A More Excellent Way

A More Excellent Way


I care deeply for a very diverse group of people. They are teachers, doctors, lawyers, sales reps, caregivers, homemakers, service professionals, counselors, artists, pastors, pastors’ wives; heterosexuals, homosexuals, transsexuals, former homosexuals, still-haven’t-figured-it-out-sexuals; agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, liberal theologians, Reformed theologians; Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and a few who have never voted; former child molesters and abusers, and those who are healing from the effects of molestation and abuse; drug addicts, and those who, by the world’s standards, have never made a wrong decision in their lives.

And I love them all.

One of the reasons that I love them all is one common trait they all possess: loving respect for all of humanity, even those who are very different from them.

The last few months have seen some of the people who I love dearly caricatured and stereotyped, then brutally attacked with both the written and spoken word, either directly and individually, or because of a particular group with whom they identify.

And in case you missed it, sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can permanently damage.

While I was doing yard work this evening, a phrase continually rolled through my head: “A more excellent way.”

You see, friends, there is a more excellent way than the way humanity is treating one another in this season of time. We have drawn sides, demonized all who disagree with us, and agree only on the fact that all issues fall under a “Take No Prisoners” rule of engagement.

So Christians attack Muslims. And vice versa. And heterosexuals attack homosexuals. And vice versa. Republicans attack Democrats. And vice versa. Creationists attack Evolutionists. And vice versa.

But there is a more excellent way, shared with us by the Apostle Paul. Regardless of how you may feel about the Bible, or about Paul, or his theology, or his sexuality, or his missions strategy, we can all agree that his way is, indeed, more excellent.

24b …But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it… 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
1 If I speak in the tongues[fn] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[fn] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 12-13

Simply put, let’s grow up and love one another.

Do You Know the Author?


Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Psalm 36:10

I love reading books and articles by people I know personally.

While any good book is worth reading, the experience is more enjoyable when I know the author because I can see little bits of them in their writing.

I discovered this in seminary when most of my professors had books that they had penned on the required reading lists for their classes. As the semester would progress and I got to know the professor better, I would catch myself reading with their voice and inflection in my head; almost my own personal book on CD. I still get tickled reading portions of Dr. Danny Akin’s books and articles and sermon manuscripts because I can tell when he was writing in a particularly passionate way and I can imagine him up on his tip-toes, leaning over the pulpit, preaching away on whatever point he happens to be making in print at the time. Dr. David Jones was my Sunday School teacher at Wake Cross Roads Baptist when I lived in Wake Forest, and when I am reading any of his works, I can imagine my Sunday school teacher right there in my office, explaining with stick figures on a dry erase board whatever mind boggling ethical point he is making in the book or article. Knowing the author and how much of his time, effort, passion and knowledge– how much of himself– went into the project makes me appreciate it even more.

It continues today. I love reading the blogs of friends and when I am researching something for my own writing, I tend to start with the writings of people I know and respect. Because I know them outside of their writing, I have a better context for what they are expressing in their work and it helps me understand it better.

For example, I don’t usually use the commentary provided with the Sunday School material at church (Shhh… don’t tell), but this quarter, Dr. Allan Moseley wrote the commentary on our study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Dr. Moseley was the Dean of Students when I worked in the Student Life office at Southeastern, and I have heard him preach and speak on numerous occasions. Because I know him, I wanted to read what he had to say about the lessons I am teaching in my class. It’s not that I don’t trust other people who write the commentaries provided; there’s just extra incentive for me because I care about what he has to say simply because I know him.

Same principle applies to fiction. My friend Greg Wilkey recently published an e-book through Barnes and Noble. Greg was my department head when I taught at an area school, he and his wife attended our church for a time and I have been friends with his sister-in-law for several years. This character and book series are his passion, and to see it in print and be able to read it has been a joy for me because I know how much he loves it and how hard he has worked at it. It has been even more fun because, as I read, I am able to see those bits of his heart and soul in the characters in the story; the average reader would simply miss that level because they don’t know Greg. Those who know him much better than I do would probably tell you they love the book even more than I do because they love and know Greg more than I do.

Point being is this: there is a deeper meaning and understanding to any work of art (especially writing) when you know the writer.

The same principle applies to the Bible. The more you know and love God, the more you see Him in His writing, then the more you appreciate the deeper meaning and subtle references to Himself that mark the Word from Genesis to Revelation.

Here’s where most people trip up when reading the Bible– they read it for historical value or as an instruction manual or self-help book. While there are certain components of each of those genres of writing in the Bible, it is, more than anything else, an autobiography. It is God’s story of Himself to, for and concerning His people.

If you read the Bible and don’t understand it, or you think it’s boring, try reading it first as God’s autobiography. Approach it with the attitude of wanting to first learn all you can about the Author. You will find Him in every story, every law (even the weird ones like the ones about mold removal and sleeping with your clothes on), every piece of instructive teaching, every prophecy. Read it through the filter of this question: What can I learn about God? Get to know the Author. Learn about how much He loves His readers. Learn about the heart behind the writing of the book. Find out about God’s passion and it will become your passion. The more you know the Author, the more you will appreciate His Writing.

The catch with the Bible is that, because it’s first and foremost an autobiography, you have to read it to get to know the author. So read it, even if you don’t always understand it. Read it and compare it to the “writing” God has done in Creation. Read it and ask other people you know about it. If Oprah can start a world wide book club, surely you can ask a friend what they think about the Book you’re reading.

But before you write it off as history or myth or boring or impossible to understand, make sure you know the Author, because sometimes, knowing the author makes all the difference in your reading experience.

How God Sees Us


If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance. This is the greatest and most useful lesson we can learn: to know ourselves for what we truly are, to admit freely our weaknesses and failings, and to hold a humble opinion of ourselves because of them. Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ

My natural inclination is to seek the good in people. I like giving others the benefit of the doubt. Mainly it’s because I know that I want that same benefit from others about fifty times a day. But I am afraid that my desire to seek the good in others has led to my assuming that people are good. John Locke (the 17th century philosopher, not the character on the best television show EVER), declared that man was a tabula rasa, a blank slate of neutrality which is then conditioned to accept either good or evil.

Sadly, Christians have accepted this view of one another and of ourselves. The culture screams, “I’m ok, you’re ok,” and we like the sound of that. I used to have a rather nebulous concept of sin: I could toe the party line that mankind is in a generally sinful and fallen state, but the concept of daily committing specific sins that needed to be confessed and repented of was foreign to me. I had accepted the idea that God knows I’m a sinner and I’m just here on this planet, doing the best I can til He calls me home. But is that how God views sin? What does that belief say about my view of God?

It is human nature to think pretty highly of ourselves. We can think even more highly when we compare ourselves to those around us instead of to the perfect standard of Christ. But when we view ourselves through the lens of Scripture, when we see the standard of God’s glory and realize we do indeed fall short every day and in every way, it should be humbling. There is nothing that will leave you clinging to the mercy and grace of Christ than to daily recognize your own sinfulness and helplessness apart from Him.

But this is not to be some downer post about the depravity of man; although, our total and complete depravity is depressing. Mankind apart from God is a depressing sight to behold. “But if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Cor. 5.17). The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in every believer (Rom. 8.11), and it is that power that enables us to put to death the flesh and its sinful desires. By learning about Jesus, by studying His Word, by discovering what He says about how we are to treat our neighbors and how we are to live, we hide in our heart His word and enable the Holy Spirit to use that Word to defeat the sin that so easily entangles us.

So how to do we see ourselves as God sees us? Through the Bible! It not only exposes our sinful nature and convicts us of it, but it provides the armor of God we are to put on to protect ourselves from the work of the enemy. If you truly want to see yourself as God sees you, measure yourself according to the scale that God Himself provided.

God and Gay Marriage


Conservative Evangelicals across the blogosphere have posted their responses to this week’s cover story from Newsweek. Their treatment of the article theologically and politically will far outweigh any attempt of mine to do the same. What I would like to respond to is Ms. Miller’s opening statements concerning the Bible’s treatment of marriage.

Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

In her article, Miller asks her readers to consider the marriages of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon as the basis of biblical marriage. This is the wrong question to consider if you are looking for the Bible’s prescription of marriage. To see God’s one, right intention for marriage, you must go back farther than even Abraham. In Genesis 2, God gives the one, right way for marriage to occur.

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Verse 24 is the most quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament; it is recorded in Matthew 19.5 and Mark 10.8 that Jesus quoted this verse when discussing marriage and divorce. Paul quoted this verse in his treatments of marriage in his letters to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus (1 Corinthians 6.16 and Ephesians 5.31). It is clearly stated in the Bible that God’s plan for marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.

While that is the prescribed treatment of marriage, the Bible is not a record of perfect people doing exactly what they are to do. The Bible is the record of a loving and merciful God and His dealings with a sinful and rebellious people. We cannot necessarily look to the lives of the “heroes” in the Bible as the “how-to” manual for life. What we can see is a collection of imperfect people who chose to break the law and heart of God. So let’s consider the lives of Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon—not as examples of biblical marriage, but as tragic examples of what happens when we stray from the ideals of God.

Abraham (you can read his story in Genesis 12-25) had been promised by God that he would become the father of a great nation. But when as he grew older and he and Sarah still had no children, Abraham decided to take matters into his own hands and he slept with Sarah’s servant Hagar. Hagar got pregnant and she had a son, Ishamael. This story does not prescribe polygamy as a biblically mandated form of marriage. This story instead describes the tragic consequences of what happens when we quit trusting God and begin trusting ourselves and our plans. By brining another woman into his bed, Abraham created an environment of jealousy and mistrust within his household. He created a division in the unity of his marriage, and he spawned an unhealthy competition between both women and their sons. The effects of this decision are still felt today—Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations, Jacob is the father of the Jewish nation. If you’ve read the news any time in the last 4,000 years, you know there’s still tension in that relationship.

Jacob (Genesis 25:19-50:26) repeated the mistake of his grandfather and there were similar results. His choices led to tension, jealousy, hatred, family infighting, and competition between the children of his various wives. Again, his life and choices concerning his relationships are an example of what happens when we choose to abandon God’s way and then do things our own way.

David (1 and 2 Samuel) was described as a man after God’s own heart, yet he made choices concerning women with tragic results. David took more than one wife, and the results were fighting and bloodshed. He actually lost four sons as a direct result of his extra-marital affairs. Again, this is not God’s prescribed state of marriage.

Same thing with Solomon (1 Kings 1-11) occurred when he chose to go against the will of God and take many wives. Those wives became his undoing as they led him away from God and toward their foreign gods. They took his attention away from ruling and worshiping and placed it square on themselves. Solomon was the last ruler of a unified Israel.

God told His chosen people Israel in Deuteronomy 10 that He commanded them to follow His statutes “for your own good.” The laws that God prescribes are from a loving Father who desires what is best for His children. The stories recorded in Scripture are those of a rebellious people who choose to stray from their loving Father. God’s prescription for living is the best way to live. The descriptions of the lives of people lead do not always follow the prescription given for right living.

So in one way, Lisa Miller was right. Her description of marriage as she sees the Bible is certainly not one that anyone would prescribe. But the Bible’s prescription of marriage is one of mutual love, trust, respect and submission between one man and one woman, under the headship of Christ. Any other arrangement is against the prescription of God, mandated for our own good.

What most people fail to see is that any straying from God’s perfect design goes against the ways of God. Evangelicals do not support serial heterosexual marriages, or adultery or premarital sex. In the eyes of God, sin is sin and they all separate us from Him. The problem is not that God has changed His mind concerning His perfect plan for sex and marriage. The problem is that the church has refused to define and then defend marriage and its purpose as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. When the church begins to equally take a stand against all relationships that violate the mandates of God, supporters of gay marriage may no longer feel as though we are picking on them.

The Bible is not about you.


Dr. Akin gave this to us this morning in class in a discussion of typology in the Old Testament. His point was to show that while so much of what goes on in the church today is people-centered, self-help, feelings-healing, needs-meeting fluff, the Bible is not really about us, it’s all about Jesus. When we focus on ourselves, we so often miss the point that when we really meet Jesus, we find our help, our feelings are healed and our needs are met!

Too often when we study scripture, we start with the wrong question: “What does this say to/about me?” If we start our study asking, “What does this tell me about God?” then we really get down to the deep riches of the Word. After all, if we are called to conform to the image of Christ, shouldn’t we be learning more about him and less about us?

The following resource was cited by Tim Keller in his lecture “Preaching the Gospel” from the Resurgence Conference in 2006. The audio can be found here:

http://theresurgence.com/r_r_2006_session_seven_audio_keller

Jesus is the true and better Adam, who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel, who, though innocently slain, has blood that now cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answered the call of God to leave the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void, not know wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac, who was not just offered up by his father on the mount, but was truly sacrificed for us. And just as God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob, who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph, who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses, who stands in the gap between people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses, who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David, whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave up his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah, who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the read Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the True Temple, the True Prophet, the True Priest, the True King, the True Sacrifice, the True Lamb, the True Light, the True Bread.

The Bible’s not really about you—it’s about Him.

Christians and Culture


I recently was assigned an essay in which I was to answer the question, “How ought Christians react to the shifting moral values of culture?” Here’s my answer…

I have read the assigned book, Reforming the Morality of Usury, in its entirety.

Much like the time of the Reformers, today’s culture is in the midst of a massive shift in moral thinking. As secular culture becomes more permissive concerning topics like abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, genetic research, and even financial responsibility, it is the responsibility of the church to determine the absolute morality of such issues in light of the absolute truth of the Word of God. Often concessions are made in issues of morality by claiming that, since the culture has changed, many laws of the Bible are now outdated. For example, the Old Testament prohibition on tattooing is used to support this argument because tattooing is currently a culturally accepted art form in America. Issues of capital punishment are also used by some to decry the Bible as a moral authority. Because our current culture does not solicit the use of capital punishment for behaviors such as homosexuality, adultery, or dishonoring parents, then it is reasoned that none of the moral laws or consequences should apply any longer. With this view of law in the Bible, the proverbial baby of moral law is thrown out with the bathwater of time bound, theocratic law.

If believers hold to the presupposition that the “all or nothing” view of law in Scripture is incorrect, how should Christians view and apply Scripture to daily life? The ever-changing nature of the world is further proof that the world is diametrically opposed to the immutable God, Creator of the universe. Secular culture is constantly shifting the boundaries of right and wrong, but Scripture contains God’s statement concerning Himself: “I the Lord do not change” (Mal 3:6). While God was speaking of His covenant promise to Israel, this concept of God’s immutability carries through His entire being. Regardless of the behavior of His chosen people Israel, God’s covenant with them was never changing, and neither was His response to them; when they obeyed He blessed them and when they strayed He disciplined them. The Psalmist praises God that His love and faithfulness endures forever (cf. 100:5; 107:1; 117:2; 118:1-4, 29; 136:1-5).

Just as God is unchanging, we are told that His word is unchanging as well. Throughout Scripture, God’s words never change. From Genesis to Revelation, each author, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, traces the consistent story of redemption and salvation. The Lord tells Isaiah to proclaim to the people in Isaiah 40:7-8, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Though men will rise and fall and be blown away like the grass in the wind, the unchanging Word of God will remain forever.

According to these very brief glimpses into the nature of God and of His Word, one can surmise that God is unchanging in His very nature. Just as the Scripture sheds light on the nature of God, it also reveals the nature of man. As mentioned above, God told Isaiah that people are like grass and they fade in glory and fall. The prophet Jeremiah was told that the heart of man is wicked (17:9). Samuel told King Saul that “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Sam 15:29). When Paul describes weak-willed women to Timothy, part of that description includes that they are “swayed by all kinds of evil desires” (2 Tim 3:6). Though man is always changing in thought and deed and conviction, God never changes

So according to the Scriptures, which have been shown to be unchanging, God is unchanging, trustworthy, and loving in His eternal nature, but man is changing, swaying, untrustworthy, and wicked. If the story stopped there, it would seem hopeless for the church to react to the changing culture in any other way than to mirror culture itself. There are, however, commands given to the church specifically concerning how we as believers are to interact with the changing culture of the current society. In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul instructs the believers in Rome: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” As believers, we are not to conform to the changing winds of culture. We are instead to renew our minds so that we are able to test and approve God’s will. By renewing our minds through studying Scripture, we will be able to rightly discern the world around us. Peter also addresses this topic in 1 Pet 1:13-16: “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

Succinctly written in the very words of God, the church is told that as the culture around us changes, we are to nevertheless be holy as God is holy. We are to remain steadfast and unwavering in the beliefs that the precepts in Scripture are right, true, beautiful, restorative, and refreshing. The only way that Scripture will be seen in such a light is for believers to uphold it regardless of the culture around us. Scripture tells us that God is calling unto himself a people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, which assumes that His Gospel supersedes the fluctuating tides of culture. The church’s responsibility is to continue living in such a way that we are not only hearers of the never changing word, but we are also doers of the same.

An Open Letter to Sinners


I wrote this letter for a friend going through a time of struggle and restoration with the Lord, but with so much being written these days about the experiential, emotionally driven church, I wanted to share it with more people. The church today has been deceived by the feel-good Gospel and with a simple glance at the world around us, we can see that getting people to feel good about themselves is not improving the state of the world around us. Please read this letter prayerfully, and feel free to copy it and pass it along.

Dear Friend,

I am so excited to hear that the Lord has provided a time of solitude for you this weekend. Often times when we have been faced with a crisis of sin in our lives we want to fill our time up with people and noise and work and chaos, with the thinking that being busy will keep us out of trouble. We don’t trust ourselves; and rightly so. Jeremiah 17:5-18 talks about our wicked, untrustworthy hearts and how they can get us into trouble so many times. But in verse 14, Jeremiah remembers who should be trusted—not us, but the Lord: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, for you are my praise.”

The amazing thing for believers is that He has already healed and saved us! Romans 6 is an amazing testimony to us about our relationship with both Christ and with sin. Paul tells us that we are already dead to sin! There is no battle to fight because Christ has already won the battle. Before we are believers, we have no choice but sin; we think we are free to do what we want, but we really have no choice but to sin. But once we are filled with the Spirit of God, the victory over sin has been won and we now have the choice to live in freedom!

I know from personal experience that we do not always make the right choice. But simply knowing in those deepest, darkest times of temptation that I do not have to give in because Christ has already won the battle for me is enough sometimes to see me through. Peter talks about this when he tells us in 1 Peter that we have everything we need for life and godliness. Paul backs that up in 1 Corinthians when he told the church at Corinth—a group of people familiar with their own sinfulness—that God will never tempt us beyond what we can bear. That is a promise you can take to the bank! Our hearts and our flesh may scream that we must give in to temptation, and that we have no choice, but God has promised that through the Spirit and the Word we have everything we need to resist, even when we feel like we can’t.

When I went through my time of brokenness and restoration with the Lord, I read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, and in that book there is a paragraph that has become dear to me and I return to it often:

“On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer topic than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” … But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in it determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

What an amazing God we serve! And the even more amazing thing is that we already know the cost of that love—for us, we must die to self, no matter how painful the process may be. And for God, the cost was His very Son. He died for us; the very least we can do is die for Him.

But how do we do that? Dig into the Word! The Spirit can only work with the tools we give Him. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, so you must arm Him in order for Him to be able to protect you. God told the Israelites through Hosea, “My people die for lack of knowledge.” We stay in a defeated state when we do not arm ourselves with the Scripture. Too often we trust our own love, our own warm fuzzy feelings about God to keep us safe, but that is such a dangerously prideful place to be because it gives us too much credit and doesn’t give our enemy enough credit. If we are in battle against a roaring lion who is seeking whom he may devour, I’m not going to approach him thinking I’m untouchable—I’m going to want a weapon! The Scripture is our weapon—begin this weekend arming yourself with the Word and never let up. The more you know, the more you want to know.

I will be praying for you this weekend as you begin this journey with the Lord. Do not be afraid of the process of brokenness and solitude with the Father. It is gut wrenching, painful, and agonizing at times to really see your sin and deal with it. But the freedom found on the other side is worth it every time. Pray for the Lord to show you the weightiness of your sin and how it impacts your relationship with Him and with those around you. It’s an honest prayer. It’s a painfully humbling prayer. It’s a prayer He will answer every time. And it’s a prayer you will never regret once you reap the fruit of your obedience to Him.

When God allows us to go through times in which we must face our own sinfulness head-on, it’s usually because He has great things in store for us to do for His kingdom. Much like Jesus allowed Peter to be sifted like wheat by Satan, he allows us to be sifted so that the sins we cling to so desperately can be removed from our lives for His glory. Do not be afraid of the sifting process—being a useful weapon for the Father is a blessing I will never understand. That He chooses weak, sinful people like us to do His work will always amaze me.

For His Glory,

Bekah Mason

bekahmae.wordpress.com

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~~ 1 Cor. 10:31 …whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. ~~