Philosophy

Nice Is Not Enough

 

CS Lewis

‘Niceness’– wholesome, integrated personality– is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world– and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Shared From A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works(Hardcover)
Kindle Version Available Here

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The Answer is Christ

One of my biggest struggles as I attempt to walk with Jesus is discontentedness. I don’t know what the difference between depression and discontentedness is, but I will avoid the term depression…though I feel fairly certain they both spring from a similar place deep within ourselves…Still, I struggle with being discontent.

Let me pause here for a moment and say, I know that I am a blessed man. I look around, I have a beautiful wife, I have five (almost six) amazing kids, I have a job that I don’t hate, a family that loves me very much, and many, many dear friends. Still, I struggle. Many times I am still discontent. Even in my walk with God, even in my spirituality, I struggle with discontentedness.

Honestly I think that all of my other struggles in this area springs forth from this ‘spiritual discontent’. I was reading recently and the author spoke of being stuck between the marvelous and the mundane, or the daily and the divine…I think that is where I find myself often. I am longing for the marvelous, and I am longing for the divine…yet I feel trapped in the mundane. I feel trapped in the daily. Honestly I don’t think I’m alone in this.

All of us, in some shape, form, or fashion long for something more. Whether it be our wanting our spouse to act or be different, our kids to obey better, or a better job, or even a deeper more satisfying walk with God…We want more. Am I wrong?

So what is the answer?

I was going through one of these episodes last week, and as God often does He directed me to a passage of Scripture that I’ve read many, many times…But finally I was able to see myself in this passage.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites are grumbling because they are hungry and don’t have enough to eat. Now keep in mind God has already freed them from the slavery of the Egyptians…The Israelites have experienced miracle after miracle. They have witnessed the Passover, they have even seen God part the Red Sea, and drown an army of Egyptians just before they are ready to overtake them for Pete’s sake. They have seen God do some awesome stuff…But here they are whining because they don’t have enough to eat…(Let’s be careful not to bash the Israelites here too much, because honestly, are we that much different?)

Well, I’m sure most of us know the rest of the story. God sends Quail for the Israelites to eat in the evening and Manna, a sort of wafer-like-honey-tasting sort of bread to eat in the morning. Thus the Israelites are fed and provided for and satisfied…well at least until they get thirsty…but you get the point. God always provided. God was all the Israelites needed to be satisfied and sustained. As long as they had God, they had all they would need. When they lost sight of this truth, they grumbled and complained…And God provided.

I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.

(Exodus 16:12 ESV)

Fast forward to John 6. A large number of Jesus’ followers are seeking Him. This sounds good at first until you realize that they are only after Jesus because they are hungry and they want Him to provide them with some food. (John 6:26) Christ goes on to explain to His followers that He Himself is the ‘true bread’ from heaven.

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

(John 6:32-40 ESV)

Well, most of these disciples we come to find aren’t true disciples. They just can’t understand what Jesus is saying here. They can’t accept it, and I can’t help but think they are a little annoyed that He hasn’t given them anything to eat yet. So they grumble, complain, and eventually desert Jesus. Oh, if they had only realized who it was standing before them that day…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

(John 6:47-58 ESV)

Jesus is the bread of Life. If we have Him, why should we hunger for more? We must try to wrap our minds around this truth daily. If we are longing for the marvelous…Focus on He who is marvelous. If we are longing for the Divine…Accept the fact that you have Him in Christ. Receive that truth  O’ Child of God. This is a hard saying, and more than likely you will lose sight of that fact…I can almost promise you this. I’m sure I will again. But in these passages, in these words…In the Word, who is Christ, we have the answer to our discontentedness. Christ. Go back to this truth, go back to these passages, these pages, this glorious book that we call the Bible…Go back to it often. Reflect on it, pray over it, and let us always remember, and be reminded often…

The answer is Christ!

The answer is Christ!

The answer is Christ!

Whatever the question, whatever the issue…The answer is Christ.

‘Big Picture’ Kind of God

I was reading my Bible the other day and read through Genesis 50:15-21. Most of us know the story of Joseph, it’s a favorite for Sunday School classes, and for us to tell our kids. As I was reading the story though, the verse that really stood out to me was verse 20.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

As I said, almost all of us know something of this story. How Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob, how jealous his other brothers were of that fact, how even through all of Joseph’s trials(and we fail to teach that perhaps he brought some of his troubles on himself) he remained faithful to God, and God blessed him. These are all facts from the life of Joseph. Many times though I think we read this story from the standpoint that God was simply trying to bless Joseph through all of the things he was going through, and in spite of the evil plots against him. How foolish of us if this is all we take from this passage of Scripture.

God is so sovereign. As a result of Joseph’s brothers sin, God was not only blessing Joseph, he was sparing many lives, in Israel and abroad. God was ensuring the future of Israel, which paved the way and preserved the bloodline of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world.

Again I say, God is so sovereign, so amazing. God pays attention to the details of our lives. God cares so much about us as individuals, but God is also a ‘Big Picture’ kind of God. If we are only focusing on the things we can see, or the things God is doing at the moment, or in our individual lives and that is it…We are missing so much. There is a much bigger picture at work in creation. Ultimately the redemption of His creation through the person of Christ.

I need to focus more on the big picture of what God is doing, not only in my life, but the lives of His people, His Church, and His mission throughout His creation. I believe this is something all of us need to be striving to do…

Can you be a bad Reformed theologian?

I’ve really been digging Joe Thorn’s blog series “Experiential Theology”. Check out his blog here. I especially enjoyed his interview with Ray Ortlund, who blogs over at “Christ Is Deeper Still“. I really loved Ray’s response to the following question. Check it out:

We know heretics are bad theologians, but can one be a bad Reformed theologian? How?

Our minds were created to admire grandeur and coherence and challenge. Reformed theology provides all that, plus more. So we like it. But given our wickedness, the very excellence of Reformed theology can make us weird. We can admire our theology of God rather than God, because the theology itself really is gorgeous – but only as a dim reflection of the One described there.

Worse yet, we can admire ourselves for being so smart: “We get it, we’re Reformed, we’re not like those Arminian idiots over there in that other group.” God hates pride. All pride. Reformed pride.

Final thought. Through the years I have learned a lesson: Everything man-made will let us down. Everything, eventually. Even theological systems. Only Jesus will never let us down. We appreciate Reformed theology. But let’s put our final trust here: the risen Lord Jesus Christ himself, our dear Friend, the only Savior of sinners.

Now that’s living!

…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:10-11 ESV

Many of us who live our lives as Christians set for ourselves the goal of “living like Christ”. We look to Christ as our great example of how to “live”. Now I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, to imitate Christ in our lives is a great thing, something that is commanded in Scripture, yet we must understand first and foremost, to live like Christ is to die to ourselves. We should desire, and strive to “live” like Christ, but that in itself means that we must desire, and strive to die like Christ.  That was Paul’s desire, and it must be our desire as well. Paul said he wanted to “know him and the power of his resurrection” but Paul understood very well that was impossible if he did not become like Christ in his death, and in his sufferings. That is how we attain the “power of his resurrection” that is how we are able to “know him(Christ)” and that is how we are able to “live” like Christ.

*Just as a side not, when I say we must be willing to die like Christ, or become like Christ in His death, I am not saying we must all die on a cross, or even give our lives as a martyr (though we should be willing to do that if need be), but what I am speaking of is more of what it says in Galatians 5:24, to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires…” or Romans 12:1, to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…” Basically what I am speaking of is to die to ourselves, so that we can live for Christ (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

Are we really willing to “die” like Christ? Is our hearts desire really to “know” Him? Are we really willing to “share in His sufferings” do we really want to become like Him? When spoken of like this, is the Christian life more or less desirable to you? Take some time to think about it, I know I will…

“…And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:8 ESV


Morning Meditations…

What I’m reflecting/meditating on this morning:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”-Revelation 4:8

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”-Isaiah 6:3

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”-Exodus 15:11

When we read, hear, and say that God is holy, it is somewhat easy to pin down what that means. True, there are many facets, and his holiness, splendor, and majesty may be beyond our full comprehension, but we have a general picture of what it means, and though we may not fully comprehend it, it cannot help but turn our hearts to worship.(Unless you are Spiritually dead…)

As I think about, and reflect on God and His word this morning though, as I meditate on the above Scriptures, and His holiness, I can’t help but ponder the implications of His holiness for us when I read such passages as:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”- Genesis 1:27

“…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy…”-1 Peter 1:15-16

All I can say is wow, examine myself, be humbled, and then I must worship…

Conundrum?

I hate sin, but I love it when God shatters my idol of self righteousness…

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. -Romans 7:14-19

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.-Romans 10:3-4