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There Is No Future In Frustration (via Don Carson)

Don Carson recalls a difficult conversation with a senior Christian in Sydney Australia.
Not difficult because of its content, but difficult because of the physical condition of the person to whom he was speaking.
The content of the conversation was saturated in glory.
An excerpt:

Here, then, is a philosophy of suffering, a perspective that ties it both to the salvation we now enjoy and to the consummation of that salvation when the glory of God is fully revealed. Like the discipline of physical training, suffering produces perseverance.
This is not a universal rule, for suffering can evoke muttering and unbelief. But when suffering is mingled with the faith of verses 1–2, and with delight in being reconciled to God, it then produces perseverance. The staying power of our faith is neither demonstrated nor developed until it is tested by suffering.
But as perseverance mushrooms, “character” is formed. The word character suggests “provedness,” the kind of maturity that is attained by being “proved” or “tested,” like a metal refined by fire. And as character or “provedness” is formed, hope blossoms: our anticipation of the glory of God (verse 2) is nurtured and strengthened.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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If It Stops Stinking, It’s Too Late (via Michael Milton)

Michael Milton relates an episode from his past life experience of receiving a safety warning while working on an oil field and draws a parallel application to spiritual health:

[The warning from his foreman]
“When you smell rotten-eggs at the well site, boys, you are smelling a poisonous, corrosive, flammable gas that is hydrogen sulfide. This hydrogen sulfide will kill you in no time flat … If you get to the point where you do not smell hydrogen sulfide and its noxious rotten-egg aroma, it’s already too late. So, listen and live: You smell it. You get out of there. ‘Cuz if you stop smelling it, we will have to go in and haul your ugly carcass out of there feet-first. And that will just mess up my day. Don’t be that guy!”

[Milton’s spiritual application]
…sin is like the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide. Whenever you smell it, you have to get out—and I mean NOW. If you linger after you have detected the odor of the poisonous gas of sin, you will quickly get to the point where you don’t smell it. That is a point of no return. Let us say it like this,
If sin becomes tolerable, judgment becomes inevitable.
And by the time you stop sensing that rotten-egg smell, it will be too late. You will be trapped by sin. You’ll be snared by the devil. Somebody just may have to go into the scene of the incident and pull you out feet-first.

Read the whole post here.


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Faith In The Son Of God Is Not About Fast Changes (via Joel Littlefield)

The transition from outside the kingdom into the kingdom happens all at once.
The transition of the character of the lives that have gone from completely outside to completely inside takes longer.
We shouldn’t be discouraged.
As Joel Littlefield writes Things That Matter Rarely Happen Fast.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Compared to the tree that it produces, it’s among the smallest of seeds. Being a Christian in this Kingdom will mean that what is being produced in us by Jesus, though it be small and comparatively insignificant right now, will one day have influence that spreads like the branches of a large tree. Seeds are planted and may not sprout for days. Yet with time and patience, fruit comes.
Faith in the Son of God is not about fast changes. It’s about truth hidden in our hearts that is doing something now, and will one day spring forth as great trees producing more fruit than we can imagine.

Read the rest of the post here.


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Start Planning Your Own Funeral (via Grayson Pope)

Taking a cue from one of the less likely of Jonathan Edward’s well-known resolutions, Grayson Pope invites us visit the house of mourning to learn enduring lessons.
By planning your death, you should also be making plans about living.

An excerpt:

Start Planning Your Own Funeral
Jonathan Edwards is known for his famous resolutions—short promises he made to help keep himself on the path of righteousness. His ninth resolution reads, “Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”
He was resolved to think about his death and the normal circumstances it would bring. That means Edwards was resolved to plan his own funeral in his mind.
His example is one we can follow. Try this short exercise: for 10 minutes today, think through the reality that you will die. Reflect on all that thought brings, from death certificates to funeral plans and coffin choices.
Remind yourself that in Christ “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); that your next breath comes only if he allows it. Imagine you will die tomorrow, next week, or next year.
Then, ask yourself questions like, “If I were about to die…”

  • “What would I do differently? What would I start doing? What would I stop doing?”
  • “Would I keep living the way I am—living where I live, doing the things I do, working the job I have?”
  • “What would I be ashamed of not attempting for God?”
  • “Who would I spend more time with?”

Surely, God will bring some things into focus, namely that we should live today like we’ll die tomorrow.
Resolve to think about your death more often.
Resolve to plan your own funeral every now and then, at least in your mind.

Read the whole post at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.


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We Can’t Have It All Now – Avoiding Functional Prosperity Theology (via Daniel Darling)

Januarys being what they are pastors can find themselves looking at ourselves and others wondering if disciples of Jesus have made any progress during the previous twelve months.
That can be a very, very depressing activity if we don’t hold on to the fact that, unlike justification, that sanctification is a progressive work that is never complete in this life.
The notion (expectation) that while we don’t expect the people to whom we minister to be perfect, we’d just like them to be significantly problem free or significantly less problematic than last year (i.e. perfect, or becoming perfect) through our ministry is really a form of prosperity gospel.
Progress is progress. It may not even be measurable in a year.

Daniel Darling writes:

If you were to ask most Christians, you’d find many consider the prosperity gospel to be an unbiblical teaching offered by religious hucksters. But there’s a subtle way in which a similar message creeps into our theologically sound churches—a back-door heresy perhaps more damaging than the promise of a bigger house or fatter bank account.
It is the prosperity gospel of instant life change. I often heard a version of this during testimony time in the otherwise fundamentalist church where I grew up. Some former alcoholic would stand up and say something like, “I was hungover on Saturday, and by Monday I had taken my last drink.”
I have to admit testimonies like this still move me emotionally. I’m stirred because I really do believe in the power of the gospel to regenerate a person’s life. Christ is in the business of changing us, but we too often communicate a message that sanctification happens instantaneously for everyone who truly believes.
The problem is, this is not only untrue for most of the people in our churches, but it’s also not a promise Jesus made. Instead, Jesus said we’d have to take up our cross of suffering and yield to the Spirit’s work of sanctification on a daily basis. Paul, who was certainly no hedonist, admitted his own death struggle with sin (Rom. 7:7-25). And what about the writer of Hebrews, who compares the Christian life to a marathon, a daily putting off of the “sin which so easily entangles us” ( 12:1)?
The gospel is the power to radically alter lives. Some of this change may be apparent immediately after conversion. But more often, it occurs over time. The greatest life change is the result of a hard, slow slog of sanctification—the work of the Spirit through the Word and other means of grace, such as the church, sacraments, and prayer. We should celebrate change, but we should also prepare ourselves—and those we disciple—for a lifetime of struggle against sin. What’s more, we must embed in hearts the theology of an already-but-not-yet eschatological view. What this means is, even as we experience Christ’s renewing and sanctifying power in the present, we understand that most things won’t be made new until He returns to consummate His kingdom. John expressed the idea this way: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be . . . when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Even our “best life now” as a Christian in a fallen world is light-years away from the perfected self we’ll see in glory.
At first glance, this seems hopeless because, in this life, we’ll never fully experience the change we want to see. And yet this expectation of future glory is powerfully hopeful because it releases us from an impossible standard and keeps us from offering the false promise of a flawless life. Instead, we can fix our gaze on Jesus, who is working to craft us into the people we will eventually be by His grace.
Imagine how this perspective might revolutionize discipleship. No longer would people be “projects” for us to reshape if only they’d follow our Bible-based growth plan. Instead, we’d see people as they are—entangled in the knotty effects of the fall, even as they cooperate with the Holy Spirit to grow into Christ’s likeness. Knowing that in due time this all will be reversed, we’d have greater patience for the process. We might encourage one another with this hope: Christ is renewing us daily, and a time is coming when the process will be complete. That is our ultimate deliverance.
So, for instance, the alcoholic won’t be offered a temptation-free life but, rather, a “way of escape” each day from the sin that so easily besets. The pornography-addicted teen won’t be told just to “get saved and your troubles will go away,” but will instead hear it’s possible to “repent and rest on Jesus, and you’ll find in Him the strength to fight for sanctification.” And rather than trying to have a new kid by Friday, parents will begin praying regularly for the Spirit to renew and regenerate their child.
We must reject the quick-fix gospel that makes promises in our fallen world which are possible only in a perfected one. What the Bible offers is not a five-step method or a plan for life change, but the good news of God’s salvation. For that reason, we can live in the present, trusting that God is forming us—slowly, methodically, permanently—into His new kingdom people.

source.


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What If I Never Change? (via Stephanie Phillips at Mockingbird)

A reflective article about life with chronic illness and trust in God by Stephanie Phillips.
An excerpt:

I had the thought the other day: what if I never change? I don’t remember what I was doing: making yet another dinner, folding some more laundry, mediating another child-fight, battling another impulse to emit a primal scream. I felt hopeless: after all, shouldn’t I, as a Christian, believe in change? Shouldn’t I hold the promise of it close like a small kitten, relying on its surety to keep me warm at night and positive during the day? “Personal transformation!” shout the majority of preachers. NO! The cynic in me counters. Consider this: what if you NEVER change?
And almost as quickly, from outside of myself, came an answer, which I believe may be the answer: you’ll still be loved. I considered it. Really? I thought. I know I’m a student of grace and all, but surely there are limits? I mean, you’ve got to show at least some effort in this game, some evidence of achievement?
Sanctification has, to be honest, always left me mystified. What does it mean? It’s just a fancy word for change, right? Of what happens after we believe? Which, of course, is spirit-directed, but let’s be honest again, is aided by my spiritual disciplines? By my own commitment? There’s certainly a multi-billion dollar industry out there that says so.
But what if I never change?
You’ll still be loved.
Preposterous. Offensive. So not me-centric. The alliteratively-outlined sermons of my childhood would be horrified.
But you know what? Trying-to-prove-myself-me? “Hey-everyone-I’m-so-OK” me? Is the worst version of me.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Growth In Godliness Is Not Measured By What Already Comes Easily To You (via David Murray)

David Murray asks “Why do we take our individual, personality, character, gifts, or calling and make that the sum total of godliness for everyone else?”
After numerous examples of what he means, he sums up:
“Godliness should be measured not so much by what comes easiest to us but by the progress we’re making in areas we’re weakest in.”

Read the whole post here.