Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who Do I Thank For This?

Have you ever had an experience where you benefited from someone’s generosity and you didn't know who to thank? 

Maybe it was a party and you enjoyed a delicious spread. You wanted to thank the cook. Maybe at some event someone paid, unexpectedly, for the whole group. Do you remember asking, “Who do I thank for this?”

Well…have you ever enjoyed anything on planet earth? Did you enjoy or benefit from anything yesterday? Is your heart still beating today? Are you still breathing air you don’t own? Have you eaten food just about every day of your life? Obviously, the list could go on. Which is kind of the point. Who do you thank for it?

And if you are a Christian, have you, undeservedly, been rescued from the domain of darkness? Have you been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? Have you been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? Have all your sins been paid for - past, present, and future? Do you have a living hope that can’t be killed by anyone or any circumstances on earth? Can anything or anyone separate you from the love of God in Christ? Will God work all things together for good for you? Obviously the list could go on. And it should.

Get Drunk For Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you're going to be happy today, filled with Thanksgiving, you need to get drunk...on the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18-20
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, 
but be filled with the Spirit,
(and when you are under the influence of the Spirit, it will result in) ... giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
You might be pretty down today. Getting yourself to give thanks may feel like it feels when you realize late on a cold night that tomorrow is garbage day. You have to will yourself out the door to pull the cans to the street.

Is THAT thanksgiving? A pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps willing myself to tick off some things I am (or should feel) thankful for?

Well, it wouldn't hurt to get your focus off of unmet needs and onto undeserved mercy. Your feelings of thanksgiving may just rise with a little effort. Nevertheless, God hasn't left you to yourself on this one. There is divine power for giving thanks. It comes from drinking in the Spirit of God. When you get under his influence, you will start to sing...and give thanks.

Have you drunk your fair share of the Spirit today?

How do you do it? Drink in the Word, dependent on the Spirit, and you will get filled up. Not just a little sip. Nobody gets drunk on a sip. Drink deeply. Drink until you're under the influence. And watch how you'll start giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Purity Thursday: The Light That Shines From Lust's Dark Idolatry

Had I been thinking ahead, I would have saved last Thursday's purity post for today, Thanksgiving Day. At least it's worth pointing out again today that cultivating thanksgiving year round is a powerful antidote to lust and impurity. 

Observing folly and destruction can be a strong motivator on the road of life. Seeing a bad car accident can sober and slow you down, or move you to quit that occasional texting. The same goes for lust's effects. We can learn a lesson from the dark idolatry of adulterous lust. It can even shed light on the path of following Jesus. 

Think about the blindness of lust when it gets to the point where adultery is first contemplated and then finally acted upon. The person who comes to this point is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of their desire. 

Those of us who look on from the outside can’t understand it. We see how cheap the thrill is and how costly the fall-out: potential loss of marriage, kinetic loss of reputation and respect and trust, the damage done to the kids, the inner turmoil experienced by all involved, etc, etc. We ask, “Why would he do this and sacrifice so much?” We wonder, “How do you get to that point?”

The (increasing) blindness of lust and the sacrifices it often stimulates are proof positive of its idolatry. Lust is idolatry. It places the gratification of the flesh at the center. It says “no” to all that God is for us in Jesus. It says “yes” to all that sin is for us in the form of a man or a woman. When it grows to the point of acting it out in real life, the “no’s” and ‘yes’s” are radical and sacrificial. 

This is the nature of sin. It calls for costly sacrifice, but gives us nothing more than fleeting pleasure, shame, regret, and loss.

Following Jesus out of love is the true archetype to which lust is only a deceitful anti-type. The gain promised in Christ (see Mark 8:34-38) ought to elicit a response of love-blind sacrifice that will often look like foolishness to those on the “outside.” 

Running the race of faith set before you, with all the attending sacrifices, is proof positive of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus. He is Lord. He is the worthy center of life’s solar system. And when he is functionally first in our affections, the effects are radical and sacrificial.

This is the glory of God. He calls for costly sacrifice, but gives us freedom and peace and joy, and an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs the cost of the sacrifice.  

Learn from the dark caricature of lust. Let is serve to turn your stomach…and then your eyes “upon Jesus, [to] look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of this glory and grace.”

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Purity Thursday: Give Thanks For Purity

There are direct, reactive, in-the-moment strategies to fight lust (e.g. Matthew 5:29, “if your eye cause you to sin, tear it out…”). There are also indirect, preventative strategies. Growing in gratitude is an indirect, but powerful preventative measure.

Just think about it. Lust can’t cohabit with thankfulness in the human heart. One has to go. Lust is covetous and never satisfied and ungrateful by its very nature. A lustful heart can’t be a thankful heart. And a thankful heart can’t be a lustful heart. 

No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote like this (Ephesians 5:3-4, emphasis added):
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
So, give thanks for purity…and you will have purity for which to give thanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Purity Thursday: Harnessing Unrestrained Lust in the Battle for Purity

Installment #1:

Today (7/22/14) in Starbucks a guy comes in and is unashamedly looking at every girl/woman he can feast his eyes on. He moves around to check out the young girls at the table. He stares at the woman in line, stepping back a pace or two to get a better view. And on it goes. It’s obvious, repeated, unrestrained. I want to punch him in the mouth.

And it helps me. Seeing unrestrained lust in all its despicable ugliness – and thinking of my wife and daughters (I’m glad they weren’t at Starbucks today!) – made me want all the more to fight against lust in my own heart. This man seems to allow no sense of civility or respect for women to hinder his lust. I want to allow no sense of selfishness or lust to hinder my pursuit of purity and love.

I’m reminded of a powerful account in Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Tortured For Christ (35-36, emphasis added):
I often asked the torturers, ‘Don’t you have pity in your hearts?’ They usually answered with quotations from Lenin: ‘You cannot make omelets without breaking the shells of eggs,’ and ‘You cannot cut wood without making chips fly.’ I said again, ‘I know these quotations from Lenin. But there is a difference. When you cut a piece of wood it feels nothing. But here you are dealing with human beings. Every beating produces pain and there are mothers who weep.’ It was in vain. They are materialists. For them nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty. 
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communists torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I heard one torturer say, ‘I thank God, in whom I do not believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners. … 
I learned from them. As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine.
This man in Starbucks has no hint of love or respect toward women in his heart. I want to have no hint of sexual immorality (Eph 5:3 NIV) in mine. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).

Introducing "Purity Thursday"

Temptation to lust abounds. It's everywhere and it's easily accessible. Nevertheless, the biggest problem is not "out there" on the internet. It's "in here," with my heart that can be like a seething cauldron of illicit desire. 

There was obviously no internet in the 1st century, but Jesus knew about our lustful hearts. He knows the human heart better than anyone. He was tempted in every respect, as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). And he says we need to be ruthless in our pursuit of purity. Listen to his words in Matthew 5:27-30: 
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or a man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her (or him) in his (or her) heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
You might be toying with temptation today. You may have given in, repeatedly. You may be totally entangled in the unsatisfying slavery of sexual sin. Do you hear this word from Jesus? If so, then listen to Hebrews 3:15:
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
If this word from Jesus awakens new desires in you, then fight with all your might! Take the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17) and start hacking away at the sin that so easily entangles, so you can run FREE, following Jesus (Heb 12:1-2). Talk to someone you trust and ask them to pray for you and hold you accountable. Ask them how they fight for purity. Share ideas. Preach the gospel to each other. Fight for each other's faith!

One of the habits I got into years ago was to write up any strategy for purity that proved helpful to me. I figured it would help me think more clearly about HOW to fight, and I figured I could pass along those strategies to others to help in their fight. Over the years, I've sent not a few of these strategies to different guys who have shared with me their struggles. I hope they've been helpful.

I was reminded of one I wrote up recently and thought I'd share it here. Maybe I'll make it a habit for awhile. Yes, I think so (I really am making this up as I go along - just had to re-title this post). It's not very creative, but I'll call it "Purity Thursday," or "PT." Could also stand for "Purity Therapy." Therapy is defined as, "treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder." Lustful hearts are disordered hearts. We need gospel therapy for the sake of purity and love. Done. Installment #1 to follow. 

And by the way, if you have or discover any strategies helpful to you, please pass them along. I want all the firepower in my arsenal that I can get! Maybe I'll even share some of them here in weeks to come and you can help a number of others fight the good fight of faith. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air

Justin Taylor:

Francis Schaeffer once described moral relativists as those “who have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” An even more vivid illustration is that of Cornelius Van Til (The Defense of the Faith):
Suppose we think of a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water.
Desiring to get out of water, he makes a ladder of water.
He sets this ladder upon the water and against the water and then attempts to climb out of the water.
So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man’s methodology based as it is upon the assumption that time or chance is ultimate. On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance. 

On the contrary, our worldview is summarized well by Isaiah 26:4:
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.