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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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The Buzz

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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Thursday, January 06, 2011
Prayer versus scripture reading
"Read your bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow"

In our assembly, we call spending time each morning in prayer and study of God's word our "morning devotions". Typically, and I am sure this is common amongst most bible preaching assemblies, we call our members to practice a daily regiment of bible study and prayer, and we regard the keeping of this regiment as a good indicator as to where a person is at spiritually speaking - and it is a pretty reliable indicator. The Christian who is walking in (or by) the Spirit will spend time pondering God's word, and talking to God, and the Christian who is walking in (or by) the flesh will avoid the same.

But as is often the case, every act of legitimate devotion can be twisted into a form of "legal" bondage. When the study of God's word becomes something we must endure for the sake of appearances, or prayer becomes a begrudging, and guilt ridden task we must continue for the sake of checking our list off in the morning - we are no longer worshipping God and/or walking in the Spirit, but are like the Israelites who offered up sick and/or lame sacrifices to God, that is, we are like those who offer to God the things we ourselves have rejected.

A "good" bible-studying, daily praying believer doesn't go from a state of spiritual health, to one of spiritual calamity over night, usually it takes weeks, months, or even years. Like the man who has a great estate but begins one day to sell of the edges, a little here, a little there, so that his descent into poverty happens slowly, even peacefully. One day he wakes up, like the prodigal son, realizing he is in mire with the swine, starving and longing for what used to be.

I want to write briefly today about one aspect of this decline: pitting prayer against bibles study.

If you find that you spend a lot of time in prayer, but hardly any time at all in the study of scripture, it is likely that you are avoiding scripture. Like the man who says "yes" while shaking his head to indicate "no", you are on the one hand pursuing God in prayer, and on the other rejecting Him in the study of scripture.

The same is true of the one who spends a lot of time in the study of scripture and little time in prayer.

Of the two, I would guess that the latter is more common -- and that probably because I am personally more inclined to err according to that scheme being a teacher in the church. It would be difficult to prepare for a Sunday lesson on scripture without actually studying the scripture - at least for me. I know that for some preachers (given what passes for a sermon in some corners) this isn't a problem - they can write a sermon that more or less ignores or even contradicts the word of God - searching the scriptures in preparing their sermons the way another would use a phone book.

My point is not to argue which sort of spiritual decline is better. Rather it is to draw attention to the symptoms of spiritual decline that those who find themselves shaving off the edges of their spiritual life can recognize what they are doing, though I know that anyone who is in decline knows they are in decline. Sometimes however, having someone else point it out, makes a big difference.

The point is if you are short-changing your time in the word, or your time in prayer, you are doing so -because- there is something in your life that you refuse to set aside, even though you know that doing so is the will of God. You have begun to make "peace" with this enemy and in order to do so, you have had to compromise your surrender to God. Like an ember who picks itself up from the fire, and sets itself amongst the stones somewhere, you are growing colder, and the cold slumber of this separation is slowly, but inevitably overtaking you.

No grape withers while it is connected to the vine. In order for a grape to wither, it has to have its connection to the vine severed. So also with the believer who is withering, the problem is that he has turned away from Christ to pursue other things - or should I say it this way, to "set his heart" on other things. I think of that brutish husband who, having gained a beautiful and charming wife immediately loses interest in her, for once he had acquired her, he had succeeded in what he had originally set out to do, and had no intention of fostering any greater relationship, instead she became just one of the things in his life that he "did" - a marriage that was all about himself.

So it is with the believer who has begun to finds himself no longer spending time in prayer or in the reading of God's word. This one is withering on the vine, having set his heart on something else now that he "has" God, and this one is in more danger than he understands. Like a seed that has fallen into fallow, thorny soil, the things he chooses to pursue in this life are choking out his pursuit of God, if this one continues along the trajectory he is one, he will eventually set God aside altogether, and show himself to have been a false convert.

You see, it isn't that he didn't assent to the truth of the gospel, it is that he didn't allow this truth to save him from his sin, but instead pursued the things in the world. This is what a superficial faith looks like - it begins with a flourish that can last months or years, then declines into that same nothingness from which it sprang up.

When I spell it out like that, my inclination is to soften it a bit. I want to remind the reader that this is only the case for those who are unregenerate and believe themselves to be regenerate - and that the genuine believer, no matter how he stumbles, will not ultimately fall and remain down. But while this is true, no one who considers himself a believer imagines that he is a counterfeit one - that is, he knows "what" (as opposed to "who") he believes, and is convinced that having believed the correct information, and pursued God with genuine vigour and zeal, he is the "real deal" and as such his decline is not something he should be all that concerned about, since he "can't lose his salvation". It is true that no genuine believer will lose that salvation which Christ has already secured for them - but not everyone who imagines themselves to be genuine is, in fact genuine.

So if you find yourself withering in your faith, know that you have set God aside in order to pursue something in this world, and that unless you repent, you will surely perish, regardless of how accurate your statement of faith may be. Consider this a call to repentance, directed at those who imagine themselves to be secure. While those who belong to Christ are definitely secure in Christ, not everyone who imagines themselves to be in Christ is actually in Christ. Examine yourself therefore, if this applies to you, with the sober gravity of one who stands on fatal precipice, and ask yourself the hard questions - if I refuse to repent today, why am I trusting God to save me tomorrow?

John wrote the following in 1 John 3:4-10, read it and let the truth of it work in you:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.. - [ESV]

I battle with the desire to comfort and the desire to proclaim the truth from the rooftops. To comfort those genuine believers who are struggling to walk worthy of their call, and to shake into life those who have never fully repented and being deceived they are trusting in their knowledge of the truth coupled to their religious fervour which they regard as evidence of the genuineness of their faith.

If you are living in the surety that we find in 2 Peter 1, that is, if you have added to your faith all the things that naturally flow out of a genuine faith (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love), that is well and good. If you are living in the surety of some profession you made, and see no evidence of that profession today, then both tremble and also take heart, tremble because of what that says about the integrity of your faith, but take heart that you are not without hope - repent, if you are able, and be reconciled to God on His terms and not on yours, and you will grow, grow, grow.

Whether your faith has always been genuine, or whether you have been deceived doesn't really matter much today, all that matter is that you choose today to serve the living God through Christ. Turn away from every created thing, and towards the one who is the Creator - as if fitting for every one of His creatures - and you will find the only peace that matters. Do you want to be hungry for prayer and the study of God's word? I will say it another way: Do you want to be hungry for God Himself? Then turn and face Him instead of giving your affection to the world. It is that simple.

It doesn't matter how bad you were yesterday, or this morning, or even where you at right now, however dark a place you might be in. God is light, and even the blackest night is dispelled when the day comes - so it is for every sinner who is in love with their sin - turn from it today, embrace the Lord, and go from there. Don't worry about yesterday, worry about right now, for this is the only moment you can do anything in.
posted by Daniel @ 5:55 AM  
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