Why Silence is Golden

February 15, 2017 — Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, I wrote, “7 Questions to Ask Before Posting about Politics on Social Media.” It would have been impossible to anticipate the response. More people read it than anything I have ever written and got feedback from more places than I have ever received.

Much of the feedback I received came from people who were thankful for the post and benefited from it as they sorted through how to respond to our unique cultural moment. Some of the responses that came my way were of the not happy variety and warned that following my advice would lead to weak-kneed Christians who said nothing and did nothing. After all, they said, that is how we got to where we are today.

In this post, I don’t necessarily want to respond to any particular piece of negative feedback I received, but I do want to double down on my main point. Christians need to speak less and be more thoughtful when we do speak. This is not the random observation of a timid, peace-keeping pastor in central Alabama, but the witness of Solomon, James, Paul, and Jesus.

There are three reasons we speak less and think more before we speak.

We Often Speak with Incomplete Information

“The fool does not delight in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Solomon cuts to the heart of our foolish speech when he notes our tendency to speak without having all of the facts on a matter. We equate off the cuff remarks with authenticity and interpret carefully construed words as being fake and deceitful.

The Bible doesn’t offer this interpretation of thinking before you speak. Instead, Scripture prizes speaking the truth. So often, when we speak off the cuff, we do not know if our words are true or not. Because of the ubiquity of social media in our culture, we feel the pressure to state strong opinions with incomplete information. This won’t do for the Christian though because we must know that we are speaking the truth before we open our mouths. To do otherwise is to act with foolishness instead of wisdom, run the risk of bearing false witness against our neighbor, and violate the character of our Lord who is the truth.

We Often Speak without Self-Control

“Whoever restrains his words has wisdom, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” In Proverbs 17:24, Solomon connects the words we speak to the disposition of our spirits. A man with a “cool spirit” is contrasted with the person who has a hot temper. The person who keeps a calm spirit thinks through what they are going to say. The person caught in a moment of rage will speak with disastrous results.

We don’t think before we speak when we are in the middle of a temper tantrum. We can only think about how angry we are and lash out without thought to the damage our words may cause. It is imperative that the person who follows Jesus learns to control his temper and to restrain his words when he is angry.

We Often Speak with Poor Intentions

We never speak with perfect intentions, but it does not follow that we should just say whatever we think in the moment. A hospital room will never be completely germ-free, but you wouldn’t want to have surgery in a sewer. In the same way, we cannot let our lack of perfection justify speaking from wrong motives.

If it is true that whatever we do we must do for the glory of God, then we must evaluate our motives before we speak, especially if what we are going to say will provoke people. There’s nothing wrong with provoking people with the truth if we do it for the right reasons, but many times we provoke people for the sake of provoking them or not thinking carefully about the context in which it will be done. Are we speaking out of love or are we speaking out of selfishness? Are we speaking for the good of others or are we speaking only to vent?

When Then, Should We Speak?

I recognize that what I am advocating could be taken as an argument for never saying anything difficult or controversial. After all, how will Christians make a difference in the world if we never speak up?

The problem for Christians in our culture has not been our lack of “speaking out” or “standing up.” In fact, we have done it so much and so harshly that we have cut off the ears of many people who would have listened to us. Also, we have done so in improper contexts. Only under the rarest of circumstances is social media the place to “take a stand.” On social media, we usually end up only reinforcing what people who agree with us already think, anger those who seriously disagree, or drive away those who haven’t made up their minds through our combative tone.

There is a proper time to speak up, though, providing that we meet three criteria.

We Speak When We Know
We only open our mouths to speak about an issue when we know what we are talking about. We speak when we know that we are speaking facts and speaking the truth. We cannot bring glory to God while breaking the ninth commandment.

We Speak When We Think
Since we will give an account for every word we speak, we would do well to think about what we say before it comes out of our mouths. Is it gracious? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it spoken for the glory of God and the good of others? If we think about these things and weigh our words wisely, then we should open our mouths to speak because God does use our words to accomplish his purposes.

We Speak When We Care
The writer of Proverbs says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Since the tongue carries this tremendous power, we consider the people who will hear what we say. In what ways could this cut or hurt them? In what ways could this encourage them or give them grace? If we love people, we must think about these things.

“With the tongue we bless our Lord and father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” We should write this warning from James 3 over everything that we say. Our words can do great damage to the cause of the Christ and to the people who hear us. At the same time, God uses our words to get the Gospel to people, to encourage the broken, and to bring glory to himself. Because our words can bring about two very different results, shouldn’t we spend more time thinking about what we say before we say it? Shouldn’t we give more thought to how it will impact people? Shouldn’t we examine our words to make sure they are true? We should, and in giving greater consideration to our words they will bring about greater good to those who hear them.

Related Posts:
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Should I Correct a Foolish Person or Stay Silent?

For Further Reading:
Speaking the Truth in Love by David Powlison

Political discussions have dominated social media for several years now and only seem to be getting more heated. With every executive order issued by President Trump or protest aimed at changing a current practice, social media will generate a plethora of links and opinions. These opinions often lead to debates in comment sections that generate way more heat than light.

For the Christian, how we engage in political discussions on social media can be especially tricky. On the one hand, our faith touches every arena of life, so politics is important. On the other hand, we know that every person in the world must stand before Jesus one day and the ultimate issue will not be whether they had the correct position on national security issues.

When you consider how divisive politics can be and how often we say things in the heat of a moment that can influence the way people view Jesus and the Gospel, Christians must spend time in careful thought before they post about politics on social media.

In fact, I would suggest that there are seven questions you should ask yourself before you post about politics or share a link to an article about a political issue.

Do I have the correct facts?

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” While King Solomon couldn’t foresee the advent of social media, he knew the human heart. Proverbs 18:2 reminds us of the importance of hearing and understanding a matter before we start talking about it. The more divisive the issue, the more time we need to spend understanding it.

Does the Bible speak to this issue? If I think it does, am I sure that I understand the biblical passage in its proper context and that I am applying it correctly to the situation? Are there other texts that speak to this that I have not considered?

I would suggest that you read a wide range of resources on an issue before opining about it on social media. Read the most fact-based article that you can find on it. For example, Joe Carter posted a roundup of frequently asked questions about President Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees.Reading this type of article can help you get a grasp of the basic facts. Then, read several articles from more liberal publications and several that come from more conservative publications. Read The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Review. Look at the points each side makes and see how the other side answers them. Through this type of careful reading, you can gain a better grasp of the issue before you speak about it.

Does this need to be said?

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Most of the times that I heard Ephesians 4:29 when I was growing up, it was the verse that was used to tell us not to cuss. While it may speak to that, it also has something to say about our interactions on social media.

“That it may give grace to those who hear.” Is what you have to say going to bring grace to those who hear it? Will they increase in understanding and gain a greater insight into the Bible’s perspective on this issue? Will your words point them to Christ? Or, is what you are going to say be mere venting? Are you going to bring light, or are you going to bring heat only?

What you have to say may be correct, but it may not need to be said.

Why do I need to be the person to say this?

Let’s pretend that what you want to say about politics on social media should be said. Now you need to consider if you are the right person to say it. Do you have an insight into this issue that you haven’t seen somewhere else, or are you merely repeating an argument you read in another place? Do you have a role or responsibility where people are looking to you for guidance? Why should you be the person to say what you are about to say?

Am I saying this in a way that represents Christ?

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” People who have experienced grace should speak in a way that exhibits grace. Often, we post the first thing that comes to our minds about an issue, don’t read it to see how it sounds, and end up bringing shame upon Christ and his church through our hasty speech. Venting opinions that are not thought out and that insult others is a sign of tremendous foolishness, demonstrates a lack of love for our neighbors, and does not bring honor to Jesus.

Before you post something, read it three or four times. Take a screenshot of it and send it to a friend. Is it kind? Is it accurate? Is it designed for the good of others? Will it negatively impact how other people think of Jesus?

On a closely related side note, if you need to think twice before posting about American politics, then you need to think ten times before posting about denominational politics. In fact, I can think of no good reason for denominational squabbles to be shared before the watching world on our social media feeds. Discuss them in groups or the comment sections of blogs, but do not drag them out into public and bring dishonor to the cause of Christ.

How could I be misunderstood?

I learned my lesson this past August on Facebook. I posted about what I believed to be Donald Trump’s lack of commitment to pro-life issues and said that it was a terrible mistake to nominate him. Almost immediately, my friends and family perceived that my concerns about Trump were an endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

The lesson I learned from this was that there was nothing to be gained by questioning the decision to nominate Trump, which at this point was in the past. The Presidential contest was primarily between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I failed to think through how people would interpret my concerns about one candidate as an endorsement of the other. My post brought no light or grace to the situation and only brought confusion.

Stop and think before you post. Are you communicating clearly and is there a possible way for a significant number of people to misunderstand you?

What are my motives for saying this?

“Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” While the question of our motives has been underlying several other questions, we should ask it on its own. Can you honestly say that you are saying what you are saying for the glory of God and the good of others?

We must be aware of our motives because they will determine what we say, how we say it, when we say it, and how we will respond to people who disagree with us. If our motive is to vent because we are angry, we will speak harshly, rashly, immediately, and eviscerate those who disagree with us. On the other hand, if our motives mirror Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 10:31-32, then we will speak graciously, kindly, thoughtfully, and respond patiently to those who disagree.

Can I wait until tomorrow to say this?

When Abraham Lincoln got angry with someone, he would fire off what he called a “hot letter.” He would set aside the letter until his emotions cooled off. Then, he would read the letter with a cool head. He left many letters unsigned and unsent.

While Abraham Lincoln wrote letters instead of posts on social media, his practice provides a worthy example for us today. If your post deals with a particularly sensitive topic, can it wait until tomorrow? If it can wait a day, save it as a draft and revisit it tomorrow. You may find that you read it with fresh eyes and see that you shouldn’t post it. Or you may see that it would be helpful to people and click “post.” Either way, the longer you can wait before inserting yourself into a conversation, the better.

Christians, we need to remember that we are Christians first. We represent King Jesus and his church. When we speak, it should reflect the priorities and character of our King and his kingdom. This concern means that we need to take extra care to consider the words we speak online.

Related Posts:
Choosing Courage over Outrage

Putting Out the Fires of Conflict

For Further Reading:
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore

One of my earliest memories of church as a young boy was working on memory verses. Though my middle and high school years I was devoted to anything but Scripture, the verses I learned during early years stuck with me. I became a believer during my second year of college and the men who taught me how to follow Jesus encouraged me in the discipline of Scripture memory. The passages and individual verses I learned in those early years as a believer shaped my Christian growth and set the course for the rest of my Christian life.

My greatest struggle with Scripture memory is daily consistency, and I doubt that I am alone. Many of us suffer from the disease of being great starters but fumbling on day to day follow through.

This daily discipline of learning, memorizing, and reviewing Scripture is necessary for the Christian. We think our greatest problem is “finding” the time to work on Scripture memory, but, in reality, our the real struggle is in giving it the attention it deserves.

When we understand why we must do something, often the how starts to take care of itself.  In this post, I want to cover why we need to devote ourselves to Scripture memory. In a later post, we will come back and cover the how.

Memorize Scripture for Encouragement

Believers struggle with discouragement, doubt, and melancholy more often than we like to admit. Memorizing Scripture aids us in our fight against discouragement and despair by reminding us of God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s providence. Having passages like Romans 8:28, James 1:2-3, or Psalm 23 at your disposal when you feel like you are drowning in despair would be of great advantage to you.

Memorize Scripture for Meditation and Prayer

“I don’t know what to pray for.” We often use this as our excuse for slacking in the duty and privilege of prayer. When you don’t know what to pray for, Scripture memory provides fuel for the fire in your prayer life. Take a passage that you are learning and roll it over and over again in your mind. Stop and think about each word. Repeat the passage several times while emphasizing a different word with each repetition. As you repeat it, think about how this verse should lead you to praise God or thank God. Ponder how this verse might reveal a sin of which you should repent or an area of your life in which you need the strength to obey. When you give this kind of attention to Scripture memory and the related discipline of meditation, you will have plenty to of fuel to reignite your prayer life.

Memorize Scripture for Your War with Sin

“I have stored up your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.” The author of Psalm 119 helps us to understand how we can fight against our sin. Scripture reminds us who we are in Christ and why we should put sin to death. Biblical passages warn us of the danger of sin, the beauty of the Gospel, and the blessings of obedience; so shouldn’t we store them in our hearts so we can grow? Memorize verses related to the area of sin you are struggling with and store them up in your heart as ammunition for the battle.

Memorize Scripture for Conversations with Others

Have you ever been in a conversation with a person you thought you could help and just couldn’t remember the Bible verse you needed to give them? We’ve all been there. Scripture memory saves you from being Concordance crippled. Take the time to memorize basic verses related to the message of the Gospel and several topics related to the Christian life you can use in your conversations with people. You will find you are much more effective in these discussions if you have biblical passages at your disposal.

In the book Fahrenheit 451, the main character, Guy Montag, lives during a time when the authorities burn all books because they are afraid that they will upset people with their content. Montag, who has been reading, escapes to the wilderness where he meets a group of book lovers. They have memorized various works for the time when society will appreciate them again.

While we don’t live in a time where people are burning books, we don’t always have the luxury of having a Bible in our hands. Even though we might have a Bible app in our pockets, what if you don’t know the location of the passage you are attempting to remember? The best answer for this is Scripture memory. We need to know, understand, and live out the Bible’s message, and Scripture memory is an integral component of our growth.

Related Posts”
Eight Passages Every Christian Should Memorize

The First 15 Verses a Christian Needs to Memorize

For Further Reading:
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

 

Last week I devoured Douglas Wilson’s book Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life. My copy of the book is marked up from cover to cover with notes and underlines. While the book is specifically aimed at those who want to write, Wilson also offers wonderful advice about reading, thinking, and slow, consistent work.

This was a difficult list to narrow down, but here are my favorite quotes from Wordsmithy.

“Your native voice in writing is probably closer to the way you most naturally choose to speak than anything else.” (21)

“Speaking is less formal than writing, but you should have the goal of being the same recognizably the same person in your speaking and writing.” (22)

“Interesting people are interested people. Interesting writers are interested writers.” (23)

“Angst, anguish, and lots of despair is the kind of thing that whiners buy, and the problem with having whiners as your reading constituency is that whiners are not known for their loyalty to anything. That would include your next book, remember.” (26)

“Output requires intake, and literary output requires literary intake.” (30)

“Reading solely within one genre is a form of literary provincialism, and it will provide you with a distinctive but unhelpfully narrow accent.” (31)

“Read like a lover of books, and not like someone who wants to be seen as knowledgeable, or well-read, or scholarly.” (37)

“A writer can’t be afraid to use what he is gathering, but must constantly resist the temptation to show off what he has gathered.” (37)

“It is far better to walk a mile a day than to run five miles every other month. Plod. Make time for reading, and make a daily habit of it, even if it is a relatively small daily habit.” (39)

“Productivity is more a matter of diligent, long-distance hiking than it is one-hundred-yard dashing. Doing a little bit now is far better than hoping to do a lot on the morrow. So redeem the fifteen minute spaces. Chip away at it.” (39)

“If it has to get done now, then get up at five, and nobody else pays. So if you need to, get up at five, but always go home at five.” (40)

“Reading lousy books is occasionally edifying, but do not make a practice of it. Life is short.” (43)

“I estimate that my iPhone is the equivalent of having one hundred thousand servants. The problem is that about ninety thousand of those servants are sitting on their butt all the time. What can be done is amazing, and yet the limit on what actually gets done is usually to be found in the person who has to provide the direction and oversight.” (59)

“I am astonished at how many young Christians want to be writers and how few of them want to mess with all the prerequisites, which look suspiciously like work.” (67)

“Be at peace with being lousy for a while. Chesterton once said that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. He was right. Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant first time out.” (81)

“What you delete from your computer, what you take out of your prose, is as important as what you leave in.” (82)

“The average honors graduate of two years of Latin study knows about two thousand words. We can cede him some extra points because he will be able to make sense out of various cognate words. So do not confuse fluidity in a very limited classroom environment with fluency on the street. You are not the ultimate urbane sophisticate for having gotten two notches above the levels of ancient Roman toddlers.” (102)

“The brain is more like a muscle and less like a storage area.” (104)

“All the books out there, all the articles, are simply an enormous conversation. To quote others is to demonstrate that you are listening. If you have modified the phrase, you have made it your own, which you have the authority to do.” (110)

“Words on a page are part of real life. They cannot be substituted for the whole, but they cannot be taken from it either. Without words, we can only stand around, grunting and pointing.” (119)

“The brain is like a muscle that expands its capacity with increased use, and not very much like a crowded attic with boxes. The more you know, the more you can know.” (120)

Related Posts:
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The Best Quotes from Hidden Christmas

 

 

 

At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we want to do well for the next three hundred sixty-five days. We often prove ourselves to be great at applying ourselves to our resolutions for a season, but we struggle to persevere in doing these things for the long haul.

There are few areas of our lives in which we struggle more than we do with perseverance in parenting. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids, and then we get into a busy season where our kids start getting the short end of the stick. We have consistent family devotions, then suddenly cannot remember when the last one was. We discipline them consistently, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide. Then, we go through a period where we overlook misbehavior and then lash out in frustration because they aren’t listening to what we say.

The hardest part of parenting is not knowing what to do. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as you think it is. Often, our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct, and most parents want to spend quality time with their children.

The hardest aspect of parenting is often not our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents, what we need the most is go continue doing the little things every single day.

There are three particular areas in which we need to persevere.

Persevere in Quality Time

Our children want us more than they want stuff from us, but how often do we give our children things so they will occupy themselves so we can have time alone? We need time to recharge and spend with our spouses. Our children must know how to entertain themselves, but we also have to recognize how much our children crave time with us. Fishing, hiking, reading, playing a game, throwing a ball, or sitting around a fire to roast marshmallows provide great opportunities for us to connect with our children each day.
Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we parent mainly from authority when our children are young. If we find them touching something they shouldn’t, we can take it away from them or pick them up and move them somewhere else. As they grow older, we still parent from our God-given authority, but our relationship with them becomes a much larger aspect of our parenting. They tend to listen more and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.

We often find that this is a joy to us as well. Our children are a gift from God. Spending time with them often leads to fun, laughter, joy, and lasting memories. Each of our children has unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Spending time together brings this out, so stop thinking that you will magically “find time” to spend with them and make the time.

Persevere in Teaching and Discipline

The Bible calls parents to teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words from Deuteronomy 6:7 provide insight into how we do this. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing the things we usually do every day.

In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. When we hear about family devotions, we shouldn’t picture Dad preaching a twenty-minute sermon to the kids. (If your kids are small, it can’t and won’t be this.) In his book Family Worship, Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small, this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. When they get older, progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”

We must also discipline our children. Truthfully, I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but we should tailor it to the situation and the bent of our children. While how we discipline is a matter of wisdom at the moment, disciplining our children is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents, and we should expect them to obey the first time that we tell them to do something. Anything other than their first-time obedience must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.

Persevere in Prayer

Finally, parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second that you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all these things correctly, it would not guarantee that your child would become a Christian or behave properly. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.

We should pray for our children and for our parenting every day. Pray God would cover our efforts with grace, forgive us where we fail, and empower us to persevere in our parenting. Pray God would change our children’s hearts by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. We need God, and our children need God, so we must daily plead for them before the throne of grace.

Not only should we pray for our children, but we should also pray with our children. By doing this, they learn how to pray and what subjects we bring before the Lord in prayer. They get to see our family pray for needs and how God answers those prayers. Also, our children should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and by praying for their salvation, they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.

Parenting is hard, so we must write Galatians 6:9 over all of our parenting. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

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2017-post

When I was in middle and high school, CBS aired a show called Rescue 911 that dramatized the events surrounding actual 911 calls. While this never bothered me when I was younger, in adulthood I would see the show in syndication and started noticing that almost every reenactment began with the people walking through an ordinary day. They were going to work, school, or the store and then something terrible and life-altering happened to them.

There’s something about the beginning of a new year that makes us all unbridled optimists. We think the first day of 2018 will greet us with happier relationships, healthier bodies, and fatter bank accounts. We never enter a year thinking, “this could be the year that my life falls apart.” We don’t get a text message letting us know that some catastrophic event is going to hit us this year. The worst things that happen to seemingly come out of nowhere and often change our lives in a moment without warning.

We would all do well to pause at the beginning of 2017 and ask, “what if 2017 is the worst year of my life?” We spent a lot of time thinking about resolutions for improving our lives, but do we spend time thinking about how we will respond if our lives fall apart.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul describes the thorn in the flesh he received because of the incredible visions he had seen. While he doesn’t identify the nature of the thorn, he tells the Corinthian church about his struggle with it and God’s response when he pleaded for him to take it away. In looking at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12, we see three things we need to remember if this is the year that our lives fall apart.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God is Sovereign Over Our Trials

We don’t know the precise nature of what Paul saw when he was caught up to the third heaven. He didn’t come back, write a best-selling book, and pawn off the movie rights. Instead, he says that what he saw was so overwhelming and stunning that he received a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming conceited.

Paul doesn’t identify the precise nature of the thorn. Pastors, scholars, and commentators offer a surprising number of options. It could be a physical deformity, false teacher, physical pain, or emotional burden. He leaves enough hints for us to come up with plausible hypotheses, but the vagueness feels purposeful. Our ignorance about the thorn is good news for us because we do not need to be going through exactly what Paul was facing at this moment to receive the grace Paul offers in this passage. Instead, any person who is suffering from any difficulty can hear the good news Paul proclaims here and receive the comfort it gives.

Paul refers to his thorn as “a messenger of Satan” to harass him and keep him humble. What he says here sounds strange initially because you would think that Satan would want Paul to be arrogant. What we should write over Paul’s thorn, and any suffering we may face, the words of Joseph in Genesis 50. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” That which Satan would bring in our lives to crush and destroy us, God uses to make us more like Jesus. That God works in this way means that Satan, “the universe,” or karma have no ultimate say over the events that come into our lives. God in his absolute sovereignty oversees everything that happens to us, and he intends for it to work in us an eternal weight of glory.

God’s Grace is More Than Enough

That God is sovereign over our trials does not negate our invitation to pray to him about them. God’s sovereignty should not produce a gloom passivity in us. Instead, we should come before the Lord in bold prayer, realizing the answer we hear from him may sound a lot like what he told Paul. Paul asked God to take away the thorn, and the Lord’s answer was that he intended to leave the thorn right where it was.

The Father didn’t keep the thorn in Paul’s flesh as some karmic retribution for something Paul had done wrong. Rather, God used the thorn in Paul’s flesh for him to learn a lesson he could not and would not learn when everything was rosy. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” What the Lord tells Paul here is that he grace is all that Paul needs to get him through his difficulty.

We often think of God’s grace only regarding our justification, forgetting that it is God’s grace that gives us what we need every day to continue following him. It not only saves us, but it also sustains us. This truth reminds us that even as people who have experienced salvation in Christ, we still stand in desperate need of God’s kindness and deliverance in our daily lives. We have to learn to lean on him, depend on him, and rely on him through for each step we take throughout the day. Walking through the darkness reminds of this truth because walking through the sunshine often causes us to forget it.

God’s Strength Becomes Visible in Our Weakness

God further tells Paul that his grace is sufficient because “my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul then goes on to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We need to wrestle with what Paul has said here. The question is not whether we are weak people or strong people. Every person is weak and unable to handle all of the pressures that life throws at us when we try to face them in our power. This is particularly the case for the Christian, as we cannot live in a way that brings glory to God and overcomes the obstacles the world, the flesh, and the devil throw in our path when we rely on our own strength to do so. Instead, we must embrace the truth that we are weak and need the strength that only God supplies.

Often, the only way we remember this is through trial and difficulty. When the sun is shining, and everything looks grand, we forget how desperately dependent we are. Then suffering or pain arrives, and we remember that we need God. Our trials are God’s way of grabbing us by the lapels and reminding us that we need the strength that only he supplies. When we despair of our own strength and rely on his strength alone, we will know who should receive the glory when we endure and overcome our trials.

If 2017 gets rough, remember that the sovereign God who loves his people so much that he gave his only Son to die for them gives his grace and his strength liberally to those who need it.

Related Posts:
Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Live in Fear

Why Christians Need the Gospel Every Day

For Further Reading:
When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper

The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson

Most Popular Posts of 2016

December 30, 2016
2016-posts

Photograph 047 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com

 

My great passion for writing here at One Degree to Another is to see people formed into the image of Jesus Christ. This means growing slowly in every area of our lives each day. As I looked back over my most read posts from this year, they reflect what I’m aiming for in life and ministry- that we slowly and continually make progress towards demonstrating the glory and character of Christ in practical ways.

For those who have been reading from the beginning and who just discovered my blog this week, I’m grateful that you take the time to read and share. I took some time this week to plan out what I will be writing on in the first few months of 2017 and look forward to seeing how the Lord uses it to transform us into the image of Christ.

Eight Passages Every Christian Should Memorize

There are some large sections of Scripture whose message is so central to the Bible’s message and how we live the Christian life that we need to know them by heart. This list covers many well-known passages that are at least eight verses long or more.

The First 15 Verses a Christian Needs to Memorize

In response to the post on passages every Christian should memorize, I had a lot of people asking why I didn’t include John 3:16, Romans 3:23, or many other important individual verses. If I were a believer just getting into Scripture memory, I would start with these fifteen verses.

On a related note, I received several comments that argued we shouldn’t memorize Scripture, but should simply live it out. The Psalmist’s comment that he hid God’s word in his heart so he might not sin against him helps us here. We memorize as a way of hiding God’s word deep in our souls so that we can live in a manner that brings glory to him.

48 Scattered Thoughts on Pastoral Ministry and Being a Pastor

Earlier this year, I got a later start on my sermon than I should have. Then, I had to be up later on Saturday night than I should have and woke up later Sunday morning than I needed to. This created extra stress on Sunday morning and the thought crossed my mind, “I know better than this. I learned this my first year of ministry.” It led me to start writing some other things I would say to pastors about pastoral ministry and being a pastor.

How Do I Know if My Child is a Christian?

One of the most sensitive issues parents deal with is discerning when their child has trusted in Christ. We can be very excited that they seem to be converted while at the same time being mindful of the possibility of a false profession of faith. These questions are intended to help discern the marks of true conversion in our children’s lives.

The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting

I wrote this reflection on Proverbs 29:17 in the middle of the night after multiple children woke me up. Parenting is hard, yet doing the hard thing in parenting can lead to more joy in the future. Taking the easy way out will ultimately lead to more work and misery in the end.

Why We Need Anonymous, Plodding Church Planters

We need to plant more churches to reach more people with the Gospel. Unfortunately, many men see well-known church planters and think this is the path they will be taking. To plant the churches we need to plant, we need thousands of men who are willing for their names to be known only in their communities. The work is hard and the work is long. We need guys who are willing to stay, work hard, and live in obscurity.

Six Foolish Things I Used to Believe about the Ministry

When I was a young pastor, I said to a friend, “I want the people in my church to understand theology so well that I can just say a word and they know what it means without me having to explain it.” I don’t know why this particularly ridiculous quote stuck with me, but it reminded me of some foolish things I used to believe about the ministry.

How to Remember Someone’s Name

Christians are called to love our neighbors, and knowing a person’s name is a good first step towards loving them well. Unfortunately, we seem to make a lot of excuses for why we cannot remember the names of people we meet. This post has a few of the tools I use to remember someone after I meet them.

The Best Quotes from Hidden Christmas

I loved Tim Keller’s new book, Hidden Christmas. It contains expositions of Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and the first paragraph of 1 John. This is a list of my twenty favorite quotes.

What to Do When You Are in a Spiritual Dry Spell

We have all be in places where it felt like we were making no progress in our walking with Jesus. This post prescribes some steps we can take to begin experiencing the joy of knowing Jesus again.

My Favorite Books of 2016

December 27, 2016

2016-books

For the last few years, I have organized my reading based on a system I ran across from Al Mohler. Dr. Mohler encourages those who are serious Christian readers to read across six categories- Biblical Studies, Theology, History, Literature, Cultural Studies, and Church Life. My favorite books that I read in 2016 are organized based on these categories. These are not all books that publishers put out in 2016, but were the best books I read this year.

Biblical Studies

Identity and Idolatry by Richard Lints

The New Studies in Biblical Theology puts out quality volumes examining biblical books and themes every few months. Richard Lints argues that idolatry is the inversion of the identity that we should find in being created by God and in being united with Christ. He helpfully shows this theme across the entire Bible.

Return to Me by Mark Boda

In another great book from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, Mark Boda examines the bible’s theology of repentance. Rather than just focusing on word studies or theological deductions from other doctrines, Boda dives in and reckons with the explicit teaching of individual biblical texts. Then he shows how all of these texts tie together to show what it means to return to the Lord.

Theology

Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

Hidden Christmas covers the narratives of Jesus’ birth from Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 before closing with thoughts on the first paragraph of 1 John. Keller shows why we can trust the message of Christmas and how these narratives show us the overwhelming grace of God. (You can see my favorite quotes from Hidden Christmas here.)

Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert

Every generation must fight its version of the battle for the Bible. In our day, many people don’t trust the Scriptures but hold Jesus in high regard. Gilbert shows why our high regard for Christ should lead to a rock solid trust in the veracity of the Bible.

History

George Whitefield by Thomas Kidd

George Whitefield still stands as one of the most popular and consequential figures in American evangelical history. Thomas Kidd’s portrait of him is thorough while staying at a manageable length. He’s honest about Whitefield’s weaknesses, but also shows what made him such an effective evangelist.

Destiny and Power by Jon Meacham

George H.W. Bush was President during my late middle and early high school years. I remember seeing him on the news every day, but Dana Carvey’s impression on Saturday Night Live and his seeming out of touch with ordinary people compared to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election formed most of my memories of him. Jon Meacham portrays President Bush in a way that is both honest and compassionate. We get to see the motives behind the actions and see the heroic sacrifices he made for his fellow-citizens.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

If you see several Presidential biographies pop up on this list, it’s because I’m working on reading one on every President. I could not be more pleased with my choice on James Garfield, as Candice Millard’s narrative of his life and murder reads like a novel. She goes into great detail but never loses sight of the fact that she’s narrating a story. (I also read and loved her book on Winston Churchill, Hero of the Empire.)

Church Life

Discipling by Mark Dever

We need to recover the practice of personal discipleship in the life of the church. Mark Dever shows what discipleship is and how Christians can help other Christians become more faithful followers of Jesus.

Between Two Worlds by John R.W. Stott

I revisited this classic work on preaching for the first time in over a decade. Stott explains how Christian preachers can have one foot firmly planted in the world of the Bible and the other planted in our current culture to show how the message of Scripture should change people in the here and now. This book is a must for anyone seeking to understand the art and science of preaching.

Literature

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A man and a boy walk through the burned-out ruins of the United States in an attempt to survive. The beautiful relationship between a father and his son shines through this incredible story. Once I got into the story, I could not put this book down.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I hesitate to include this one because of its language, but it captured me from the first paragraph. It’s the story of an astronaut who was left behind on Mars and his struggle to survive. We get to hear him work through how to grow food, communicate with earth, and try to figure out how to get home. On the other side, we are privy to the internal NASA discussions on how to handle the crisis and get him back to earth. There was never a moment I was not fascinated by the action and dialogue in The Martian.

Cultural Studies

The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman

One of the key ways Christians can make an impact for God’s kingdom is to be good neighbors, but we often don’t see our neighbors. Marc Dunkelman writes about the origins of our disintegrating sense of community and how we can recover it in light of 21st-century realities.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

If you have read any other “best of” lists for 2016, chances are you saw this on it. J.D. Vance tells the story of the chaos that characterized his life growing up in his “hillbilly” family that had migrated from Kentucky to Ohio. He pulls no punches in his personal narrative, and the result is a book that is difficult to put down.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I just started a few books that I won’t finish until after the first of the year. So far, Justin Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Councils is showing itself to be a great introduction to the controversies of early Christianity and the theological formulations they produced. Andreas Kostenberger and Richard Alan Fuhr’s new book on biblical interpretation, Inductive Bible Study, looks like it will be a helpful resource for helping people understand how to read the Bible. In the first few months of the year, I look forward to reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time as well as The Last Lion, which everyone says is the definitive biography of Winston Churchill.

 

For the first three months of 1997, I wrestled with whether or not I knew Christ on a daily basis. Every night before I closed my eyes to sleep I prayed the sinner’s prayer hoping that this would be the time I finally felt like a Christian.

The problem was I wasn’t a Christian and had no basis upon which I should believe that I knew the Son of God or have a peace which surpassed all understanding. Despite two trips through the baptistery, enrollment in a Christian university, and a “call” to the ministry, the reality of the Gospel had never become clear to me. I had never abandoned trust in religious rituals or good works and rested in Christ alone for peace with God.

On Maundy Thursday, I rode across Mobile Bay with a friend to hear an evangelist we knew preach to a community worship gathering on a high school football field. I could not recreate an outline of the sermon I heard that night, but the words “some people have just enough religion to soothe their souls” cut me to the core. That night, seated in an uncomfortable metal chair on a high school football field, I repented of my sins, trusted in Jesus Christ, and experienced what I can only describe as the light coming on.

The thrill of my early Christian assurance soon ran into the brutal reality that I was still a sinner. This led to my lack of assurance returning with fury. Wanting to turn to the Bible to find assurance, I misread the tests in 1 John and only found assurance based on how well I was obeying God. This led to an unhealthy roller coaster. A “good” day of obedience meant full assurance and enthusiasm to come before the throne of grace. A day marked by a lack of obedience often led to shame and fear which stymied my desire to pray. Then this created more shame and fear further eroding my prayer life which culminated in DEFCON 1 levels of shame and fear. The cycle had to be broken or the joy of my salvation would never be a reality.

Most people don’t expect to find the answers to their spiritual questions in a three-hundred-year-old confession of faith, but the 1689 London Baptist Confession brought light into the dark night of this young Christian’s soul. Speaking of the assurance of grace and salvation, the confession says “This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.” The writers of the Second London Confession said that Christians can have an immovable assurance. To discover this assurance, they point Christians to the promises of the Gospel, the fruits of faith in their lives, and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit to find it.

Many teachers use the vivid, but imperfect image of a three-legged stool to help Christians understand how to have the assurance of their salvation. Just as a person cannot sit on a three-legged stool when one or two legs are missing, a Christian cannot have the full assurance of their salvation, as well as the peace and joy which accompany it, when one of these three key elements are missing from their lives.

The formulation laid out by the Second London Confession echoes the teaching of John’s first epistle. In this letter, he wrote to Christians so that they may know they have eternal life. To show them how they might have this confidence that they know Christ, he pointed to all three legs of the stool. While many readers of 1 John most see his appeals to the fruits of the faith most clearly, he holds up the promises of the Gospel and the witness of the Spirit in a clear manner as well.

If you are a Christian who struggles with assurance, you can look to these three sources to find the joy and contentment which comes with knowing that you know Christ.

The Promises of the Gospel

Unfortunately, our three-legged stool analogy has one major flaw. One leg bears more weight than the others. The most fundamental source of Christian assurance is faith is the promises made to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) “My little children, I am writing these things so that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2) “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

These verses reveal the basics of the Christian Gospel and remind us of important truths we must believe so that we might have assurance. 1 John 2:1 reminds us that we have an advocate with God the Father when we sin and identifies him as Jesus Christ the righteous. Ordinarily, our advocate would stand before the judge and plead our lack of guilt, but we are guilty and this guilt cannot be covered up or denied. That John identifies him as Jesus Christ the righteous gives us a clue as to what our advocate pleads before the Father- his own perfect righteousness. The Christian has no righteousness of our own to plead, but through faith in Christ he pleads his own righteousness for us.

We look to Jesus because of his perfect life, and also because of his death for us. John identifies Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. Jesus died in our place for our sins, bearing the wrath of God for us, and turning his wrath away from us. We should be judged eternally by God for our sins, and yet Jesus bore our guilt so we could go free through faith in him. Because of Jesus’ death, we have the privilege of living as the adopted sons and daughters of God who have a future and a hope through him. When the Christian does sin, we confess our sins to God and he keeps his promise to forgive and cleanse because we are in union with Christ.

This good news forms the fundamental basis for our assurance because it is the one leg that is fixed and outside of us. As we look at the other two legs of the stool of assurance, we will see that they wax and wane. The promises of the Gospel will never change and will never fade. The death of Christ for us will always cleanse us from our sins and his perfect life will never cease to justify us before God. When the other two sources of assurance look foggy, take a clear look at the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Fruits of Faith

John doesn’t only point us to Christ for assurance, but also to look at the work of God’s Spirit in our lives. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said his disciples would bear much fruit and John shows how the fruit of obedience demonstrates itself in our lives. John lays out several tests to help Christians evaluate whether their profession of faith is real.

He accomplishes this by showing the fruit that will be present in the life of a Christian. The question is not one of perfection, but of direction. The Christian will have these things in them and they will be growing. At the same time, the person who possesses a false profession of faith will demonstrate it in the lack of transforming graces.

Sanctification

John shows that a Christian will be a person who is growing in godliness and putting to death the sin in their lives. Both in 1:5-7 and 3:4-10, John shows the changes that will take place in the life of a Christian because of their union with Christ. The Christian walks in the light instead of in the darkness. Just as God is light and has no darkness at all in him, the Christian increasingly walks in the light instead of the darkness. The Christian does not make a practice of sinning because Jesus came to take away sin and destroy the evil one. Because these things are true, Christians should examine their lives to see if they are making progress in the faith because this is a test of the reality of their faith.

Love

John’s teaching on love for our brothers and sisters in Christ takes up a considerable amount of real estate in his letter. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Jesus said the world will know his disciples by their love for each other. Since Christians have experienced God’s love in Jesus Christ, they will now show that love to others. The one who has been born of God and knows God loves their brothers; the one who has never been born of God does not know God. God is love, and John says those who know the loving God will love their brothers.

Separation

In the upper room discourse, Jesus said his disciples would be in the world and not of it. Building on this John says Christians will not love the world or the things that are of the world. He does not mean the people of the world or the physical creation, but what the world values and promotes. He defines these as “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The person who is a Christian will see an increasing hatred of the things of the world, forsaking them to pursue the things that are eternal.

The Witness of the Holy Spirit

“And by this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”  John mentions this leg of the stool briefly, but this does not diminish its importance. God gives believers his Spirit to dwell in us and the Spirit gives us the assurance that we belong to the Lord. We call this the internal witness of the Spirit and it is the inward testimony of the God’s own Spirit that we belong to him.

Paul elaborates on this for us in Romans 8 when he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of adoption,” and explains the Spirit’s ministry in our lives as one of testifying to our adoption as the sons of God. Every Christian will reign with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth, but we often doubt the reality of our promised inheritance. The Spirit bears witness to the reality of our adoption and his presence in our lives is God’s pledge to the surety of our heavenly reward.

Look to Christ

The witness of the Spirit and the fruits of faith in our lives ebb and flow, but they will surely be there. The Christian will experience the Spirit’s testimony and see the increasing fruit of a maturing walk with Christ. When we don’t see or feel these realities as strongly as we have before we must resist the temptation to morbid introspective navel-gazing. Instead, we must look to Christ who perfectly obeyed on our behalf and then gave himself in our stead. Even when we don’t feel the witness of the Spirit or see the fruit of the Spirit as strongly as we think we should, we should remember the promises made to us in the Gospel. Look to Christ, and you will never be disappointed or cast away, but will find the inexhaustible joy God gives to his children through his Son.

Related Posts:
When a Christian Dies

How Do I Know if My Child Has Become a Christian?

For Further Reading:
The Quest for Full Assurance by Joel Beeke
How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian by Donald Whitney

 

Every Christian, no matter how long he has walked with Jesus, struggles with temptations to sin. Our sinful flesh, the world with its allurements, and the enemy of our souls bombard us with temptations to walk in that which the Lord forbids or to ignore those things he has told us to do. We struggle with these temptations, and often try to overcome them through our own fortitude or just give in.

We shouldn’t grow weary in our fight against sin when it gets tough. Even though gratifying our flesh seems right, the pleasures of the world look fulfilling, and the temptations of the enemy are a delight to the eyes, we need to keep running away from them.

Why should we do this, though? Why should the person who trusts in Jesus put sin to death and keep running after our Savior?

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul gives us three powerful motivations to continue waging the war against our sin. He points us to the work of Christ in us through the Gospel and gives us powerful motivations to keep fighting the good fight.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

We Possess an Unshakeable Hope

The passage begins with Paul encouraging the Colossians believers to seek Christ because they have been raised up with him. The pattern Paul will follow for the rest of this passage emerges in the first verse. He calls Christians to seek Jesus and put to death sin in light of what God has done for us in Christ. He reminds us of the Gospel and its implications, then he calls us to obedience in response to his grace.

In verse 4, Paul says that Christ, who is our life, will appear and that we will appear with him in glory. We only have life because of Christ, and the life we have in him is currently “hidden” in him. We are already new people, but the reality of that newness has not been fully realized. It will be when Christ appears and we live in the expectation of his imminent return.

After calling this hope back to our minds, Paul says “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” His point is that we should put to death our sin because of the hope that we have laid up for us in Christ. The expectation that we will appear with Christ in all his glory makes us want to live in a manner consistent with that blessed hope. As John says in 1 John 3:3, “whoever thus hopes in him purifies himself, as he is pure.”

We Are Saved from God’s Wrath

In verse 5, Paul recites a list of sins that should be put to death. Notice the language he uses here. “Put to death.” We do not play with sin or offer it the opportunity for a foothold in our lives. Instead, we must take practical steps to cut the head off of the practice of sin in our lives.

Paul says these sins should be put to death because “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” It seems strange that Paul should mention the wrath of God to a Christian church. They aren’t destined for the wrath of God, so why even mention it to believers? He wants to remind us of that from which we have been saved. Why would we want to live in things that bring the wrath of God when we have been saved from the wrath of God?

Charles Spurgeon makes this point clearly in his comments on Romans 6 in his book, Morning and Evening.

“Christian, what hast thou to do with sin? Hath it not cost thee enough already? Burnt child, wilt thou play with the fire? What! when thou hast already been between the jaws of the lion, wilt thou step a second time into his den? Hast thou not had enough of the old serpent? Did he not poison all thy veins once, and wilt thou play upon the hole of the asp, and put thy hand upon the cockatrice’s den a second time? Oh, be not so mad! so foolish! Did sin ever yield thee real pleasure? Didst thou find solid satisfaction in it? If so, go back to thine old drudgery, and wear the chain again, if it delight thee. But inasmuch as sin did never give thee what it promised to bestow, but deluded thee with lies, be not a second time snared by the old fowler—be free, and let the remembrance of thy ancient bondage forbid thee to enter the net again!”

We Walk in Newness of Life

When we read the Bible, we need to pay attention to seemingly mundane things like verb tense. “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” Paul says that the sins of the flesh were characteristic of us, but by using the past tense he shows that they are no longer. Christians must realize that we have been changed by the grace of Christ and this means that we are radically new people. Because of this new life, we should no longer be slaves to our old way of life.

Paul offers another laundry list of vices to avoid in verse 8 and implores believers not to lie to each other in verse 9. After this admonition, he says that the motivation for not lying to each other is our having put off the old self and putting on the new self in its place. This again points to the new heart we receive at our conversion and the intense change brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christians can truly say that we are men and women who have been made new.

The new self experiences a consistent renewal into the image of the one who created it. In other words, Christians walk through progressive sanctification. Over time, through repentance, faith, confession, and walking by the Spirit, we grow to be more like Jesus and less like who we were before we knew him. This growth is only possible because the new life we have because God took out our heart of stone and gave us a heart of flesh.

When we stop to consider what God has done for us in Christ, how can we not put our sins to death? When we think about the hope laid up for us in Christ, does a lifestyle of sin seem in keeping with what we will appear to be with Christ in his glory? As we remember the life of sin from which we have been rescued, does anything about it seem so appealing that we would abandon Jesus to go back to it? And, realizing the new life we have because of Christ, is there any way that walking in sin would be consistent with it?

All of the answers to these questions are “no” because in Christ we hear “yes” to all of the promises of God. What we have in Jesus is so wonderful that the fleeting pleasures of sin are of no value to us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we turn away from them because what we have in Christ is of infinite worth.

Related Posts:
Why Christians Need the Gospel Every Day

How to Stop Losing Your Temper

For Further Reading:
Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor

Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson