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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Jeremiah 7:8-10
I was struck by these verses the other day, and considered strongly writing a post on the subject found therein, but put it off for other things. It struck me as significant therefore when my pastor preached from this very text this past Sunday.

Here is the text (ESV):

"Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'—only to go on doing all these abominations?

In the context, God is speaking to the people of Judah who, even though they have stopped following God in their hearts, never the less continue to perform all the religious duties associated with Judaism.

Sound doctrine is always best, but it in the hands of the unregenerate, it can give false hope; that is, those who call themselves Christians, but have never actually been reconciled to God by a repentant faith, will (for instance) use the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints to bolster them in their unbelief. They will tell themselves that it is okay that they sin and what not, because - hey - they're saved and going to heaven ... right? The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints provides the downhearted, but truly regenerate believer, strength to obey the Lord, as he will not look to his own feelings as the measure of his justification, but rest his hope continually and consistently on the finished work of our Lord at Calvary, and in the trustworthiness of our Lord's promise to those who truly repent in faith. But in the hands of a false convert, the idea of an ultra-secure salvation becomes a cloak for liberty.

It is all nice and good to have assurance that one's salvation is eternally secure, as long as one is actually justified - but to have that assurance when one is deceived by a false faith will only make a false faith more deadly.

When a modern Christian reads (therefore) a text like Jeremiah 7, I wonder about those who think nothing of the passage as they pass over it. Here is God calling Judah a bunch of murderers, adulterers, liars, and thieves. We read that and go, "Yeah, dumb old Judah! Why won't they get it?" rather than hear God's word as a living challenge to the remnants, large or small, of our own passing, besetting decay.

That is, I worry about any Christian who reads such a passage without a fearful, trembling reflection upon their own walk. When I read that I quake at my own sin because, while I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I do not for one moment tell myself that --because-- I am a Christian I do not have to worry about God's harsh words directed at my sin. Instead, because I am a Christian, I regard God's words as though they were directed at me, and I examine myself under the naked light of God's righteousness.

I read that passage and I don't muse about what a mess Judah was making of the old covenant. I read it and ask myself whether the slackness in my employment isn't a form of stealing? I ask myself about those things that persist in my life - things that I continue to give my energy and time to - are these not idols? When I think of any person who hates our Lord, is not my first impulse to desire that God would deliver them over to His wrath rather than to His mercy? Isn't this a form of hatred? Isn't hatred as the sin of murder? Is God always my first love in everything I do? If He is not, am I not committing spiritual "adultery" in my heart the moment I put any other thing before my relationship with God? When I consider such things I find myself trembling before God's word; not that I worry that my profession is false, but that I see in the reflection of God's word who I truly am, and worse, who I continue to be. I see therefore that unless God continues the work He has begun in me I am without hope in the world. Why I am like that? Here is the thought that came to mind: You have not because you ask not, or you ask in a way that would require God to bolster your flesh.

I am convinced from scripture that, because I am His child, God will refine me. I reason that in order for sanctification to happen to me as a believer, there must be something of rebellion in me - that is, there must be something in me that actually needs sanctifying! I also know that my sanctification will not happen spontaneously through passive indifference. When scripture says to work out your own salvation - it is talking about salvation from sin - Jesus came to save His people from their sin (c.f. Matthew 1:21) - Paul explains that we are to work out this same salvation with fear and trembling knowing that as we do so it is actually God who is working the desire to do his good pleasure into us, and more - even giving us the ability to do it. Every believer who sits like a bump on a log and waits for God to eliminate the sin in his or her life demonstrates a dangerous lack of understanding.

It works this way: We are motivated to cleanse our hands and purify our hearts (to use the words of James) by a God given desire to live a life that is pleasing to Him. If we act on the desire that God gives - the desire to draw near to him through pursuing holiness, we are given grace to do so when we seek to do so with a singleness of heart. If we attempt to draw near to God in some half hearted way, we shouldn't expect grace, and frankly, whatever me managed to muster up usually won't suffice, leaving us pretty much where we started.

The work of sanctification is a work of whole heartedness, but sadly, the pursuit of religion is something any half hearted believer can master and excel in. That includes such things as "Christian education", teaching, preaching, going to seminary, programs at church, etc. etc. It amazes me, and if you stop and consider it, it will amaze you too, that we are able to do as much as we do -- without any real holiness to speak of.

So when you read a passage like this one in Jeremiah - don't just say, "I am saved, ...what has this text to do with me?!" and move on. Drink it in, and examine your walk. Are you pursuing the holiness without which no one will see the Lord? Are you satisfied in your religion even though deep down you know it is empty? Let's be even more direct: Are you ready for judgment day, or do you think you have some things to make certain of before you die?

It is good and right to have no hope in our flesh, and to place all our hope in the finished work of Christ on calvary - and it is that alone that we rest on when it comes to our justification - but what kind of faith is satisfied with a mere "pass"? Consider the magnitude of slackness heart-hearted and bitterly sinful laziness it takes to willfully coast when you should be pedaling with regards to God's call for personal holiness. How thick must be the callouses on one's heart be to allow one to flippantly set aside the commandments of God (i.e. pursue holiness!) simply because one is certain that Christ's sacrifice covers their sin.

I burn with indignation at the thought of that. I bristle at Christians who scuttle past those words in scripture which, when rightly understood and applied would breath life into their dead bones. No, let me drill down on that so I am understood - I bristle at the bondage that makes that possible. I hate sin, I hate it in my life, and I hate it in your life too. I hate how it enslaves the world, and I especially hate it when Christians writhe and toil under it, trying to free themselves from it's rule, and fail because they're trying to free themselves from it by every other means than what scripture prescribes: faith from a full heart.

Do they never realize that the reason they fail is because they aren't fully committed to success? How many times must they put their hands in the fire before they learn it burns them? They are hungry, and willing to put their hand in the bowl, but then they become too lazy to bring their hand to their mouth in order to feed themselves. They want the crop, but refuse to go and plow, plant, and harvest, and then admire their religion because in it they have a desire that is good, even if they never answer that desire by engaging in the good work God has given them the desire to pursue. Yet, because these things are spiritual, and because ignorance is rampant in the church, many put off the pursuit of holiness because they really do presume that something mystical is supposed to happen so that they don't have to actually pursue holiness, it will just fall out of the sky and land on them one day. Of course, when that fails to happen, instead of adjusting their impotent religion, they surround themselves with people who make them feel at ease in their spiritual failure. Misery loves company after all.

The problem is almost always faith.

Listen, those who come to Christ because they have seen themselves as wretched the sinners they are, who see how they deserve death for their rebellion, and see how the Lord is entirely just in condemning them, and in the silent wake of that truth cry out to God for reconciliation, cry out, I say, to be taken out of their rebellion and put back into a right relationship with God - the kind where you obey God as you ought to - that is, who cry out to God from the well of their own brokenness not holding their hearts aloof from God, but presenting them to God as His to direct, own, and command - that is, they cry out to God in full repentance; these continue to pursue God because they haven't yet attained their goal - to be with God.

Yet those who come to Christ to escape their own damnation, whose interest is driven entirely by their own desire for self preservation - the very moment they are convinced that they are saved from hell - they believe themselves to have attained all that they came to Christ to secure, and once they have it, they care little for all the frills. Why pursue holiness, if you already have what you came to Christ to get - a ticket out of hell? They don't love God, they would be just as satisfied to live forever in their earthly flesh as is, and have there be no God at all.

Here then is a good, diagnostic question: Why did I become a Christian? Was it to escape hell, or was it to be reconciled to God? What is my desire? Do I desire God for God's sake, or do I desire God because I reason that is a better fate for me than hell? Is my desire for God nothing more than a selfish desire to avoid a miserable afterlife, or is it a desire to be loved by, and received into the family of, God?

Love the Lord your God is the first commandment, and I think it is first for a good reason. The bottom line is this: if you find that you are not at war with sin in your life - if you find that you have no loathing of sin, and no desire to fellowship with God - no aching for righteousness, it is no wonder you gloss over the verses that speak directly to you. You are a corpse - and unless the Lord breathes life into you, you will remain so.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Repentance follows.

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posted by Daniel @ 5:51 AM  
  • At 10:35 AM, August 26, 2009, Blogger Even So... said…

    Some might accuse you here of law, but not so; this is indeed full of grace, which they turn into licentiousness, and fail to see that grace is a teacher...those who are not willing and willful to press on will fall away...believe means follow...

  • At 11:00 AM, August 26, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD, good to hear from you, and especially so on such a topic.

    I think you nail it when you say that those who are unwilling to press on will fall away. They think they have it, but they don't, and that is why they will fall away.

    I know you agree, bringing light to this topic is not meant as an exhortation for the reader to pick himself up by his own bootstraps and set about imitating the life of God's Spirit that is supposed to be in us; rather it is diagnostic: if the life that drives us to obey isn't evident, we will fall away. It won't be because we didn't try hard enough, it will be because it was always our own flesh driving us, and never that new life that is received by those who come to faith in repentance.

    Thanks for that comment.

  • At 10:11 AM, August 27, 2009, Blogger David said…

    Well done. So right, and so convicting.

  • At 2:34 PM, August 28, 2009, Blogger donsands said…

    More great thoughts Daniel.

    Peter said, "Depart from me Lord." That was an incredible statement. We all need to be there every so often methinks.

    Peter also rebuked Jesus. Did Jesus ever have His hands full with Simon Peter! And yet Jesus loved this man, and chose him to be a fisher, not of fish, but of souls. A simple longshoreman loved and used by God.

    And we need many rebukes throughout our lives I'm afraid. The Lord had to raise up a Paul for Peter.
    And so He never leaves us, nor forsakes us. His blessings of peace and joy will certainly come. And also His blessings of rebukes and discipline. So that our faith is tried in the fire, and the dross is extracted, as silver becomes purer, so we do too.

    And we see how glorious Christ is, and how we are the chief of sinners, and His grace becomes a sweeter and sweeter sound.

    Have a wonderful weekend and Lord's Day.

  • At 12:19 AM, August 29, 2009, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Daniel, God has blessed you with such a powerful gift of communication. I have not been both encouraged and convicted by a blog post in a long time. Thank you for that.

    My heart has grown faint and this is a voice in the wilderness reminding me that to not hate sin is to love sin.

    Oh, that I would learn to always hate sin with all my heart!!!!

  • At 1:31 PM, August 31, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jibbs, I often write about what I pesonally most need to hear. It is good to encourage one another in this way.

  • At 9:41 AM, September 03, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for encouraging me this morning. Why it is that after so many years, so much grace and cleansing that I still find myself unsure that 'this time' He will do the work in me...
    Had a major skirmish in the 'war' yesterday... God is so faithful - I am so faithless.
    Blessings to you. I am always so blessed by your blog and so often when "I decide" to read it - I hear God speak to me through it, often as a reassurance and a repeating of a recent lesson in my life.

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