Let us cast to the winds as idle talk the common notion that it is possible to be “extreme” and go “too far” in religion. This is a favourite one of the devil, and one which he circulates with vast industry. Jc Ryle
I remember when i was newly born -again. I remember it like it was yesterday. It has been over 18 years. I’m ashamed at the lack of growth, at the low level of sanctification i have cooperated with my Lord to experience. I could list a myriad of reasons for my failure to grow in Christlikeness but I am persuaded that whatever reason I would give would stem from a deep root of faulty theology. What’s more, this faulty theology was picked from the hands of well-meaning others and not from my initial readings of the word of God.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Genesis means “beginnings,” and it is in this foundational book that we discover our origin, the reason for the existence of sin in the world, and God’s initial promise to humanity to send a Redeemer. We are introduced to the nation of Israel and to themes that endure throughout the entirety of Scripture, such as covenant, the blood to cover sin, election, and God’s sovereignty. Without this book of beginnings, we would be hard-pressed to understand the unfolding story of redemption in the rest of the Bible.
Chapters 1 through 11 are of utmost importance, and these chapters have been attacked by the unbelieving world to their own hurt. By not seeing the truth of God as Creator, and by implication, the rule maker, people are left with no ultimate authority in their lives, no objective basis for right and wrong. They have no standard by which to live their lives, and an attitude of “anything goes” and relativism is all they have to guide them. With no Creator God, the person is left to worship themselves and to live without real hope, direction, and purpose.
By denying the reality of sin described in chapters 1 through 11, people look at human nature through a faulty lens. They dream up alternate theories and useless solutions to try to solve the problems sin creates in all areas of human existence. If you have a wrong starting point, you will never arrive at the answers to the genuine problem. By taking the book of Genesis seriously we have a foundation upon which an accurate worldview can be built and we can read the rest of scripture in humble anticipation, knowing we will find the answers and the guidance every human heart ultimately seeks.
I couldn’t sleep very well last night. There was something bothering me and it should have! I was deeply convicted and spent some time thinking and praying about the careless words that have been coming out of my mouth lately.
When I considered the degradation of my conversations over the last few months, I was struck by the level of pride that had entered my heart and how that pride oozed out of me in a most obvious manner. The words I have been speaking are an indicator of the state of my heart and the focus of my worship. Ouch.
I am thankful that I couldn’t sleep, because that was also an indicator. It showed me that I do belong to the Lord, a truth I desperately needed to hold onto last night.
Matthew 12:36 ESV I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.
Matthew 15:18-19 ESV But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
I am grateful for the tender care of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. And I’m trying to not be so shocked at my sin. I was convicted of that too! Being shocked over my sin reveals pride as well, for the Word tells me how deeply sin defiles the human race. God isn’t shocked by my sin- it’s why he died a humble, willing death to atone for it.
What is the best way to deal with this prideful, sinful speech after confessing its existence to the Lord? I go boldly to the throne of Grace to ask for help, and I get specific in my approach to putting off the sin and putting on Christ. I believe it was Brad Bigney who said, “Nobody changes in fuzzyland.”
I find it helpful to list on paper specific instances of failure and come up with a plan to change. Because the Spirit of the Lord lives in me, I do have the power to change, and I have a responsibility to do so. I see in the Bible that I cannot simply put off the sin, but I must put on godly behavior in it’s place. For example, where I’ve been speaking gossip I must replace it with praise and building up of others.
Below is a section of a prayer on pride from the Puritan collection of prayers, The Valley of Vision:
How can I flaunt myself proudly? Lowest abasement is my due place, for I am less than nothing before thee. Help me to see myself in thy sight, then pride must wither, decay, die, perish. Humble my heart before thee, and replenish it with thy choicest gifts. When I am tempted to think highly of myself, grant me to see the wily power of my spiritual enemy; Help me to stand with wary eye on the watch tower of faith, and to cling with determined grasp to my humble Lord. If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I ascribe all Deliverance to thy Grace. Amen.
“But what words would suffice for a suitable description of the Divine love and boldness, in confessing God, of the blessed and truly innocent lamb, I refer to the martyr Apphianus, — who presented in the sight of all, before the gates of Caesarea, a wonderful example of piety toward the only God? He was at that time not twenty years old. He was superior to youthful passions, and clung to virtue, uncorrupted neither by his bodily vigor nor his young companions; living discreetly, soberly and piously, in accordance with his profession of the Christian doctrine and the life of his teachers. And because of his faith and hope in God, paying no attention to his daily needs, he was led by the Divine Spirit to the city of Caesarea, where was prepared for him the crown of martyrdom for piety.
For in the second attack upon us under Maximinus, in the third year of the persecution, edicts of the tyrant were issued for the first time, commanding that the rulers of the cities should diligently and speedily see to it that all the people offered sacrifices.
Then this youth fearlessly, while no one was aware of his intentions, eluded both us who lived in the house with him and the whole band of soldiers that surrounded the governor, and rushed up to Urbanus as he was offering libations, and fearlessly seizing him by the right hand, straightway put a stop to his sacrificing, and skillfully and persuasively, with a certain divine inspiration, exhorted him to abandon his delusion, because it was not well to forsake the one and only true God, and sacrifice to idols and demons. It is probable that this was done by the youth through a divine power which led him forward, and which all but cried aloud in his act, that Christians, who were truly such, were so far from abandoning the religion of the God of the universe which they had once espoused, that they were not only superior to threats and the punishments which followed, but yet bolder to speak with noble and untrammeled tongue, and, if possible, to summon even their persecutors to turn from their ignorance and acknowledge the only true God.
Thereupon, he of whom we are speaking, and that instantly, as might have been expected after so bold a deed, was torn by the governor and those who were with him as if by wild beasts. And having endured manfully innumerable blows over his entire body, he was straightway cast into prison.
There he was stretched by the tormentor with both his feet in the stocks for a night and a day; and the next day he was brought before the judge. As they endeavored to force him to surrender, he exhibited all constancy under suffering and terrible tortures. His sides were torn, not once, or twice, but many times, to the bones and the very bowels; and he received so many blows on his face and neck that those who for a long time had been well acquainted with him could not recognize his swollen face. But as he would not yield under this treatment, the torturers, as commanded, covered his feet with linen cloths soaked in oil and set them on fire.
No word can describe the agonies which the blessed one endured from this. For the fire consumed his flesh and penetrated to his bones, so that the humors of his body were melted and oozed out and dropped down like wax. But as he was not subdued by this, his adversaries being defeated and unable to comprehend his superhuman constancy, cast him again into prison. A third time he was brought before the judge; and having witnessed the same profession, being half dead, he was finally thrown into the depths of the sea.”
Such is the story of Apphianus, as told by Eusebius AD 260-340 May the stories of the early Church martyrs encourage us today to be strong and courageous in our proclamation of the one true gospel of God.
Above is a link to The Free Grace Broadcaster’s issue on self-examination. On pages 38-41 they have included a list of questions from Thomas Wilcox to help with the process a personal examination. This is in the public domain. Thomas Wilcox died in 1687, but his works live on. I have greatly benefited from this list of questions and wanted to share it with you. I hope it is beneficial to you and your walk with Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
2Timothy 2:25b-26 ESV God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
In my previous post, I mentioned the word snare and in my personal reading today I came across another verse that happened to include the same word.
This verse is interesting because it brings to our attention the blessed fact that it is God who releases us from the snares we are captured in. A simple, yet vitally important truth. A truth that reminds us of the need to pray, for others as well as for ourselves.
This truth led to a bucket of confusion for me, however! I was instructed, from books and from fellow believers I knew, that to try too hard in my struggle against sin was, in fact, a work of the flesh. I knew enough to know that anything done in the flesh was of no use to God, and of no use in my struggle. So I took the advice, and tried to yield to the Spirit and allow him to work.
I should have kept reading… and comparing Scripture to Scripture. Jc Ryle said, “Others are so afraid of ” works” being made part of justification, that they can hardly find any place at all for “works” in their religion.”
Verses stating our personal responsibility in sanctification abound in Scripture. Of course, any “good” a Christian ever does is based solely on the Work of Christ on their behalf and through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We pray for God’s gift of repentance, and we act on what he reveals.
Galatians 5:24 ESV And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Colossians 3:5 ESV Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Hebrews 12:1 ESV Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Philippians 2:12 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Clearly these are commands, not just things we are to pray about and wait for God to zap us! My prayer is that we would do some self-refection and self-confrontation, without the snare of fear we are being self-righteous, and commit ourselves to new obedience to Christ. After all, he is not just our Lord in name only.
There is a direct, inseparable relationship between sound doctrine and saintly living, something scripture teaches clearly and consistently. The reverse is also true – where there is false belief, there will be sinful behavior. – John MacArthur, Biblical Doctrine
In the process of looking at how far I have fallen and returning to my first love, it’s clear to me how important the opinions of others have been to me! The Bible describes this sin as the “fear of man” in verses like Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
I know that a snare is a trap to take things captive. When researching the word, I discovered that there are two kinds of snares. One uses a rope, which either captures the feet or the neck. The other type of snare uses a net, either to camouflage a pit to fall into or to fall on top of the thing being captured, preventing escape. Quite the picture!
One fear of man trap I am by faith avoiding now and in the future is believing my desire to be obedient to God means I think I am better than others. If God has given me the desire to seek him with all my heart, pushing him away in response to the ridicule of others is a direct insult to the grace he graciously gave someone so undeserving! I would never want someone to think I was holy, or to think I thought I was holier, but if someone considers me a “goodie two shoes” and all I’m doing is trying to love God the best I know how, I can’t do anything about the way they feel.
Of course, loving God with all my heart requires acting in love towards others. I believe now that it is far more important to desire to please my Savior then to try to appease everyone who may misunderstand my intentions or motives. Previously I was trying so hard to not offend anyone. I thought that was loving. I thought it would gain me an audience to maybe one day present the gospel by trying to be like the world in whatever ways I could find common ground. Well, it did not gain me an entry point for speaking the gospel! It did however give me plenty of opportunities to succumb to multiple temptations from the world and my own vile fleshly desires.
To correct this faulty thinking, I have clung wholeheartedly to a couple of scriptures. I praise God for his holy word! Philippians 2:14-15 ESV “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” And another, John 15:19 ESV, ” If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
These versus sent the truth into my heart that my job is to obey God, which brings me joy! Blending in with the world is NOT the way to be a witness! I will fear God and let him deal with the results and the opinions of others. Maybe God will see fit to use THAT as an opening to share the Gospel.
Thanks for your patience as I figure out this blogging thing…