Have you ever tried to resist the inevitable? I do this whenever I sit down to eat. No matter how much I try to avoid it, my superlative skills in unintentionally creating social awkwardness will kick in, and some of my food will end up on me rather than in me. Sometimes I think I should purposely dump the contents of my plate on my lap as soon as I sit down, just to kill the anticipatory tension. Either way, wearing my food is an unpleasant inevitability. But have you ever tried to resist something that is inevitable, but also absolutely wonderful – in fact, the very best thing that could ever happen to you? I have, and if you are a Christian, you have, too.
As much as our hearts crave the completion of God’s sanctifying work within us, the prospect of stepping forward in newness of life can be daunting. We might fear that we will be stepping away from sacred pieces of identity, attitudes and affections which distinguish us from others and which keep us objective in our outlook on life. The reality is, however, that progress in sanctification is the progressive revealing of our truest selves; it is the unleashing, not the strangulation, of our hearts. We considered this at length in a prior entry: The New You. We’ll begin this final entry in a series on sanctification – one, two and three – by exposing this fear as a strong impediment to that progress, especially as we hide it beneath the guise of a realism regarding our potential progress in holiness.
Sometimes, the limits we place on the possibilities of realized holiness in this life only reveal the limits of our willingness to pursue them. Sanctification is hard work, though it is indeed the work of God in and through us which accomplishes it (Philippians 2:12-13). It is far easier to be content to enjoy freedom from the law’s condemnation, than to […]
Do you believe that it is possible to overcome a besetting sin in your life? And do you believe that this conquering is possible in this life? If your answer is no, or a highly qualified “yes”, what is it that keeps you from answering instead with a resolute, unqualified “yes”? And is that hesitation truly consistent with what Scripture says is possible for the sons and daughters of the living God?
If you are Reformed in your theology, or are familiar with different denominational takes on this topic, the term “perfectionism” may have come to mind in light of these questions. Suffice it to say, I am not advocating the idea that Christians can attain a state of sinless perfection in this life, even with regard to willful sins. The closer we draw to Christ, the more aware we become of sins which had been lurking undetected in our hearts, the kind which eventually give rise to overt and obvious sin (Matthew 5:21-22). These words from Psalm 139 are appropriate to pray until our dying day: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts! And see if there is any offensive way in […]
What is your gut reaction, honestly, when you hear the phrase: “Obedience to God’s law”? Do you smile, or do you cringe? And why?
In the previous entry on this subject, we considered our tendency to think of the Lord Jesus in terms more appropriate to Superman than to the Savior. We appreciate that he’s saved us from God’s wrath against us as sinners, but we struggle to surrender the autonomy which is the essence of our sinfulness. We want rescue more than we want redemption. Yet Scripture teaches us that salvation in Christ is about far more than being rescued from the consequences of our sin. Salvation has to do not only with what we’re saved from, but what we’re saved for: a life lived more and more in keeping with God’s moral law.
Sadly, however, when so many Christians hear the word “law” in a discussion about God, they bristle. In our contemporary Christian culture, the word has become synonymous with legalism. Legalism, however, is an abuse of God’s law resulting from its being redacted or reduced (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Matthew 5:19.) Abusing God’s word is inevitably abusive to God’s people.
Relationally cold, unnecessarily strict homes and churches are spiritual dungeons in […]
As we look back at some of the most popular films of the past few years, and as we look ahead to movies in production, it is clear that superheroes have captured the imagination of our culture. If we’re at all into it, we have our favorites. My nine year old son has thought a lot about superman in particular, and he has concluded that the Man of Steel is, to quote him precisely, “a pansy.” This is just one of the many reasons I am so proud of my boy.
Superman has it so easy that it’s hard to respect him. He’s got ridiculous strength, x-ray vision, the power of flight – and to top it all off, a full head of perfectly placed, silken black hair. (Some of us are particularly envious of that last attribute.) Batman is more like it. There’s a Gothic grittiness to the dark knight; he works in the shadows and only pretends as Bruce Wayne to like the limelight in order to keep criminals from discovering his secret identity. And forgive me if this offends you, but the quasi-realism of Batman is precisely why he and Superman should never be in the same story. […]
Have you ever been so sure that the Lord wanted something or someone for you, some particular way of serving Him, only to find in the end that you and the Lord were apparently not on the same page? How are we to handle these disappointments, especially as they raise unsettling questions like these: How could I have been so wrong about God’s will for me? Did I unknowingly do something to disqualify myself from the blessing I so deeply desired, and if so, how will I ever know? Or perhaps most painfully: “Now that He’s taken from me what I was certain He was giving to me – what do I do now?”
Last night was one of the highlights of my 16 month tenure as chaplain of Geneva College. I got to participate in the Geneva Reading Series, an initiative of the brilliantly creative Dr. Dan Williams. GRS has become one of my favorite parts of being at Geneva. It’s a time when the campus community can come together to enjoy and celebrate God’s good gifts among us. Music, poetry, humorous stories, contemplative essays and other creative compositions by students and faculty remind us of the joy of being human. GRS is a time to allow our souls a deep, cleansing breath, to revel in being image bearers of the God who has built spectacular beauty into his creation, and especially into humanity.
GRS represents so much of why I love being at Geneva, why I love Christian higher education rooted in the humanities, and why it breaks my heart that the academic disciplines which give rise to such joyful gatherings and which spark such brilliant fire in the hearts of students – music, literature, writing, history, philosophy and theology – are increasingly considered expendable in the brutal but necessary battle to keep college as inexpensive as possible. Cutting deeply into such disciplines […]
Do you ever avoid certain passages of Scripture because they remind you so vividly of past sin? You’ve confessed your sin, and you trust that God is faithful and just to forgive you of that sin and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). But still, certain Scriptures or sermons based upon them seem to reopen old wounds and to remind you anew of an old and deep pain.
We see something similar happening to Peter as he talks with Jesus following Christ’s resurrection. Just prior to Jesus’s crucifixion, Peter faced three questions about his relationship to Jesus and he denied three times that he was the Lord’s disciple. Jesus predicted that three-fold betrayal (Luke 22:34), and upon Peter’s final denial of his relationship to Jesus, the Lord looked at him knowingly (verse 61). Peter saw the Savior’s stare and broke down, going out and weeping bitterly.
In John 21, the risen Jesus asks Peter his own series of questions about Peter’s relationship to him. Several times in slightly nuanced ways, Jesus asks: “…do you love me?” Though interesting, the questions’ nuances are not as important as their number: three. Clearly, Jesus wants Peter to recall his three failures to […]
This past spring, I had the privilege of addressing academic scholarship recipients and their parents on the topic of academic integrity. The God-given potential in that room was electrifying, but it will fizzle out if the students do not understand well and counter wholeheartedly the dehumanizing ideas currently dominating higher education and reflecting our culture as a whole. The following is an adapted version of that speech. Scholarship recipients or not, may we all be like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what God’s people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
What you’ve done to be sitting here this evening, how you’ve chosen to invest portions of your life when you could be doing other things – thinking seriously about life when you could merely be searching for entertainment – Who you are and what you’ve done to be here are so desperately needed in our day … but I wonder if you know why.
Because of you, what we have in this room is the astounding potential for something which our society so desperately needs, but on so many levels does not know that it lacks – in a word: INTEGRITY. Not just honesty, but that which honesty presupposes: that there is knowable truth […]
Note: As Gentle Reformation made the switch to its new format, the first three blogs in this series were lost. Many thanks to The Aquila Report for keeping them online! Here are links to articles one two and three Below is the conclusion…better late than never, I hope!
Though it feels like months have passed, it has only been a few days since you learned of your friend’s “Emergent” faith. And yet these days have been packed with weeks’ worth of concern for him. Your recent talk with your eccentric, eager-to-help professor was helpful, and you were especially strengthened by the prayer and Scriptural study which filled many sleepless hours since you saw your friend mark up his copy of the Apostle’s Creed with asterisks.
You’ve called your friend to invite him over, telling him that it’s cheaper to burn coffee at your place than to have it done professionally at the local shop. As you wait for him, your thoughts turn again to the implications of his recasting of the Christian faith.
Given Emergent Theology’s (hereafter, ET) intentionally loose grip on biblical doctrine, you did some research on what its advocates deem distinctively Christian about the movement and how it interacts […]