Christianity 201

December 8, 2011

The Gift of Coveting, or rather, Coveting Others’ Gifts

When they … compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.  (2 Cor. 10:12)

We constantly see believers around us who seem more blessed by God than we are.  Some are more gifted in spiritual abilities; others always succeed with little effort; others seem to have few problems or concerns.  Probably none of us is exempt from the temptation to envy someone else’s blessings and secretly grumble at God, or even charge him with rank injustice, for giving another person more in some way than he has given us.

Yet God in his sovereignty has the right to bless each of us as he chooses.  Consider these words from the apostle Paul: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21).

Regardless of how we understand the particular application of Paul’s teaching, we cannot escape its basic principle: God is sovereign.  And he’s sovereign in every are of life.  Our Creator has the right to endow each of us at birth with different physical and mental abilities, different temperament characteristics and different natural talents.  He also has the right to give each of us different spiritual gifts.  And it’s obvious God exercises those rights.  We’re not created equal nor given equal opportunities throughout life.  Each of us has his or her own unique set of circumstances, some appearing much more favorable than others.  Since God is under no obligation to any of us, he’s free to bless some more than others as he chooses.  He has the right to do what he wants with his blessings.

 

~Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace
as cited in Holiness Day By Day (Navpress)

January 20, 2011

Jerry Bridges on Holiness

The first speaking engagement I ever had, I thought they were booking me as a musician.  “No, we want you to speak, not sing;” said the guy on the other end of the phone.  “It’s a winter weekend retreat.  We’re doing a book study on Flirting With The World by John White and you’ll be speaking four times for an hour each time.”

Four hours?

Somewhere along the line, I picked up a copy of The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and actually referred to both books equally that weekend.  I’ll never forget the line, “We never see sin aright as we see it as against God.”  So often we sin and think we failed ourselves; like going off a diet or something.  We forget that we sin against God.  Not our friends, family or church family.

I keep the devotional book by Jerry Bridges, Holiness – Day by Day: Transformation Thoughts for your Spiritual Journey next to the computer for Christianity 201 writing emergencies (!) but haven’t needed it so far.  But today I wondered what writing by Bridges might be available online and found this excellent quotation site.  Here are some highlights in the category of holiness — plus a few others — this represents about one page of 17 pages available by him.

  • We abuse grace when, after sinning, we dwell on the compassion and mercy of God to the exclusion of His holiness and hatred of sin.
  • Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved.
  • As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.
  • As used in Scripture, holiness describes both the majesty of God and the purity and moral perfection of His nature. Holiness is one of His attributes; that is, holiness is an essential part of the nature of God. His holiness is as necessary as His existence, or as necessary, for example, as His wisdom or omniscience. Just as He cannot but know what is right, so He cannot but do what is right.
  • We need to call sin what the Bible calls it and not soften it with modern expressions borrowed from our culture.
  • What is holiness? The best practical definition that I have heard is simply “without sin.” That is the statement that was made of the Lord Jesus’ life on earth (Hebrews 4:15), and that should be the goal of every person who desires to be godly. Granted, we will never reach that goal in this life; nevertheless it is to be our supreme objective and the object of our most earnest efforts and prayers.
  • I believe a word that forcefully captures the essence of Jesus’ work of propitiation is the word exhausted. Jesus exhausted the wrath of God. It was not merely deflected and prevented from reaching us; it was exhausted. Jesus bore the full, unmitigated brunt of it. God’s wrath against sin was unleashed in all its fury on His beloved Son. He held nothing back.

Oh, as for the four-hour speaking gig, as a group we had a number of late night discussions as people chose the warmth of the large fireplace at Muskoka Woods Sports Resort over the raging blizzard outside, and added an extra session on the Saturday afternoon. In total, I believe I spoke or led discussions for eleven hours!

May 21, 2010

Sorry for Sin

I’m quoting this from memory and changing at least one word, but in The Pursuit of Holiness, author Jerry Bridges says,

We never see sin correctly unless we see it as against God.

Sin isn’t like failing to stick to a diet, where we’ve let ourselves down, but rather we sin against God.

Repentance involves

  1. Being truly sorry for our sin
  2. Turning around; changing our behavior

Sometimes we are sorry for sin because we’re reaping consequences which we deeply regret.   While those consequences may be built-in results of what happens when we go against God — because His ways are higher; because His ways are best — that’s not the kind of sorry God is looking for.

It’s more like the song that says,

Regrets, I have a few…

Rather, His desire is that we’re sorry that we failed to see His plan as best.   We failed to live as though He was walking beside us.    We went off and did our own thing.  Now we’re sorry over the results, but we haven’t factored in being sorry for how it hurt Him when we took a detour off the path.

Perhaps somebody is reading this who needs to join in this prayer,

God, I’ve been sorry for _________ because of the consequences, but I haven’t yet said I’m sorry because I went against your ways; I sinned against you.   Forgive me.   Create inside me a clean heart, and renew inside me the attitudes and desires that are righteous.