Do you ever feel like the opportunity for Christian witness is closing down—like the doors that might have been cracked open are slamming shut, as we try to find ways to spread the message of Christ with people we know? Check out this “boldness and clarity” from Rosaria Butterfield:
In this post-Christian world, our theology is on display in everything that we do and say. Take, for example, the attic door that was swinging from a broken hinge at the Butterfield house on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, and Phil, the neighborhood handyman who came to fix it. When Phil answered my call to take a small job, I welcomed him in, pointed out the attic door, made sure that he knew the coffee in the pot was his to finish, and then returned to homeschool my children.
But then I heard it. Someone was crying.
Phil was in tears. He had finished the job, and was sitting in my kitchen, head buried in calloused hands, sobbing. I asked why and it all tumbled out: Christians are dangerous people, and this past election proved it. How could we move forward as friends if we don’t agree on basic values? How could I believe the things I do?
In order to live with boldness and clarity as a light to the world, we have to love our neighbor sacrificially and live our lives with gospel transparency. We must risk loving our neighbors well enough that they know where God stands in our sin and our suffering. Our neighbors need to know who we really are and who we serve.
Not so that we can agree to disagree.
But so that we can disagree and still eat dinner together, at the end of the meal opening God’s Word and discussing what we find therein. We need to be transparent in sharing the Scriptures, which God has ordained to speak to His people. It is in these places—these uncomfortable, honest, awkward places of seeing the image of God in each other across the wide divides—that the gospel could travel with integrity, if we took greater risks than we do. Because in order to reflect God’s image in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, we need to do more than smile and nod.
In our post-Christian world, our words cannot be stronger than our relationships. This means that we prepare for the hard work of building strong relationships and the clear dangers of speaking gospel truth. We lean into conflict. And we aren’t overly sensitive about what people say to or about us. We proclaim Christ crucified, and we take every opportunity to do so. This is what it means to offer our post-Christian world authentic and bold Christian truth.
Check it out everyone:
So, while we are aware that we’re in a bit of a volatile time in terms of the changing nature of public health needs, we are tentatively moving forward with plans to hold our Philly Young Adults conference again this year. Obviously, if it becomes clear that we need to change course, or cancel, we will do so in a timely manner, and refund everyone’s money.
Here’s the basic info:
Theme: Learning to Love the Old Testament
Dates: November 13-14
Location: Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia
Speaker: Dr. Dominick Hernandez (Southern Seminary)
Website with all details and Registration: PYAC20.COM
QUESTIONS? : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tentative Conference Schedule:
Friday, November 13:
7:00 pm Doors Open
7:30 pm Session 1 – “What’s the Old Testament ‘God’ to do with me?”
Post Session 1: Group Worship
Saturday, November 14:
9:00 am Doors Open
9:30 am Session 2 – “What do we Learn from the Women of the Old Testament?”
11:00 am Session 3 – “What do we do with the Law?”
1:00 pm Session 4 – “OT Wisdom Doesn’t Seem to ‘Work’!”
Post Session 4: Group Worship
3:00 pm Conference Ends
Great to see everyone last night. Next week we’ll be back in home groups. Here are the notes from the study:
Psalm 1 lays out two paths…The Blessed life is the life we want. What “blessed” means—“This is the truly blessed life.” The life to be envied, to be admired. “Happy.” This is “the good life.” We say: “They have the best life.”
Verse 3 helps us define what this means:
- Fruit: Your life is producing all the things it’s supposed to produce.
- Leaf: You are healthy, you have what you need.
- Prosper: Your life is successful, according to God’s design for humanity.
The way to it is to ignore the counsel of the ungodly, and spend your life meditating on God’s word, because you love it.
What is the counsel of the ungodly?
- It is advice about how you should think, act, or live your life that comes from people who don’t know God.
- It is when people who don’t actually acknowledge God as their king tell you who you should be.
- It is when people who don’t make following Jesus a priority tell you where you should be headed.
Today, the counsel of the ungodly doesn’t just come through people we know, but also through a whole network of technologies and media and all that that keeps all these ideas pressing on us 24/7.
How do we actually, practically avoid the “counsel of the ungodly” and instead “meditate on the law of the Lord”? Here are some scriptures for food for thought…
- Keep these words in your heart… by actively involving them in your life as much as possible. (v.7-9) Talk about them everywhere, teach them, center your family around them, start your day with them, end your day with them, make them central in your identity, let them shape your home… This is how to avoid “walking in the counsel of the ungodly.”
Psalm 119:11, 97-100, 104-105
- Saturating yourself in God’s word is how you avoid all kinds of traps.
- This is a meditation on Psalm 1. Notice the parallels: “Walking in the counsel of the ungodly” becomes “trusting in Man” and “meditating on the law of the Lord” becomes “trusting in the Lord.”
- There is such a thing as people who speak with an air of authority, but everyone who listens to them is worse off (v.16)
- The antidote is verse 18.
- There are all kinds of voices out there. There are people who offer all kinds of advice. There are people who claim to have higher knowledge and insight… God calls it all “chaff.” The Word of God, spoken faithfully, is the only thing that matters.
- Why would someone ever build on the beach? Maybe everyone told them it was a great place to build. The Counsel of the ungodly will tell you where to build your house. They’ll tell you the sand is a perfect place to build. They’ll give you all kinds of advice about how to build on the sand, where to build on the sand. But they’ll never acknowledge that it’s a bad place to build your house, or that there’s even another option. In other words, they’ll never acknowledge that someone should base their whole life on Jesus’ words.
- A possible interpretation of verse 43: If you can’t listen to God’s word, you won’t understand the things Jesus said either. If the Bible is uninteresting to you, you’ll misunderstand Jesus.
- How does Jesus protect our emotional life? What provision has he made to keep us happy? His words. He spoke the things we needed to be inwardly whole. And he made sure those words were written down so we could meditate on them day and night, and be ok. Even if everything around us got tense or anxious or angry or lit on fire… we can have inner joy.
- For instance, see…
- What has he given us to make sure we don’t give up or freak out when we face real opposition? His words. Remember them, and you won’t stumble.
Sum Up: Psalm 1:1-4
“The counsel of the ungodly” doesn’t just come through people we know, but also through a whole network of technologies and media and all that that keeps all these ideas pressing on us 24/7.
God is calling us to ignore all of that, in terms of anything that really matters about our lives…and give ourselves to reading, knowing, thinking deeply about, loving, talking about, and even spreading… God’s words. That’s how you’ll avoid being ruined by the counsel of the ungodly. That’s how you’ll have a life that isn’t weightless and worthless like chaff. That’s how you’ll be healthy, strong, resilient and fruitful… till Jesus comes.
The other night I read this sentence in Thomas Oden’s book Classic Christianity:
“The Christian life requires simple surrender of the will to God on a continuing basis.”
There is so much in that one sentence–so much that is true. How will you possibly defeat sin, especially those sins that seem to have your number? (You know, the ones that are really hard for you to actually give up?)
Well, the only answer I have discovered is, one moment of temptation at a time.
How will you trust God, live for him, witness for Christ, know what to say, be led of God, love people, bear fruit, handle heart break, press on, and make it all the way to your death bed or Christ’s coming–having remained faithful? One moment, one decision, one prayer, one act of faith at a time. By the power of the Spirit. One moment of dependence on God, in which he meets you with his life and power and guidance, at a time.
Simple surrender of the will, on a continuing basis.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” That’s how Paul said it; and doesn’t that “day by day” also mean “moment by moment”?
I really think we need to constantly remind ourselves of this–or we will lose heart. And we need to constantly remind each other too. We need to be encouraging each other to press on. “He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Press on, friends. Don’t grow weary. Reaping time will be here soon.
And here is that quote from Oden, in its full context:
Faith requires a daily attitude of being yielded–a full readiness to respond to the promptings of grace by the Spirit. By this daily yielding, one is enabled to become more fully conformed to God’s will ‘that we may share in his holiness’ (Hebrews 12:10).
One may grow in yieldedness to grace by daily surrender and obedience. ‘Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God’ (Romans 8:12-14)
Under the tyranny of sin we were previously committing our bodies daily to a kind of ‘slavery to impurity and every kind of wickedness.’ Now that grace has come in Jesus Christ we are free to commit our bodies totally ‘to righteous leading to holiness’ (Romans 6:19).
The Christian life requires simple surrender of the will to God on a continuing basis (Matthew 6:10).
In proportion as God’s will is done in one’s life, one is walking in the way of holiness. In proportion as one is able honestly to say ‘Nevertheless not my will but thy will be done’ (Luke 22:42), just in that degree is one receptively cooperating with maturing grace.
Pastor Joe’s began teaching through Revelation on Sunday. In line with that, here’s a good concise explanation (from this book) of what we mean when we say that Jesus’ coming is imminent…
It is important that the difference between “immediate” and “imminent” in the English language be understood. “immediate” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary” means “taking effect without delay.” Thus an immediate return would not allow any intervening events.
“Imminent”, on the other hand, means “impending”– it may happen at any time. Other events may intervene but this does not affect the impending nature of the return. The coming of the Lord in the NT is presented as imminent rather than immediate.
If it had been spoken of as immediate, saints would have cause for disappointment, as years have now run into decades and decades into centuries since the promise was given and the Lord still has not come. But the imminent return has been the hope of the church from apostolic times since it did not await the fulfillment of any intervening spiritual event.
God, with events in His own hands (Acts 1:7) could have so ordered matters that the return of the Saviour could have occurred at any stage. The perfect tense of [the word for “drawn near” used in] James 5:8–which can be literally translated “the coming of the Lord hath drawn nigh”–shows that with the divine calendar is His coming. It does not have to be immediate but it is certainly imminent. Believers in each succeeding age enjoy the glorious anticipation of His coming. The truth of imminence demands that a moral and ethical answer be seen in the life (1 John 3:3). God designed it so.
Sadly, in successive ages misinterpretation of scripture has robbed many saints of the joy and stimulus of the imminence of his glorious hope.
Christian maturity shows itself in knowledge. We are to be men in understanding.
The apostolic prayer is, that believers may be filled with the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God. We are to “go on unto perfection.” We have received the unction from above, from the Holy One, and therefore possess the power to know all things. It is through the truth that the Father sanctifies us. Growth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the necessary manifestation of life. This knowledge increases not merely in compass, but in depth; it assumes the character of intense conviction.
In this respect mature Christians form a strong contrast to a peculiarity of our present age. A keen observer thus describes this feature of our day: “A weak generation feels it pleasant to be waved to and fro by every wind of doctrine; a childish and effeminate race deems it an advantage to have no fixed conviction, and would find it tiresome to continue with life-long loyalty in the one truth, and to find peace in the one thought.” It is constant change—the intellectual activity and excitement in the search after truth, and not truth itself—which is their great object. Hence words, brilliant and subtle dialectics, negative doubts, and attacks on old opinions afford the nutriment of many minds.
This tendency affects even Christians; but God has revealed to us by His Spirit Himself and the spiritual realities of His heavenly kingdom. We know the things freely given to us of God. Jesus is the Truth. And the Spirit, whom we have received, leads us into the whole truth, according to the Savior’s promise.
It does not become the Christian, with Christ his light, with the Holy Ghost his teacher, with Scripture his manual, to speak as the children of the age, who possess opinions, but not truth; who, seeking to establish a wisdom of their own, have not submitted themselves to the wisdom of God. But to be established in the truth is the characteristic of Christian manhood, the result of diligent, earnest, and conscientious study of God’s word.
“Therefore…let us go on to maturity.”
Good things to ponder, friends…
Here’s more gold from Alec Motyer. Reading Isaiah 56:1-12, he asks, what are the distinctive marks of God’s people?
First personal decision, (“joined himself to the Lord”, v. 3, 6), and love of his name (v.6), the determination to go the Lord’s way (“choose”, v.4).
And what does it mean to “take a firm grip on my covenant”? Two things: his “covenant” is first and foremost his outreach to us in grace and love, his gracious promises made our personal possession, and then secondly, as a result, our life of obedience, living for his good pleasure (Col. 1:10).
Our hearts, given to the Lord and full of love for all he has revealed about himself (his name); our wills, committed and choosing what we know will please him; our lives, as their basic principle, resting on his grace, living out his Word.
We are joined to the Lord himself in spiritual union; pondering, loving and reveling in his revealed truth; committed to going his way; saved by grace; obedient in life.
Listen to his last point, as he sums up what this all means, and ponder how relevant this is in our day of anxious, spreading division and isolation:
These are the things
that bind us
into the shared reality of being the one, universal people of the Lord,
the blessed company of all believers…
We need to give careful attention to all that unites, and to be wary of things that make differences and divide.
Prescient, wise words.
This follows on a post from a few weeks ago. Here is Francis Schaeffer, speaking life!
God willing, I will push and politic no more….
The mountains are too high, history is too long, and eternity is longer.
God is too great, man is too small, there are many of God’s dear children, and all around there are men going to Hell.
And if one man and a small group of men do not approve of where I am and what I do, does it prove I’ve missed success?
Only one thing will determine that – whether this day I’m where the Lord of lords and King of kings wants me to be.
To win as many as I can, to help strengthen the hands of those who fight unbelief in the historical setting in which there are placed, to know the reality of ‘the Lord is my song,’ and to be committed to the Holy Spirit – that is what I wish I could know to be the reality of each day as it closes.
The other day I ran into this article by Anthony Esolen, in which he translated an old teaching on why we shouldn’t speak badly about others, or, as the author puts it, why we shouldn’t “speak ill” of each other.
He says: “The following is from Alessandro Manzoni … The translation is my own. If we followed its wisdom, our politicians would have more freedom to attend to their business, social media might become social, and our churches might become hotbeds of charity.” That’s a pretty interesting recommendation. I recommend pressing through the older language, and considering this wisdom:
What is the main and common motive that makes us speak ill of our neighbor? That we love the truth? That we wish to draw a just distinction between virtue and vice? And the usual result—is it, perhaps, that we set forth truth in a clear light, that we honor virtue, and abominate vice? A simple look at society should persuade us right away of the contrary, and show the true motives, the true features and the common results of ill speaking.
Consider the idle chatter of men. Each in his vanity wants everyone else to notice him, but he meets an obstacle: all the others in their vanity seek the same thing. So they battle with all their skill, sometimes with open force, to win that attention that so rarely is granted them. Why, then, is it so easy for a man to feel comfortable when he declares by his very first words that he is going to speak evil of his neighbor? Why, if not that it holds forth some wretched relief to so many of his passions? And such passions! There is pride, that in its silent work makes us see our own superiority in the abasement of another, that consoles us for our failings with the thought that others have the same, or worse. A miserable way for man to err! Hungry for perfection, he scoffs at the help that religion offers him for progressing toward the absolute perfection that God has made him for, and he busies himself with a comparative perfection instead; he longs not to be the best, but to be first; he wants not to become great, but to weigh himself against others.
There is envy, inseparable from pride: envy that rejoices in evil as charity rejoices in good; envy that breathes more easily whenever a good name is besmirched, whenever it finds less of some virtue or talent. There is hatred, that makes us so quick to find evil; the self-interest that causes us to hate a competitor of any sort. These and others like them are the passions that lead us so easily to speak evil and to listen to it. They explain in part the ugly pleasure we feel in laughing at someone and condemning him. They explain why we are so indulgent and facile in our reasoning when we find fault, while a good deed has to pass a most severe tribunal before we will believe in it or in the just and pure intention behind it. No wonder if our religion does not know what to make of these passions and what they set in action. For how can such materials, sodden and worthless for building, find a place in the edifice of love and humility, of piety and reason, that she wishes to raise up in the heart of all men?
In ill-speaking there is a cowardice that likens it to secret denunciation, casting in high relief its opposition to the spirit of the Gospel, which is all frankness and dignity. For the spirit of the Gospel detests all things covert and sneaking, whereby you can hurt someone without exposing yourself. In the differences that must arise among men when they defend what is just, the Gospel commands a conduct that requires courage. One man can usually censure another without running any risk; it is to strike someone who cannot defend himself; and often with the censure there is mingled some flattery, as ignoble as it is sly, of the person who is to hear it. Never speak evil of a deaf man is one of the profound and merciful prescriptions of the law of Moses (Leviticus 19:14). Catholic moralists who apply it also to one who is absent show that they have entered into the true spirit of a religion which demands that when we find ourselves opposed to another, we keep our charity and we flee from all baseness and discourtesy.
Many say that ill-speaking is a kind of censure that helps hold men to their duties. As if a court stuffed with judges who have interests against the defendant, where the defendant is neither confronted nor heard, where anyone who might take up his cause will be put off or ridiculed, while all the points for the prosecution will be carefully laid out—as if such a court were well suited to diminish the number of crimes! But we can readily observe that we give credence to ill-speaking based on arguments that, if we had any interest in examining their strength, would never suffice to establish even a slight probability.
Ill-speaking makes a worse man out of him who speaks and him who listens, and all too often it makes a worse man out of the victim, too. When it strikes an innocent person (and of all the many sins there are, to accuse someone unjustly is among the worst), what a temptation it poses for him! Perhaps he has traveled the steep path of honesty, seeking the approval of men—full of that notion, commonplace but false, that virtue is always recognized and appreciated. Then, seeing it not to be so in his case, he begins to believe that virtue is an empty name, and his soul, that had fed on happy and peaceful images of applause and concord, begins to taste the bitterness of hatred; and the unstable foundation upon which he has built his virtue gives way. How much happier he would have been, had it made him think instead that the praise of men is no safe reward—no reward.
Alas, if mistrust reigns among men, one of the reasons is the ease with which we speak evil. You see a man shake another man’s hand, the smile of friendship on his lips, and then you hear him run the man down behind his back. How shall you not suspect that in every expression of esteem and affection, some treachery may lie hidden? But trust would grow, and benevolence and peace along with it, if detraction were forbidden. You could embrace a man and be sure that he would not then make you the object of his reproach and derision, and you would do so naturally, with a purer and freer feeling of charity.
Many people think that those who are slow to suppose evil are too simple and inexperienced; as if it shows great perspicacity to suppose that every man in every case will choose the worst! On the contrary: a disposition to judge with forbearance, to weigh each one of a storm of accusations, and to meet real faults with compassion, requires a habit of reflecting on the vast array of human motives, and on the nature of man and his weakness.
When a man hears whispers against him (and informants are the bastard children of those who speak evil), he suffers an injustice that he alone can know, but whose peril everyone else can and therefore are duty-bound to recognize. He has acted in circumstances whose complexity he alone comprehends; his detractor, not privy to the whole, judges him on one bare fact and by rules he cannot apply with any just reckoning; it may be he reproaches the man for not doing what he would have done, perhaps because he does not share the same passions. And even if the censured man is forced to admit that the ill-speaking was no calumny, he will hardly be moved to reconsider his ways. Rather, he becomes indignant. He does not think of reforming himself. He turns to examine how his detractor conducts himself, to find out some weakness in him, to turn the tables. Impartiality is rare enough among men; rarer still among the offended. So do we lapse into a wretched war, the restless business of exposing the faults of others while we neglect our own.
When our interests set us against one another, what wonder is it that wrath and blows are so ready to us, as we pay back evil for evil? We are set up for it, having thought and spoken much evil already. In speech we are accustomed to be unforgiving, to enjoy someone else’s discomfiture, even to tear down people with whom we are not at odds; we treat as enemies people we do not know; how then shall we find ourselves suddenly disposed to charity and calm judgment, when the matter is more difficult and calls for a soul formed by long practice of those virtues? That is why the Church, desiring brotherhood, wishes that men not think evil, that they weep when they see it, that they speak of one who is absent with the same delicacy that our own self-love causes us to use for people in our presence.
If you want to govern your actions, rein in your words, and to govern those, set a watch about your heart.
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