Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not by obeying the law, but by walking in the Spirit

I was reading Galatians 3 with my family last night, and gained some new understanding on a crucial question for the Christian life. The Galatians had been justified by believing the Gospel, by grace through faith according to the power of Holy Spirit regeneration, not by feeble - or even mighty - attempts to obey the law. Why then, Paul asks, were they trying to proceed through obedience to the law instead of by that same Holy Spirit power?

I've long pondered the step-by-step method of living in the Spirit, or keeping in step with the Spirit. How do I live in the present by the Spirit, not trusting my own efforts to follow Christ? I think it has to do with "being" rather than "doing." It's not so much that I need to obey the law - for Christ did that for me; rather, I need to pursue the fruit of the Spirit. I need to be loving, joyful, patient, kind, gentle, self-controlled, etc... In "being," I will find the "doing" follows naturally - or perhaps supernaturally - as the Holy Spirit conforms not merely my behavior but my very character to that of Jesus.

There was some good family discussion around this topic, and we concluded, hopefully rightly, that justification comes by grace through faith by the logically primary regenerating action of the Hoy Spirit, and sanctification follows in the same manner. Our failures and setbacks in the sanctification process come when we concern ourselves more with "doing," instead of focusing on "being." We will always and inevitably fail at the "doing," because that comes through our own efforts, even when we think we are cooperating with the Spirit. But a greater level of success - though not perfection in this life - will come as we keep in step with the Spirit, by "being."

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

So it's not, "I need to obey better today." Instead, it's, "I need to be more like this today." Lord willing, I will be.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Worldview Premises: Culture vs Christianity

According to Paul David Tripp, current culture rests upon seven premises: (1) human beings are autonomous (not under authority); (2) pleasure is an ultimate end; (3) effort must be undertaken to meet "my needs”; (4) love of self is the greatest need; (5) “bigger pleasure is better”; (6) “a constant pursuit of instant gratification” is essential to my pleasure; and (7) physical is more important than spiritual.

All of these premises are contrary to the Biblical worldview, in which: (1) humans are not autonomous, but rather theonomous (our authority, whether we submit to Him or not, is God); (2) pleasure is good, but never as an end in itself - personal holiness and the glory of God are the ultimate ends; but they go together for the Christian, and there is pleasure in seeking them (for the joy of the Lord is our strength); (3) our focus should not be on meeting "my needs," because we know that God provides for our needs; instead our focus should be on the things of God and His revealed will; (4) love of God is the greatest need, and the love of others flows from that; there's nothing wrong with love of self, but we must allow that to overflow to others (love your neighbor as yourself); (5) bigger pleasure is still only temporal at best and sinfully achieved at worst; therefore, holiness and obedience are better than temporal pleasures, because they form a personal character that is prepared to embrace eternal pleasure that starts here and continues forever in the next life; (6) instant gratification may enhance temporal pleasure, but patience is an underestimated virtue (the best things come to those who wait); I can be joyful regardless of circumstances, because God is good; (7) the natural man cannot understand spiritual things, so "physical" certainly seems more important than "spiritual," but once we have the Holy Spirit, we learn to realize the infinite value of perfect and permanent "spiritual" realities, compared with the imperfect, temporal, and constantly fading "physical" experiences.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Moving - the right move!

There's an important spiritual lesson in moving, and it's a lesson that needs repeating regularly, say every 4-7 years. We are sojourners in this life; it's not good to get too comfortable. Suffering loss is not bad; it sanctifies and helps us long for the glorious appearing of the one surety we have in Jesus. I'd say we were meant to move. There may be a time for everything, including waiting and resting, but settling in a world that's not our home isn't good.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why is Jesus the Greatest Gift Ever Given?

A lifetime couldn't exhaust the fullness of the right answer to this question, but it was worth pondering for my family last night. The statement that Jesus is the greatest gift has become somewhat cliche, so I penned 12 reasons why Jesus is the greatest gift and we discussed. Here they are, and I hope you can agree and perhaps add to or at least discuss this list with your family as you celebrate his birthday.

1) Jesus gives life - both eternally to come and abundantly here and now (John 3:16,36; 5:24; 10:10; 20:31; Act 13:48; Romans 6:23)

2) Jesus is life - and our food and drink (John 4:13-14; 6:35-45; 14:6)

3) Jesus created and sustains all things, including us, and He is the way (John 1:3; 14:6; Colossians 1:16-20; Hebrews 1:3)

4) Jesus is eternal, everlasting, and never fading (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-2; Hebrews 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:20)

5) Jesus brigs peace - both peace with God and the peace of God (Matthew 10:34; John 16:33; 20:19-21; Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20; Philippians 4:7)

6) Jesus brings light to our darkness - understanding, purpose, and meaning (John 1:4-14; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

7) Jesus brings joy (Isaiah 35:10; Luke 2:10; John 15:11)

8) Jesus brings freedom (John 8:31-47; Galatians 5:1; Revelation 1:4)

9) Jesus is our hope (Hebrews 3:6; 6:11; 2 Corinthians 11:10; Colossians 1:27; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3)

10) Jesus is the only way of salvation from God's righteous anger and wrath (John 14:6)

11) Jesus is our truth, our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption (John 1:17; 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13)

12) Nothing matters without Jesus, and with Him, everything is better (Philippians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

Our family concluded these thoughts by listening to Brandon Heath's excellent message in his song, "The Night Before Christmas." Thankfully, we no linger have to spend time in the night before Christmas, because it has come; He has come! Rejoice! Again I say, "Rejoice!" Merry Christmas!