En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

  • Grab My Button!

    BWS tips button
    <a href="http://dadsdevoted.com"><img src="http://i496.photobucket.com/albums/rr323/baileytribe/blog/blckwhite_button.jpg" alt="BWS tips button" width="125" height="125" /></a><div style="border: 1px solid #DDD; margin: auto; padding: 5px 10px; background: #F8F8F8 none repeat scroll 0pt 0pt; overflow: auto; height: 100px; line-height: 1.5em;">***</div>

Posts Tagged ‘public’

Posting on a new site!

Posted by Scott on December 9, 2009

Christmas Greetings-

I wanted to share with everyone who subscribes to this blog I will be posting on my new site effective today 12-9-2009. You can go to www.EnGhedi.com and subscribe for RSS feed and direct email notifications there. The new En Ghedi site is colorful and hopefully useful. I have added some of my favorite mentor’s site’s I have gleened so much from in my journey to know God in a much deeper way. I think you will enjoy the new look, the new content, and ease of use. In the future I will post book reviews on both sites, articles I think are important to be on both sites as well, but the main site will be www.EnGhedi.com .

Over the coming months I will be moving many of the post from this site over to the new site, so you may encounter a repeat message.

I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas and most blessed New Year.

Pressing on, Scott

www.EnGhedi.com

Advertisements

Posted in education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A “Shift” in the Wrong Direction…The Shift…a critique!

Posted by Scott on January 21, 2009

The Shift is a book on a supposedly new awareness, a new reality, etc.  This shift as the book tells us that everything we see and experience is from a higher “Infinite Being is the all-encompassing consciousness from which the universe was created.”  I don’t mean to rain on The Shift parade, but it is all man-made “hog-wash”.  The only Infinite Being is the sovereign God, creator of this universe and beyond.  This Infinite Being was not thought up in human minds under some new consciousness, but God has always been from eternity past, still is, and always will be in eternities future.  The God Almighty is the only infinite being that is immeasurably awesome, inconceivably great, inexhaustible, endless, and greater than any preassigned finite value no matter how large.
The Shift tells us that it is the spiritual and creative awakening of humanity. This trans-formative movement has gained momentum in recent years to the point where, today, more than one in four adults (25%) have moved forward towards this new stage of cultural awareness. 2 John 1:5 “I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning.  I ask that we love one another (believers), and this is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands.”  2 John 1: 9 “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teachings of Christ does not have God.”  So, there is no new stage or new awareness.  The things we have been taught from the beginning about Christ is to be carried forward to the end, not the new awareness or The Shift. 

 

New Reality consciousness means to experience new vistas of awareness and new levels of creativity. It means following your heart to express your inner joy through making your own meaningful contribution towards the betterment of the world.   Colossians 2:8 tells us this, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”  -John Piper  Also, what does God tell us about our hearts in Psalm 64:6b “…we have devised a perfect plan!  Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.”  We cannot trust the heart.  Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God!'”  Our hearts need to be examined often by God in order to remain pure at heart…Psalm 26:2 “Test me, O Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” 

 

 

In “The Shift: The Revolution in Human Consciousness,” Owen Waters has woven together leading-edge cultural studies with his own discoveries about the human energy system in order to demonstrate that we are in the midst of the biggest cultural shift of all times.

 

 

This book demonstrates that the future of mankind is not just bright… it is brilliant!  Read Revelation and we will know that the future of mankind is anything but bright or brilliant.  The future for God’s people is very bright to perfect, but for unbelievers, the future is nothing but death, torment, and eternal damnation.  This is the reality of what is to come.  This tormenting future may be closer than all of us want to believe.  In Daniel we see that in the prophecy chapter 12 that the many dead will awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  He further talks about the people that would go here and there seeking out to increase their knowledge.  The implications are as we have it today, people are meandering around all over seeking a new awareness, The Shift. 

Who should we ask for knowledge?  Ask our Lord, “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands.” Psalm 119:66  It is not that we look within for great knowledge or awareness, but go to our Creator, our heavenly Father…He will give us knowledge and wisdom for each day.  Proverbs 1:7 “ The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
       but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

So, I will conclude that knowledge and wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.  If we want knowledge we need to ask of our great Lord and He will supply us with all knowledge we can handle.  We do not need to make a mindless shift anywhere…stay with what is true from the old teachings.  God’s Word is never changing, always fresh today as it was yesterday.  I leave you with a reminder directly from God’s Word:

“Don’t be deceived , my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  -James 1:17

If you are looking for answers, looking for peace, looking for something far beyond what you have ever experienced, I encourage you to consider your life now.  As most people do not think they need a savior and certainly do not want anyone or anything being a lord over their life, however, the Bible tells us we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  A sinful act does not just have to be something that we have actually done, if we think it, Jesus tells us, we have committed a sin against God.  Any sin, even just one sin is punishable by death…our God is a “just” God.  However, Jesus came to this earth as God and as a man.  He voluntarily died a punishing death to atone for the sins of the saints.  This death gives us a way to God the Father forever.  The call is for each of us to fall on our knees in admittance of sin before a holy and pure God.  Ask for forgiveness of all your sins today admitting that you have been an enemy of God.  Tell Jesus you are not worthy of the salvation He offers, but you want it by His gracious will.  Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life once and for all.   Receive by the power of the Holy Spirit a new life in Christ.  This life is not a posh easy life, but it is the greatest life.  This new life is one of hardships, sacrifices and obedience before our heavenly Father.  I warn you now that a life lived for Christ could cost you your physical life, it could cost you some of your friends, could cost you your job.  Are you willing to pay the price?  Are you willing to accept the cost of the only true life to live which is found in Christ Jesus?  I beg you to think on this hard today and if you sense a pricking in your soul, that could be the Holy Spirit drawing you in…do not resist this drawing of the Spirit, just obey and follow Him.

Scott Bailey 2009

Posted in Christianity, devotion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coming Presidential Inaugural Makes Christ a Minister of Condemnation!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation

 

(Author: John Piper)

At Barack Obama‘s request, tomorrow in the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation for the inauguration kick-off.

This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.

It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.

The implications of this are serious.

It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.

The apostle Paul says,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves , nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is Paul saying about things like adultery, greed, stealing, and homosexual practice? As J. I. Packer puts it, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.” (Christianity Today, January 2003, p. 48).

In other words, to bless people in these sins, instead of offering them forgiveness and deliverance from them, is to minister damnation to them, not salvation.

The gospel, with its forgiveness and deliverance from homosexual practice, offers salvation. Gene Robinson, with his blessing and approval of homosexual practice, offers damnation. And he does it in the name of Christ.

It is as though Obama sought out a church which blessed stealing and adultery, and then chose its most well-known thief and adulterer, and asked him to pray.

One more time: The issue here is not that presidents may need to tolerate things they don’t approve of. The issue is this: In linking the Christian ministry to the approval of homosexual activity, Christ is made a minister of condemnation.

By John Piper

Posted in desiring god | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pantheistic World View!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

The Pantheistic World View
by David Clark

 

 

Pantheists’ views of reality have several common threads. Seven of these can be identified.

1. Oneness of reality. All pantheists agree that reality is one. This, of course, distinguishes them as pantheists. Though many modify this oneness in one way or another, in the final analysis, each panthe­ist believes that God (by whatever name he or it is called) is all that exists. (Perhaps the best example is Plotinus, who actually uses the word One to designate this unified ultimate reality. In this respect pantheism shares with naturalism the distinction of believing in only one form of reality. Naturalism, which says that Nature alone is real, affirms only one kind of reality, namely, the natural world described by scientific laws. Although many pantheists deny the reality of mat­ter, with naturalists they affirm the oneness of all things.)

A corollary to this central point is of great importance. Since God is the All, it follows that whatever is real will be found within his being. Therefore, and quite significantly, opposites like good and evil coalesce in God. Or, as pantheists more commonly put it, God is beyond good and evil. Additionally, it is asserted that God is beyond personality/impersonality, being/becoming, and finitude/infinitude. What it means to say God is “beyond” these concepts is an issue we shall raise again. For now, it is enough to recognize that affirming God as the All involves pantheists in saying that God swallows up every pair of conceptual opposites.

2. The independence of God. Pantheists generally assert that the highest reality is in no way dependent. Everything else depends on God; God depends on nothing. Typical of this point of view is Sarvepali Radhakrishnan’s claim that even if the world should pass away, God would remain unaffected. Further, God is in no way limit­ed by the world. The world and its creatures cannot force God’s hand in any way. In general terms, pantheism sides with theism in empha­sizing that God is impervious to outside influence. Both of these views reject various positions (such as Alfred North Whitehead’s pro­cess philosophy) that affirm a finite God who is dependent on cre­ation. In Christian theism, although God loves persons and chooses to answer their prayers, God’s creatures cannot dictate their will to God or force God to be other than he is. God can listen to his crea­tures and willingly act on their behalf, but he is clearly not dependent on the world he has created.

An important result of this stress on God’s independence surfaces in pantheists’ descriptions of God. Precisely because God is so magnificent, pantheists wish to avoid ascribing any characteristics to him. To define is to “finitize,” to make finite, to delimit. Even if we compliment God by ascribing to him what many take to be positive qualities like personhood or goodness, our concepts limit him. We have used our thinking and our logic to force God to be this way and not that way. But God cannot be so limited. He explodes all our puny concepts. Thus, pantheists typically avoid such descriptions altogeth­er, preferring rather to leave him or it nameless. This method of emphasizing God’s greatness and independence will become especial­ly relevant in later discussion.

3. God as impersonal. Although theists may agree with pantheists on God’s independence, the two positions differ significantly on the personhood of God. Is God personal or impersonal? Theists, of course, conceive God in personal terms. God is ultimately and maximally personal; humans are personal only in a derivative, finite, and trun­cated manner. Thus, God is far more than humanly personal; he is not merely personal as we experience personhood. Pantheists, howev­er, generally argue that personhood is simply another of those delim­iting concepts that reduce God to the level of our thought.

Additionally, personhood entails twoness, for to be personal is to be in relation to another person. (You cannot live personally by your­self, which is why solitary confinement is such a debilitating punish­ment.) Since pantheism militates against any form of duality, God must rise above personality into the impersonal. Many pantheists will use personal metaphors like Father to speak of God, and some will even allow for the worship of a personal God among unlearned people. But in the final analysis, the concept of personhood does not appropriately describe God.

4. Necessary creation. While pantheists and theists both speak of creation, they mean quite different things by that concept. When the­ists speak of creation, they mean that a personal God chose to bring other beings, his creatures, into existence. But pantheists view cre­ation as a necessary event that occurs because it is God’s very nature to do it. Creation is not freely chosen; it occurs by necessity. Indeed, if only persons can choose freely and God is not personal, then God could not freely choose to create. Remember Spinoza’s statement that God “exists from the necessity of its own nature alone and is deter­mined to action by itself alone.”( Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. James Gutmann, based on the White-Sterling edi­tion, The Hafner Library of Classics (New York: Hafner, 1963), pt. 1, def. 7.) This Spinoza calls freedom, but he cannot mean the sort of freedom in which an intelligent being chooses among several options. God acts “freely” only in that cre­ation is not caused by something other than God. In reality, creation is necessary.

5. Creation out of God. In contrast to theists, who believe in cre­ation out of nothing (ex nihilo}, pantheists hold that creation is out of God (ex Deo). The universe (nature) is of the same substance as God. In fact, it is God. Whether it is spoken of as an emanation, a manifes­tation, or a dimension of God, the real world is not simply like God;

it is God.

6. The divinity of humans. Pantheists naturally argue that every aspect of finite existence is an expression or extension of the divine. As part of this finite reality, humans are manifestations of God. This idea finds its classic statement in the Hindu doctrine, tat tvam asi (“that art thou”). Commenting on this theme, Shankara notes that union with God is not something to be sought. It only needs to be realized since it is already true—it is “self-established.”( Shankara, The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana with the Commentary by Sankara, trans. George Thibaut, 2 parts (New York: Dover, 1962), 2.1.14; 1.1.)   Each person contains the spark of the divine.

7. The world as a lower level of reality. Though critics sometimes contend that pantheism claims the world does not exist, this does not apply to all pantheists. Some explicitly reject this conclusion. In some cases they state rather emphatically that the world is real. Generally, pantheists try to ascribe to the world at least a rudimenta­ry form of reality. For example, Radhakrishnan says that we must not infer the non-existence of the many from the higher existence of the One. At the same time, pantheists do affirm that the kind of reality they are talking about in reference to this world is at a lower level of being than the ultimate.

If the world has some sort of reality and it depends upon God, how does this differ from theism? Theists also assert that this world is dependent and yet real. The difference is that theists hold the world to be really different from God while pantheists do not. Though the­ists believe that creation is dependent, and in that sense a lower form of reality, they also affirm that the world is distinct from its creator. (The other possible position is held by deists, who, in contrast to both theists and pantheists, declare that the world is both distinct from and independent of its creator.) Pantheists believe that the world is neither independent of nor distinct from God.

8. Levels of reality as perceptual ignorance. Though pantheists often protest that this world is not completely denied, they also com­monly affirm that it is real only from a certain point of view. Spinoza tells us that the solution to Descartes’s perplexing mind-body prob­lem is that mind and body are the same reality viewed under different attributes. Idealistic Buddhists will say that the objects of this world are simply states of consciousness. Initially, Hindus like Shankara will not accept this interpretation. The world is real from a certain, lower point of view. One should not say the world is like the horns on a toad, entirely non-existent. Yet at the same time, Shankara tells us, the lower point of view is the perspective of ignorance.

We may summarize Shankara’s claims in this way: (1) reality is one beyond the multiplicity of everyday life, (2) yet empirical reality is not nothing, (3) empirical reality is real from a certain point of view, and yet (4) that point of view is ignorance compared to the greater truth of the union achieved through mystical insight. Despite protests, the effect of this set of beliefs appears to be that the world we live in each day is not, as such, real.

We turn now to relate these historic pantheistic themes to the claims made in the current manifestations of pantheism in the New Age movement. In what ways do New Agers promote these meta­physical ideas? Teaching about the unity and independence of God is omnipresent in New Age circles. The impersonal nature of the ulti­mate is emphasized by the Force of Star Wars. The little guru, Yoda, teaches us that the Force is within each of us, just as The Karate Kid informs us that ki is within. The divinity of each person is reinforced repeatedly. For example, Jack Underbill of Life Times magazine says, “You are God. Honest. I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the DMV know?”( Quoted in Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Waco: Word, 1988), p. 29.)

Since each of us is God, our innate human potential can solve world problems and holistic health can yield a higher degree of well-ness than ever before. Because of the connection with the divine, New Agers promote human potential for stress reduction, increased productivity, and personal transformation at weekend seminars and in corporate executive suites. The various elements of a “New Medicine” that taps inner energy sources are taught in several leading nursing and medical schools. The claim is that these can achieve a level of healing unavailable through traditional medical care.( See Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 57-91.) Both soul (through the human potential movement) and body (through the holistic health movement) can achieve impressive new heights of wellness through the recognition of the organic nature of reality. Clearly, the pantheistic world view lies behind many New Age claims.

The Knowledge of Mystical Consciousness

Most pantheisms depend on mystical experience as the primary mode of consciousness. Mystic insight provides access to the divine in a way qualitatively different from sensuous experience. Seven com­mon themes can be identified in this mystical mode of knowing.

1. The abandonment of the senses. Pantheism tends to turn away from knowledge that depends on the observations of the senses. Instead, pantheists often use a mystical epistemology. But even when they use a more rational way, pantheists warn that naive dependence on the senses can be misleading. Typical of mystical pantheists’ claims would be Shankara’s statement that since ignorance is due to dependence on the senses, Brahman is empirically unknowable. Those who write in modern times, Radhakrishnan particularly, do incorporate the validity of science, which obviously depends on sen­suous observation. At the same time, they believe that knowledge is inadequate if it is based only on the senses. Even though he believes that perception has a legitimate role, Radhakrishnan places it at a lower level than intuition.

2. Two levels of knowledge. In most pantheists the minimizing of sensuous knowledge leads to some sort of two-truth theory. This view affirms the correctness (at least initially) of two different modes of knowing, even though those two modes may ultimately lead to vastly different conclusions about the nature of reality. Very com­monly, pantheists will acknowledge a rudimentary adequacy of every­day knowledge and language. But intuitive knowledge must transcend this level. Generally the intuitive is described metaphorically as high­er knowledge; one rises above sensuous and logical knowledge to the heights of truth.

The higher levels of knowledge perform several functions. In gener­al, all the pantheists believe that the higher knowledge corrects the distortions of the lower. More specifically, Shankara uses the two-lev-els-of-truth idea to resolve apparent problems in the Hindu scriptures: difficulties arise when we suppose that contradictory statements in scripture operate at the same level, but in fact they do not. Radha­krishnan uses the two-truth theory to support his pluralism: all reli­gious doctrines, despite greater or lesser adequacy, point to the same God.

3. Knowledge by direct apprehension. Pantheists in general depend on a direct, first-hand grasp of reality. The lower levels of knowledge, which depend on the senses, give at best a knowledge based on logical steps. Since this knowledge must use logic to move from a sense experience to knowledge of the object of experience, it will always be indirect. But this lower knowledge gives way to a higher knowledge based on an immediate, direct, and intuitive experience. Even the rationalist Spinoza considers intuition the highest knowledge. Intuition depends on reason, but is “more potent” for it gives a knowledge that is clear, distinct, and perfect.( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium; props. 25, 28.) A claim more typical of mystical pantheists is one by Plotinus, that we may achieve a kind of knowing where knower and known are one. Here one knows the One by becoming the One.

4. The self-certifying nature of mystical intuition. Since some experiences mislead us, many philosophers are interested in whether we have warrant for accepting certain experiences as genuine. For example, we might check our own experiences against those of others to minimize the chance that we might be misled by an unknown illu­sion. But mystics do not accept any factors external to their experi­ences that could certify the genuineness of their intuitions. They believe the mystical intuition carries its own stamp of authenticity. To someone who has experienced the mystical union, external verifi­cation procedures are no more necessary than fins on a cat. As D. T. Suzuki says, a mystic who has experienced the highest knowledge can say with assurance, “I am the Ultimate Reality itself” and “I am absolute knower.”( D. T. Suzuki, “Zen: A Reply to Dr. Hu Shih,” in D. T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen (New York: Delta, 1955), p. 147)

5. The inadequacy of logic. Pantheistic epistemologies of various types typically give logic a preliminary validity at best. Logic always involves a division between A and not-A. But the unifying thrust of pantheism seeks to overcome this distinction at the ultimate level. Shankara surprises us by his admission that logic plays a vital role in knowledge. In fact, he argues that to insist on an absolute distinction between self and Brahman opposes true logic. At the same time, Brahman is clearly beyond logical distinctions. Plotinus says the same of the One. And Suzuki, in his desire to achieve shock effect, provides the most extreme example of this tendency when he says that Zen can “serenely go its own way without at all heeding . . . criticism” about logical contradictions.( D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957), p. 49.)

6. The inadequacy of language. Pantheists generally agree that the self-certifying knowledge of direct union cannot be expressed in words. Language necessarily depends on the either/or of logic. Without A/non-A, language would not communicate content. If A = non-A, if black equals white and cat equals dog, what would The cat is black communicate? To accept the essential correctness of linguis­tic description is to acknowledge that the law of noncontradiction relates to reality. This they believe suggests that reality is made up of more than one thing, of A and non-A. This conclusion the pantheist cannot accept. So language is universally thought by mystical panthe­ists to be a distortion. Speaking of the holistic knowledge of the One, Plotinus reminds us, “we are forced to apply to the Supreme terms which strictly are ruled out.”( Plotinus, The Six Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page, 6 vols. (Chicago and London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 6.9 [3, 10, 11]; 5.3 [13].)

7. The ineffability of mystical objects and intuition. The inadequa­cy of language leads to an important corollary, ineffability. Ineffability means that since linguistic description must break things into logical opposites, things that cannot be so broken must be indescribable. As Radhakrishnan explains, “God is too great for words to explain. He is like light, making things luminous but himself invisible.”( Sarvepali Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life (London: Alien and Unwin, 1932), p. 97. ) When mystics, whether Western or Eastern, do use language, they often limit themselves to negative language. That is, though they will not say what God is, they may try to say what he is not.

To what degree are these themes reflected in New Age affirma­tions? New Age advocates commonly denigrate logical, conceptual, and empirical ways of knowing. Instead, they practically deify mysti­cal and intuitive knowledge. For example, Shirley MacLaine places the hero of a novel in an acupuncture session where the “doctor” says, “Now relax. . . . Let your mind go. Don’t evaluate and don’t let the left brain judge what you are thinking. Give your right brain more space. As a matter of fact, don’t think.” (Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (Toronto: Bantam, 1985), p. 312.) Ironically, as this quote sug­gests, New Age proponents are fixated on the right brain/left brain research. The irony lies in the fact that the distination depends on the rational, left-brain methods of science. New Agers use the rational, left-brain distinction between left and right brains primarily to pro­mote holistic, immediate/ intuitive right-brain thought to the exclu­sion of dichotomistic left-brain thought.

Many New Agers also defend the self-certifying and ineffable char­acter of the higher consciousness. The author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, says that you reach genuine knowl­edge “only when you get yourself out of the way. You have to be will­ing to have experiences and not have words for them.”( Interview with Chandler, Understanding, p. 38) When we shut down the analytical left brain, reach beyond the logic-chopping words inherent in all conceptuality, and open ourselves to Mind-at-Large, then the Higher Consciousness breaks in. For those who hope to apprehend true knowledge, this is the New Age party line.

The Religious Dimensions of Pantheistic Mysticism

The pantheists’ views of religious experience and of salvation fol­low closely their epistemology. The mystical experience that pantheists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.

1. Knowledge is salvation. In the classic question of faith and rea­son, several positions have been proposed. For most theists, faith (that is, our trust in and relation to God) and reason (that is, our cognitive knowledge about God) are different. Some have said that faith and reasoning about God are mutually exclusive. Seren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth have taken this position. But many theists believe that they are mutually supportive. Pantheists generally hold that the two are the same; there is no substantive difference between faith (salva­tion) and reason (experiential knowledge). Salvation is knowledge, though this knowledge is intuitive, not rational. To be enlightened through mystical intuition or higher consciousness about the true reality of our oneness with God is in itself to be saved from our false experience of pain in the world.

2. Ignorance as the source of evil. If knowledge is salvation, the cause of the problems from which we are saved is our own ignorance. We languish far from our heavenly home because we do not realize our true identity. Oriental writers tie their view of reincarnation to this problem of ignorance. If we fail to realize our oneness with God, we suffer through the debilitating series of lives full of pain and sor­row. Enlightenment enables us to begin walking the path toward God. Through this ascent we can overcome the evil caused by ignorance. Similarly, Spinoza tells us that viewing God as a mysterious person who controls things by an omnipotent will leaves unexplained all the absurd and evil things that happen to us. This false view of God leads to spiritual blindness.

3. Salvation through human effort. Pantheists affirm various tech­niques for arriving at true knowledge, the mystical experience of enlightenment that is salvation. Generally, however, achieving higher consciousness involves human effort and discipline. Although Spinoza is unique among the pantheists we have discussed in his use of geometry to achieve knowledge, favorites in the East are yoga and other forms of meditation. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism leaves nothing either to chance or to the will of a capricious personal God. Through the use of koan (those maddening mental puzzles that bring reason to a standstill) and zazen (sitting meditation) the Zen novice begins the journey toward enlightenment. The Vedanta Hindus usually permit the three avenues to salvation: meditation leading to intuitive con­sciousness, good works of service, and devotion to a personal God. But the latter two are given legitimate status only grudgingly; the real path to Brahman is mystical union. Here most emphatically can we theists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.  Only through experience is that indescribable sweetness by which we rise above this world of pain and find union with God.

4. The mystical ascent. Pantheists often describe the path to salva­tion as an ascent. We have “fallen,” metaphorically speaking, and we need to rise again to our true oneness with God. Although this fall is sometimes given moral overtones, the pantheists’ use of the metaphor is not identical to the Judeo-Christian idea of a fall into sin. Instead of holding to a moral fall, pantheists teach a fall into igno­rance. Salvation reverses this fall, and for this reason the concept of an ascent into something higher (both a higher point of view episte-mologically and a higher reality metaphysically) dominates panthe­ists’ descriptions of salvation. In Plotinus the language of ascent is prominent, for he speaks most directly about the descent from God in his idea of emanation. Matter and this world are things that weigh us down. Through mystical devotion and ethical living we cast off this excess baggage like sailors throwing weight off their ship during a storm. Thus lightened, we move back up the ladder to Mind and finally to the One, our home.

This aspect of Plotinus finds parallels not only in the other panthe­ists who speak often of the higher and lower points of view, but also in many medieval Christian writers. We should note, however, that in the majority of cases, Christians speak of ascending to a personal union with God. The culminating stage of the Christian’s climb is the two-in-one union of personal love, not the absolute oneness of imper­sonal identity.

5. The peace of salvation. As with any religious philosophy, pan­theism claims to give a solution to life’s problems. This solution includes a sense of peace, tranquility, and repose. Although it is sometimes heavily philosophical, the whole point of pantheism is not philosophical in the traditional sense in that pantheists do not seek rational truth for its own sake. Pantheism’s goal is the religious sense of assurance, peace, and contact with God that religions seek.

Put another way, pantheists do not seek primarily to explain our experiences of the world and of evil; they seek instead to resolve our problems with evil. Consequently, each pantheist in this study ends his chain of thinking by promising a sense of peace and release from tension and worry. Even the rationalist Spinoza believed that knowl­edge brought the tranquility we need for living; he argued for a blessedness that he described as “constant and eternal love toward God.”( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium.) Similarly, each pantheist, no matter how philosophically ori­ented, finds the purpose of his philosophy fulfilled in this religious goal.

6. Pluralism of beliefs. The pantheistic emphasis on experiential knowledge leads very naturally to religious pluralism, a perspective that has gained a firm foothold in this century. Because pantheists deem our experience to be so important, they imply that the concepts we use to describe God, ourselves, and the world are correspondingly less important. Historically, Western pantheists have not generally followed this logic; they affirmed instead that differences in religious beliefs are important. Certainly Spinoza, at least, thought that certain concepts about God (say, the idea of miracles) were both philosophi­cally false and religiously dangerous. But Oriental pantheists do com­monly hold that differing religious beliefs can all be “true.” Suzuki’s Buddhism does not really accept any doctrine. Actually, he affirms that no religious doctrines are ultimately true. This is within the spir­it of the original Buddhist teaching.

Hinduism, however, most emphatically states that contradictory theoretical conceptions can be accepted as true. This all-embracing religious pluralism of Hinduism is at home in a modern world where the mood is characterized by the statement, “Your faith is good for you; mine is good for me.” The willingness within Hindu faith to accept alternative conceptions means that Hinduism includes pan­theism, polytheism, and even theism. In fact, scholars generally concede that Buddhism no longer survives in India, the land of its origin, because Hinduism’s inclusive nature simply swallowed up Buddhism’s distinctive teachings. Radhakrishnan, the modern Hindu, explicitly affirms this pluralism in his belief that various religions are all acceptable paths toward the religious goal of happiness and good­ness. Even though Westerners historically have been more exclusive, this aspect of Hinduism is increasingly becoming part of the domi­nant religious perspective of our time.

How does the New Age movement today display these ideas? Salvation from the suffering of reincarnation and the pain caused by ignorance are common pantheistic themes. These find expression in the writings of typical New Age proponents. That ignorance causes pain and requires a change in consciousness is a primary theme of the many seminars that promote the new awareness necessary for enlightenment. Famous examples include the est training sessions of Werner Erhard (he now has a new group called Forum) and the Esalen Institute in California. The Esalen Institute has attracted a number of famous psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Abraham Maslow. These seminars preach the same message: you are ignorant of your true divinity, so gain a new perception through (insert one of a number of techniques here) and experience a trans­formed personal consciousness.

 

 

Pantheism’s Self-Defeating Character

Pantheism’s analysis of our individual experience of the world brings up a final point: pantheism is unaffirmable and self-defeating. The principle of self-defeat comes into play whenever a statement does something that it affirms cannot be done. Though it can be uttered or said, such a statement cannot be affirmed meaningfully because of its self-destructive character. The statement is philosophi­cally suspect, for it tries to do something that it says cannot be done. If the sentence were meaningful, it would destroy itself. Therefore, it is unaffirmable.

A well-known example of this problem is found in our own centu­ry. Philosophers known as logical positivists developed what they called the Verification Principle. This axiom of positivist thinking stated that only two kinds of statements could count as meaningful:

definitions and facts, with facts defined as statements that are empiri­cally verifiable. On this criterion, logical positivism considered state­ments about theological, ethical, or esthetic realities meaningless because they were neither definitional nor factually verifiable. But here is the catch: the Verification Principle is self-defeating for it is neither a definition nor a fact. If the Verification Principle were some­how correct, it would be meaningless on its own criterion. The his­toric collapse of the positivists’ agenda shows the power of this prin­ciple of self-defeat.

This principle makes it difficult to affirm pantheism meaningfully. A pantheist usually claims that he was once blind, lost in ignorance due to the dominance of the logical, empirical view of things. But now he has regained his sight, the ability to see the truth that only God exists and that the finite perspective of sensuous observation is essentially misleading. He is saying, in effect, “I came to realize that I don’t exist. I came to see that I was always God.” This raises an appropriate question: Who is talking? What does I refer to in these sentences?

Several possibilities confront us. Perhaps I in this statement refers to a finite individual. The pantheist is speaking from a limited per­spective as an individual person. But in this case, his statement is self-defeating. He is saying, “I am telling you that I don’t exist.” What sense can we make of that? If someone exists to tell us this, the state­ment must be false. If the statement is true, there could be no speaker to utter it. If I means a finite individual, then the pantheist’s affirma­tion declares that he does not exist as such, and in this way he pulls that rug out from under his statement.

To evade this glaring problem, he could claim that I in this state­ment is God. He is speaking from the ultimate point of view. But although this alternative solves the problem of self-defeat, it raises two more pressing questions. First, why is he trying to express this to me? Presumably, I do not exist either. But he is treating me as a real entity by recognizing my presence and responding to my questions. Second, how is it that the infinite mind of God was once deceived and has now come to see the truth? This implies both that God’s understanding was once wrong and that it changes through time. If / denotes the ultimate being God, then the pantheists’ statement implies that God is a limited being, not infinite, as pantheists claim.

The rational pressure these problems create puts stress on panthe­ism’s view of the reality of the finite individual’s perspective. For example, Shankara says that the lower perspective of the sensuous realm is true. In that perspective, my individual existence is real and God is personal. But from the higher perspective, my individual exis­tence is not real, and God is beyond personhood. Both viewpoints, he says, are true. Yet from the higher perspective, the lower point of view confuses a coiled rope with a snake. In other words, we assume, the lower perspective is not really true. Yet here is the pantheist, writing as a finite individual to convince us in our finite perspectives that finite egos are part of that coiled-rope point of view.

So which is it? Do pantheists speak from the finite, individual per­spective of empirical egos or not? If they do, it appears that the state­ments they utter concerning the unreality of their own finite exis­tence self-destruct. If they do not and if they claim instead to speak from God’s ultimate perspective, it seems that they are introducing into God hefty doses of fallibility and mutability. Shankara paints himself into a corner. Mutism, the refusal to say anything, would be better. But that, too, has problems, as we shall see in chapter 8. In a word, the noble desire to compliment God as the All negates the very reality of the one who compliments. God therefore cannot get com­plimented at all. This dilemma, it appears, is a powerful challenge to the coherence of the pantheistic philosophy.

Personal existence may have some reality in modified forms of pantheism. As our descriptive survey revealed, not all pantheists call the world absolute nothingness. They have various means for ascrib­ing some sort of limited reality to individual persons. One would run roughshod over the pantheists’ actual beliefs by considering only the extreme illusionist view of the world. But we can state the objection in another way to incorporate this fact: to the degree that the perspec­tive of the experiencing/thinking person as an individual is claimed to be part of an illusion, pantheism is self-defeating. If the finite point of view is admitted, then the self-defeat is mitigated. However, to the degree that the pantheist admits the reality of the individual experi­encing/thinking person he abandons his fundamental pantheistic premises and moderates in a theistic direction.

As a response, a pantheist might try to maintain his own existence just long enough to assert that he does not exist. But if he does this, we can only think that it is somehow ad hoc and unfair to exempt that one statement from the broader premises of his philosophy. This reminds us of the psychological determinists, who exempt their own rational choices that lead them to accept their deterministic theory from the general principles of that theory. The ad hoc nature of these self-licensed exceptions to the rule reveals basic conceptual flaws that, in our view, can be corrected only by major structural changes. In pantheism’s case, this means the affirmation of the real existence of the person who affirms a world view. It means a modification in the direction of theism.

Conclusion

Discussion of pantheistic metaphysics has revolved around the pantheists’ persistent resistance to the predication of concepts to God. Pantheists have claimed that using concepts to describe God both divides what is unified and limits what is infinite. Concepts are always defined in terms of opposites. We know black because it is the opposite of white and good because it is the opposite of evil. So using concepts for description always divides unity and entails that what is so described is limited to only one of the two concepts. Therefore, if God is personal, then he is not impersonal, and there is something that he is not.

This fundamental pantheistic urge arises from noble motives. But it also entails certain consequences that cannot be ignored. Some of these create problems internally in that they run up against the tests of consistency and coherence. If we cannot describe God at all, then the word God loses any intelligible meaning. If we cannot describe God as personal, then creation is necessary, and he must create.

Other consequences concern external problems in that they run into the criteria of comprehensiveness and congruence. If God alone exists, how do we explain the vast wealth of experience had by every person alive that apparently leads us to believe that selves, others, and the real world actually exist? And if God alone exists, how could we ever affirm his existence from our individual, presumably nonreal point of view? Judgment then, says that these rational tensions make pantheistic metaphysics, despite its positive contributions and noble motivations, a poor choice if we are seeking the world view that best explains the total experience of our lives.

 

See his book, “Apologetics in the New Age.”

Email Dr. C. Matthew McMahon (Curriculum Vitae and Bio):  © A Puritan’s Mind, All Rights Reserved, 1998-2008

Scott Bailey 2009

 

 

 

 
 

Posted in Emerging Topics, New Age | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Our Sovereign God is exceedingly and abundantly powerful!

Posted by Scott on January 12, 2009

Ephesians 3:20-21 is a doxology Paul places in this letter to the Ephesians.  A doxology you might ask is a praise or glory given to Almighty God.  Every prayer should have a doxology if not entire prayers most of the time.  Think about our prayers for a minute.  How much time do we honestly spend in praise and glorifying our God compared to the amount of time we spend asking for something.  It is absolutely amazing the time spent in “asking”.

Of course, God wants us to come to Him and ask.  He already knows what we will ask for, but He still wants that open line of communication with us to ask for anything in accordance with His will.  As true Believers we should have in mind that which God wants not really what we want in the flesh.  In taking a closer look at this doxology at the end of chapter 3 from Paul to the Ephesians we find out much more than we might imgaine.

When we ask or confirm something of God, in accordance with what we believe He wants for us, it would be good to do so with this mindset: 

1. God has the power to do whatever He wants to do…He is our Sovereign Lord.

2. God can produce, make, or fashion in us whatever He desires…He is our Sovereign Lord.

3. God can go far beyond in delivering what we have ask or begged for.  He can go exceedingly, unthinkably far beyond anything we can even dream up or think in our minds.  Think of asking in these terms:  desiring, craving, begging, calling out for that which God has placed on our hearts to ask for…He is our Sovereign Lord.

4. God does this in accordance with His power, His unending ability that He has put on display within our lives..He is our Sovereign Lord.

5. God’s exceeding abundance is a great reflection of His inexhaustible fullness of mercy and grace.  The “well” can never be overdrawn.  The “well” of God’s grace and mercy will never go dry.  We are always welcome at this “well”.  Remember Psalm 81:10 “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things.” (NLT)  He is our Sovereign Lord.

6. God’s power is all-sufficient and almightly powerful that He has saved each of us as Believers.  This same power (awesome ability) is the power that was able to take a spiritually dead bag of bones like me and bring it to Himself in salvation.  No one has this kind of power except God…no one!  He is our Sovereign Lord.

7. God is looking for excellencies and praises  to be ascribed towards Him in our prayers…He is our Sovereign Lord.

8. God provided us with a mediator in Jesus Christ His Son…He is our Sovereign Lord.

9. All of the praises and glories that we garble towards God goes through the hand of Jesus Christ our great mediator (high priest)…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

10. All of graces, mercies, and gifts that come to us from our heavenly Father comes through that same hand of Jesus Christ our Lord…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

So, this is how I offer up this doxology personally for me this morning:

“Finally, O Sovereign God, who has the awesome ability to produce unthinkably far beyond what I have desired or begged for or can even fathom in my small mind to ask for, according to Your great power that is constantly on display in my life daily, it is to You, my Almighty God that all the honors and glory and praises through my perfect Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and may they be lifted up from every generation for ever and ever! AMEN.”

Just remember while praying to give God the praise and glory for your life today…He is our Sovereign Lord.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

References: 

-Matthew Henry Commentaries

-Logos Strong’s Lexicon Greek guide

-NIV Bible, NLT Bible, KJV Bible, & NASB Bible

Posted in devotion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A New Testament Guide on What We Should Pray For in 2009?

Posted by Scott on January 1, 2009

What Should We Pray For?



One way to answer this question is to look at what the early church prayed for. Here is a list gathered from the New Testament. It can guide you in how you pray. I suggest that periodically you pray through this list just to test whether your prayers are leaving out anything the New Testament included. We don’t have to pray all of these each time we pray. But over time it would be good if our prayers had the breadth and depth of the New Testament prayers.

They called on God to exalt his name in the world.

Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9).

They called on God to extend his kingdom in the world.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10 ).

They called on God that the gospel would run and triumph.

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

They called on God for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13; cf. Ephesians 3:19).

They called on God to vindicate his people in their cause.

And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (Luke 18:7).

They called on God to save unbelievers.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved (Romans 10:1).

They called on God to direct the use of the sword.

“Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying through all prayer and supplication on every occasion . . .” (Ephesians 6:17-18)

They called on God for boldness in proclamation.

Pray at all times in the Spirit . . . and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-19)

And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness (Acts 4:29).

They called on God for signs and wonders.

And now Lord . . . grant your servants to speak thy word with boldness . . . while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:30).

Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit (James 5:17 -18).

They called on God for the healing of wounded comrades.

Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:14-15).

They called on God for the healing of unbelievers.

It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him (Acts 28:8).

They called on God for the casting out of demons.

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29)

They called on God for miraculous deliverances.

So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church . . . When he realized [he had been freed], he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying (Acts 12:5,12).

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake (Acts 16:25-26).

They called on God for the raising of the dead.

But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

They called on God to supply his troops with necessities.

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

They called on God for strategic wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

They called on God to establish leadership in the outposts.

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed (Acts 14:23).

They called on God to send out reinforcements.

Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:38).

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:2-3).

They called on God for the success of other missionaries.

I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (Romans 15:30-31).

They called on God for unity and harmony in the ranks.

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20-21).

They called on God for the encouragement of togetherness.

[We are] praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3:10).

They called on God for a mind of discernment.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).

They called on God for a knowledge of his will.

And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).

They called on God to know him better.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10 ; cf. Ephesians 1:17 ).

They called on God for power to comprehend the love of Christ.

I bow my knees before the Father . . . that you may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:14,18).

They called on God for a deeper sense of assured hope.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:16,18).

They called on God for strength and endurance.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:11 ; cf. Ephesians 3:16).

They called on God for deeper sense of his power within them.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:16, 19).

They called on God that their faith not be destroyed.

I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren (Luke 22:32).

Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36).

They called on God for greater faith.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 ; cf. Ephesians 3:17).

They called on God that they might not fall into temptation.

Lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13).

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

They called on God that he would complete their resolves.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

They called on God that they would do good works.

[We have not ceased to pray for you that you] lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10).

They called on God or forgiveness for their sins.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

They called on God for protection from the evil one.

Deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).


© Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Posted in prayer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

117 Scriptural Names for Christ!

Posted by Scott on December 30, 2008

1. Adam (the last Adam)

1 Cor. 15:45

2. Advocate

1 John 2:1

3. Almighty

Rev. 1:8

4. Alpha

Rev. 1:8; 21:6

5. Amen

Rev. 3:14

6. Angel of the Lord

Gen. 16:9-14; Judg. 6:11-14

7. Anointed

Ps. 2:2

8. Apostle

Heb. 3:1

9. Author

Heb. 12:2

10. Babe

Luke 2:16

11. Beginning of creation

Rev. 3:14

12. Begotten of the Father

John 1:14

13. Beloved

Eph. 1:6

14. Bishop

1 Pet. 2:25

15. Blessed

1 Tim. 6:15

16. Branch

Zech. 3:8

17. Brazen serpent

John 3:14

18. Bread of life

John 6:35

19. Bridegroom

Matt. 9:15

20. Bright morning star

Rev. 22:16

21. Captain

Josh. 5:4

22. Carpenter

Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3

23. Chief Shepherd

1 Pet. 5:4

24. Child

Isa. 9:6

25. Christ

Matt. 1:16; 2:4

26. Commander

Isa. 55:4

27. Consolation of Israel

Luke 2:25.

28. Cornerstone

Eph. 2:20

29. Dayspring from on high

Luke 1:78

30. Day star

2 Pet. 1:19

31. Deliverer

Rom. 11:26

32. Desire of nations

Hag. 2:7

33. Door

John 10:9

34. Door of the sheepfold

John 10:7

35. Emmanuel

Matt. 1:23

36. Everlasting Father

Isa. 9:6

37. Express image of God

Heb. 1:3

38. Faithful witness

Rev. 1:5; 3:14; 19:11

39. First fruits

1 Cor. 15:23

40. Forerunner

Heb. 6:20

41. Foundation

Isa. 28:16

42. Fountain

Zech. 13:1

43. Friend of sinners

Matt. 11:19

44. Gift of God

2 Cor. 9:15

45. Glory of God

Isa. 60:1

46. God

John 1:1; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16

47. Good Samaritan

Luke 10:33

48. Good Shepherd

John 10:11, 14

49. Governor

Matt. 2:6

50. Great Shepherd

Heb. 13:20

51. Guide

Ps. 48:14

52. Head of the Church

Col. 1:18

53. Heir of all things

Heb. 1:2

54. High Priest

Heb. 3:1; 7:1

55. Holy child

Acts 4:30

56. Holy One of God

Mark 1:24

57. Holy One of Israel

Isa. 41:14

58. Horn of salvation

Ps. 18:2

59. Jehovah

Isa. 26:4; 40:3

60. Jesus

Matt. 1:21

61. Judge

Mic. 5:1; Acts 10:42

62. King of Israel

Matt. 27:42; John 1:49

63. Lamb of God

John 1:29, 36

64. Lawgiver

Isa. 33:22

65. Light of the world

John 9:5

66. Lion of the tribe of Judah

Rev. 5:5

67. Lord of lords

Rev. 19:16

68. Man

Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5

69. Master

Matt. 8:19

70. Mediator

1 Tim. 2:5

71. Messiah

Dan. 9:25; John 1:41

72. Mighty God

Isa. 9:6; 63:1

73. Minister

Heb. 8:2

74. Nazarene

Mark 1:24

75. Only begotten Son

John 1:18

76. Passover

1 Cor. 5:7

77. Physician

Matt. 9:12

78. Potentate

1 Tim. 6:15

79. Power of God

1 Cor. 1:24

80. Prince

Acts 3:15; 5:31

81. Prophet

Acts 3:22

82. Propitiation

1 John 2:2; 4:10

83. Purifier

Mal. 3:3

84. Priest

Heb. 4:14

85. Rabbi

John 3:2; 20:16

86. Ransom

1 Tim. 2:6

87. Reaper

Rev. 14:15

88. Redeemer

Isa. 59:20; 60:16

89. Refiner

Mal. 3:3

90. Refuge

Isa. 25:4

91. Resurrection

John 11:25

92. Righteousness

Jer. 23:6; 33:16

93. Rock

Deut. 32:15

94. Rod

Isa. 11:1

95. Root of David

Rev. 22:16

96. Rose of Sharon

Song of Sol. 2:1

97. Sacrifice

Eph. 5:2

98. Savior

Luke 1:47; 2:11

99. Second Adam

1 Cor. 15:47

100. Seed of Abraham

Gal. 3:16, 19

101. Seed of David

2 Tim. 2:8

102. Seed of the woman

Gen. 3:15

103. Servant

Isa. 42:1; 49:5-7

104. Shepherd

Ps. 23:1

105. Shiloh

Gen. 49:10

106. Son of David

Matt. 15:22; 20:30; 21:9

107. Son of God

Luke 1:35; Matt. 16:16

108. Son of Man (his favorite name for himself)

Matt. 18:11

109. Son of Mary

Mark 6:3

110. Son of the Most High

Luke 1:32

111. Stone

Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6-7

112. Sun of Righteousness

Mal. 4:2

113. Teacher (Master)

Matt. 26:18; John 3:2

114. True vine

John 15:1

115. Way

John 14:6

116. Wonderful

Isa. 9:6

117. Word

John 1:1; Rev. 19:13

Willmington, H.L.: Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists. Wheaton, IL : Tyndale, 1987, S. 160

Posted in devotion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Is It Real? By John MacArthur

Posted by Scott on December 30, 2008

Is It Real?
11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

John MacArthur

Is it Real? In 1746, about six years after the Great Awakening, in which Jonathan Edwards was the primary instrument of God to preach the gospel and bring about the greatest revival in American history thus far, Edwards wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. He wrote it to deal with a problem not unlike one we face today: the matter of evidence for true conversion. Many people want the blessings of salvation, especially eternal security, but no more.

In the explosive drama of the Great Awakening, it seemed as though conversions were occurring in great numbers. However, it didn’t take long to realize that some people claimed conversions that were not real. While various excesses and heightened emotional experiences were common, scores of people didn’t demonstrate any evidence in their lives to verify their claim to know and love Jesus Christ, which led critics to attack the Great Awakening, contending it was nothing but a big emotional bath without any true conversions.

Thus, partly in defense of true conversion and partly to ex­pose false conversion, Jonathan Edwards took up his pen. He came to this simple conclusion. The supreme proof of a true conversion is what he called “holy affections,” which are a zeal for holy things and a longing after God and personal holiness. He made a careful distinction between saving versus common operations of the Holy Spirit. Saving operations obviously produce salvation. Common operations of the Holy Spirit, he said, “may sober, arrest and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet these influences fall short of inward saving renewal” (lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], p. 255).

How can you tell whether the Holy Spirit has performed a saving operation? As the principle evidence of life is motion, Edwards wrote, so the principle evidence of saving grace is holy practice (pp. 262-63). He said true salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.

In the very year Edwards’ treatise was published, popular teaching asserted that, to the contrary, the only real evidence of true salvation is a feeling based on an experience–usually the experience at the moment of the alleged conversion. That teaching introduces the prevalent but erroneous concept that a person’s true spiritual state is known by a past experience rather than a present pursuit of holiness. Edwards flatly contradicted that notion: “Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit … [in] giving assurance” (p. 265). This is no esoteric theological debate: the substance of your assurance is at stake.

A number of New Testament writers, of course, were very concerned about this matter of true salvation, as was our Lord Jesus Himself. The apostle John dedicated his first letter to the subject, stating his theme at the end: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Throughout the letter is a series of tests to determine whether you possess eternal life. If you don’t pass these tests, you’ll know where you stand and what you need to do. If you do, you’ll have reason to enjoy your eternal salvation with great assurance.


Have You Enjoyed Fellowship with Christ and the Father?


This is an essential element in true salvation and the first test John presented. Look with me at chapter 1, which begins: “We [John and his fellow apostles] have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (vv. 2-3). Obviously he was going beyond just the earthly acquaintance he had with Jesus because he had no such earthly acquaintance with the Father. Rather, he was presently enjoying communion with the living God and the living Christ.

Now at first you might be tempted to think, Well, good for John, but his was not an isolated experience. In 1 John 5:1, he says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (emphasis added). It is characteristic of any believer to love God and Christ. It is a sign of the holy affections Jonathan Edwards spoke of. A relationship with God is basic to salvation. It is what we as believers were called to. “God is faithful,” Paul says, “through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

Paul described what that fellowship meant to him personally: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). There’s something very experiential about that truth–it’s not just a cold fact that we as believers have divine life living in us; there’s an experience to be enjoyed in knowing God intimately.

Jesus implied as much when He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10: 10 ). If He had just said, “I came that you may have life,” we could conclude He was talking only about His gracious provision of eternal life. By adding that life could be abundant, Jesus was moving into the dimension of experience. The Christian life is a rich life. We’re meant to experience joy, peace, love, and purpose. When someone who’s about to be baptized testifies about coming to Christ, you won’t hear, “The fact is, folks, I’m saved, and I’m just here to announce that.” Invariably the person will describe to you the feeling–the overwhelming sense of forgiveness and purpose in his or her life.

Here’s a taste of the abundant life Scripture describes in terms of our fellowship with the Lord. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10); the God who supplies all [our] needs according to His riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19); the God who leads us to speak to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19); the God to whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 ) like little children to the daddy we adore; the God we draw near to in time of trouble (Heb. 4:16 )–He Himself so greatly enriches us. Our fellowship with Him is the abundant life we experience.

Have you experienced communion with God and Christ? Have you sensed Their presence? Do you have a love for Them that draws you to Their presence? Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer–the exhilarating joy of talking to the living God? Have you experienced the refreshing, almost overwhelming sense of grace that comes upon you when you discover a new truth in His Word? If you have, then you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.


Are You Sensitive to Sin?


Let’s go back to chapter 1 of John’s first epistle, to this declaration in verse 5: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John was saying that the message the Lord sent to us is about Himself, specifically that He is absolutely sinless. The Greek text literally says there’s not a single bit of darkness in Him. Therefore, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do notpractice the truth” (v. 6).

Light and darkness do not coexist. One drives the other away. John went on to develop that theme: “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (vv. 7-10).

Some people make some pretty amazing claims that hold no water. They claim to have fellowship with God–to be Christians (v. 6), to have no sin (v. 8), and even to have never sinned (v. 10). They think they are walking in the light when actually they are walking in darkness. It is characteristic of unbelievers to be oblivious to the sins in their lives. The individuals mentioned in verse 8 are not dealing with their sins because they think they’ve reached a state where they have no sin. But they are deceiving themselves. Those mentioned in verse 10 have never even confessed or acknowledged sin. With that attitude they are in fact denigrating God because God says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, emphasis added). Since unbelievers are so insensitive to the reality of their condition, human sinfulness is the right starting point in sharing the gospel.

Believers, on the other hand, “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (v. 7). We walk a virtuous walk, and what’s more, “we confess our sins” (v. 9). True believers have a right sense of sin. They know if they’re going to commune with God they have to be holy. When sin occurs in their lives, they know it must be confessed.

John takes this teaching a step further in the next chapter. “My little children,” he explained, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1). True believers realize they don’t have to sin. But when they do, they know whom to go to–Jesus Christ, the believer’s advocate. The intercessory work of Christ is one of the great trinitarian securers of our salvation. That’s an encouraging reality to hang onto when confronted with personal sin.

The person who is truly saved is sensitive to the sinful realities in his or her life. That’s the example Paul left us in speaking of his heightened awareness of sin’s work in his own life (Rom. 7:14-25). Consider how that applies to you. Are you very much aware of the spiritual battle raging within you? Do you realize that to have true communion with God, you have to live a holy life–that you can’t walk in darkness and claim to have fellowship with Him? Are you willing to confess and forsake any sin in your life as you become aware of it? Do you realize you can choose not to sin–that you’re not fighting a battle you’re obliged to lose? But when you do fail, do you go to your divine advocate? Do you sometimes cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24 ) because you’re so weary of the burden of sin in your flesh? If so, you are obviously a Christian. And since salvation is secure, you might as well enjoy it and be fully assured.


Do You Obey God’s Word?


First John 2:3 couldn’t be clearer: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If you want to know whether you’re a true Christian, ask yourself whether you obey the commandments of Scripture. That’s how Jesus described a true disciple when giving His Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:20). Obedience to the commands of God produces assurance–the confidence of knowing for sure “that we have come to know Him.” The Greek word translated “keep” in verse 3 speaks of watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. It involves not only the act of obedience, but also the spirit of obedience–a willing, habitual safeguarding of the Word, not just in letter but in spirit. That’s supported by the word translated “commandments,” which refers specifically to the precepts of Christ rather than laws in general. Legal obedience demands perfection or penalty, whereas 1 John 2:3 is a call to gracious obedience because of the penalty Christ has already paid.

Verse 4 presents a logical contrast: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” That person is making a false claim. “But whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (v. 5). How can you determine if you are a true Christian? Not by sentiment but by obedience.

If you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test indicating the presence of saving faith.


Do You Reject This Evil World?


We now come to John’s fourth test of what characterizes the true Christian: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 ). This love speaks of our deepest constraints, our most compelling emotions and goals. Christians won’t feel that way toward anything in this world because they know that until Christ returns, this world is dominated by God’s enemy. John said, “We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 , niv). Satan, for now, is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The evil one has designed a system that the Bible simply calls “the world.” The Greek term (kosmos) speaks of a system encompassing false religion, errant philosophy, crime, immorality, materialism, and the like. When you become a Christian, such things repel you, not attract you. Sometimes you may be lured into worldly things, but it isn’t what you love; it’s what you hate. That’s the way Paul felt when he fell into sin (Rom. 7:15 ). As frustrating as it is to fall like that from time to time, we who are believers can be grateful that sin is something we hate and not love. That’s because our new life in Christ plants within us love for God and the things of God.

“All that is in the world,” John specified, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16-17). The world and its fleshly preoccupations are but temporary realities. The true believer, in contrast, has eternal life and will abide forever.

Jesus said those who follow Him are not of the world just as He was not of the world. We still move about in it to do His will as long as we are alive, but we are not of it. That’s why Jesus prayed specifically for the Father to keep us from the evil one (John 17:14 -16). We’re vulnerable to being sucked into this evil world’s system now and then, but our love is toward God. That love is what will draw us out and redirect our focus toward heavenly priorities.

Do you reject the world? Do you reject its false religions, damning ideologies, godless living, and vain pursuits? Instead, do you love God, His truth, His kingdom, and all that He stands for? That doesn’t come naturally to any man or woman because the human tendency is to love darkness rather than light to mask evil deeds (John 3:19-20). Unbelievers are of their father the devil, and want to do the desires of their father (John 8:44). If you reject the world and its devilish desires, that is an indication of new life in Christ. And since that new life is forever,


Do You Eagerly Await Christ’s Return?


Further along in 1 John, we come across a fifth test of salvation: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (3:2-3). If you’re a true Christian, you will have hope in your heart, and your hope will be focused on Christ’s return. That hope will purify your life.

Do you love Christ so much that you eagerly await to see Him face-to-face at His return and be made like Him? Scripture tells us that is the Christian’s blessed hope and supreme joy. Romans 8 declares that the whole creation groans in anticipation of the glorious manifestation of the children of God. First John 3 says that it involves three things: Christ appears, we see Him, and we’re instantly made like Him.

“Our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul said, “from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Are you waiting for that? Do you despise the sin in your fallen flesh and long to be like Christ? Can you feel the thrill of Paul’s saying, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly”? (1 Cor. 15:49)

Such a hope has ethical power, for John said it purifies the one possessing it. Paul implied as much to Titus: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13). This is a sensible hope leading to sensible living. It is not an inordinate kind of anticipation in which you are irresponsible with your earthly responsibilities. Being so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good is a contradiction in terms. The hope of Christlikeness will compel you to act more like Christ in reaching out to others and fulfilling all that God has set out for you to do.

If you find yourself longing for the return of Jesus Christ, that’s evidence of salvation. It’s an indication of a new nature within, which longs to be delivered from a body of sin while becoming like the perfect Christ. If you have such holy longings and affections, you’ve passed an important test indicating the reality of your eternal salvation.


Do You See a Decreasing Pattern of Sin in Your Life?


Another manifestation of holy affections is a decreasing pattern of sin. First John 3:4-10 spells out this sixth test:

Every one who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that [Christ] appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.

Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of the unregenerate. No matter what a person claims about being a Christian, if he or she continues in sin, it is only a claim and not a reality. When you became a Christian, the pattern of sin was broken and a new pattern came into existence. Holy affections took over. Does that mean there’s no sin in your life? No, because your unredeemed flesh is still there. But the more you pursue those religious affections, the less you will sin.

Sin as a life pattern is incompatible with salvation. That’s because to experience salvation is to be saved from something, and that something is sin. If a person could continue in sin after being saved from sin, that would mean salvation is ineffective. John therefore discussed the work of Christ to demonstrate just how effective it is.

He began by noting that there are people who practice sin and lawlessness (v. 4). Then Christ “appeared in order to take away sins” (v. 5). To say someone had the work of Christ applied to him or her, yet continues in the same pattern of sin is to deny the very purpose Christ came for, which was to take away sins. Continuing in sin is not consistent with Christ’s work on the cross. If a saved person could keep on sinning, that would mean Christ’s death–while having some efficacy in eternity–is in fact useless in time. Perish the thought! Christ’s death served the very useful purpose of taking away not only the penalty of sin, but also the pattern of sin in the believer’s life.

John went on to talk about Christ’s work through the believer’s union with Him: “No one who abides in Him sins” (v. 6). That cannot mean true Christians never sin because John just said, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Rather, the next two verses in chapter 3 explain, “The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (vv. 7-8). John’s first epistle is consistent in warning against a pattern of sin.

Now let me clarify something here. I frequently receive letters from anguished Christians who doubt their salvation because they can’t seem to break a sinful or unwise habit. They most often write about smoking, overeating, and masturbation. They fear their struggle with such things means they are locked into a pattern of sin. But John is not saying that the frequent occurrence of one particular sin in a person’s life means that person is lost. Rather, he clarifies his meaning in saying that a true believer cannot practice lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The Greek term used there (anomia) literally means living as if there were no law. A person who rejects God’s authority doesn’t care what God thinks about his habits, and is obviously not a Christian.

A Christian, however, has a drastically different way of relating to God. He or she is no longer a slave to sin, but has offered himself or herself as a servant to the Lord (Rom. 6:14, 17-18). A true Christian can still sin, and may even do so frequently, but sinning frequently is not the same as practicing sin. In 1 John we see that a true believer can do the first, but not the second.

Why is that the case? Because the true believer “abides in Him” (1 John 3:6). Not only does Christ’s death take away our sin, but also His ongoing life in us breaks the sin pattern. No longer are we perpetual sinners in thought, word, and deed–as we were before we were saved. We now have the option to do good. If we find ourselves sinning, contrary to the good we desire to do inside, we are much like the apostle Paul in Romans 7–and he’s a great person to be associated with! Yet because of the abiding presence of Christ, our struggle will decrease as time goes on. We will always be acutely sensitive to sin, for as we have seen, that’s one of John’s tests of saving faith, but sin will be less of a pattern in our lives. Christ lives in union with us to provide a new pattern–a pattern of righteousness.

A pattern of sin, however, signals a union with the devil: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (v. 8). The devil is a sinner and nothing but. Everyone who is associated with the devil is a sinner and nothing but. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people who are in bondage to sin. That means those who’ve really been rescued will not continue in the state they’ve been rescued from. A habitual pattern of sin indicates that a rescue has never taken place. To claim otherwise is to denigrate Christ by implying His death didn’t accomplish what He set out to do–destroy the works of the devil by rescuing people from sin.

In addition, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: any one who does not practice righteousness is not of God” (vv. 9-10). The believer has been born anew by the Holy Spirit. The seed He plants is a new nature, a new life principle, a new disposition. just as a seed planted in the ground produces a distinct kind of life, God’s seed produces a righteous life in us that breaks the pattern of sin. And don’t worry: that seed cannot die, for the Word of God tells us it’s imperishable (1 Peter 1:23). Born of the Spirit of God, the believer cannot continually sin.

John just provided us with four viewpoints in analyzing the sin in our life: the work Christ accomplished in His death, His ongoing life in the believer, His destruction of the devil’s works, and the regenerating work of the Spirit. Every way you look at it, the pattern of habitual sin is broken. What does that mean to you personally? If you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life, that’s evidence of holy affections. The difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is, as John said, “obvious” (v. 10). If you practice righteousness, you’re of God. If you don’t, you’re not. Plain and simple. If you see victory over sin in your life, if you see righteous motives, righteous desires, righteous words, righteous deeds, and if you’re not all you ought to be but certainly not what you used to be, then you have eternal life, so enjoy it.


Do You Love Other Christians?


In 1 John 3:10, John mentions two obvious facts. One, as we just saw, is that “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.” The other is that neither is anyone “who does not love his brother.” To amplify that point, let’s go back to a key section we missed in our progressive study of John’s letter: “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (2:9-11).

To say you’re in the light–or you’ve seen the light–is to claim to be a Christian. If so, your life would certainly show some of the life patterns of Christ. Loving fellow Christians is one very basic pattern. To be in fellowship with Christ is to experience and express love. If you claim to be a Christian but do not even like Christians, your claim is a sham. You are in fact walking in darkness, not in the light.

Loving fellow Christians comes naturally to the believer. As Paul said to the Thessalonian church, “[Regarding] the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). Nevertheless, he went on to encourage them to “excel still more” in their love for one another (v. 10). As believers, we haven’t loved as fully as we ought to love, but we have loved. And we don’t need to be taught to love because it’s instinctive, implicit, and inherent within our new nature. As we learned in Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts.”

Jesus went so far as to say, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It is basic to our Christian life that we have the capacity to “fervently love one another from the heart,” as Peter expressed it (1 Peter 1:22). And it’s a love that goes beyond mere feeling to encompass dutiful responsibility, sacrificial service, and sensitive concern.

So here comes the test: Do you characteristically love other believers? If you claim to be a Christian but have no love in your heart for those in the church or any track record of meeting their needs, then the apostle John says this to you: You’re in the dark in spite of your claim to be in the light. Love is a test of divine life. It signifies you have crossed over from darkness to light. This is how 1 John 3:14-15 putsit: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

Do you honestly care about other believers or are you cold, uncaring, and indifferent? Do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs? Those who don’t care are spiritually dead, characterized by an ongoing hatred. In our sophisticated age, that is manifested not so much in vitriolic hostility as in an utterly self-centered approach to life. People who continually focus on themselves and couldn’t care less what happens to anyone else are of their father the devil, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). As believers, however, “we know love by this, that [Christ] laid down His life for us” quite the opposite of the devil’s murderous character. Therefore, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

John defined love as making sacrifices for others, perhaps even to the point of martyrdom. How do you respond to the opportunities you typically have to sacrifice your time, treasures, and talents? Are you happy when you come across a person or ministry in need, and you’re able to provide money, time, prayer, a commodity, a skill, or a sympathetic ear?

What about enjoying the privilege of fellowship in general? Do you look forward to being with fellow Christians and talking with them, sharing with them, discussing the things of God with them, studying the Word with them, and praying with them? Do you have a desire to take the resources God has given you and apply them to someone else in the family of God? That’s evidence of love, as John went on to explain: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (vv. 17-18).

Note the result of such a practical approach to love: “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (vv. 19-21). The assurance that you are a Christian–that your faith is the real thing–will come by your love. The Greek word translated “assure” (peitho) means to pacify, tranquilize, soothe, or persuade. You can soothe yourself as you stand before God that you’re a true Christian if you see love in your life.

Now your love won’t be perfect, but it will be there. Let that bolster your assurance, for John warned that your heart or conscience may try to incriminate you and make you doubt. The fallen flesh has the capability to play games with your mind. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, may seek to exploit that tendency. In whatever your heart condemns you, you can be assured if you see love in your life. You may doubt your salvation, but God never does because He is greater than your heart and knows all things.

Perhaps you’re going through doubt and struggling with your assurance. Do as John said and go back to the love of your life: Examine whether you love other Christians as evidenced by deeds of kindness and sacrifice. If that’s characteristic of your life, be soothed, be pacified–for no matter what your heart may do to condemn you, you can be sure of your salvation. A condemning conscience can rob you of your assurance because it looks only at failure. But God is greater than your conscience; He looks at your faith in Christ.

The apostle Peter, after denying Christ three times, had a worse time than any of us can imagine with a condemning heart. Jesus came personally to assure him. Three times in a row He inquired gently about Peter’s devotion. In desperation, Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17). We too can appeal to the love God sees in our hearts. It’s not perfect but, again, it’s there. And it will express itself through deeds of kindness and sacrifice to others. Jesus told Peter to reveal his love by taking care of the church. It’s natural for the Christian to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Your love for fellow Christians is a benchmark of the Christian faith, and solid grounds for assurance. Refuse to let your heart condemn what God does not.


Do You Experience Answered Prayer?


Another source of confidence and assurance is this: Whatever we ask of God “we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). You can know you’re a believer if God answers your prayers. The only way that can happen is if you keep His commandments, and the only way you can do that is if you belong to Him. As John says in verse 24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him.”

In a similar passage John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (5:13-15). God always answers prayers that are according to His will. Obedient believers know His will as stated in His Word, and tailor their prayers accordingly. The answers that result bring about confidence and assurance.

God is more eager to answer the prayers of His children than they are to ask. I suspect there’s a certain disappointment in God’s heart because He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do. Think of the blessings and assurance we miss out on!

Now there are many people who pray to God, but don’t even know the God they’re praying to or what His will is. God is under no obligation to answer such prayers. We learn from the Psalms that He doesn’t even hear them (cf. Ps. 66:18). But those of us who see answers to our prayers can know we have eternal life. One of the many good reasons to pray fervently and faithfully is to enjoy the assurance that answered prayer brings.

Some believers struggle with being assured of their salvation because they have scant experience concerning answered prayers. That comes from a skimpy prayer life. What a tragedy! If you’re in that situation, reverse it immediately. I don’t want you to miss out on the blessing and comfort that answered prayer brings. Looking back on my life, one of my greatest sources of assurance is seeing that God has answered many of my prayers through the years. That He answered is evidence that He hears me, which is evi­dence that I abide in Him and He in me.

Have you had your prayers answered? Is that a pattern of life for you? If so, you have eternal life. Have you prayed for an unbeliever and seen that person come to Christ? Have you prayed for someone in great distress and seen God turn the situation around into blessing and joy? Have you sought God about a void in your life and seen Him fill it? Have you prayed for forgiveness in a clear conscience and received it? Have you asked God to enable you to present His truth to an individual or group and experienced His grace to do so with great clarity? Have you sought power in proclaiming the gospel and experienced it? Have you asked that God would help you lead someone to the Savior, and He did? Have you sought contentment amidst trying circumstances and experienced God’s peace as a result? Have you asked the Lord to help you know Him better and experienced greater intimacy with Him after going through some hard lessons? Those are all indications that you belong to Him and He to you.


Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit?


First John 4:13 develops that theme of belonging to God: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” The first thing the Spirit did was “testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (v. 14). If you confess that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and have committed your life to Him, that was the Spirit’s doing. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t know who Christ is and you certainly wouldn’t confess Him as Savior and Lord. Have you experienced that ministry of the Holy Spirit? If so, that’s evidence of being a true child of God.

Another vital work of the Spirit is His illuminating your understanding of Scripture. John, speaking of the Spirit, said, “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and … teaches you about all things” (2:27). Paul explained that “the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God … that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:10, 12). When you read the Word of God, is its meaning illuminated to you? Do you understand what it says? In fact, do you sometimes understand it so well you wish you didn’t understand quite that well because of the obvious implications? Is it relatively clear overall? Now I’m not talking about obscure passages that we all struggle with, but consider the effect that reading the Word has on you. Ask yourself, Does it convict me when I’m sinful? Does it make me rejoice when I’m worshiping God and seeking to advance His kingdom? Those are signs of the Spirit’s illuminating work in your life.

Let’s look at other ministries of the Spirit. What about fellowship with God? It is the Spirit who leads you to cry out “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6) as a sign of your intimacy and communion with God. What about praise? Who is it that lifts your heart to praise and adore God? Who is it that compels you to sing with meaning and devotion? In Ephesians 5:19, Paul explains that the filling of the Spirit leads to “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” What about the fruit of the Spirit, which Paul describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control”? (Gal. 5:22-23) Those attitudes are spiritual graces. Have they graced your life as a whole?

Have you ever ministered in a spiritual way through helping someone, giving to someone, or speaking to someone about Christ? Those are evidences of the Spirit of God. Do you actually experience His ministry in your life? In Romans 8:16, Paul explains that “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” Now don’t expect Him to whisper into your ear, “You’re a Christian, you’re a Christian, believe Me you’re a Christian!” There’s no audible voice, nothing esoteric or mystical, but something very concrete. He bears witness by providing you with evidence of His presence in your life–by illuminating Scripture to you, drawing you into fellowship with God through prayer and praise, producing spiritual fruit to grace your life, and enabling you to minister effectively to others.

If the Spirit is in your life, that’s evidence that you abide in God and He in you (1 John 4:13). So be assured. Don’t let your heart condemn you, damn you, tell you you’re not a believer. Recognize the Spirit’s work in you. There’s no reason to doubt and be unstable.


Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error?


So far we’ve taken nine tests for determining the presence of saving faith. In the tenth is the one time John actually used the word test: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3).

Every false religious system in the world violates that test. Adherents of such systems consistently attempt to undermine the biblical truth about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished–that He is Savior and Lord, who came in human flesh to be “delivered over because of our transgressions, and … raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Christ? That is the watershed issue of the Christian faith.

False teachers “are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6). John was saying a true believer will listen to the truth and not deviate into error about Christ’s glorious person and work. Suppose someone says, “I used to believe in Jesus Christ, but now I’ve seen the light: Christ really was an angelic being–or an emanation from God, a divine spirit without the human element, or just a man and not divine.” Any such heresies reflect an unregenerate heart.

From the moment of your salvation, there’s one thing you’re clear about and that’s who Christ is and what He did, or you wouldn’t be saved. It’s the Holy Spirit who made that clear to you. This test is not moral or experiential but doctrinal. True believers know truth from error because the Spirit of Truth indwells them. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,” John says, “is born of God” (1 John 5:1). That’s the same doctrinal test again. When you believe the right thing about Christ, you’re born of God.

It’s good to be a believer, but it’s also good to be skeptical. As John says, “Do not believe every spirit” (4:1, emphasis added). For the sake of your spiritual life and health, don’t believe everything you hear, see, and read. Instead, “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” That requires the ability to think biblically. The Greek text implies conducting a rigorous, ongoing examination of whatever and whomever you expose yourself to. Why go to all that trouble? “Because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The conquering of the city of Troy is one of the most famous stories of antiquity. Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city for over ten years, but were unable to conquer it. In exasperation Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left outside the city walls as a supposed gift to the unconquerable Trojans. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat. The curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to let their fellow soldiers into the city. The soldiers massacred the inhabitants, looted the city, and burned it to the ground. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception. Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses filled with false prophets.

Satan has effectively used enemies disguised as gifts to lure people away from the truth of God and into destructive error. Today’s church is in a particularly severe state of confusion because of its weak doctrine, relativistic thinking, worldly methodology, inaccurate interpretation of Scripture, lax internal discipline, and spiritual immaturity. What is sorely needed is spiritual discernment–the skill of separating divine truth from error (1 Thess. 5:21).

Perhaps you are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. You read nutritional labels because you want to be healthy. You read the fine print of the stock market report before making financial investments. If you need surgery, you carefully select the right doctor. Maybe you’re highly analytical about politics and can accurately assess a plethora of domestic and foreign issues. Or maybe you’re an armchair quarterback who evaluates offensive and defensive strategies. All that is fine, but can you discern between divine truth and error?

To do that, John said to test for two things: confession of the divine Lord (1 John 4:2-3) and commitment to the divine Word (vv. 4-6). If you study the cults, you’ll detect a pattern. Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and the like attack the person of Christ and then postulate a substitute or addition to the Bible, such as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, The Book of Mormon, or The Pearl of Great Price. True believers won’t believe such lies. They have a resident truth teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:27).

I listened to a radio program recently where a man was propagating a religion I never heard of before. It didn’t take me long to discover he was not representing the truth. I was immediately put on guard by the way he skewed one brief biblical statement at the beginning of his message. I continued to listen rather intently until he was finished, whereupon he declared the existence of a great prophet who is the instrument of God to bring great truth to humanity. What he said did not square with Scripture. I knew it was error because the Spirit of God has convinced me about salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone and the veracity of Scripture. I knew I didn’t need some prophet of modem times to give me the truth.

You don’t have to be a seminary graduate or an expert on cults and world religions to distinguish truth from error. If you aren’t swayed from the basic truths of Christ’s divine person, work, and Word, that’s evidence of genuine saving faith.


Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith?


This eleventh and last test is painful: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Cain hated Abel and murdered him. Why did Cain do that? “Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (v. 12). Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, prejudice, or outright persecution from representing and advocating what is right? If so, that’s a sign that you belong to One who suffered the same way for the same reason.

The fact is, to the worldly, you as a Christian “have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (1 Cor. 4:13). You’re a threat to their belief that this world is all that’s worth living for.“They are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). However, Scripture says, “[Be] in no way alarmed by your opponents–which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you” (Phil. 1:28). When suffering on account of your faith, don’t say, “Can I really be a Christian? Things are going so badly–I wonder if God cares.” Rather, if the world is persecuting you, say, “Isn’t this truly wonderful! It’s pretty clear who I am.”

I’ll never forget one night many years ago when I was called to the church office to deal with an emergency. I arrived to find one of our elders struggling with a girl who was obviously demon possessed. She was evidencing supernatural strength. She flipped a heavy steel desk over onto its top and the two of us together were unable to restrain her physically. Voices that were not her own were speaking out of her. The first thing they said when I arrived was, “Not him! Get him out! Get him out! We don’t want him here.” It encouraged me to know that the demons knew I was not on their side.

That was a very confirming night for me. When the world and the spirit of Satan behind it come after you, you too have the right to be confirmed if you’re hated because of righteousness. Now, if you’re hated because you’re obnoxious, there’s no virtue in that! “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20). Part of that favor is being assured of your salvation.

The apostle John gave all the tests that he did to give the true believer a biblical basis for confidence. Let’s review his spiritual inventory: Do you enjoy fellowship with God and Christ? Are you sensitive to sin in your life? Do you obey the Scriptures? Do you reject this evil world? Do you love Christ and eagerly await His return? Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? Do you love other Christians? Do you receive answers to your prayers? Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Can you discern between spiritual truth and error? Have you suffered on account of your faith in Christ?

If you pass those tests, you can have confidence before God. After all, John wrote what he did so “you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13). There’s no reason for you to go through your spiritual experience in the dumps, yet thousands of Christians do. Please don’t be one of them.


Copyright 2004 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved. All Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission. Adapted from Saved Without a Doubt, by John MacArthur (Victor Books, 1992).

Posted in devotion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 “Don’ts” for Parenting by the Schmuckers

Posted by Scott on December 13, 2008

39 Lessons, 20 Tips and 10 “Don’ts” For Parenting


By Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker


39 LESSONS WE’VE LEARNED

Lessons About Ourselves

  1. To be a faithful steward of your children you must abide in Christ (John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”).
  2. “Trickle down theory” – Mom’s daily devotion naturally trickles down to encouragement and instruction in the Lord for the children.
  3. Not listening to your children causes you to misjudge them (James 1:19-20: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”).
  4. Our task list is not as important as our children’s thought life.
  5. Preach the gospel of grace, not self-discipline.
  6. Being parented is defining; Parenting is refining.
  7. You will parent the way you were parented unless you think things through.
  8. Parents should become “smaller” as their children become bigger. In other words, a parent should become more transparent in confessing one’s sin and in sharing past struggles as children mature. Your children should hear more about your fight for faith as they grow older. Don’t be a plastic Christian!
  9. Ordinary times make for extraordinary memories.
  10. To have children is to need margin in your life.
  11. A disreputable life will undermine the gospel. An exemplary life will commend it.

Lessons About Children

  1. Little kids need the strength of your youth; older kids need your wisdom (i.e. have children while you’re young!).
  2. Pack in truth while your children are little and trust the Lord to unpack it in his time.
  3. Study your children. Know their “love language.”
  4. Consistent, loving, faithful discipline brings peace to the home. Inconsistency brings chaos.
  5. Do not let your child see their value in light of the world’s standards. The world rewards the 3 R’s. God delights in the heart that is tuned toward his (Deuteronomy 30:8-10: “You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul“).
  6. God hands out “talents” to our children. The child with two talents who exercises both may in fact be more pleasing in the eyes of God than the one with five talents who exercises three (Matt. 25). Faithful stewardship is the goal!
  7. On some days, it’s just fine to accomplish nothing more than keeping your kids fed and safe.
  8. Older children need to learn how to care for the weaker among them; doing so smells like Jesus. Matthew 18 reads, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” By contrast, Psalm 10:2 reads, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.”
  9. Do not presume you will be able to speak into the lives of your older children if you do not live in their world when they are younger. Play with your children. There is a reap/sow principle at work here (2 Cor. 9:6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”).
  10. There’s nothing wrong with boredom for your children. It causes them to be creative.
  11. Send your kids to bed well (and school!) (Eph. 4:26: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry”).
  12. Make sure your kids keep short accounts with each other. Create a culture of care and forgiveness in your home (1 Cor. 13:5: “Love…keeps no record of wrongs”).
  13. Teach your kids to be shock absorbers, not wave makers (Matt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”).
  14. Kids can memorize scripture very quickly.
  15. Teach your children to notice needs. Teach them to ask, “What can I do to help?” (Phil. 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves”).
  16. Teach your children to look adults in the eyes. It shows respect and recognizes authority.
  17. Fight materialism by teaching your children to have a thankful heart (1 Thes. 5:18: “…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”).
  18. Teach your children to receive reproof, correction, and instruction (Prov. 12:15 “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice”).
  19. Let kids be kids. Let them dabble in various areas of extra-curricular activities (sports, art, drama, etc) rather than build a resume.

Lessons About Satan

  1. It seems Satan comes into our homes on Sunday mornings in order to make the Lord’s Day one of struggle.
  2. Do not feel outside pressure to baptize your children. Look for and test for a credible profession of faith in your child (Prov 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…”).
  3. Satan is a divider and always attacks authority: husband/wife and parent/child. In your home fight for unity around the gospel.
  4. For mothers, the “I-can-do-it-all-superwoman” mindset is at best a myth and at worst a lie from hell (Matt. 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”; Luke 10:40 “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made; verse 41: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”).
  5. Beware of sports…on Sundays! Decide while your children are young that you will not allow the growing all-weekend sports phenomenon to usurp your worship (Ex. 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God”).
  6. Arm your children for the world, not (necessarily) shield them from it. Consider getting your high-school-aged children out of the Christian bubble.

Lessons About God

  1. Prayer is a mighty weapon to use in the life of your children:
    1. It changes the parent’s approach to the child
    2. It softens the hard-hearted child
  2. God uses children as a mirror to your own heart to expose your sin and hypocrisy.
  3. God elects. God saves. Parents cannot do this heart-changing work. At best we can pray and point to the One who can cause our children to be born again.

20 MORE TIPS FOR RAISING GOD-HONORING CHILDREN

  1. The saying goes, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” We believe daddy is actually the problem. From a complementarian’s viewpoint one needs to conclude the above saying with, “And if daddy ain’t happy in the Lord, ain’t nobody happy.”
  2. In a stay-at-home-mom scenario, dad tends to back away from discipline when mom has been with the children all day. In one sense this is wise as he has not observed the rhythm and rhyme of the day. However, dad needs to catch up and jump in.
  3. Talk to both good and not-so-good parents; you’ll learn lessons from both.
  4. Talking to really old parents may not prove to be fruitful as their memories fade and they’ll remember raising kids as either a nightmare or a glorious experience. Talking to parents 5-10 years ahead of where you are seems most fruitful (Prov. 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed”).
  5. Though you may think this premature, have a vision for being involved spiritually with your grandchildren. This will shape even your parenting.
    • Positive example: Paul writing to Timothy said, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in your also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
    • Negative example: “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (Judg. 2:10).
  6. Let your children see you practicing hospitality and let them participate. This breaks down the selfish tendencies all kids have (Rom. 12:13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”).
  7. Unbelievers set up their home for the benefit of themselves. Christians should set up and use their homes for the benefit of their family, the church community, and outsiders (notice the order of this list).

    Supporting verses:

    • “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).
    • “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10).
  8. If we could do it again, we would not have a television in our home. The television competes with more important things going on in the home. It competes for right thinking in the mind of the child. If you have a television, then watch it with your children (when you can) and play “catch the lies.”
  9. Our generation of parents encourages children to express themselves and vent all that’s on their minds. My parents’ generation grew up under the instruction that “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Both appear to be out of balance. Proverbs 10:8 says, “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” Ephesians 4:29 suggests that the purpose of speech is to the benefit of the listener.
  10. You cannot expect younger children to obey if their older siblings do not. Proverbs 10:17 says, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”
  11. One’s conscience is not the same as the Law of the Lord. If conscience is defined as “That inner-voice that acts as a guide as to the rightness or wrongness of a behavior,” then your conscience is only as good as your knowledge of God’s Word. An informed conscience can be a trustworthy thing if it is drawing from God’s Word, God’s Law. An uninformed conscience is incredibly dangerous. Inform your child’s conscience by pouring in God’s Word. 
  12. We often speak of a home with the aroma of Christ (peace, hope, forgiveness and love—all for God’s glory). Alternatives are homes with the aroma of
    • a bus station—people just passing through
    • a war zone—people fighting all the time

    What does your home smell like?

  13. “Moral children” does not equal “Christian children.”
  14. Do a “sermon review” with your children sometime on Sunday. Have each child recap what he or she learned in Sunday School or “big church” and then help them apply it to their own hearts and trials. Then spend time praying for each other’s coming week.
  15. Martin Luther said he had the responsibility to be the worship leading pastor in his own home. His home was to be both a school and a church. Fathers, do you have this mindset?
  16. The unstated implication of Luther’s charge (above) is that fathers need to be present to lead in worship. Being in the house with a Blackberry in hands doesn’t count!
  17. Don Whitney encourages “brevity, regularity and flexibility” in family worship.
  18. Build in your children a global vision of God’s work in the world and thereby build a Great commission Mindset. We have found that having a map near to where we eat most of our meals is helpful. Reading from Operation World can inform the entire family of God’s work in the world.
  19. When children ask for permission to do something, their request can fall into one of several categories:

    Not Wise / Permissible
    E.g. out with friends on Sat night

    Not Wise / Not Permissible
    E.g. underage drinking and driving

    Wise / Permissible
    E.g. excused from family chores to prepare for next day’s test

    Wise / Not Permissible
    This problem rarely presents itself. Wants to save money for college but is not working age.

    The Not Wise / Permissible category is the hardest to deal with. Try to break down the request and sort out in your own mind why you think the request is unwise. Is it your own preference or is it truly unwise? Then encourage them to think through the wisdom of the matter, so that, even if you permit them to do it, they will remember the lesson when things go poorly.

  20. Build Godward children.

TOP 10 WAYS TO (WRONGLY) PROVOKE YOUR CHILDREN

  • Colossians 3:21: “Fathers [and mothers], do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
  • Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers [and mothers], do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
  1. Make it a habit to discipline your child while angry.
  2. Make it a point to scold your child – especially in public. Mockery and ridicule work well.
  3. Deliberately embarrass your child in front of his/her friends. Name calling really gets their attention.
  4. Create double standards so that the child never knows who or what to follow.
  5. Preach and hold the child to a gospel of self-discipline instead of a gospel of grace. (Note: the Bible presents Pharisees as very unhappy people.)
  6. Never admit you’re wrong and never ask your children for forgiveness.
  7. Inspect your child until you find something wrong. Holding them to an unreachable standard makes this task easier.
  8. Judge a fight between your children before you’ve listened to them.
  9. Compare your child to others.
  10. Promise your children things early in the day and then don’t fulfill the promise.

Parents should provoke their children…in good ways: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on [provoke!] toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).

Matt & Elizabeth Schmucker are the parents of five children who presently range in ages from 3 to 19. Matt is the executive director of 9Marks and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

© 9Marks

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by 9Marks.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © 9Marks. Website: http://www.9Marks.org. Email: info@9marks.org.

To go directly to their site for this article click 9Marks

Posted in *Guest Blog Articles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Goal of God’s Love May Not Be What You Think It Is!

Posted by Scott on December 10, 2008


By John Piper  


Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God’s loving us is a means to our glorifying him. “Christ became a servant … in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, “In love [God] destined us to adoption … to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God’s loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: “I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great.” God’s love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was “to demonstrate [God’s] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable – he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn’t, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, “Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross.” No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ’s death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.

It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself – Grand Canyon-like – he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God’s passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us – or magnifies him – more.

Originally published in Dallas Morning News.


© Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Posted in Christianity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »