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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Friday, October 29, 2010
1041: Friday Briefs
Because I am hopelessly verbose, I thought I might try an experiment today. Posting snippets of thought that I won't bother to expound upon. Each of these would have been a post in and of itself, but I just didn't get around to it.

Being presently unemployed does not constitute or factor into a call to the pastorate.

Do you feel empty spiritually? That emptiness is there by design: it is intended to humble you so that you draw near to God.

What your wife says about you to others when you aren't there is a pretty good indication of where you're at spiritually. Does she praise you, or make excuses for you?

Hypothyroidism doesn't cause weight gain; the truth is you eat too much - that's why you're obese. It isn't your glands. Yes, hypothyroidism makes you want to eat all the time - but your self control is the problem, not your glands.

If you haven't wept in prayer, I don't think you really know how to pray.

Children grow up just fine even if they aren't enrolled in every stinking program your community has to offer.

If you think Jesus isn't like that wrathful Old Testament God, it's only because you are clueless about what Christ will be like when He returns for judgment on that last day.

Colors that are deep and saturated are more pleasing to the eye than pale, sunbleached colors. So also a life that is saturated with Christ is beautiful, and pales a life that is lived in name only.

There, that's all I could think of in the five minutes I gave myself to post something today.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:26 AM   2 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Terms of Endearment.
I have never, to my knowledge, referred to my wife as "Spousie-poo".

Yet as I come to think of it, having invested myself this far in coming up with a silly term of endearment, I wouldn't mind tossing it out there tonight and see if it annoys her or not. You never know. Our sense of humor runs along that line where the absurd is funny.

Notwithstanding, any use of the term "spousie-poo" would be rather forced and affected. It doesn't flow from the heart, but rather is something we say because we think it might have the right affect.

I recall as a young man, in perhaps my first long term relationship (which thankfully did not end in marriage), I was "into" Pink Floyd, and hearing Roger Waters croon on to some hypothetical woman in the song, calling her "babe" I thought I might try spinning that one. For the next few months I tried to call my then girl-friend "babe" and make it sound normal, but even after several months it still came off as thin and insincere.

I remember my father used to call my mom "honey" all the time. I find I sometimes let that one slip with my own wife but it isn't the term I use most often. The term I use most often is sweetie. I don't know why. Sometimes I shorten that to just "sweets". I have never been able to call my wife "sugar" with a straight face, though I have managed to call her "doll" and "doll-face" a few times to my own amusement.

I call my both my sons "buddy" and all my girls "sweetie" (just like their mom!). I think if I had a dog, I might call him "fuzzball" or maybe "Chewie" since I always thought Hans Solo was cool.

I don't know why we use terms of endearment, but I do know that scripture uses a term of endearment to describe Christ, "Beloved".

God's love for Christ ought to give us pause, and fill us with wonder. Then when we can almost catch our breath, we should remember that all of us who are in Christ are so loved.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:35 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sunday Adult Bible Study (October 24) now Online
If you're are following along with our Adult Bible Study as we work our way through Ephesians 6, studying the Armor of God, and what it means to the Christian etc. The next installment is up and can be found in the right margin.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:30 PM   0 comment(s)
The Cross-tian
I remember the first time I heard that some believer somewhere decided that the label "Christian" had too much baggage associated with it. So he (or she?) decided to identify himself (or herself?) as a "Jesus follower" (or was it a "Christ follower"?) instead.

I live in the same world that you do. That is, I am aware that in our culture whenever a person identifies himself or herself as a Christian that same person immediately is regarded by our culture as a spokesman for, and representative of, every form of Christianity there is. I mean how many times have you heard someone call down all of Christendom because of the crusades? I can understand therefore why some would rather change their label than educate the ignorant.

If and when someone brings up the crusades as a criticism against all of Chrsitianity, I point out that the Crusades took place before the invention of the printing press, and therefore before both the translation of scripture into vernacular languages and the publication and wide distribution of the same; that is, I point out that the primary reason "Christians" (note the quotes) took part in the crusades was because they were almost universally ignorant of what the scriptures say, and again because, at the time, there was no separation of church and state, so that political powers were using the church to motivate the ignorant masses for the sake of personal glory, and capital/political gain. There have been no crusades since the printing press was invented. No holy wars because the bible was made available to the masses, and people began to see for themselves what the scriptures taught, and more importantly, what the scriptures did not teach.

The point is, there are all kinds of reasons for a person to want to distance himself or herself from a label that carries with it all kinds of baggage. My definition of Christian is very, very narrow. I don't believe that a person can become except by grace and that through faith. I believe that unless a person turns away from their rebellion against God, that their profession is empty and regardless of how convinced they are of their legitimacy, I consider them to be unregenerate and deceived. But there are many who believe that you can be saved just by "asking Jesus into your heart" or by "repeating this prayer" or by simply deciding that you are a Christian now (and going to church!), etc.

When some unregenerate soul imagines that they are a beleiver and does something that the Holy Spirit would never lead a person to do, and they claim that God is leading them to do it, (Send money for my green prayer hanky!) they are in effect standing up and saying this is what all Christians believe - and there are people in the world that take their word for it, or who will make presumptions about Christianity that while perfectly applicable to false or superficial Christians, do not reflect the condition or attitude of the real McCoy.

So, as I said, I can understand the mentality of those who want to change the label. You know, "Don't call me a Christian, I prefer 'Christ Follower' because I don't do all that weird stuff" or, "because I don't believe in all the pews and the pulpit - I just believe in emulating Jesus wherever I am (i.e. in a churchless vacuum)". Whatever. Anyone who is still salt in this world sees that for what it is.

What baffles me however is why no one has coined the term "Crosstian" yet.

Seriously. Cross...tian? I mean, if I were inventing a new savvy label, that would top the A list for sure. You know, I take up my cross daily, ergo I am a Crosstian?

I am stretching here I suppose.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:12 AM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Christians rot from the inside out.
That isn't to say that all Christian are rotting - Lord knows there are enough people in the world today who would love to hear a Christian "admit" it; rather it is to describe the nature of spiritual rot as it (or perhaps when and if it) affects the believer.

I have never seen the rot of sin come in any other form - it begins internally - there is some temptation that is indulged, a little at the first, then with increasing fervour. The believer knows the thing is wrong, but finds some way to justify continuing to indulge it. Eventually the Christian realizes he or she has been duped by the sin, and begins to want to be free from it, but finds himself or herself too practiced in it to let it go.

None of this is mentioned by the Christian to others in the church. Like a child in a pool, the horrible death goes on in silence, with people all around utterly unaware that anything is amiss. The enemy uses the guilt of failure and fear of falseness to shame the Christian into isolation, so that for months or even years the Christian dies slowly inside even while acting, for the benefit of his or her Christian reputation amongst the body, as though everything were fine.

Were it not so common and tragic, I would make some pithy joke about it, but this is a serious matter. If I were to anonymously poll every christian reader, and able to get a real statistic, I suspect the count would be pretty high. We all, to one degree or another, are struggling against the sin that would destroy us. None of us cries out for help and prayer until some temptation or sin crosses that threshold whereby we realize we are in deeper than we can (with any celerity) extricate ourselves, so that every believer reading will know something of what I write. We all hold our struggle as a poker player holds his hand - close to our heart, and for the most part, secret.

We are called however to confess our faults to one another. I don't think that is supposed to mean that we get together as a large group and take turns at the podium trying to out do one another in confessing every sinful act in detail to the horror and amazement of the body. Nor do I think that means that we form "accountability" groups - though I know that many serious believers imagine themselves to have benefited from such groups. The believer is accountable to God - if a man will not set aside sin to satisfy God, but will set aside sin in order to satisfy other people, that man is not fleeing sin so much as playing church. I know that sounds harsh, but there it is. The bible does not tell us to confess our sins to one another in order that men can give us absolution, or again in order that we might hold one another accountable, rather we confess our transgressions to one another in order that we might:
[1] learn that our sin is a common thing, the knowledge of which dispels the enemy's efforts to isolate us on sin's account,
[2] learn from those who have experienced the same temptations and sin and overcome them, and be encouraged by the same,
[3] give opportunity to those who are serious about the purity of the believer and the church, to intercede in prayer on behalf of the sinner
[4] learn by the hearing, that every kind of sin, left to fester, will grow into something we cannot handle,
[5] learn therefore to tremble at our own sinfulness, and fall upon the Lord early in the temptation/sin cycle in order that we deal with sin and temptation before it gets out of control.

You can look around in your body of believers and be certain that there are some amongst you whose exterior seems fine, but who are suffering within. This is not a call to embark on a ministry of sin-sniffing, i.e., if you are young in the faith and you find in your belly that sort of warm fire that comes when you agree that a thing is true, don't imagine that the purpose of that warmth is for you to go about and start challenging the reality of everyone else's facade. My intention, in all that I teach, is that we apply these things to ourselves. Is there any seed of rot in me that I am ignoring on purpose - some indulgence that I allow that no one else knows about, it is the seed of rot, and it cannot remain as it is - it will either be dealt with by repentance, or it will grow. If you find yourself without strength to take it to God today, you will be weaker by tomorrow, and weaker still the day after. Sin doesn't sleep, it eats you alive from the inside out.

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posted by Daniel @ 5:54 AM   2 comment(s)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Spiritual Growth through emotional manipulation?
Some speakers are very practiced in the art of emotional manipulation. That is, they are considered powerful speakers because they have learned to excel in producing a desired outcome.

When a movie affects us emotionally, whether it makes us sentimental, or happy, or causes us to tear up, or even get angry - we typically conclude that the movie was well done, even if we don't agree with some aspect of it, or if it isn't our preferred genre. The studios that make mainstream movies know this. In fact, most of what you see on film, regardless of the content, follows (at the same time) several patterns and formulas in order to maximize the movie's impact. Studies are done on attention span and on cadence, so that depending on the genre, no one camera shot last more than fifteen seconds. There are "milestones" of activity or interest set every few minutes, and never too close together, so that the viewer's attention is held. The science behind holding the audience's attention, is matched by the science of manipulating emotions. Enter the orchestra. You know when it is time to laugh, time to cry, time to worry, or be afraid - the music drives you there.

My point is not to rail on all the "behind the scenes" effort that goes into maximizing the impact of a Hollywood movie. It is to say that some speakers employ the same emotional manipulation when they speak.

Okay, we all know the tired Christian clichés by now. You know, the sermon ends, and the speaker starts to talk softly and apparently more earnestly - like the whole point of the sermon was to get to this place where the band could start playing the lulling music over which the speaker's suggestion you all bow your heads and keep your selves from looking about so that some of you can just slip up a hand for a second so that the speaker will know who he ought to pray for.

I am not talking so much about the kind of emotional manipulation that most of us can see from a mile off. Rather I am talking about the polished variety, the kind that is woven into the whole of the message, the kind where the speaker calculates beforehand when he will say what he says, how he will frame it, what pitch his voice should rise (or fall) to, when to let his voice crack a little with emotion, and when to pause for effect. These are the tools, we might say, of a great orator - and we would be correct, these are the tools of a great orator, but not necessarily the tools of a great communicator.

Consider the preacher who expounds the text, "God is the head of Christ" - he shows that while God and Christ are equal, God has authority, ie. headship over (is-the-boss-of) Christ, and that Christ by no means rails against this authority. He paints the picture of how chaotic it would be if Christ rebelled against that authority - creation would not have come into being for Christ would not have obeyed God's command and created creation. In fact there would be an eternal war that more than anything would define the Trinity. What if Christ only jumped ship during the incarnation - and there rebelled against God's authority - the end is the damnation of mankind. Now the speaker pulls on the emotions a bit - can you imagine God's heart? God wants to save mankind, and trusts in Christ to do that, but His Annointed One rebels against Him - what is going on in God's heart when that happens? then there is a calculated pause as the hearers are left to ponder that. Perhaps he paints the picture even more vividly before he turns it around and says that Christ is the head of man, and looks to the men in the room. How does Jesus feel about having trusted you with ministry? Is our Lord weeping in heaven over your hardness of heart? Or is our Lord standing up with the swollen chest of a proud father whose son just won the game - when our Lord looks upon you, is he disappointed, or full of joy... Now you wives,... What is going on in your husband's hearts. Are they rejoicing daily because you submit yourselves to them, or do they regret having married a stubborn old witch? Silence. Then Thunder: DO YOU GIVE THEM CAUSE TO REGRET?!? Is your rebellion so important to you that you destroy the chain of command? Does your husband have to "settle" for less in you than God intended to give him because you refuse to get over yourself? Are you a daily disappointment to your husband (and to your church!)? blah, blah, etc. etc.

The wife who is suddenly made to "feel bad" about failing to submit to her spouse's authority in spiritual matters may well try to put a bandage on her failure, but her effort is very likely going to be entirely carnal. Even unsaved wives who hear that kind of emotional appeal may try and be better wives to their husbands just because they feel bad about being poor wives - that is, they are not moved by God's truth, but by the idea that they are bad at something, and it is affecting others.

Yet after the speaker leaves the podium, he is flocked by people who were powerfully "moved" by what he had to say. His message was "well done" as far as motivational speaking goes, and even as far as some judge such things. No one lost interest in the middle, and everyone became thoughtful. Isn't that the hallmark of good preaching?

There is nothing wrong with passion in the pulpit, or genuine emotion, and a good speaker knows how to use volume, cadence, and pitch to communicate and punctuate what is being said. Anyone who has even been in a conversation knows that you whisper some things, and you yell other things, you smile at somethings, and you get sober and serious about others. It is good and proper to let your passion flow into your preaching. What I am discussing may sound like I am saying you shouldn't be passionate or emotional when you preach - but I am not saying that.

What I am saying is that you should guard yourself (preacher) against appealing to the emotions of your hearers as a pragmatic device by which you hope to bring about some desired behavior. Do you want to stop some sin in your church? Expound the scriptures that speak against that sin. God's word is a hammer and a fire, it is not merely sufficient, it stands alongside prayer as one of the only efficient weapons in your arsenal. Obedience that flows from emotional manipulation is temporary and superficial (at best). The person who tries to overcome sin in their life by trying to work up an emotional fervor, is going to eventually find himself or herself emotionally spent, and spiritually bankrupt because they tried to overcome sin with emotionalism rather than as prescribed by scripture.

Godly sorrow leads to repentance, but Godly sorrow is not fostered through making people feel especially bad, it is fostered by making people see that God is not "okay" with their sin now that they are Christians. Godly sorrow is found in the one who hates his love for sin. It is produced by the certainty that a thing is sin, and that God demands our obedience. It is the work of the Holy Spirit which is centered in the core of who we are and not in the superficial emotions that might dress up that core. Feeling bad is different than feeling evil. No one ever repented because they felt sad - people repent because they feel guilty.

Sometimes I feel like I am hitting around the bulls-eye, but not nailing it in the middle. Usually I just give up on a post like that. I have 243 unpublished posts to date that fall into that category. But I was thinking about how subtle and easy a thing it is, for a preacher, to try and invent the most effective way of making a point. To want an outcome so dearly that we try and hop over the fence to get there rather than enter in at the narrow gate.

I think of how many people fumble in presenting the gospel because they are so focused on the desired effect, they are willing to do anything (including watering down the gospel) to increase the odds of someone "accepting Jesus".

So my encouragement to you is two-fold. If you are a preacher or someone who shares truth regularly - don't try and force your end game on people by manipulating their emotions - stick with the word of God, and the conviction of sin and righteousness which is the Holy Spirit's ministry, the very power that works in you if you truly are ministering in Christ's name. The other, take care how you hear.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:17 AM   2 comment(s)
Monday, October 18, 2010
1035: New Adult Bible Study Available...
If you are wondering what those numbers are in the titles lately, they represent the post number. This is my 1,035th post. Many posts are not published, so you can see the gap between one post and the next.

I do that so that anyone who is interested will know that it isn't that I am not writing anything for my blog - I am just not posting much lately.

But that is an aside.

For those very few of you who are following along with our study of Ephesians 6:10-14, we are presently in Ephesians 6:11b ("... so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." [NASB])

Last week we discussed the fourth and final method the enemy uses to trouble or vex the beleiver, and this week we discuss three ways to apply what we have learned concerning the enemy's wiles (methods).

If you are interested in reading William Gurnall's "The Christian in Complete Armor" or if you are following along with the study and want to see how Gurnall has presented what I am expositing - here is a link to a PDF copy of the part of the book we are presently working through (we run through what is covered on page 74 through to the end).

If you would like to hear yesterday's lesson (October 17th 2010), you will find a pretty high quality audio stream in the right hand margin. You will also find the previous lessons in this series going back four more weeks. If streaming audio isn't your style, you can go to the hosting site directly and download the stream as an MP3 (see here).

If you do plan on giving the lesson a listen (try saying that three times fast!), you may want to read the section in Gurnall's book beforehand to gear up for it, though it isn't required for the lesson.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:54 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
1032: New Adult Bible Study is available...
For those who have opted to follow along our study in Ephesians 6, the latest teaching can be found in the righthand margin (October 10, 2010). I plan to update this post later and post my notes at that time).

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posted by Daniel @ 1:56 PM   2 comment(s)
Monday, October 04, 2010
1030: Adult Sunday School!
As some of you readers may be aware, I lead an adult bible study each Sunday for the adults in my congregation. We are presently in our third year of examining together William Gurnall's "the Christian in Complete Armor".

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular Puritan work, I can only say that it is one of the most spiritually rewarding but difficult to follow Christian classics ever written. I say difficult to follow for several reasons, the first being that the language is a bit archaic, the next, and perhaps most important reason, is because it is so utterly pregnant with insight and truth that in any given paragraph one is likely to encounter three or more truths so profound that one has to pause and chew a long time in order to properly digest them.

I can say with some conviction that while I consider myself well read, I have never read anything so densely filled with immediately applicable truth. I have read through entire systematic theologies that were (by far) a less taxing read. To put that into perspective, I have taught through, in the first two years, only a little over one eighth of the book. At this rate it will be fourteen more years till I finish. Truth be told, as much as I desire to pick up the pace, I find myself unable to do so except at the expense of understanding, that is, to go at any faster a pace, for me at least, means presenting the same truths in some glossy way, whereby I only superficially present what is there, and in doing so provide only weiner-water sustainance to those members of my congregation that I have been privileged to know and to share these truths with.

When I purchased my iphone last year, I began to record these Sunday Studies, as the microphone on the iphone is quite sensitive, and lends itself well to this sort of application. Our church had been recording these same lessons each week, and recent lessons are available at my church's website in a compressed format that greatly reduces the quality of the audio.

Well today, on a lark I decided to see how difficult it would be to stream higher quality audio from my blog to any and all who want to follow along with the study. Each week, for as long as I am motivated, I will provide a new "streaming" lesson in the right hand column, along with a link, or post about, my notes for that lesson.

To begin with, here are my notes for the October 3 Lesson:

Ephesians 6:11b - so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil”

High level outline: Explaining why the Christian soldier is to be compeltely armed and armored
Part one: The danger we face if unarmed
  • Doctrine: The Devil is a very subtle enemy

    • Satan's first Main Design (of two): To draw us into sin (we did this last year)

    • Satan's second Main Design (of two):To accuse, vex, and trouble the saint over their sin

      • First wile (method) of four of Satan as a troubler of the saints: He vexes the Christian with blasphemous and atheistical thoughts, thereby convicting the believer that he is not really a child of God who could produce such thoughts.
      • Second Wile (method) of four of Satan as a troubler of the saints: He disguises his accusations of sin as Holy Spirit conviction

      • Third wile (method) of four of Satan as a trouble of the saints: Satan raises trivial objections at the Christian's duties and performances

        • Here we are talking about how the enemy convinces us that everything we say do or think is so entirely washed through with sin and corruption as to be worthless, and even counterfeit and wicked.

          By exaggerating our flaws, our enemy discourages us in our ministry and even in the exercising of our gifts:

          • Example 1: He convinces us that we ought not to risk attempting some good thing because there will be ten bad things that accompany it.

            Perry with the Sword of Truth 1: God prepared these good works so that we might walk in them…

            Ephesians 2:10 “10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

            Perry with the Sword of Truth 2: God purifies (through Christ) in order that we might be zealous for good works ….

            Titus 2:14 “14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”


          • Example 2: He uses our love for God, and our concern for God's glory, and how it might be corrupted by ourselves, to maim us, and make us so lame that when we do work, we work only begrudgingly, and that with the conviction that it is not only worse than useless - but in fact wicked.

          • Question: How do we withstand these trivial objections?

            Answer 1: Understand that God has given the enemy permission to do so for a reason: To hone you. Therefore, allow these objections to cause you to become more accurate and careful in all that you do in your service to the King.

            Answer 2: Let it make you more humble.

            Luke 16:10 "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

            If Satan identifies flaws in your best duties, consider what the rest of what you do looks like to God

            Allow the knowledge that God has chosen you specifically (with full knowledge of your failures) to do these good works In His name to humble you before Him.

            Answer 3: Take note of the fallacy of Satan's argument, which after you discover it, will help you answer the objection.

            • Point 1: Satan will try to convince you that because your duty is imperfect, there is something wrong with your faith or your profession.

              C.f. Zechariah 3:1-7 - the brand that is plucked from the fire still glows hot, though it is no longer in the fire - the heat clings to it. So are we who have been plucked from the fire, the devil looks to that heat that clings to us, and accuses us that we are still on fire.

              Point 2: Satan argues that the sin that is present in our duty causes God to not accept our service. But this is bunk.

              Consider the difference between money that is used to pay a debt, and money that is given as a gift of love. The man who may refuse a ripped bill in payment of a debt, will gladly receive the even torn and soiled money when the same is offered to him by the child who loves him, and offers it in love.

              The same is true of God, our debt was paid by Christ, our service is not a payment of debt, but a love offering, and though it be tainted by that sin which still clings to us, and will cling to us until we leave this earth - this sin that clings to our love offering, does soil our love offering (though it may displace it to some degree).

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posted by Daniel @ 12:48 PM   10 comment(s)
1029: Grace and Faith
I am guessing here, but I suspect that the average evangelical congregation, or even to be more specific, the average evangelical Christian, would not have a problem with a pastor who stood up one Sunday and preached from the pulpit that those who are being saved are being saved by their faith.

As someone who has preached, I have, from time to time, endured the unfortunate intellectual or academic pummelling of some carping caviler, who (however well intentioned) cannot help but express after some sermon or teaching, how much better it would have been had I expressed myself according to their fancy rather than my own.

I want (therefore) to be certain (and I want you the reader to be certain) that I am not engaging in that sort of nit pickery in the writing of this post. So I ask you in advance to be careful in how you hear what I have to say - to listen with scrutiny as it were, to chew on what is said before you attempt to digest it.

You see, I am not carping or caviling when I say that it is wrong to preach that we are saved by faith. I think, in fact, that many an error begins with just such a teaching.

Now, if you are a little confused by that statement, I hope that I will be able to both explain what I mean, and that having done so, you will not only agree with me, and be fed in the process, but more than this - that when you see the truth of it, you will find in that truth a path by which you may, should you exercise youself upon it, be drawn into a closer walk with God.

We are not justified by works, nor are we justified by works "plus" faith, nor (and here is the kicker) by faith alone. What the bible teaches is that we are saved by grace through faith. Most of us can quote Ephesians 2:8 in some form or other ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"), but among those who know this passage, I suspect that many fail to see that we are saved by God's grace.

I suspect, I say, that many see grace in this passage as a theological precursor to the faith "that saves". Faith then, they reason, saves us, but it isn't a faith that comes from our own self, but a faith that springs up from grace.

I would agree, that faith does spring up from grace, but scripture presents the formula to us in this way: not that faith that saves, but rather that grace saves through faith.

If you fail to see the difference between "saved by faith" and "saved by grace", such that you believe yourself to be "saved by faith" - you are going to suffer the theological fallout of that error in discernment.

If I am saved by my faith, then, I am making faith the cause of my justification instead of God. Do you see the difference this (seemingly) small confusion introduces?

Now when I am want assurance, I do no look to the grace of God by which I was saved, instead I look to my faith. I put my trust (my hope of salvation) not in God, but in my own estimation of the legitimacy of my faith - my hope is that my faith is legitimate, rather than my hope being in God's grace.

Do you see the folly of trusting in faith? Scripture, and by extension God, does not call us to trust in our faith, but to trust in Him. Whether in the pulpit or the pew, whether we have inherited some clumsy theology, or have come to it of our own (sloppy) study, if we forget that we are saved by grace, and start saying we are saved by faith - we are in error, and that error is going to have consequences in our walk.

Oh I know for some the difference seems a trifle. What does it matter, some will argue. Sure, okay, "technically" we are saved by grace, but since we must exercise "faith" in order to be saved, the distinction is (more or less) moot. That sounds reasonable, I suppose. I mean we can be saved, and remain saved whether our understand of these things is precise or imprecise. What does it matter?

Well, if all we were concerned with was whether or not we were justified, then I suppose the distinction isn't all that important. But living the Christian life entails more than becoming justified by grace through faith - it involves being saved from sin by grace through faith.

I personally have spent a lot of time and effort showing that we are saved from sin (c.f. Matthew 1:21) just as surely as we are saved from God's wrath (c.f. Romans 5:9) - striving to show, over many posts, that sanctification is a work done by God in us through faith - but I suppose I have been neglect in showing that while this same work is the product of grace, that manifests itself in and through faith.

Why is this important to me, and why should it be important to you?

It is important because some of you who are reading are finding it difficult to plug God into your religion. You have a vibrant and perhaps even orthodox form of godliness, but you deny it's power (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:5). You are somewhat estranged from God in your affections because you either have forgotten or never properly understood that everything about your religion hinges on God's grace. It is God who is at work in you, to will and to do His good pleasure. If you are looking to your faith instead of to God, you are missing out on the relationship that ought to be the well from which you draw your strength, joy, and hope, and are instead drawing such things from the puddle of your own faith.

My hope, of course, is that if you find yourself looking to your own faith instead of to God's grace, you will adjust your gaze, and in doing so, be blessed.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:30 AM   2 comment(s)
 
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