awkward as you might think, if you’re speaking with someone, to take a moment and clarify what you mean when using these words.
As Christians we are to go about our lives every day with our eyes on our forever future. Eternal consequences await us, and it is our joy to know that we will be with Christ when he returns.
The Lord is
Consider the one of whom we speak here. As the great confession puts it:
“There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.””
“God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of who, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleaseth. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.”
What an awesome declaration of God’s character and being. God never changes, and is perfect forever. God is, and we stand in awe of Him. Truly He is to be worshipped by all, and above all. The confession writers have packed a lot of truth into these few words above, and you would be helped by going piece by piece through it again, taking time to ponder each statement (and in places, each word), to dwell on the truth and majesty of God unfolded here.
Oh what sweetness the words of the confession have when we realize this God is the one who shepherds us and cares for us. He guides and corrects us, leads us and provides for us, protects us and instructs us. What a good and kind shepherd we have. What an awesome privilege it is to call God our shepherd, and what a humbling thought it is that He reached down to us to call us into His fold.
This is a thought that rejoices my heart and brings comfort to my daily life, and I hope it does for you as well.
The world has put a derogatory spin on many good words. Because of this, the church has stopped using many of them. Just thinking off the top of my head, here are some words that have fallen on hard times.
- Sin & Hell
- Likely more that I will think of as soon as I publish this
Instead, we prefer new idioms, hoping that by avoiding the ‘religious’ words, we can lead people to Christ by not turning them away by using these negative words.
Except, they aren’t negative words at all. The only reason they have a negative connotation in the world is that the world loves darkness rather than light. They hate the truth, and want nothing to do with it. As a result, these words are avoided even in christian culture.
Now, switching to new words and phrases to get around this will only work for a short period of time. Soon these new words and phrases will get the same treatment. So ultimately, we aren’t solving anything.
For many of these words, it’s not that the world has given them a new definition, but they use them derisively because of their association with christianity. There are words that the world has redefined that we should be wary of, but we’ll look at that in a later post.
I don’t think we should avoid using these words. If any of them are the right word to use in a situation, let’s use them. If these words cause unbelievers to feel uncomfortable, then that may actually be a good thing. Sinners shouldn’t feel comfortable coming into contact with God’s righteousness. There should be a sense of unease and an inner conviction that they are not living up to God’s standard of righteousness.
People need to be shown that they are sinners if they are to see their need of a savior. If we try to make unbelievers feel at ease with christianity, then we may be doing more harm than good.
I just had this thought for a fun excursion. Think of a favorite hymn and find the lyrics for it. I would recommend either printing out a copy, or putting it in document on your computer so you can edit it as we go.
Now take that hymn and go phrase by phrase through it. Find a verse or passage that says what the hymn writer is communicating, and write the reference (or the whole verse) next to the phrase.
My hope is that through this exercise, you will gain a deeper love for your favorite hymn.
If you take this journey with a different hymn periodically, not only will you find a new love for the hymns you do this with, but you may even find that you have a more full understanding of some hymns for the first time.
Once finished with this exercise, it's so much more fun to sing these hymns, since you know that you are singing truth straight from scripture. It gets the hymns out of rote memory, and helps you start engaging your mind.
I wanted to do this with one of the hymns we sang at church this past Lord's day:
And Can It Be
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
[1 Corinthians 15:3]
For me, who Him to death pursued?
[1 Peter 2:24]
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
[Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:10]
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke – the dungeon flamed with light!
[1 John 1:5]
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
No condemnation now I dread:
Jesus and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
[Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 15:21]
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
[Hebrews 4:16, Romans 5:2]
And claim the crown
[1 Timothy 4:8]
through Christ, my own.
Since God is completely sovereign, it is true to say that no matter what I do, God's purpose will be accomplished. However, this is often changed into the false assertion that it doesn't matter what I do, because God's purpose will be accomplished.
If there is no heart longing for God, no love for the word, no desire to obey the commandments, no submission of spirit, no despising of sin and sinful ways, can you still be saved?
God's saving work is not simply to pardon us without changing us. His Grace toward us is not merely some back-office accounting.
We are new creations in Christ. God has given us a new heart. We are being transformed into the image of Christ. We have been given the Holy Spirit to work in us, that we may love the scriptures and heed its words.
And this is not something that you need to create in yourself out of whole cloth. As a true child of God, your new heart and its desires are given to you by the Spirit. If you find that there is absolutely no desire to be in the word, no desire to spend time on your knees in prayer, and no desire to obey God's commandments or to submit to Him, then it should ring an alarm bell that something is not right. Oh dear reader – if you find yourself in this place, do not wait another moment, but cry out to God for Him to rescue you now!
But at the same time, if you are a Christian you are not to be passive in all this. God calls you to work at these things, and because you have the Spirit, God will give you success thereby. Do understand that in this life, you still have the heart of flesh that is daily enticed by this world. There is a battle to be fought, but greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
A vital part of the Christian life is that you rub shoulders with other Christians. We are to be encouraging one another in the things of Christ, and helping each other in this world. I want to offer the following for your consideration as we work on this aspect of fellowshipping together.
You can’t have meaningful fellowship with other believers without pursuing holiness in your own life. You must be devoting yourself to the Word, prayer, and self-denial in order to have true Christian fellowship with others. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are living a devoted life just because you meet up with other believers if you are neglecting personal discipline in devotion.
I would even argue that if you are not immersing yourself in the Word, making dedicated time to pray, and actively denying yourself in order to live for Christ, then you are putting yourself in a very dangerous situation.
In reading through Ecclesiastes, I was struck by a thought: Working hard does spiritual good. However, there is a caveat to this. Our attitude toward our work should be aligned with God, otherwise, our hard work becomes vanity and vexation.
In chapter 2 verses 18–23, we see that when we work hard to make a name for ourselves or build a legacy, this is all for nothing. We will be unsatisfied with our progress, and ensuring the continuation of our legacy after death will be a consuming vexation.
In contrast, we see verse 24 which says it is good to find enjoyment in toil, which is from the hand of God. Again in chapter 3 verses 9–13 we see that it is good for us to work because it is what God has given us to be busy with.
When we work hard with an understanding that we are working for God, we will not be unsatisfied with our work because we are not working for our own ends. We are not even primarily working to accomplish the desires of those over us in the workplace. We are working to please our Father in heaven, and His blessing on us for our labor will be more than we could ever dream of. Our soul will be satisfied with His delight in us. We are working to please Him. There is no vanity or vexation there!
During gift giving seasons, birthdays, Christmas, mother's and father's days, you'll often hear the phrase "It's the thought that counts". And often it is accompanied by either a lackluster gift, or at least the joke of one.
"Well, I least I thought to get you something, and it shows I care somewhat." In reality, we know that the gift itself matters, because it doesn't communicate anything positive to give someone a terrible gift.
There is another sense in which at Christmas (and within the limits of genuine gift-giving) that the only thing that matters is the thought behind it - provided that the thought is the correct thought. You see, we give gifts and celebrate together in memory of the great gift we have received from God Himself. And when that is the thought behind your gift, it's the only thing that counts.
As a Christian, if you say you are struggling with a sin in your life, be sure that you're not easily giving in to it. If you are not putting up a fight, not coming up with a plan of action against it, not taking time to pray against temptation for it, against the sin itself. If these things are not happening, how can you say that you are struggling with it. Where is the struggle?