Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Is The Most Important Virtue the one we least Pursue?

WILLIAM LAW, AN 18th century Anglican pastor, wrote the powerful words below. The truths
William Law 1686-1761
expressed are universal, and they are an especially important corrective to our age of self-esteem. Meditate and rejoice.

“Because an humble state of soul is the very state of religion, because humility is the life and soul of piety, the foundation and support of every virtue and good work, the best guard and security of all holy affections; I shall recommend humility to you, as highly proper to be made the constant subject of your devotions, at this third hour of the day; earnestly desiring you to think no day safe, or likely to end well, in which you have not thus early put yourself in this posture of humility, and called upon God to carry you through the day, in the exercise of a meek and lowly spirit."

"This virtue is so essential to the right state of our souls, that there is no pretending to a reasonable or pious life without it. We may as well think to see without eyes, or live without breath, as to live in the spirit of religion without the spirit of humility. And although it is thus the soul and essence of all religious duties, yet is it, generally speaking, the least understood, the least regarded, the least intended, the least desired and sought after, of all other virtues, amongst all sorts of Christians."
"No people have more occasion to be afraid of the approaches of pride, than those, who have made some advances in a pious life: for pride can grow as well upon our virtues as our vices, and steals upon us on all occasions. Every good thought that we have, every good action that we do, lays us open to pride, and exposes us to the assaults of vanity and self-satisfaction. It is not only the beauty of our persons, the gifts of fortune, our natural talents, and the distinctions of life; but even our devotions and alms, our fastings and humiliations expose us to fresh and strong temptations of this evil spirit. And it is for this reason that I so earnestly advise every devout person to begin every day in this exercise of humility, that he may go on in safety under the protection of this good guide, and not fall a sacrifice to his own progress in those virtues which are to save mankind from destruction."

"Humility does not consist in having a worse opinion of ourselves than we deserve, or in abasing ourselves lower than we really are; but as all virtue is founded in truth, so humility is founded in a true and just sense of our weakness, misery, and sin. He that rightly feels and lives in this sense of his condition, lives in humility."

"The weakness of our state appears from our inability to do anything as of ourselves. In our natural state we are entirely without any power; we are indeed active beings, but can only act by a power that is every moment lent us from God. We have no more power of our own to move a hand, or stir a foot, than to move the sun, or stop the clouds. When we speak a word, we feel no more power in ourselves to do it, than we feel ourselves able to raise the dead. For we act no more within our own power, or by our own strength, when we speak a word, or make a sound, than the Apostles acted within their own power, or by their own strength, when a word from their mouth cast out devils, and cured diseases. As it was solely the power of God that enabled them to speak to such purposes, so it is solely the power of God that enables us to speak at all. We indeed find that we can speak, as we find that we are alive; but the actual exercise of speaking is no more in our own power, than the actual enjoyment of life."

"This is the dependent, helpless poverty of our state; which is a great reason for humility. For, since we neither are, nor can do anything of ourselves, to be proud of anything that we are, or of anything that we can do, and to ascribe glory to ourselves for these things, as our own ornaments, has the guilt both of stealing and lying. It has the guilt of stealing, as it gives to ourselves those things which only belong to God; it has the guilt of lying, as it is the denying the truth of our state, and pretending to be something that we are not."

"Secondly, Another argument for humility is founded in the misery of our condition. Now the misery of our condition appears in this, that we use these borrowed powers of our nature to the torment and vexation of ourselves, and our fellow creatures. God Almighty has entrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals, envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions, and unreasonable contentions.”[1] 

[1] William Law, A Devout Call, (Ages Software) pg 192,93

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eschatalogical Effervesence!

ESCHATOLOGY IS JUST  A big word for the study of what the Bible says about the future. Sam Storm's, Kingdom Come, The Amillennial Alternative is a helpful study of this subject.  I think it will prove to be a classic.

The Bible says much about the future. And, in the last century Evangelicals have given an inordinate amount of mental energy to this subject, and for some, it has become a fighting matter. At the heart of the issue is the millennium, a subject directly discussed only once in Revelation 20. Despite this one oblique reference, Christians have taken a strong, and often unyielding stand, on their interpretation of the future. The church has divided into three interpretations.

The first is Postmillennial, meaning Jesus will return after a millennium (thousand years) of church prosperity. For some the millennium is literal. To others it is a long period of time. Up until the last 100 years, most of the Reformers, in fact most Christians, were Postmillennial.

The second approach is Premillennial, meaning Jesus will return to reign on earth for a literal thousand years. Premillenials have been around since the early church, but were always a small minority until the rise of Dispensational Premillennialism after WWII. Premillenialism is the most common position in today's evangelical world.

The third is Amillennialism, meaning the millennium is a symbol for a long period of time, i.e. the period between Christ's first coming and his second coming.  There is no physical 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. Amillennialism is a variant on Postmillennialism and has also grown popularity since WWII. The difference is that the spiritual prosperity for which Postmillennials hope in this world, Amillennials hope for in the New Creation.

Storm's book is an argument for Amillennialism.

Dr. Storms came to Christ in a Dispensational, Premillennial environment. He attended Dallas Theological Seminary, the bastion of Dispensational Premillennial thought. He even taught theology there. However, as he examined the scripture he began to encounter problems with Dispensational Premillennial teaching. This book is the fruit of these concerns marinated in years of careful thought.

Storms writes clearly and convincingly. Kingdom Come contains excellent chapters on the hermeneutics of Eschatology, the history of Premillennialism, the current popularity of Premillennialism, and chapters on all the controversial chapters that deal with eschatology in the Bible. Storms is gracious with his opponents, and in my view his argument is convincing.

This is a book that I heartily recommend. To those curios to know more about eschatology this volume will be helpful. For those curios to know more about the view of those with whom they disagree, hopefully many, this volume will also be greatly helpful.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What It Means To Be Saved!

G. E. Ladd
GEORGE ELDON LADD, late professor of theology at Fuller Seminary, in his important book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, defined salvation this way.

“This is what it means to be saved. It means to go about every day in the present evil Age living the life of heaven. It means that every local fellowship of God’s people who have shared this life should live together and worship and serve together as those who enjoy a foretaste of heaven here on earth. This is what the fellowship of a Christian Church ought to be.”[1]
For Ladd salvation was not just theoretical. It was experiential, and it was social. It was collective. It meant joining the fellowship of those who will someday populate Heaven.
May we all share Ladd's optimism as well as his present experience?

[1] Ladd, G.E., the Gospel of the Kingdom, pg 787 (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1959)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How To Conquer Anxiety!

NO ONE WANTS to be anxious. Nevertheless, many of  us wrestle with anxiety. It is an unpleasant experience. You can't be happy and anxious at the same time. So, conquering anxiety is something everyone wants to do.

I have learned that it helps to identify the root of anxiety. To do that we need to throw out the word "anxiety" and replace it with a word that accurately describes the problem––fear. Anxiety is merely a symptom of fear. Beneath anxiety is greater problem, fear, and when I see the real issue I can begin to control anxiety with the question, "what do I fear?"

I remember learning years ago in my Psych 101 class that anxiety is always a symptom of goal blocked behavior. In other words, I am afraid that something is going to happen that I don't want to happen. Or, I am afraid that I am going to lose something that I badly want to keep. I am afraid that I am going to receive something I don't want. I am afraid that someone is going to reject me, or I am afraid that I am going to have to relate to someone unpleasant. The objects of our fear have many expressions. 

In other words, something is too important to me. In biblical terms, I have an idol. Something is more important to me than God. Here is the root of anxiety...Idolatry. And identifying the idol is the key to the cure.

This is where the label "fear" helps. As long as I call it anxiety it is difficult to get to the root. But when I say, "my real problem is that I am afraid," than I can answer the next question. What am I afraid of ? When I answer that question I have identified the idol. The next step is repentance.

Those willing to replace the word "anxiety" with the word "fear" are on theway to freedom from anxiety.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Behold the Love of God!

MANY CHRISTIANS have a hard time personalizing God's love. For those in this condition
meditation on God's love is helpful. The Bible gives us good material. One example occurred the night before Jesus' death.

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them [a follower of Jesus],  for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:73–75).

 The gravity of betrayal is according to the dignity and worth of the one betrayed. If you betray your pet it is not even a sin. If you betray your spouse it is sinful, but if you betray God himself it is mega-sinful. Peter committed a greats sin. He betrayed Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world..

Peter failed  his Friend in his hour of greatest need. Instead, he yielded to craven fear. He was not loyal. Then to cover it up he called down a curse upon himself. In essence he told the bystanders, "I do not know the man. If I am lying may God's cursing come crashing down upon me." Ironically, what Peter asked for happened, but the curse didn't land on him.

It landed on the One he betrayed, Jesus.

To an ancient Jew to be cursed by God was life's greatest calamity. On the other hand, God's blessing was life's greatest good. Here is the measure of Christ's love for Peter, and by extension, you and me. Although Peter had alienated himself from Jesus and sinned greatly, Jesus took the curse that Peter called down upon himself. He went to the cross to obtain his Father's forgiveness for Peter's sin against himself. He did this so that Peter, the one who betrayed him, could receive the blessing that Jesus deserved.

Jesus did the same for each Christian reading these words.  "Christ  redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). What is most striking is that Jesus did this for someone who had deeply hurt and disappointed him.

I recently spent a couple of days with an individual who talked non stop about himself. He wasn't interested in anyone else. I felt snubbed and ignored. My feelings were hurt.  I was irritated and didn't want to be around him. My gut reaction was to walk away from the relationship.

Thank goodness God is not like us. His gut-reaction was not to walk away from Peter, it was to die for him.

This is what God's is like. That is how God has loved each Christian reading these words.

If you are struggling to feel God's personal love for you, meditate on this today.