This morning I shared Strategies for the Fight against Sin in my Sunday School class at church. If you are interested, I’ve posted them on the Sanctification page (see link above). In my preparations, I returned again to a classic–J.C. Ryle’s Holiness. Chapter four is entitled “The Fight” (Evangelical Press, 1989). Here are some helpful quotes:
The first thing I have to say is this: true Christianity is a fight. True Christianity! Let us mind that word ‘true’. There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster, it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal registry. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any ‘fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self-denial and watching and warring they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is ‘a fight’.
The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions, but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must ‘fight’.
I quote from one more section:
It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On weekdays as well as on Sundays, in private as well as in public, at home by the family fireside as well as abroad, in little things, like management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones, like the government of kingdoms, the Christian’s warfare must unceasingly go on. The foe we have to do with keeps no holidays, never slumbers and never sleeps. So long as we have breath in our bodies we must keep on our armour and remember we are on an enemy’s ground (quotes from pp. 51, 54 & 55).
Who is the enemy? The world (that in the world which is rebellious to God), the flesh (our indwelling sin) and the devil (Satan, the most-powerful fallen angel).
On Friday evening I went to see the new movie Cowboys and Aliens. It wasn’t bad. The acting was great (Harrison Ford was one of the main characters) and the special effects were awesome (the aliens were—as expected–gross!) At one point in the movie, Jake went to recruit the members of his old gang to help in the fight against the gold-grabbing, cowboy-and-Indian-killing extra-terrestrials. The group of misfit criminals had planned to drown their fears in alcohol on a beach in Mexico. Jake convinced them to join the attack because–like it or not–they would eventually have to do battle with the aliens.
Isn’t that a good analogy of the Christian life? If we don’t take the conflict to the enemies, they’ll bring it to us! Consider these words from Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Is violent a word which others would use to describe your spiritual life? Please understand, we are not meaning violence against other people–individuals of no belief (atheists), suspended belief (agnostics) or differing beliefs (other religions). Jesus is employing wartime language to passionately communicate how seriously we are to take our salvation as well as our sanctification. Christians are to actively engage in the conflict against the world, the flesh and the devil. As Ryle correctly stated, “we must…remember that we are on an enemy’s ground.”
Did you remember that today?
Are you fighting?
I found some helpful words from “Pastor Dave Online.” Search: “35 Strategies for Fighting Sin.” It’s worth your time. Have a great week!
If you know your Bible, you know that my chronology is a bit messed up. Moses and the rescued people of God did not sing praises to their Deliverer (Exodus 15) until He had delivered them (Exodus 14).
Since God remains the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), I am convinced that He can deliver me from the challenges I face, even if–like Israel in front of the Red Sea with the army of Egypt ready to devour–my situation seems hopeless.
Todd Agnew reminded me of this last Thursday night. He asked the small crowd (you really should have been there) what we considered to be the Red Sea we were facing? He inquired as to whom our “Egyptians” were. The analogy was self-evident. What are the seemingly insurmountable obstacles staring us in the face?
One of Todd’s earlier comments that evening related to the immutability of God. That is the concept that God does not change. He applied it to the situation Israel faced when all seemed lost as well as to the challenges we face today. God has not changed. God is God.
And so–as a child of God–I can call out to Him for assistance, for deliverance with great confidence. You see:
- God is still God.
- God is still omnipotent (all-powerful).
- God is still concerned for His people (those who know Him, not just about Him).
- God is still listening to the prayers of His people (Jesus repeatedly made that point).
Does that encourage you today? It does me!
Moses and the newly freed slaves sang:
“Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders” (Ex. 15:11)?
It’s rhetorical. NO ONE is like God! He “triumphed gloriously” (15:1)! “The LORD is a man of war” (15:3). He is “glorious in power” (15:6). He reigns forever and ever (15:18).
A small but important word appears in our English translations in Exodus 15:2. It’s the pronoun “my.” Notice below:
“The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; that is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him” (ESV).
Along with God’s transcendence (He alone is God; there ain’t a single being in the universe with whom He compares), Moses celebrated God’s intimacy. Moses did not simply know about God. Moses knew God.
What about you?
As I meditate for a moment upon the Red Sea before me, I find myself with a peaceful heart, knowing my God is still God. He is still omnipotent. He is still concerned for His people, of whom I am a part. He is still listening to my prayers.
So I ask you–what’s the Red Sea you are currently facing? What are the seemingly insurmountable obstacles staring you in the face?
Is any of it too big for the LORD?
Is any of it too big for THE LORD?
I took Celena to a Todd Agnew concert last night at Rudd Auditorium on the campus of Bryan College. I suppose I have been to fifty concerts in my life, from AC/DC when I was without Christ to Twila Paris when I was in Christ. I mention Twila Paris because her concert at First Baptist Chattanooga was an evening of worship, celebrating God, not Twila’s vocal talents. Last night’s experience with Todd Agnew resembled that evening. I very much appreciated Todd’s God-centered songs and comments about Christ, and our desperate need of a Good Shepherd. It was clear that Todd was not full of himself. Perhaps that attitude enabled him to write one of his well-known songs In the Middle of Me. I’ve included the You Tube link below for your edification. It will surely remind you of John the Baptist’s comment, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). In other words, John preferred that people make much more of Jesus than himself. Shouldn’t that be our desire as well? If people see our “light,” our good works, and God is glorified, we should be satisfied (Mt. 5:16). Todd wasn’t interested in receiving applause last night. That was refreshing. A question I need to ask myself is: Am I seeking the applause of men, or would I rather hear others glorifying God?
It’s a question we should all ask ourselves.
Here’s the link to the song:
Dr. Alex Chediak, Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering at California Baptist University, wrote a very thought-provoking article in the July/August edition of Modern Reformation (Vol. 20, No. 4). Allow me to quote from the third section of “Coming of Age in the Facebook Age” (pp.33-37). The section is “Narcissim, Participation Trophies, and Grade Inflation.” Chediak writes,
Narcissim is self-esteem on steroids. It’s ego-centrism–the belief that reality revolves around me. Social media often breeds this trait: with Facebook we tally our friends, with Twitter we count our followers, and with blogging we monitor our traffic, measuring our worth by how much attention we’re able to generate, and from whom.
In a June 2009 national poll of over one thousand college students, two out of three agreed with the statement, “My generation is more self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident, and attention-seeking than previous generations.” This is college students speaking of their own generation–it isn’t older folks merely criticising “kids these days.” In late 2009, New York Times columnist David Brooks reflected on the tendency for self-promotion in our day. We recall singer Kanye West’s opinionated interruption of Taylor Swift’s Video Music Awards speech, Michael Jodan’s egotistical, longwinded Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech, or even the brashness of Dr. House on the popular TV series. Broooks contrasted the chest-thumping of our day with the humility and restraint of war veterans (and, by extension, America as a whole) the day World War II ended. The ticker tape parades came later. The initial response, from President Truman on down, was solemnity, even awe, at the enormity of what had transpired. Writes Brooks, “The nation’s mood was at its most humble when its actual achievements were at their most extraordinary.”
In our day, it’s the exact reverse: the rising generation has a more than healthy does of self-esteem, but that self-esteem is often not grounded in reality. Our accomplishments may be modest, but we feel really good about ourselves. It’s fitting–many of us were awarded a trophy in Little League just for being on a team. A recent study found that 39 percent of American eighth graders were confident of their math skills, compared to only 6 percent of Korean eighth graders. But I probably don’t have to tell you which were actually better at math.
It’s one thing for parents to want their children to carry themselves with confidence into new situations. Fear of failure is far too often a self-fulilling prophecy. But our society has swung the pendulum to the other extreme. It conflates a sense of dignity and self-worth (appropriate for God’s image bearers) from actual achievement, and hence diminishes the value of excellence. It breeds not self-confidence but rather blind confidence–the notion that positive thinking somehow assures success.
Ours is a day in which everybody is apparently above average. I survey my students at the start of every semester to ask what grade they expect to earn in my courses. Invariably, 50 to 70 percent say “A”–a grade that once meant “excellent” in comparison to one’s peers. The average college student in 1961 earned about a 2.5 to 2.6 GPA. Over the last decade that number has swelled to over 3.0. Harder working students? Not exactly: Students studied twenty-four hours a week in 1961 as compared to only fourteen hours a week in 2003. Better prepared, more capable students? Not according to trends in K-12 education or evaluations taken during or immediately after four-year undergraduate programs.
The topic of grade inflation is controversial and well beyond the bounds of this essay. I merely make these observations to speak to the point that the self-estimation of many young adults in our culture is not always tethered to reality. By coddling them in childhood with “participation trophies” (lest they feel bad), by giving them B’s and A’s for mediocre work, by constantly reminding them how special and talented they are, it’s no wonder they’re shocked and depressed when shuffled off the the stage (post-graduation), like another failed American Idol contestant. They’re set up to underperform, if not fail.
*Please note that many of Dr. Chediak’s statements accompany end notes in which he cites his research.
For more about this author, see:
For more information about Modern Reformation, visit http://www.modernreformation.org or call (800) 890-7556.
I taught Jesus & the Gospels last night in Dalton, GA. During the first half of our meeting, we discussed the works of Jesus. The second half of the class dealt with the words of Jesus. I love to talk about both subjects because I love to talk about Jesus! As I concluded the first segment, I asked the students about their response to the works of Jesus. Several are mentioned in the gospels, including doubt (Lk. 4:22), rage (Lk. 4:28) and fear (Mk. 5:15). However, the most appropriate response is that of awe, wonder.
“Who is this that even the wind and waves obey Him?” (Mk. 4:41).
“And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mk. 5:42).
“About the fourth watch of the night He went out to them, walking on the lake…They were completely amazed” (Mk. 6:48, 51 [ESV: “utterly astonished”]).
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’…And they were amazed at Him” (Mk. 12:17).
Jesus is amazing, and His amazing works should cause awe and wonder in us. Is that your response? If you have a moment, watch the following John Piper clip on the supremacy of Christ. It’s worth your ten minutes!
“That’s My Jesus!”
Several weeks ago, I visited the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery in Chattanooga. More than 150 Confederate soldiers under the command of General Braxton Bragg were buried there in 1862. Although most of the graves are unmarked, one of the marked headstones caught my attention. Here’s the inscription:
William L. Youngblood
July 27, 1833-October 15, 1862
Co. E. 8th Mississippi Infantry
July 27th. That’s today–the birthday of my third born child, Dayton Nathaniel Wehse.
Let’s talk about William first. William was one of two Youngbloods serving in Co. E of the 8th Mississippi Infantry. Both were privates. The 8th Miss. Inf. was mustered into service on July 29, 1861. The unit saw some action in Florida in ’61 and ’62, mostly artillery engagements. However, these men of the deep south fought bravely in the Battle of Murfreesboro (December, 1862) and distinguished themselves in the Battle of Chickamauga (September, 1863). William would not live to fight for Dixie. Like many of his friends, he died of illness in October of ’62. Any dreams of heroism quietly passed as William breathed his last. His really is a sad story.
Dayton Nathaniel Wehse is six years old today! Although he was born in Nevada, Dayton relocated to Tennessee when he was just ten months old. He’s a southern boy. He’s big, blonde, blue-eyed, and a joy to his father. Perhaps that same description could have been used of William Youngblood. We’ll never know. His proud parents in 1833 could not have envisioned what eventually would happen to their bouncing, baby boy. Likewise, I cannot see into the future. I do not know what the Lord has planned for my beloved son. I rest in the truth that God is good and does good (Ps. 119:68). My job is not to fret about what might be, but to concentrate upon what is. Dayton is here today. My task is to love him today; to train him today; to prepare him today.
Records in Tennessee and Texas (William’s widow, Elizabeth, remarried and moved to Texas) indicate that William had three sons (Rich, Harrison and William). Most likely, the boys were young when Daddy went off to fight in the War of Northern Aggression (I use that term rather than “Civil War” in this entry because I am seeking to enter into the story from the perspective of William’s children). Daddy never returned. After the initial grieving (it never fully ends), the boys matured, becoming proud young men–proud of their father who did the right thing. That’s the kind of Daddy I desire to be for my birthday boy today. I want to be a man of which he is proud. I want to see him doing the right thing at the right time in the right ways for the right reasons because he sees me doing it first.
God, please give me strength!
God, please bless my son!
God, please bless the family of William–wherever they might be!
My adorable. little, blonde-headed girl has turned three years old! Words escape me as I attempt to describe how much joy my fourth child brings to my life. The older I become, the more I genuinely believe the Scriptural declaration, “Children are a blessing from God” (Ps. 127:3).
Today is a special day. Cascade turned three on the same day my father was born back in 1927. When we think of her, we should think of him. There are several similarities, including their sense of humor and intelligence! I miss Dad today but will remind myself to enjoy “Babies” a little bit more.
In order to celebrate Cascade’s (today) and Dayton’s birthday (Wednesday), we scraped together what we could to accompany two passes to Lake Winnie that Dayton won earlier this summer. (Lake Winnie is a great, medium-sized amusement park in North Georgia). We spent 1-8PM at the park today, and the kids had a blast! My birthday girl particularly enjoyed a kiddie swing ride (you know the type–circle after circle after circle resulting in nasuea for any normal adult) and the water play area. While I was watching the two birthday kids soaking themselves, a country song was playing over the speaker. The refrain grabbed my attention, “That’s a good thing.” In other words, this is life at its best. The wife and kids were having a great time. I couldn’t ask for much more. It was “a little bit of chicken fried.” I smiled several times. That says quite a bit.
So–here I sit at the end of a good day (presents for Cascade, Sunday School, church, amusement park), praising God for His grace. I hope you experienced that same grace this Lord’s Day.
In closing, allow me to share some Cascade gems from the past two days:
“Oh–that van is driving faster than us. It’s going to pass us. That man is sleeping; no, he is praying for God to help him.”
“Daddy, look at me! I’m a tomato!”
“Once upon a time, God went to a park. And He had a little boy and a little girl and He named them Puppy Dog and Kitty Cat.”
“Growing in grace and knowledge”
That’s the motto of ACU–African Christian University. I am a small part of a group of individuals which desires to see a holistic, Christ-centered educational institution “where every discipline is taught from the perspective that all knowledge originates from God, through Jesus Christ, as the Creator. Students should leave every lecture having experienced the exalted Christ in every truth.” Those words are found in an informative pamphlet about ACU.
Do they resonate with your passions as they do mine?
I have a heart for Christian colleges, partly due to the profound impact in my life by faculty and staff of Bryan College. As a result, it did not take long for Ken Turnbull to excite me about the dream of seeing a university with a biblical worldview in Zambia.
What–you don’t know where Zambia is? Neither did I! Here’s the map:
Let’s zoom in so you will get a better view of “the Butterfly Country.”
Thanks to God using Bryan College in my own life, and for my several interactions with Ken Turnbull, I, too, have a desire to see a Christ-centered university in the country of Zambia. My hope has been to stir your emotions a bit along these same lines. South-Central Africa needs what ACU is currently planning and praying to offer.
Would you consider praying for this ministry?
If you would like more information, please see the link on top of this page.
I close with a picture of Victoria Falls!
Ask most people about Solomon, and what will they tell you? Most assuredly, they will mention the word “wisdom.” Anyone even a little versant in the Bible knows the account of God appearing to Solomon and promising to give him anything he desired (2 Chr. 1:7). What was Solomon’s reply? Wisdom (2 Chr. 1:10). What did God think of his request? God was pleased (2 Chr. 1:11). He blessed Solomon with great wisdom (1 Ki. 4:29-34). It’s possible, even probable, that Solomon became the smartest guy on the planet.
At least–for a while.
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore” (1 Ki. 1:29; ESV).
“So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (2 Chr. 9:22).
“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…” (1 Ki. 11:1).
“He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Ki. 11:3, 4).
“Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done” (1 Ki. 11:6).
“Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, who had appeared to him twice” (1 Ki. 11:9).
Let’s meditate upon two conditions today–Solomon’s heart condition after his UNWISE decisions and the condition of our own hearts.
First–Solomon’s heart condition after his UNWISE decisions.
Does the disconnect we find described in Scripture about Solomon’s wisdom and his unwise decisions cause you to scratch your head in confusion? We see the smartest guy on the planet being unwise–disobedient to the commands of God. I like how the Chronicler stated it. “Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, who had appeared to him twice” (1 Ki. 11:9). The author was amazed that even though the Lord visited with Solomon two times, he, Solomon, still allowed his heart to be turned from God. By the way, that is tragic. A young man with a passion for exalting God became an idolator and–from the looks of it–a sex addict. It’s as if his amazing intellect–a gift from God–never genuinely affected his heart. If it did so, the influence did not last. Perhaps that’s why his emotion-less conclusion in the book of Ecclesiastes has always mildly disappointed me. The passion of David is absent. What we find is a worn out intellectual writing, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Eccl. 12:13; ESV). Interesting words from a man who blatantly disobeyed God. Without a doubt, Solomon’s story more represents a tragedy than a comedy. His heart turned from the Lord. I hope that that description was not accurate during his last days on earth.
Second–The condition of our own hearts.
Which way is your heart facing today? Is it toward the Lord? It is common knowledge that adherents to Islam pray facing Mecca. Their hearts are facing their most sacred place. Shouldn’t the same be true of Christians? Our hearts should face heaven. In other words, our hearts should be wholly devoted to the Lord (1 Ki. 11:4). We should follow the Lord fully (1 Ki. 11:6). Solomon disobeyed God in several areas, and it ruined his spiritual life. Disobedience–left unrepented–destroys. Can we be courageous enough today to examine our lives in light of the Word of God? Which word best describes our practice–obedience or disobedience? Which way is our heart facing?
Which way is your heart facing?
Do I need to define my terms? The new movie Horrible Bosses is filled with profanity. How do I know? I read reviews before I see movies lest I sit in a theater and hear, well, 120-f-bombs. What irritated me was that I would have liked to see the subject matter covered in the movie–work place ethics. I wanted to see their portrayal of the issues we are currently covering in my Business Ethics class for Bryan College. However, my ethic kept me from seeing a movie on ethics. As you might imagine, the movie is receiving rave reviews by both the fans and those in the industry.
Profanity is popular.
I’m not interested. I simply do not need any more fuel for my flesh. I have a hard enough time controlling the sin which desires to control my members without voluntarily putting myself into such an environment. I can hear the critics even as I write.
“You’re just weak.”
“Just because you can’t handle the negative influences doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“I can watch a movie without being affected by it.”
That last line was actually used by a fellow seminary student years ago in Orlando. He was convinced that he could remain unaffected by hearing profanity and watching sex scenes in movies. He was naive. What we listen to changes us. What we see shapes us.
If you desire to honor God you will investigate your entertainment options prior to allowing those entertainment options to influence you. When you do, you can objectively state that Horrible Bosses is a horrible movie without even seeing a preview.
“You’re just a religious fanatic.”
Well, if religious fanaticism looks like striving to live to the glory of God in a God-neglecting culture, then I am guilty as charged.
Who’s with me?!
PS–A few related thoughts were included on the Quick Takes page.