Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel
The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called. Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life's cares and with the pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) said this and i agree:
There is one gospel and it is to be proclaimed to sinners everywhere. And if sinners do indeed turn from their sins and place their trust in Jesus Christ, God will forgive them and give them eternal life! There will not be anyone in hell who wanted to get to heaven and couldn’t, as though they were among the elect but God would not let them believe! But as we have seen, the fallen children of Adam do not want to place their trust the Savior. Since they are sinful and he is holy, Jesus Christ is repulsive to them. When the gospel is preached, Christ is sincerely offered. The reason why people do not except the Good News is not because the gospel is flawed, but because people are sinful and they are unwilling to believe. Adam’s fallen children would rather perish eternally than bow the knee before the Savior in faith.
Monday, March 30, 2009
My hope, blessed Jesus, is anchored in Thee;
Thy righteousness now covers me.
Thy blood shed on Calvary now is my plea,
My hope is in Thee.
Wonderful Saviour, all glory to Thee.
In Thee is Salvation, so rich and so free.
I’ll shout forth Thy praises throughout Eternity.
My, Saviour, my Saviour, my hope is in Thee.
Thy righteousness now covers me.
Thy blood shed on Calvary now is my plea,
My hope is in Thee.
Wonderful Saviour, all glory to Thee.
In Thee is Salvation, so rich and so free.
I’ll shout forth Thy praises throughout Eternity.
My, Saviour, my Saviour, my hope is in Thee.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Dook only hit 16 shots the whole game. Duke shot 26.7% and Villanova held Jon Scheyer to 3-18 and Gerald Henderson to 1-14.
That the the lowest FG % in the history of the NCAA Tourney. Their play was as bad as the Breakfast Song below. That is bad!
I am asking everyone to give a Dook fan a hug today.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
In my article in the new 9Marks e-journal, I wrote, "I have many dear paedo-baptists friends from whom I have learned much. Yet I see their practice as a sinful (though sincere) error from which God protects them by allowing for inconsistency in their doctrinal system, just as he graciously protects me from consistency with my own errors."
That statement, much to my surprise, has caused concern among some. That a Baptist thinks infant baptism is wrong was no news to earlier generations of paedobaptists. Today, it seems to be a surprise. Now, the truth is out, all of these years, I have been cooperating with those I take to be sinners--Ligon Duncan, Peter Jensen, Phillip Jensen, Philip Ryken, J. I. Packer and many others too numerous to name--sinners specifically on this point of infant baptism. I have been speaking with them at conferences, having them as friends, reading their books, learning from them and inviting them to preach in our congregation, even as I happily preach in theirs. Indeed, several paedobaptist ministers even have articles in that same 9Marks e-journal.
Some may think that such a "wrong" should not be called a sin. I understand a sin to be disobedience to God (regardless of intent). When I read Numbers 15:29-30 and Hebrews 9:7 I certainly see that Scripture presents some sins as being deliberate, and others as being unintentional. I certainly do not think my paedobaptist brethren are intentionally sinning in this. In fact, they even think that they are obeying God so, short of them changing their understanding of the Bible's teaching on this, I can't expect any "repentance," because they lovingly but firmly disagree with the Baptist understanding of this.
Nevertheless, as I understand the words of Christ in Matt. 28:18-20 Christians are commanded to baptize and to be baptized, and the practice of infant baptism inhibits the obedience of what I take to be a quite straightforward command. I understand explanations that have been given about the practice of infant baptism (Orthodox/Roman, Lutheran and Reformed) but am sincerely persuaded that none of them line up with God's own Word. This does not cause me to doubt the sincerity of my reformed paedobaptist brethren, nor even their judgment in general. It is simply that on this point they've got it wrong, and their error, involving as it does a requiring of something Scripture does not require (infant baptism), and the consequence of a denying of an action Scripture does require (believers baptism) is sinful (though unintentionally so).
I cannot do better than cite a Baptist minister from 150 years ago who made a similar point--J. L. Reynolds: "On the subject of infant baptism, and what seems to me to be its legitimate tendencies, I have recorded my sentiments without reserve, and, I trust, without offence. I impeach no man's motives; nor do I question the piety and sincerity of those of my Christian brethren who believe that the practice is sanctioned by divine command. Many pedobaptists are among the lights and ornaments of the age; their ministry has been blessed of God to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and their Churches present numerous examples of pure and unaffected piety. Such men would not, knowingly, contravene the law of Christ. They would welcome the obloquy of the world, and even the agonies of martyrdom, in obedience to the command of their Lord and King, and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake. It is impossible not to admire and love men whose faith and practice associate them with Baxter, Leighton, Edwards, and Martyn, and who breathe their heavenly spirit. While I think I see and regret their errors, I would extend to them the same indulgence which I ask for my own," (Dever, ed., Polity, p. 328).
Of course, my paedobaptist brethren may very well think that I am in sin in withholding from children the sign of God's gracious covenant. I understand and regret the disagreement, but am well used to it by this point, and look forward to heaven, where all our disagreements will be composed. Until that time, I intend to encourage ministers to be Together for the Gospel as much as we can, working together in the extension of the Gospel in our own towns and cities, and around the world. I see no inconsistency in working with others who hold precious the same Gospel, regardless of what other disagreements we may have.
Mark Driscoll offers ten easy steps to destroying a denomination:
1.Have a low view of Scripture and, consequently, the deity of Jesus.
2.Deny that we were made male and female by God, equal but with distinct roles in the home and church.
3.Ordain liberal women in the name of tolerance and diversity.
4.Have those liberal women help to ordain gay men in the name of greater tolerance and diversity.
5.Accept the worship of other religions and their gods in the name of still greater tolerance and diversity.
6.Become so tolerant that you, in effect, become intolerant of people who love Jesus and read their Bible without scoffing and snickering.
7.End up with only a handful of people who are all the same kind of intolerant liberals in the name of tolerance and diversity.
8.Watch the Holy Spirit depart from your churches and take people who love Jesus with Him.
9.Fail to repent but become more committed than ever to your sinful agenda.
10.See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever because He will no longer tolerate your diversity.
Below Josh gives his reflections on the word unchurched. I agree with him. In America today it seems as if we are trying to convert people to our church and not Jesus. What do you think?
REFLECTIONS ON THE WORD "UNCHURCHED"
I think that one of the oddest words in the Christian lexicon is the word unchurched. Have you heard someone use this word? Usually it's spoken by pastors or church leaders talking about the people they want to save. At some point in the 1980s somebody decided that terms like unsaved, unbeliever, non-Christian, sinner and hell-bound pagan were offensive to the people they described. So they came up with the term unchurched in order to have a nice way of talking about people who are not Christians.
This fascinates me. Who decides when new words get to be made up? It seems like a pretty big deal. Was it a group effort? How long did they brainstorm? Did they have a whiteboard? And what were the other options? They could have chosen unchristianed or unjesused.
I don't know who came up with unchurched, but personally, I think it's kind of lame. If you're the person who thought of it, I hope you're not offended. And I hope you've gotten royalties from all the times people have used your word. (I owe you a couple bucks just for the last few paragraphs.)
The problem I have with the word unchurched is that it conveys the idea that what people really need isn't salvation so much as getting "churched." And what the heck does that mean?
Think about this for a minute. How do you church someone? How many times do you have to go to church before you're churched? Once? Twice? A month? A year? Is it something you feel? When you're being churched do you know that it's happening? Does it tingle? And can you be churched but still not be a Christian? Does it matter what you believe? For example, can you be an avowed atheist and still get churched? Wouldn't that probably really tick an atheist off? And then how many meetings do you have to skip before you become unchurched again? Or is it a "once churched always churched" kind of deal?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Here is a simple exhortation that I have been trying to implement in our family:
Seek to see and feel the gospel as bigger as years go by rather than smaller.
Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time.
The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart,
grace gets bigger;
Christ gets greater;
his death gets more wonderful;
his resurrection gets more astonishing;
the work of the Spirit gets mightier;
the power of the gospel gets more pervasive;
its global extent gets wider;
your own sin gets uglier;
the devil gets more evil;
the gospel's roots in eternity go deeper;
its connections with everything in the Bible and in the world get stronger;
and the magnitude of its celebration in eternity gets louder.
So keep this in mind: Never let the gospel get smaller in your heart.
Pray that it won’t. Read solid books on it. Sing about it. Tell someone about it who is ignorant or unsure about it.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel.... For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Friday, March 20, 2009
Modern American dating is no more than glorified divorce practice. Young people are learning how to give themselves away in exclusive, romantic, highly committed (at times sexual) relationships, only to break up and do it all over again. God never intended for His kids to live like this. And instead of stepping in and doing something, many Christian parents simply view these types of relationships as a normal and necessary part of growing up. Unless your child is wiser than Solomon, stronger than Samson, and more godly than David (all of whom sinned sexually), they are susceptible to sexual sin, and these premature relationships serve as open invitations. . . . Being involved in such exclusive relationships before you are ready to be married is like shopping without any money; either you will leave frustrated, or you will take something that doesn’t belong to you.
- Voddie Baucham
Here is C.Michael Patton's response.
I have heard this since I was a very young Christian. It seemed somewhat reasonable as it was explained to me by pastors in sermons and by Christians as they explained the seriousness of sin. The claim goes something like this:
All sin is so bad that even the smallest of sins deserves eternal punishment in hell. It does not matter if it is losing your temper at a lousy referee, not sharing your Icee, or speeding 36 in a 35, every sin deserves eternal torment in Hell. Why? Although it may seem unreasonable to us (as depraved as we are), it is fitting for a perfectly holy God who cannot be in the site of sin, no matter how insignificant this sin might seem to us. In fact, there is no sin that is insignificant to God. Because He is infinitely holy, beyond our understanding, all sin is infinitely offensive to Him. Therefore, the punishment for all sin must be infinite.
I have to be very careful here since I am going against what has become the popular evangelical way to present the Gospel, but I don’t believe this is true. Not only do I not buy it, I think this, like the idea that all sins are equal in the site of God, is damaging to the character of God, the significance of the cross, and I believe it trivializes sin. Let me explain.
First off, I don’t know of a passage in the Bible that would suggest such a radical view. It would seem that people make this conclusion this way:
Premise 1: Hell is eternal
Premise 2: All people that go there are there for eternity
Premise 3: Not all people have committed the same number or the same degree of sins
Conclusion: All sin, no matter how small, will send someone to hell for all eternity
The fallacy here is that this syllogism is a non-sequitur (the conclusion does not follow from the premises). Could it be that people are in Hell for all eternity based upon who they are rather than what they have done?
Think about this. Many of us believe that Christ’s atonement was penal substitution. This means that it was a legal trade. God counted the sufferings of Christ and that which transpired on the Cross as payment for our sins, each and every one. Therefore, we believe that Christ took the punishment that we deserved. But there is a problem. We are saying that we deserve eternal Hell for one single sin, no matter how small. I don’t know about you, but I have committed enough sins to give me more than my share of life sentences. I have committed sins of the”insignificant” variety (I speed everyday) and significant variety (no description necessary!). So, if Christ were only to take my penalty and if I deserve thousands upon thousands of eternities in hell, why didn’t Christ spend at least one eternity in Hell? Why is it that he was off the Cross in six hours, payment made in full? Combine my sentence with your sentence. Then combine ours with the cumulative sentences of all believers of all time. Yet Christ only suffers for a short time? How do we explain this?
You may say to me that I cannot imagine the intensity of suffering that Christ endured while he was on the cross. You may say that the mysterious transaction that took place was worse than eternity in Hell. I would give you the first, but I will have to motivate you to reconsider the second. Think about it. Do you really believe that the person who has been in hell for 27 billion years with 27 billion more times infinity would not look to the sufferings of Christ and say, “You know what? Christ’s six hours of suffering was bad. It is indeed legendary. But I would trade what I am going through any day for six hours, no matter how horrifying it would be.” You see, what makes hell so bad is not simply the intensity of suffering, but the duration. Christ did not suffer eternally, so there must be something more to this substitution idea and there must be something more to sin.
I believe that Christ did pay our penalty. I believe that hell is eternal. But I don’t believe that one sin sends people to hell for eternity. Sin is trivialized in our day. Sin is first something that we do, not something that we are. In other words, people think of God sitting on the throne becoming enraged (in a holy sort of way) each time that someone breaks the speed limit. It is only the cross of Christ that makes Him look past the eternally damning sin and forgive us. Don’t think that I am undermining the severity of sin, but I am trying to bring focus to the real problem that has infected humanity since the Garden.
The real problem is that we are at enmity with God. From the moment we are born, we inherit the traits of our father Adam. This infectious disease is called sin. This disease issues forth into a disposition toward God that causes us to begin life with our fist in the air, not recognizing His love for us or authority over us. It is rebellion. While this rebellion does act according to its nature, the problem is in the disposition, not so much the acts. When we sin, we are just acting according to the dictates of our corrupt nature. But the worst of it—the worst sin of all—is that we will never lower our fist to God. We are “by nature, children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) and as a leopard cannot change his spots, so we cannot change our rebellious disposition toward our Creator (Jer. 13:23).
This disposition is that of a fierce enemy that cannot do anything but fight against its foe. Paul describes this:
Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
We are of the “flesh,” therefore we commit deeds according to the flesh. Does this mean that the person in this state does no good at all? Well, it depends on what you mean by “good.” Can an enemy of God love his neighbor? Of course. Enemies of God can and do all sorts of acts that the Bible would consider virtuous. But from the standpoint of their relationship with God, they cannot do any good at all (Rom. 3:12). Giving a drink to someone who is thirsty with the left hand while having your right hand in a fist clinched toward heaven does not count as “good” before God. Why? Because we are in rebellion against Him. This is our problem.
This I propose is the only sin that keeps people in Hell for all eternity.
It is important to understand that hell not is filled with people who are crying out for God’s mercy, constantly hoping for a second chance. People are in hell because they have the same disposition toward God that they had while they were walking the earth. They do not suddenly, upon entrance into Hell, change their nature and become sanctified. They still hate God. People are in hell for all eternity, not because they floated a stop sign, but because their fists are still clinched toward God. They are not calling on His mercy. They are not pleading for a second chance. They are in hell for all eternity because that is where they would rather be. It is their nature. As C.S. Lewis once said, “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.”
Christ, on the other hand, was the second Adam. He did not identify with the first either in disposition or choice. He gained the right to be called the second Adam who would represent His people (Rom. 5:12ff). He is not spending eternity in Hell because he was never infected with the sinful nature which caused him to be at enmity with God. His fist was never clinched toward the heavens.
Will one white-lie send someone to Hell for all eternity? No! To say otherwise trivializes sin and makes God an overly sensitive cosmic torture monger. Sin does send people to Hell. People will be punished for their sins accordingly. But the sin that keeps people in Hell for all eternity is the sin of perpetual rebellion.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
“God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows himself more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve around good jobs, nice houses, and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple’ in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leaders to death, while the former leads to life.”
— D.A. Carson in A Call to Spiritual Reformation
— D.A. Carson in A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Monday, March 16, 2009
Francis Collins is an American physician-geneticist, noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP). He was director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland until August 1, 2008.
Below is his testimony about coming to faith in Jesus.
I had to admit that the science I loved so much was powerless to answer questions such as "What is the meaning of life?" "Why am I here?" "Why does mathematics work, anyway?" "If the universe had a beginning, who created it?" "Why are the physical constants in the universe so finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex life forms?" "Why do humans have a moral sense?" "What happens after we die?
I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments, and was astounded to discover, initially in the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis and subsequently from many other sources, that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of the existence of God on purely rational grounds. My earlier atheist's assertion that "I know there is no God" emerged as the least defensible. As the British writer G.K. Chesterton famously remarked, "Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative."
But reason alone cannot prove the existence of God. Faith is reason plus revelation, and the revelation part requires one to think with the spirit as well as with the mind. You have to hear the music, not just read the notes on the page. Ultimately, a leap of faith is required.
For me, that leap came in my 27th year, after a search to learn more about God's character led me to the person of Jesus Christ. Here was a person with remarkably strong historical evidence of his life, who made astounding statements about loving your neighbor, and whose claims about being God's son seemed to demand a decision about whether he was deluded or the real thing. After resisting for nearly two years, I found it impossible to go on living in such a state of uncertainty, and I became a follower of Jesus.
Helping the Depressed Person
The most productive way to assist a depressed person, is to help him or her get appropriate treatment. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until the symptoms begin to abate (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to appointments with the psychologist. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication, if prescribed.
The second most important way to help is to offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always report them to the depressed person's psychologist.
Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, to the movies, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in some activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities, but do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.
Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her "to snap out of it." Eventually, with treatment, most depressed people do get better. Keep that in mind, and keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.
Depressed People May Need Help to get Help
The very nature of depression can interfere with a person's ability to get help. Depression saps energy and self-esteem and makes a person feel tired, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. Therefore,
Seriously depressed people need encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment to ease their pain.
Some people need even more help, becoming so depressed, they must be taken for treatment.
Don't ignore suicidal thoughts, words or acts. Seek professional help immediately.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Undeluded Truth?
Is the Christian faith intellectual nonsense? Are Christians deluded?
“If God exists and takes an interest in the affairs of human beings, his will is not inscrutable,” writes Sam Harris about the 2004 tsunami in Letter to a Christian Nation . “The only thing inscrutable here is that so many otherwise rational men and women can deny the unmitigated horror of these events and think this is the height of moral wisdom.” [i] In his article “God’s Dupes,” Harris argues, “ Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.” [ii] Ironically, Harris’ first book is entitled The End of Faith, but it should really be called The End of Reason as it demonstrates again that the mind that is alienated from God in the name of reason can become totally irrational.
Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins suggests that the idea of God is a virus, and we need to find software to eradicate it. Somehow if we can expunge the virus that led us to think this way, we will be purified and rid of this bedeviling notion of God, good, and evil. [iii] Along with Christopher Hitchens and a few others, these atheists are calling for the banishment of all religious belief. “Away with this nonsense” is their battle cry! In return, they promise a world of new hope and unlimited horizons once we have shed this delusion of God.
I have news for them—news to the contrary. The reality is that the emptiness that results from the loss of the transcendent is stark and devastating, philosophically and existentially. Indeed, the denial of an objective moral law, based on the compulsion to deny the existence of God, results ultimately in the denial of evil itself. Furthermore, one would like to ask Dawkins, Are we morally bound to remove that virus? Somehow he himself is, of course, free from the virus and can therefore input our moral data.
In an attempt to escape what they call the contradiction between a good God and a world of evil, atheists try to dance around the reality of a moral law (and hence, a moral law giver) by introducing terms like “evolutionary ethics”. The one who raises the question against God in effect plays God while denying He exists. Now one may wonder: why do you actually need a moral law giver if you have a moral law? The answer is because the questioner and the issue he or she questions always involve the essential value of a person. You can never talk of morality in abstraction. Persons are implicit to the question and the object of the question. In a nutshell, positing a moral law without a moral law giver would be equivalent to raising the question of evil without a questioner. So you cannot have a moral law unless the moral law itself is intrinsically woven into personhood, which means it demands an intrinsically worthy person if the moral law itself is valued. And that person can only be God.
Our inability to alter what is actual frustrates our grandiose delusions of being sovereign over everything. Yet t he truth is we cannot escape the existential rub by running from a moral law. Objective moral values exist only if God exists. Is it all right, for example, to mutilate babies for entertainment? Every reasonable person will say “no.” We know that objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God must exist. Examining those premises and their validity presents a very strong argument.
Being Honest Ourselves
The prophet Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). Similarly, the apostle James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
The world does not understand what the absoluteness of the moral law is all about. Some get caught, some don’t get caught. Yet who of us would like our heart exposed on the front page of the newspaper today? Have there not been days and hours when like Paul, you’ve struggled within yourself, and said, “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? ” (Romans 7:15, 24). Each of us knows this tension and conflict within if we are honest with ourselves.
Therefore, as Christians, we ought to take time to reflect seriously upon the question, “Has God truly wrought a miracle in my life? Is my own heart proof of the supernatural intervention of God?” In the West we go through these seasons of new-fangled theologies. The whole question of “lordship” plagued our debates for some time as we asked, is there such a thing as a minimalist view of conversion? “We said the prayer and that’s it.” Yet how can there be a minimalist view of conversion when conversion itself is a maximal work of God’s grace? “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV).
If you were proposing marriage to someone, what would the one receiving the proposal say if you said, “I want you to know this proposal changes nothing about my allegiances, my behavior, and my daily life; however, I do want you to know that should you accept my proposal, we shall theoretically be considered married. There will be no other changes in me on your behalf.” In a strange way we have minimized every sacred commitment and made it the lowest common denominator. What does my new birth mean to me? That is a question we seldom ask. Who was I before God’s work in me, and who am I now?
The first entailment of coming to know Jesus Christ is the new hungers and new pursuits that are planted within the human will. I well recall that dramatic change in my own way of thinking. There were new longings, new hopes, new dreams, new fulfillments, but most noticeably a new will to do what was God’s will. Thomas Chalmers characterized this change that Christ brings as “the expulsive power of a new affection.” This new affection of heart—the love of God wrought in us through the Holy Spirit—expels all other old seductions and attractions. The one who knows Christ begins to see that his or her own misguided heart is impoverished and in need of constant submission to the will of the Lord—spiritual surrender. Yes, we are all gifted with different personalities, but humility of spirit and the hallmark of conversion is to see one’s own spiritual poverty. Arrogance and conceit ought to be inimical to the life of the believer. A deep awareness of one’s own new hungers and longings is a convincing witness to God’s grace within.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
There’s a vast difference between “feeling depressed” and suffering from clinical depression. The despondency of clinical depression is unrelenting and overwhelming. Some people describe it as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. They can't escape their unhappiness and despair. However, some people with depression don't feel sad at all. Instead, they feel lifeless and empty. In this apathetic state, they are unable to experience pleasure. Even when participating in activities they used to enjoy, they feel as if they're just going through the motions. The signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may wax and wane in severity over time.
Signs and Symptoms of Clinical Depression
Clinical depression is distinguished from situational depression by length and severity
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness-A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
Loss of interest in dailly activities-No interest in or ability to enjoy former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex.
Appetite or weight changes-Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
Sleep changes-Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
Psychomotor agitation or retardation-either feeling “keyed up” and restless or sluggish and physically slowed down.
Loss of energy-Feeling fatigued and physically drained. Even small tasks are exhausting or take longer.
Self-loathing-Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Harsh criticism of perceived faults and mistakes.
Concentration problems-Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Clinical (Major) Depression
Major depression is characterized by the inability to enjoy life and experience pleasure. Lack of interest in outside activities, strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt, thoughts that life isn’t worth living, weight gain or loss, sleep troubles- all of these are signs of major depression. These feelings normally must persist for at least two weeks in order to be considered a major depressive episode. The symptoms can range from mild, when you can function in life with extra effort, to severe, where you can no longer complete daily activities.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
(HT: Randy Alcorn)
Fits of depression come over the most of us. Cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.
There may be here and there men of iron to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows and makes them to know that they are but dust.
Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shown right joyously did not always walk in the light.
Spurgeon warned his students, "Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy."
"I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God's people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night."
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
“Depression is as old as human history. The Bible has many
examples of people struggling with despondency and despair. In his
depression and fatigue, Elijah asked for his life to be taken. Jonah
felt deeply despondent after God did not destroy Nineveh. Jeremiah
regretted the day he was born. Job’s wife advised him to curse God
and die in the midst of the suffering and pain. Well-known church
leaders like Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Charles Haddon Spurgeon,
and J.B. Phillips struggled with depression and so did political leaders
such as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln.
Depression is no respecter of persons. It has been called the
common cold of emotional disorders, and it appears to be on the rise.
In the United States it is one of the most prevalent and serious
mental disorders, affecting about 20 percent of the population at
some time in their lives. People of both genders get depressed,
although women are twice as likely as men to suffer from major
depressive and dysthymic disorders.”
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2When I was
in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. 3I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. 5I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 6I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 7"Will the Lord reject forever? Will
he never show his favor again? 8Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Selah Psalm 77
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Jesus said, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:35-36).
I don't have a lot of enemies. But like any person I have people who criticize me, wrongly judge me and who are generally just a pain. I am tempted to just tolerate them. To ignore them. Maybe I don't actively hate them, but I just look past them and choose not to care about them. And yet Jesus commands me to love them. To do good to them. To lend to them. And then not to expect a thanks or a parade or even the return of what I let them borrow.
That is a hard saying. I can't say I'm doing it well. But I'm a child of the Most High and he is kind. He has been so merciful to me. He sent his Son for me when I was his enemy. He could have ignored me. Instead he redeemed me by the blood of the Son.
The love and mercy of my Heavenly Father compels me to love my enemies.