Monday, July 30, 2012

How we inform our minds to God is important

Take the time to read as short excerpt from J.R. Miller. From time to time I'll post thoughts from others that to me really standout, and this jumped up and hit me right between the eyes.

James Russell Miller (March 20, 1840 – July 2, 1912) was a popular Christian author, Editorial Superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication, and pastor of several churches in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

"Avoid every kind of evil!" 1 Thessalonians 5:22

Much is said in commendation of books. But, as in other matters, there is need for wise discrimination in what one reads. Not all books are worth reading.

There are many which are utterly empty of anything that is noble or worthy. One might read them continually all one's life--and yet be no wiser and no better. A hundred of them do not contain a dozen sentences that it is worthwhile to keep in one's memory, or that can be of any help or cheer or strength in one's life.

Then, there are books which are most pernicious in their influence. There are all grades and degrees of evil in this class. Some of them carry a subtle poison in their atmosphere which is noxious to those who breathe it. We need to keep most careful watch over our heart, so that nothing shall ever tarnish its purity. Any corrupt thought, dallied with even for a moment, leaves a stain upon the mind which may never be effaced.

If we would keep the tender joy of our heart experiences unbroken, we must hold rigid watch over our reading, conscientiously excluding not only whatever is obviously impure--but all in which lurks even a suggestion of evil.

A writer says: "Never read a book which is not worth reading, for some noble end, beyond the short-lived pleasure of a little excitement."

When we think of the influence which our reading has upon our lives, we see at once the importance of selecting only books that are worthwhile. At the best, none of us can read one book in a thousand of those which are within our reach. Surely then, this one book ought to be the best in all the thousand.

Every year, a flood of really worthless publications is poured over the country. People go into ecstasies over trivial works which please or excite them for a day--and are then old and forgotten; while books in every way admirable, are passed by unnoticed.

No book is really worth reading
, which does not either impart valuable knowledge; or set before us some ideal of beauty, strength, or nobility of character.

There are enough great books to occupy us during all our short and busy years. If we are wise, we will resolutely avoid all but the richest and the best.

(Editor's note: Reading was the primary media in J.R. Miller's day. The above standards apply to all media today--TV, internet, etc.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God' is serious about sin in the Church.

A thought from 1 Corinthians 5. There was a gross immorality taking place within the Corinthian fellowship at Corinth, a sin that was even a reproach to the pagan culture that surrounded the Church (5:1).

Paul's remedy for this unrepentant sin is the excommunication of the sinning person (5:13). Paul's highest motive was the purity of the body of Christ and the glory of God. The church was instructed not to fellowship with those who were living in sin, and he lists specific sins (vv. 9-11).

But here is the thought that I would like you to take away form the 1 Corinthian's 5 text---it was not the unsaved (those in the world) that the Church was instructed to stay away from, no, it was those who would profess Christ and then continue in sin (v.11).

The reason the Church is to discipline a professing believer is the fact that sin spreads and grows (v.6). We are not instructed to take ourselves out of the world, we live in the world, but we are to separate from those who would name the name of Christ and continue to live a life that is unrepentant (v.9).

Christian read 1 Corinthians 5 and let the thought of God's holiness penetrate and sink deep into your soul. Our God is holy and He desires His Church, His bride to remain chaste for His return.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jesus tells us, do not be like the hypocrites!

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6).

I'm struck with the contrast in Jesus' teaching on prayer in Matthew 6: 5-8.

The contrast is "don't be like the hypocrites" and "don't be like the gentiles" (6:5,7). But do your religious acts in secret---the secret places of your inner sanctuary, don't do your religious deeds to be "seen of men."

Jesus tells us that the hypocrite loves to "be seen," standing in public places, and praying in the religious buildings (synagogues).

They pray using "empty words." They pray thinking that the more words they use the better.
The main idea here is not hard to understand, it is that we are to be sincere in our religious duties, we are to live our lives naked and open before our Father in heaven. Our religion is not to promote ourselves, but in so many respects our religion is a private matter between God and ourselves.

One of the monsters that we as followers of Christ will always wrestle with is the ugly monster of pride. Pride has such a loud voice and is always yelling and screaming "look at me," "look at my knowledge of the Bible," "look at how holy I'm," "look at me, me, me!

Believer, follow the wise teaching of our Savior when He tells us,  "But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you... (Matthew 6:6, NLT).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Habits of the Mind.

Today's post will be somewhat different. In staying with our theme of the cultivation of the mind I'll list a few habits of the mind that I found extremely practical and rewarding in the book Think by John Piper.

The habits of the mind that I'll list apply to all objects in the world but most importantly to our study of the Bible.

I'll list several habits of the mind with a brief description of each.

Let my preface this list with these thoughts: All of our learning must be for the glory of God. We are to love God with all our minds. When our learning is not for God's glory it becomes an instrument of pride and human exaltation.

So the habits of the mind are:

  • Observation:
Learn to read slowly and observe rigorously and comprehensively always spending time on the details. Remember quick reading of many books will lead to bad habits of the mind. So read with rigorous observation and reflection.

  • Understanding:
The goal of reading is to understand what has been observed. Understanding is the discipline of thinking. In the understanding process the mind will wrestle with the traits and features of what has been observed. When we read the Bible our goal is to understand the mind of God through what the author's of the Bible intended to say. Our goal is to be able to say, " I understand what the author meant." We want his, not our thoughts and ideas."

  • Evaluating:
The basis for evaluating is certainly our own worldview---we as Christians believe that there is such a thing as truth and that truth can be known. So we evaluate fairly but we are not afraid to make judgements about the truth based on careful observation and understanding.

  • Feeling:
We as Christians need to feel properly about the things we learn from the world and in particular from the pages of the Bible. As Piper notes, " If [we] observed and understood a terrible reality like hell, [our] feelings should be fear and horror and compassion. If [we] observed and understood a wonderful reality like heaven, then [our] feelings should be joy and hope and longing."

  • Applying:
Applying what we have observed and understood and evaluated makes all learning practical. We need wisdom to be able to apply knowledge to our everyday living. As believers we can't grow in our life with God if we don't apply the truths we learned to our lives.

  • Expressing:
As piper notes, " we aim to enable and to motivate the student to express in speech and writing and deeds what he has seen, understood, evaluated, and felt, and applied." It is absolutely essential that we as believers develop the ability to communicate on all levels. Communication is the medium through which we get out the message of the Gospel to the world, it is also how we work to build up the body of Christ.

Christian work to build these habits of the mind into your life for the glory of God.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Man's wisdom is foolishness with God

In chapter eleven of John Piper's book Think he introduces us to two kinds of wisdom, the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man.

The main idea or thought that Piper tries to convey in this chapter of the book is that there are two kinds of wisdom spoken about throughout the Bible. It is of utmost importance that we understand the difference between the two. By understanding the difference we can fight against any thoughts or ideas that promote anti-intellectualism in the christian community. Also we can distinguish between the wisdom that saves a sinner and reconciles him with God and a wisdom that is proud and will send a sinner to an eternity without God.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that the world by its wisdom can't know God. However, in 1 Corinthians 1:24 Paul tells us that the preaching of Christ crucified is " the wisdom of God."

This is the thought or idea that is covered by Piper---there are two kinds of wisdom, a wisdom from God and a wisdom of this world or a human wisdom. I'll just spend a little time on the difference between the two.

Take the time to think on this thought: Jesus told us in Luke 10:21 that God has hidden his truth form the wise, but has revealed it to the little children.  Again Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:21 says that the wise of this world do not know God.

Since I like to get to the point, here it is---Piper notes that "The Cross is the continental divide between human wisdom and divine wisdom.

God's wisdom will always exalt the cross while human wisdom will always be offended by what the cross stands for.

Here is a very succinct definition given by Piper on the ultimate difference between God's wisdom and man's wisdom:

"God's wisdom makes the glory of God's grace our supreme treasure. But man's wisdom delights in seeing himself as resourceful, self-sufficient, self-determining, and not utterly dependent of God's free grace."

Thus God's wisdom promotes humility and brings us to the foot of the cross---while man's wisdom will always do things his way, man's wisdom will not submit to God's plan. All of the religions of this world are built on man's wisdom, and only Christianity is built on the wisdom of God, where the cross is lifted up and exalted.

Take the time to read 1 Corinthians 1:1-3  and see how these two types of wisdom are contrasted.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Does Saving Faith Receive?

One of the questions that is asked by John Piper in his book Think, is what does saving faith receive?

And over the next five paragraphs Piper's explanation of what faith receives in order to make it justifying faith so moved me that I want to share his thoughts with you today.

Now, we know that there has to be an object or something that faith believes in or receives, or it simply wouldn't be faith. Religious systems all put their faith or trust in something; it could be: rituals, ceremonies, rules, sets of laws and ordinances, or simply their own religious leaders.

But here is the apex of Christianity, the soul of Christianity, the Christian puts his faith in and receives Jesus. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). "To all who receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" ( John 1:12).

Piper then cuts to the chase and makes a stark contrast between those who say they received Jesus and those who have received Jesus. Piper notes, " But we must make clear what this actually means, because there are so many people who say they have received Christ and believed on Christ but give little or no evidence that they are spiritually alive.

Now what Piper says next is the heart and soul of Christianity and this is what so moved me and compelled me to share today as he shares what dead faith is:

"They are unresponsive to the spiritual beauty of Jesus. They are unmoved by the glories of Christ. They don't have the spirit of the apostle Paul when he said, 'I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ'" (Phil. 3:8).

Piper continues with his description of those who just say they have received Christ:

" They don't receive Him the way Paul did when he spoke of the 'surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.' They don't receive Him as He really is---more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe. They don't prize Him or treasure Him or cherish Him or delight in Him."

Piper ends his thoughts by telling his readers that it is not enough to simply say you have received Christ or to make an intellectual accent to the facts about Christ, but Piper tells his readers that Christ must be embraced as your supreme treasure, he must be desired above all else, Christ must be loved with all your heart, mind, body and soul.

We are told that no person can do this naturally. We must be born again (John 3:3). We must be made new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We must be made spiritually alive (Eph. 2: 1-4). 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, don't these truths drive you to your knees? We see so clearly that salvation is of the Lord ( Jonah 2:9). Let us today thank our God for giving us the eyes to see Jesus as he really is: beautiful, glorious, supreme, and our great and loving Savior.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How are we to view other world religions?

Today's post will be a little different. I'm going to lay out three different and distinct theological worldviews concerning how other religions are viewed.

Now, the reason for this is two fold---first, so that we know that there are other different views and second so that we can defend our position from a strong biblical platform.

I think that it is extremely important for followers of Christ to think through these three different positions by using the word of God as the standard to measure all and every idea or concept. For the follower of Christ it is not which position makes the most sense or which potion is the most equitable and fair, no, for the believer it is having our minds informed by God's infallible inerrant Word.

After a brief description of each of the following views, I'll give my reasons why the first two are not Biblical and why the third view is the only view that the believer can hold.

Are you ready? here we go with the first view:

The Pluralist Perspective
According to the pluralist view all religions are equally valid paths to the Ultimate Reality ( a term that is considered synonymous with God). Pluralists would tell you that all religious people around the world really are saying the same thing just in different forms of expression; they would say that all the world religions point to the same truth.

This view is the predominate view in our culture. The pluralist view is certainly characteristic of our postmodern culture were open mindedness and being non-judgmental are to be coveted above all else.

Another characteristic of those who hold this position would be the refrain, " your truth is true for you, and my truth is true for me."

My Comments:
 The problem with the pluralists' position is that it violates the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Here's the part were we can't let human emotion and human reasoning color our view. Sure it makes sense, a loving God surely would welcome all who are trying to do their best, and certainly a loving God would not be mad at those who are doing their best just because they don't cross all their T's and dot all their I's.

 But God's ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). It goes against all our humanness to put our thoughts off to the side and allow God's voice to speak through the Scriptures into our lives and inform and shape our world view. 

We are to Cast down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). The issue here is the truth of the Bible, for if the Bible is truly God's word then it must have supremacy in our lives. We as followers of Christ do not stop using logic and reasoning, but we submit our logic and reasoning to the authoritative word of God.

 Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life and that no man can come to the father except through Him (John 14:6).

The Apostle Paul said, there is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name (Jesus) under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

For the follower of Christ it comes to having a complete and deep knowledge of the teachings of the Bible: concerning mans' helpless estate, Christs atoning work on the cross, and the understanding of salvation, etc.

The Inclusivist Perspective
The inclusivist view holds that God is at work among all people everywhere even where there is no Christian witness. The inclusivist Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation  of God: God's Word made flesh. Therefore all other religious claims must be measured in the light of Jesus. Jesus is the most complete picture of God. His life, death, and resurrection are the good news for all people.

Here now is the fly in the ointment. The inclusivist also believes that God is actively involved in the lives of non-Christians, too. They would tell us that God has not written off those who do not understand the gospel. They believe that  God in His love and mercy works through their  religious systems and sees their acts of righteousness and worship.

Adam Hamilton, in his book, Christianity and World Religions says, "even if those of other faiths have yet to understand or accept God's definitive Word to them. God accepts the intent of their hearts---that they are reaching and yearning---and God credits this to them as faith."

The inclusivist view is held by a large segment of those in our main line denominational churches, and sad to say many hold to this view even in our evangelical churches.

My Comments
The error of this view again is theological---it lacks a proper understanding of the total depravity of man. This view also assumes that the gospel can be changed and made to accommodate other religious views.

The Scriptures make it clear that before we are converted or regenerated we are in darkness, and natural enemies of God, and are spiritually dead (Col. 1:21; Eph. 2:1). When God looks at the heart of an unconverted man He does not see good intentions---no, he sees a heart that is in rebellion and alienation.

This view has splashes of pelagianism all over it---pelagainism was a teaching of a forth century monk that taught man was not created with original sin, but that man is basically good, but just makes the wrong decisions and needs some guidance.

Pelagianism was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

The Inclusivist View
The third world view to other religions is the inclusivist view which holds that all who don't know Jesus as their Savior are condemned. The inclusivist would hold that God is sovereign and He shows mercy to those whom He will show mercy (Rom.9:15).

In addition, the inclusivist would hold to a theological position that no man is seeking after God (Rom. 3:11), and that all men are like sheep who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Because of the Bible's teaching of man, God, and salvation the inclusivist is persuaded in his mind to exclaim, " Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).

My Comments
We are not free to formulate our own ideas about how man can  be made "right with God," or how man is to worship God. We are not free to modify the  gospel to accommodate our human logic and human reasoning's. 

We are not free to alter the gospel message to make it more palatable to a society that finds the cross of Christ offensive. We are not free to make God in our own image and likeness. The follower of Christ is constrained to believe what the Bible says about man, God, and salvation.

My fellow believer, go to the God of the Scriptures, and ask that He sanctify all your abilities, all your hermeneutical principles, and all your logical and intellectual prowess for His glory and honor.

The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...