Archives For Devotional

Now I will relate how You set me free from a craving for sexual gratification which fettered me like a tight-drawn chain, and from my enslavement to worldly affairs: I will confess to Your name, O Lord, my helper and my redeemer.[1]

Broken Chain

Last week we looked at Augustine’s famous maxim that the human soul is restless until it finds its rest and satisfaction in the Triune God. This week, I want to look at Augustine’s own account of coming to that saving rest.

While he had been sitting under the Gospel preaching of Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo had the occasion to hear of the testimonies of the rhetorician Victorinus and of Anthony and the Egyptian monks—schooled philosophers whom Augustine held in high esteem, men who had come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures and were humbled to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. At this point he could bear the convictions of his own soul no longer. He confronted his dear friend Alypius and spoke of the inner turmoil he was experiencing.

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no cussing signIn 2005 the American Film Institute voted that the best movie line of all time was the one that Clarke Gable deftly delivered as the character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. If you endured all four hours of melodrama you’ll certainly recall his parting dismissal of Scarlett O’Hara’s whiny interrogative, “Where shall I go, what shall I do?” Rhett rewardingly utters the words on the mind of every male viewer who is still awake, served with the cool and immortal preamble: “Frankly, my dear …”

The Motion Picture Association’s production code was fortuitously amended a mere month prior to the film’s release and for the first time it allowed the use of borderline curse words under this condition:

if it shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact …or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.”

The determining standard of what is “intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste” has proven quite the moveable feast. Words that were respectable vernacular in the Elizabethan era would get a kid’s mouth washed out with soap today, and diction that would never escape the censor’s “intrinsically objectionable” razor as recently as 1939 are now heard on every silver screen in the Western world, and even occasionally on the news (at least in Anchorage).

While as Christians we acknowledge that God’s standards of holiness are immovable a thinking linguist must acknowledge that what different cultures and periods consider to be taboo is a perplexing field of study.

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AugustineMany Christians recognize the name of Augustine of Hippo from his valiant defense of the biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty against the man-centered heresy of the British monk Pelagius. And we know that the Reformers made exceedingly frequent references to Augustine’s work as they fought against the man-centeredness of the Roman Catholic Church. But what many don’t know about Augustine was his consistent emphasis on the centrality of the affections—and particularly joy—in the believer’s life. In fact, he even defined love for God in terms of enjoying Him: 

“I call [love to God] the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbor for the sake of God.” [1]

It was this pursuit of his own pleasure—indeed, his own pleasure in God Himself—that strengthened Augustine to engage in the many debates and altercations of the Pelagian controversy. When a friend asked him why he even bothered with the polemical disputes, he answered:

“First and foremost because no subject gives me greater pleasure. For what ought to be more attractive to us sick men, than grace, grace by which we are healed; for us lazy men, than grace, grace by which we are stirred up; for us men longing to act, than grace, by which we are helped?” [2]

For Augustine, there was no dichotomy of “enjoying sovereign grace” on the one hand and “fighting for sovereign grace” on the other. The latter was fueled by the former. The joy of the Lord was his strength (Neh 8:10).

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September 17, 2014

The Holy War

by Eric Davis

swordIt’s a word with which much of the world has unfortunately become familiar in recent years: “jihad.” “Jihad” is the Arabic word which carries the idea of “struggle,” and is often referred to as “holy war” within Islam.

While not all Muslim scholars agree on the way in which holy war should look, one need not look far to understand what it means to many in our world today.

But though such wars have been going on for centuries, Christ would in no way attribute the term “holy” to them. Worship and devotion to the true God means loving, not murdering, our enemies. Those of different faiths are not to be the object of our killing, but praying.

There is, however, a true holy way commanded by God. This war is spiritual in nature. It is a war against ourselves, and against the lack of holiness within, the moment we become a Christian. The true holy war is physically peaceful towards others, but spiritually aggressive towards self. Its not about strategically hunting down, and systematically taking out, the enemies outside of us, but the enemy inside of us.

While God’s agenda advancement for his disciples today does not consist of killing others, it certainly consists of killing our own sin.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

john-owen-by-john-greenhillThe 17th century puritan pastor, John Owen, has been greatly used of God to help the church in the holy war. He writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it [while] you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Now, studying sin may seem strange and undesirable to many. But our sin is not something we forget about simply because we are forgiven of it. An attraction to sin still exists inside the Christian because of our residual fallenness, the flesh. As such, it is our great enemy within. And its the thing which keeps us from doing what we most want: to love Christ. That’s why the true holy war is one of the sine qua non’s of the Christian life.

Here are 7 truths to arm God’s people for the holy war:

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Last week, we considered Paul’s command to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We saw how an implication of that command is that our fight for holiness is to be fueled by Gospel grace. But how does the Gospel directly shape and direct your pursuit of holiness? How do we practically bring the Gospel to bear on the various facets of our lives, so that we might conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel?

Gospel Driven

Today, I want to try to answer those questions by considering 12 different biblical virtues, and showing how the Gospel draws a straight line to each of them.

 

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“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
– Philippians 1:27 –

Phil 1;27This little phrase is the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul’s preeminent concern in his letter to the church of Philippi is that they would bring the practice of their lives into conformity with the position they enjoy as sharers in the Gospel of Christ. In reflecting on this command, two implications become immediately apparent.

Sanctification is the Necessary Fruit of Justification

The first implication of this text is that sanctification is the necessary fruit of justification. The one who has been justified by grace through faith in Christ alone—the one who has been declared righteous in his position before God—will grow and progress with respect to practical righteousness in his life.

This is the consistent testimony of the New Testament, and especially throughout Paul’s letters.

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In honor of Labor Day here are four truths your HR department probably didn’t cover in your orientation package…

1. Work is a gift

God created the man with a purpose: to enjoy fellowship with God and offer worship to God through workplow

Genesis 1:26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Yes, God loves to work, just look at creation]… 28 … “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Dominion is more than bragging rights, it means managerial prominence; if the gopher is messing up your putting green, you have the prerogative to translocate said gopher. Why? Because you are human and you are in charge.]

Gen 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

And this was before the Fall and the Curse.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, …3:22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot.

An enjoyable, challenging and profitable career is one of God’s greatest blessings.

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When other people treat us badly, or backstab us, or wrongly speak ill of us, how are we to respond?

Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Contentment, answers that question by reminding us that, even when others mistreat us, it is no excuse for growing anxious, angry, or discontent.

He says this:

* * * * *

“I think I could be content with God’s hand,” says one, “So far as I see the hand of God in a thing I can be content. But when men deal so unreasonably and unjustly with me, I do not know how to bear it. I can bear that I should be in God’s hands, but not in the hands of men. When my friends or acquaintances deal so unrighteously with me, oh, this goes very hard with me, so that I do not know how to bear it from men.”

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The pop icon with the most remarkable lip-to-face ratio, Mick Jagger, encapsulated the sine qua non of Ecclesiastes with the characteristic pithiness of enduring poetry: “I can’t get no [obligatory guitar lead interlude] satisfaction.” And in one of the most elastically generous half-rhymes in the Presley corpus, “A little less conversation, a little more action / All this aggravation ain’t satisfaction in me.”  I am half way through preaching Solomon’s pensive, apparently cynical magnum opus, and I’m resolute in my determination to not slit my wrists. Last night’s sermon was the mid-term review—chapter 6 of 12. Basically our emo author is waxing glumly about life, the universe, and everything and how nothing in this sunburned existence brings happiness or fulfillment.

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The Lord is NearOver the last two weeks, we’ve been considering Paul’s command to “let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5). We considered five characteristics of that gentleness, and then took some time to consider the scope of that command, noting that we are not only to be gentle with fellow Christians, but also with those who are enemies of the Gospel.

And we ended last time asking how could possibly do that? let our gentle and forbearing spirit be evident to all people—even those that would take advantage of us?

And we can be so thankful that Paul seems to never lay upon the shoulders of the people of God a divine imperative without also laying under our feet a divine indicative upon which we can stand. In Philippians 4:4 he didn’t merely command us to “Rejoice always,” but to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” The Lord Himself is to be the source, sphere, object, and ground of our rejoicing. Well here also in verse 5, he doesn’t merely command us, “Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men,” but also adds, “the Lord is near.”

So, how is it that we can patiently endure the ill-treatment of a hostile and perverse generation, and consistently repay evil with good? How can we subject ourselves to the attacks of the enemies of Christ and His Gospel without becoming defensive and asserting our rights? Paul says, “The Lord is near.”  This is the ground of our gentleness.

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