Here is a great little piece by J.I. Packer. He is pointing out some of our troubles in understanding the Bible.
They tell us that the Bible is the Word of God – a lamp to our feet and a lght to our path. They tell us that we shall find in it the knowlegdge of God and of his will for our lives. We believe them; rightlty, for what they say is true. So we take our Bibles and start to read them. We read steadily and thoughtfully, for we are in earnest; we really do want to know God.
But as we read, we get more and more puzzled. Though fascinated, we are not being fed. Our reading is not helping us; it leaves us bewildered and, if the truth be told, somewhat depressed. We find ourselves wodering whether Bible reading is worth going on with.
Two Different Worlds
What is our trouble? Well, basically it is this. Our Bible reading takes us into what, for us, is quite a new world – namely, the Near Eastern world as it was thousands of years ago, promitive and barbaric, agricultural and unmechanized. It is in that world that the action of the Bible story is played out. In that world we meet Abraham, and Moses, and David and the rest, and we watch God dealing with them. We hear the prophets denouncing idolatry and threatening judgment upon sin. We see the Man of Galilee, doing miracles, arguing with Jews, dying for sinners, rising from death and assending to heaven. We read letters from Christian teachers directed against strange errors which, so far as we know, do not now exist.
It is all intensely interesting, but it all seems very far away, It all belongs to that world, not to this world. We feel that we are, so to speak, on the outside of the Bible world, looking in. We are mere spectators, and that is all Our unspoken thought is -“Yes, God did all that then, and very wonderful it was for the people involved, but how does it touch us now? We don’t live in the same world. How can the record of God’s words and deeds in Bible times, the record of his dealings with Abraham and Moses and David and the rest, help us, who have to live in the space age?”
We cannot see how the two worlds link up, and hence again and again we find ourselves feeling that the things we read about in the Bible can have no application for us. And when, as so often, these things are in themselves thrilling and glorious, our sense of being excluded from them depresses us considerably.
Most Bible readers have knownthis feeling. Not all know how to counter it. Some Christians seem to resign themselves to following affar off, believing the Bible record, indeed, but neither seeking nor expecting for themseles such intamacy and direct dealing with God as the men and women of the Bible knew. Such an attitude, all too common today, is in effect a confession of failure to see a way through this problem.
But how can this sense of remoteness from the biblical experience of God be overcome? Many things might be said, but the crucial point is surely this. The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link, between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place. It is true thay in the terms of space. time and culture, they and the historical epoch to which they belonged are very long way away from us. But the link between them and us is not found at that level.
The link is God himself. For the God with whom they ad to do is the same God with whom we have to do. We could sharpen the point by saying exactly the same God; for God does not change in the least particular. Thus it appears that the truth on which we must dwell, in order to dispel this feeling that there is an unbridgeble gulf between the position of men and women in Bible times and in our own, is the truth of God’s immutability.
We Are to Be Like Them
Where is the sense of distance and difference, then, between believers in Bible times and ourselves? It is excluded. On what grounds? On the grounds that God does not change. Fellowship with him, trust in his word, living by faith, standing on the promises of God, are essentially the same realities for us today as they were for Old and New Testament believers. This though brings comfort as we enter into the perplexities of each day: amid all the changes and uncertaunties of life in a nuclear age, God and his Christ remain the same – almighty to save.
But the thought brings a searching challenge too. If our God is the same as the God of New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of commuion with him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issie that any one of us can evade.
Read 1 Peter 3:15 and look at this excellent reminder of the hope that lives within us by James Stewart:
What strikes you about the preachers of the New Testament is that they had been swept off their feet and carried away by the glory of the great revelation.
They went to men who had sinned disastrously, and they cried, “Listen! We can tell you of reconciliation and a new beginning.”
They went to others who had nothing but the vaguest fatalism for a religion, and they proclaimed exultingly the love of the eternal Father.
They went to desolate and weak and lonely souls, and with shouts of confidence exclaimed, “Lift up your heads! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
They went to others shivering in cold terror at the thought of death’s onward inexorable march, and they bade them, “Rejoice! Christ has conquered. Death lies dead!”
It is the same tremendous tidings for which the world is hungry yet… Suppose the apostles were to come back to earth today, and watch us at our weekly worship. Would they recognize the religion in whose dawn they had found it such bliss to be alive?
Might they not have to say, “What has happened? Is this the faith that once stirred the world like a thousand trumpets? Is this the miraculous religion that burnt us with its flame? How can these our descendants repeat with the chill of lackadaisical boredom words that once awakened the dead?
“‘God was incarnate’: can they say that, and not be thrilled and dazzled by the amazement of it?
“‘The Son of God was crucified, dead, and buried’: can they think of that and not be overwhelmed by its awful meaning?
“‘Christ is risen’: can they tell that, and not want to shout for the glory of it?
“Why have they allowed these breathlessly exciting facts to be written in the dull catalogue of common things and suffocated by the formalities of a routine religion? Why seek ye the living among the dead?”
Here is a great quote from Dallas Willard:
One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known. The frantic efforts of religious personages and groups to advertise and certify themselves is a stunning revelation of their lack of substance and faith. . . .
Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God, who lit our candles so we could be the light of the world, not so we could hide under a bushel (Matt. 5:14-16). We allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed.
Secrecy at its best teaches love and humility before God and others. And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us. It actually becomes possible for us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves,” as Philippians 2:3 advises. And what a relief that can be! If you want to experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice for their successes. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. The discipline of secrecy can lead us into this sort of wonderful experience.
Hey guys (males that is) we are having a last second guys event on this coming Saturday, the 26th of April. As all the women are meeting at the Women’s Conference we will meet at Chuck’s house from 11am-2pm. Bring your own beef and we will grill out, have lunch, and then play some football or something at Somerton.
There are no official sign ups for this event. Just have your parents drop you off and pick you up at 15033 Milford St. Phila. PA 19116 (aka Chuck’s new crib). Again, this event is only for 9-12th grade guys.
See you there! Send me an email if you have any questions.
The Heart and Divine Guidance
The will of God has many angles. God’s will shall be accomplished as He gathers all things to Himself in Christ Jesus. His kingdom shall come. His will be done. This is our hope and joy.
There remains an overarching theme to all of earth’s sordid history and the final scenario will be the good pleasure of God’s will. Nothing shall hinder this expected end. No power in heaven or earth will upset God’s inexorable timetable. There are certain eschatological questions about these things but the average Christian is not often wondering about the final aspect of God’s will. Sadly there is much less joy in the heavenly throne than there should be.
God’s will for our collective lives as the family of God on earth is also revealed through the revelation of His Word in various facets. It is His will that we would abstain from fornication and know how to possess our vessels in purity. It is His will that we would be thankful in all things. It is His will that we would not forsake the gathering of ourselves together. It is His will that we would love one another the way that He has loved us in Christ. There are many other such truths revealed in Scripture.
These foundational truths help us to know and understand much of our daily lives and purposes here on this earth. Believers would do well to become better acquainted with these aspects of God’s will for our lives. There would be much more fruit, peace, and power in our daily experience of life with God if it were so.
But when the average person speaks or seeks the will of God what they are usually seeking are the personal aspects of God’s design for their lives here on earth. What we are really seeking would be better called divine guidance. Where should I go to college? What should I do for a career? Should I change careers? Who should I marry? What should I invest in? Where should I live? Etc…
It is in these arenas that we find the wrestlings of the Spirit and the plagued heart. It is in these arenas that the tension and pressure builds. It is in these arenas that we need clarity and divine guidance. How do we know if God would have us choose one thing or shun another? How can we know if the desperately wicked machinations of the heart are leading us into a career or if God is calling us there? How can understand the heart and divine guidance?
Before we sort through these wrestlings of the heart allow me to disclose the heart of the issue. In the end, divine guidance comes to all men. The difference is the heart that is found in the moment that God’s guidance is revealed. The true question is not what does God want? The true question is, when God gives me guidance, will He find a heart cherishing secret iniquities and affections or will He find a heart that loves Him and desires to please Him above all things? This is the true heart of the issue between the individual and God’s personal will for their lives.
Even bad men were given their moment of divine guidance. Pharaoh had his Moses, Saul had his Samuel, Ahab had his Elijah, Jonah his whale, the Pharisees had John the Baptist, Pilate had his own wife, and Judas had the very Son of God. Even those with the hardest hearts were given times of clear distinction and delineation between God’s will and their own. Refused they did, not for lack of understanding, but because their hearts were hard.
This should be a comfort to the true child of God. If God would bring such clear choice to those who would refuse Him can we dare to think that He will not speak clearly to those that love Him in sincerity? Let us not think such hard thoughts of our Heavenly Father! In all of Scripture, there was not one soul that truly desired God’s direction for their lives and didn’t get it. He that abides in God will produce the correct fruit, in the correct field, in the correct seasons, in the correct amount.
The son or daughter of God should never have tension in regard to the discovery of His will or guidance but they should care deeply about their hearts desire for it. When Peter was restored Christ didn’t need to tell him the whole plan for his future ministry but He did need to ask, Lovest thou Me? Once Peter’s heart was His, the rest was settled.
The true question, the true worry of a disciples’ heart should be, ‘Am I seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness’? In other words, is my heart single? The light of the body is the eye; therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body is also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body there be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle does give thee light.
Here Christ gives us a key formula for divine guidance in this life. He exhorts that we are to take heed that our eye, the true heart object of our life, is to be single. We are to take care that we are seeking to love God and find His pleasure in all that we do. If our eye remains single light—bright and clear and clean—will fill our lives, our paths, and shine brighter and brighter till that perfect day of God’s ultimate will. Thus divine guidance is found in the state of the heart and not the moment of comprehension.
If our eye is not single our eye is then evil. When the plague of the heart is set upon something other than God the heart will manipulate our desires and emotions to lead us into darkness. Beware the subtle cherishing of iniquity in the heart! Once we have allowed that darkness to find place in our heart there is no ending to how great that darkness can become! Just look at Balaam, Samson, Saul, David, Ahab, Jezebel, Judas, etc…
Are our hearts seeking to please themselves without displeasing God? Are we hunting for what we want as opposed to trusting God to give us what we need? Are we choosing the ephemeral pleasures of the moment over the lasting treasures heaven? Do we will our own timing into being or wait for everything to become beautiful in God’s time? Do we have respect to the recompense of the reward? Is our eye single or evil?
Are we making choices that would lead us to a selfishly desired end and not to God? Do we fear and tremble over discovering God’s will because we really fear and tremble over the thought of missing out on fun and happiness and comfort? Is self-love the driving force of our desire to know God’s guidance or is it love to God that drives us?
Do we want God in our lives but not as the object of our lives? Do we want God in our plans but not as the Master of them? Do we want God’s will, but only so long as His will coincides with our own will? Do we want God’s will to be done in heaven and earth and everyone else’s heart but not in our own hearts? Do we want God or do we simply want what we want?
If you personally want to experience the desired end of God’s guidance in your life these are the types of questions you must be able to answer. In the end God’s guidance will come to us all. The only questions is what type of heart will God find when He reveals His will to us? Do not fear missing out on God’s guidance due to ignorance. Fear missing God’s guidance due to hardness of heart, idolatry, pride, and self-love. Fear God, love Him, seek Him, obey Him, make Him the single focus of your eye and soon you will find the light of life.
Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light he turn it into the shadow of death and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears because the LORD’s flock is carried away captive.
This is the title of one of the most amazing addresses C.S. Lewis ever gave. If you have not read it, here is a little taste:
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures , fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We are going to jump into a study on the Holy Spirit tonight. Here is a little more material for those of you that would like to study a bit more of what the Word of God says about the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a person and is given personal attributes: Jn. 14:26; 15:26; Acts 15:28; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 12:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 22:17
The Holy Spirit is seen in personal relation to the Father and Son: Mt. 28:19; 1 Cor.12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:1-2
The Holy Spirit is given divine names: Acts 5:4; 28:5; Rom. 8:9; Heb. 10:15-16
The Holy Spirit has divine attributes: 1 Cor. 2:10; 12:4-6; Heb. 9:14
The Holy Spirit accomplishes divine works: Mt. 12:18; Lk. 4:18; Jn. 14:16; 1 Cor. 12:2-11; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:12
From these and other passages we see the doctrine of the Trinity. Though the word trinity is not used in the Scripture itself–we use the word to describe the truth that is displayed throughout the Word of God–God is Three in One–Father, Son, and Spirit.
Here is John Wesley’s covenant prayer to God:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yeild all things to your pleasure and disposal
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine, and I am thine.
So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.
Enjoy this video of Kenny Sailors, the man who invented the jump shot.
Sometimes the KJV is just great. When you want to talk about laziness, what are better comparisons than a sloth or a slug? I am looking to put together a study on laziness through the Proverbs and I jotted down my initial thoughts. Full length study yet to be released.
Proverbs 6:6-11: It’s not all about the here and now. Investment must become personal not policed.
10:26: Ignorance of import. Other people’s feelings can be more important than yours.
12:24: All men are created equal but they don’t all end up that way.
13:4: Good intentions are not good enough.
15:19: Obedience obliterates obstacles. Sloth sows sorrows.
18:9: Paucity of purpose stifles stewardship.
19:24: King sedentary.
20:4: Good excuses are not good enough. Neither are bad ones!
21:25-26: The exacerbated entitlement life. I deserve this for no apparent reason and all my expectations should be met or exceeded or life’s not worth living.
22:13/26:13: Justification. Every vice can be made a virtue if you are smart enough.
24:30-34: A lot of little equals a lot.
26:14: A lack of blanket victory. A life lived by not living. We have such a short time to prepare for such a long time!
26:15: Neglect of the necessities.
26:16: Since I can’t do everything I won’t do anything. Someone else will get to it. Stupid idea. There are a lot of people better than me who can do that. That’s not my ___. Am I my brother’s keeper? She wouldn’t do that for me. Etc…