A Mental Buffet // 16 Mar 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

Does God Love Everyone the Same? – Jeff Robinson

“God’s love for sinners should always astound and humble us. It must never be reduced to a merely academic matter. Rightly did the psalmist wonder, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:4).”

 

Don’t Settle for Jesusy Advice – Matt Johnson

“If you’ve been told that the core of Christian faith is about your ongoing transformation by making good on all the Jesusy advice, you’re getting ripped off.”

 

Jesus Will Finish the Mission – John Piper

“The grace of missionary service is as irresistible as the grace of regeneration. Christ can promise universal proclamation because he is sovereign. He knows the future success of missions because he makes the future. All the nations will hear!”

 

The Image of God and the Quest for Holiness – David Long

“Being the people of God is a matter of having one’s very being restored to the image of God. In Paul’s terms, it is being conformed to the image of Christ.”

Reflections on the Valley of Vision: Sincerity, Part 1: Some Thoughts on Authenticity

reflections-of-sincerity

“You desire truth in the inward being;
Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret being.”
– Psalm 51:6, NRSV

(Full prayer may be read here)

In this post, I mostly want to share some introductory thoughts going into the prayer, and in the next post, I’ll give some personal thoughts and commentary over the prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I have doubts about my salvation. Sometimes the thought plagues my mind that I could be one of those to whom  Jesus says, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!” (Matthew 7:23, ISV)

When this happens, I often pray from the Valley of Vision because there are times when I know what I want to pray, but I can’t seem to find the words, and usually when I read the prayers I think, “This is exactly how I’m feeling and this is exactly what I want to say to God.” I had one of those moments this past Sunday as I was flipping through the Valley of Vision and came across the prayer for sincerity. It was so fitting because I believe that God’s people just aren’t authentic enough in their faith.

Not all Christians feel this way. Some people think, I suppose, that we should drink lemon juice for communion so we look holier. Bill Muehlenberg wrote, what I would describe as, an almost scathing article against the idea of “authentic” Christianity. He made statements like, “Forget this foolishness of avoiding hypocrisy by embracing and settling for carnality and second-rate Christianity….Forget this lousy talk about “authenticity” and start talking about biblical holiness.” Now, all that talk of ‘biblical holiness’ sounds nice to the red tie-wearing, conservative, church goer that arrives to worship 15 minutes early every Sunday, makes sure they always have the same spot in the sanctuary, but reality is that biblical holiness is not something we can accomplish in and of ourselves. Holiness is given to us in Christ. That’s the only way one can reconcile Ephesians 2:8 (“by grace you are saved and not of works”) and Hebrews 12:14 (“without holiness no man shall see the Lord) without believing that you can lose your salvation or that you have to finish the work of salvation.

We’re not perfect. We struggle. We fall. We sin. And we have a tendency to hide behind a mask and we may (intentionally or unintentionally) lead people to think that we’re better than what we are. Dr. Steve Brown said “Christians are masters at hidden agendas and masks” and I couldn’t agree more. We all have a mask that we like hiding behind because it’s comfortable so that’s when I read the prayer for Sincerity in the Valley of Vision, I feel convicted of my sin and yet at the same time I’m comforted because I access to the Father by His grace so I don’t have to wear a mask in front of Him. He knows how bad I am and He loves me anyway.

There’s no reason to have a mask on before the throne of grace. Jesus has seen all the ugly parts and He’s not going anywhere. In Hebrews 13, the writer reminds his audience in verse 5 that Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and then in verse 8 the writer says boldly that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Life is unstable and the challenges that we face in life can cause us to become unstable, but Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is stable foundation you can build your life on. Trust Him.

Resources:

The Valley of Vision

Agendas and Masks by Steve Brown

Hidden Agendas with Steve Brown

And if you thought the Muehlenberg article was bad, check out “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?” by Brett McCracken on The Gospel Coalition.

John’s Love Letters, Part 7: Acting On Our Knowledge

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – 1 John 2:3-6, ESV

The text presents us with a very real truth, we cannot simply claim to know God and do nothing else. We must act on our knowledge of God as Creator, Sustainer, King, Sovereign, Master, Savior, etc. We cannot simply tell people that we know this awesome God without showing them. So, how do we show them? By Keeping His word.

I’m almost utterly rendered verbally paralyzed when I read this passage because I know that I don’t always keep His word. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’m bad at keeping His word. I feel almost as if there’s no way that I can possibly keep God’s Word, and then I realize, I’m right. I can’t keep God’s Word, but God can.

You see, when you and I were saved Jesus came to live on the inside of us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live, worship, and even work for God’s Kingdom. He does this by giving us gifts and equiping us for the ministry (1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4). We can’t do anything in the way of God’s Kingdom unless He sends the Holy Spirit to empower us for the work of the ministry.

When we say we know him, and we simply do nothing but attend church and act like it’s a holy social club, we then prove that we actually don’t know Him. We prove that we don’t actually acknowledge the real Jesus of the Scriptures, but rather a God and a Jesus of our own making.

Even as I write this blog post, I acknowledge that I have done this before. My sin is ever before and I pray God would grant me repentance and empower me to do more for Him. So, today, think and pray over 1st John 2:3-6. Let the Holy Spirit empower you for the service of the Lord.

Integrity in Pastoral Ministry

If you could mold the perfect pastor, what would he look like? Would he be a great expositor? Would he be able to give practical and biblical solutions to any problem that was brought before him? Would he deliver humorous anecdotes in his sermons? Would he love his wife to the way Christ loves the Church? Would he love his children and model the role of our heavenly father by being kind and showing loving leadership to his children the way God does for us?

Unfortunately, sometimes when a pulpit committee tries to decide on a pastor they don’t answer those last two questions first. This is why you have so many people who are excellent preachers, but they are horrid pastors. When you see a church goer that is satisfied to go to church on Sunday and live like hell Monday through Saturday, then there’s a good chance that they have a pastor that does the same.  This is why character is so important as a pastor. Pastoral ministry always starts in the home. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 tells us “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”

Your home is a private sector that’s limited to you and your family. It’s easy to avoid dealing with your sin at home because you are under the impression that your home life is your business and you can keep it separate from your church life because you treat your church like a source of income instead of treating it like the Bride of Christ. If you let your habitual sin control you in the home, it will control you in the church. James tells us that sin is simply a slow and painful death.

“But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.” – James 1:14-16 (NRSV)

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Pastor of Cross Church of Fayetteville, and author of 10 Things Every Minister Should Know said that personal holiness seems to be a forgotten commodity in the church today and he’s not wrong. Names of famous pastors are popping up almost every week in the news and why? It seems like there’s a sin epidemic that going around and reality is that you, I, and everybody are all susceptible to it, but at what point to go from just being susceptible to being victims of the epidemic? In the passage we just looked at in James, what’s going on? You’re tempted by your desire. You’re lured and enticed by your desire. Your desire conceives, and then all at once, you’re in sin before you know it. It’s when you allow your desire to conceive with the allurement of ungodly affections that you give birth to sin. So, what’s the answer? What can possibly keep us from allowing sin to grow in us?

When we were justified, we received the Holy Spirit. According to Acts 1:8, we were granted power by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. In Peter’s second epistle, the Apostle breaks down for us what it means to have that power.

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.  For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:2-8 (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit gave us divine power, and according to the Apostle Peter, that power is all we need for life and godliness. Why? Because that divine power produces a divine nature within us. Because we are harnessing a divine nature, we must make every effort to make our faith active with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. We’re not fighting this battle against sin alone. Jesus declared victory over sin when He stepped in bodily form out of the tomb, and soon God will declare our final victory over sin when all those who have God’s Spirit dwelling inside them will rise triumphantly to meet Jesus in the air.

Confessions: Unforgiveness and Bitterness

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – [Ephesians 4:29-32 NLT]

I know a lot of times I post about theology but there are other times, like now, that I just like I need to share with you from my heart. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’ve been holding unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart against some people that I didn’t even know that I had resentment against. I’ve just been talking a lot of things through lately with myself and someone else that I love dearly and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t hold unforgiveness back in my heart anymore over something that happened two and a half years ago. Holding a grudge is only destructive to the person who is holding the grudge. There’s nothing that you gain from continually being angry over things that don’t affect you anymore.

In these verses in Ephesians we find Paul talking to the church at Ephesus instructing them not to use foul or abusive language. I like what the Good News Bible says in verse 29:

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” – [Ephesians 4:29 GNB]

After reading this and continuing to read in verse 30, you find that using harmful words is in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit. God gave us a tongue to use wholesome speech for His glory. We’re supposed to use positive words to help people and be blessing. Lately, I’ve been guilty of complaining too much when I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve.

What I find interesting is that these ‘harmful words’ are not only in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit but apparently they are also connected with bitterness and unforgiveness. The reason they are connected is because in Luke it says:

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – [Luke 6:45 ESV]

If we really speak what is out of our heart then if our speech is negative then we need to examine our heart. The word for ‘harmful’, in the Greek, literally means something that is putrid or rotten. When I think of something that is rotten I think of something that is dead. When we hold unforgiveness in our hearts it will come out in our speech and we will hold on to dead issues that cause our hearts and our speech to be rotten and it will cause the hearers of that speech to feel rotten as well about your situation. But when our speech is good it will do good to those that hear it. The word for ‘good’, in the Greek, is the word charis which is also used for the word, grace. This leads me to believe that when our speech is good and wholesome it communicates something to the hearers about the grace of God. As your thinking about this, let God begin to melt your heart and take out things that don’t need to have any place there. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!