Many modern readers of the Bible interpret it through a presupposition that it is a book of rules or hero stories (whose lives we should emulate) rather than a gospel narrative. This can lead to outrage over jarring stories like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac – how could God ask that? Might he ask me to do something similar? Nancy Guthrie answers:
“Is God trying to teach us that we should be willing sacrifice what is most precious to us? No. This story is not recorded to inspire sacrifice to God. Instead, it paints in vivid colors the sacrifice of God. The point of this story is not to convince you that you must be willing to sacrifice to God what is most precious to you, but rather to prepare you to take in the magnitude of the gift when you see that God was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to him—his own beloved Son—for you.”
Reading the story with Christ as its center results in adoration instead of outrage. Another outrageous story:
“And when we read the story of Jonah and see him sent to people he has every right to hate because of who they are and what they’ve done, we’re not meant to assume that God is going to require this of us, but rather that he will require it of himself. Jesus will leave heaven to go to a people who deserve to be treated with contempt because of who they are and what they’ve done, yet he will show them grace. He will not be sad when they repent, but will, instead, shed tears over their refusal to repent.”
Read the full post here.
Justin Holcomb describes Paul’s downward trajectory of his view of himself from the least of the apostles early in his ministry, to the least of all the saints, and finally to the chief of sinners towards the end. While it sounds like Paul is regressing spiritually, he is exemplifying spiritual maturity.
“Paul isn’t just using self-deprecating hyperbole as a teaching device. Each of the three statements about himself is surrounded by references to the cross (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 3:7-8; and 1 Tim. 1:15) and grace or mercy (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:2, 7; and 1 Tim. 1:13-14, 16). For him, spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent he is on Jesus’ cross and mercy, not arriving at some point where he somehow needs the cross and mercy less.”
Read the full post here.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote another good post on Christian narcissism and describes why the term should be an oxymoron. He describes how we tend to withdraw “spiritually” to our prayers, Bible reading, and introspection (alone) to avoid worldliness while worldliness by definition is me thinking always about me. True spirituality takes us into the lives of others as we forget about ourselves.
“The biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us upward and outward. Martin Luther picked up this imagery in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us upon ourselves (homo incurvatus in se). We were designed to embrace God and others, but instead we are now consumed with ourselves. The gospel causes us to look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbor and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing (emphasis mine)…the irony, of course, is that you and I are renewed inwardly to the degree that we focus not on inward renewal but upward worship and outward service. The more you see that the gospel isn’t about you, the more spiritual you will become.”
Read the full post here
From Desiring God
John Piper from this week’s sermon on John 8:30-36:
1) If you don’t have the desire to do a thing, you are not fully free to do it. Oh, you may muster the will power to do what you don’t want to do, but nobody calls that full freedom. It’s not the way we want to live. There is a constraint and pressure on us that we don’t want.
2) And if you have the desire to do something, but no ability to do it, you are not free to do it.
3) And if you have the desire and the ability to do something, but no opportunity to do it, you are not free to do it.
4) And if you have the desire to do something, and the ability to do it, and the opportunity to do it, but it destroys you in the end, you are not fully free—not free indeed.
To be fully free, we must have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make us happy forever. No regrets. And only Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose for us, can make that possible. If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.
Excerpted from “You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free.”
Sam Storms of Bridgeway Church in OKC had some great insights into what it looks like to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. He demonstrates this evidence for love of God by modeling his own love of his wife. He are some reflections.
1. Affections for her. Much has been said stressing that love is more than mushy emotions and that love is a choice. It is a choice, but love is not less than affections. A variation of John Piper’s illustration on duty versus delight: John shows up at the door with anniversary roses and his wife answers the door and says “oh Johnny, why did you?” He answers “it was my duty” which doesn’t work out well for him. He replays the scenario, this time answering his wife “I couldn’t help myself. Nothing makes me happier than to buy roses for you.” Now this would never receive the response “nothing makes you happier? You are always thinking of yourself.” Do we delight in God?
2. Loyal to her. If I say I love my wife but she discovers I am having an affair, she will know I am a liar. Are we, the bride of Christ, adulterous?
3. Protective of her. If someone is threatening my wife or slandering her name, it will not end well for that person. Are we eager to defend God’s name when it is mocked?
4. Spend time. with her. If you don’t desire to spend time with her, you probably love something else more. What do we spend our time on?
5. Talk with her. We want to hear from and know at greater depths the one we love. How is our prayer life?
6. Increase her joy. If you love your wife, you want to please her, not irritate her. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15. Are we obedient?
7. Brag on her. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” C.S. Lewis. How is our worship?
8. Tell her you love her. When has your wife become tired of your saying I love you? You are unlikely to hear “can’t you be more creative?” or “please! Come up with something else!” Tell Him you love Him.