Posts Tagged ‘spiritual growth’

tree-and-roots1Many times people ask me, “what about application?”  This is a valid question, one that I intend to answer, however I think our modern view of “application” is really an attempt for us to baptize self-help in the name of spiritual progress.  In other words, by “application” what we really mean is seven Biblical principles for time management.  Self-help is really just legalism poorly packaged.  It has the powert to discipline the flesh, but it does not have the power to change the human heart and its desires.  “Repent and believe” is the application of Scripture, but the human heart says “give me some work to do!”  But works cannot produce righteousness nor can they change the human heart.  That is why “works of the flesh” (things we consciously do) always result in the most disastrous sin (Gal 5.19).  However “fruit of the Spirit” (things that are produced from the inner-work of the Spirit) produces life (Gal 5.22).  The important distinction to make is that fruit just happens.  It is a result of nourishment and watering.  So what nourishes and waters the human soul in such a way that it produces fruit?  Well, I say that it is principally beholding God in all his majesty, which is chiefly revealed to us finite creatures in the cross, where God’s extravagent and unmerited love is abundantly demonstrated.  Below is an excerpt from Edwards’ “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven.”  Notice that for Edwards, beholding God puts the human soul under compulsion to worship him.  Check it out below:

That they see God, sufficiently shows the reason why they praise him. They that see God cannot but praise him. He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him. Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise. Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit.  (Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven“)

For Edwards, merely beholding God puts you under an irresistable compulsion to worship him.  Now worship is not merely something confined to Sunday morning but it is a life activity (Rom 12.1).  We worship God by going to the workplace with integrity, watching out for our clients, caring for our family.  Essentially we live our life to the glory of God.  This is a fruit not a work.  Do not try to do any of these things!  Rather, allow the water that nourishes the soul, namely the Gospel, compel us (assisted by the Spirit) to worship God through a Godly life. 

So when I preach the Gospel, what is the principle application?  The application that I am hoping for is that my listeners behold God through the glory of the crucified Jesus and are compelled to worship him.  As a fruit of this “beholding” they begin to perform extravagent gestures of genorsity, sacrificial love, grace, forgiveness as demonstrations of their deep worship of the Savior.  Not to earn his favor, but because they have beheld him and love him deeply.  This deep love for the Savior is the well from which Christian spiritual growth must always flow.  May the beauty of the stricken Jesus “irresistibly impel” you, drawing you into a lifestyle of praise to the glory of the Savior.

booksLloyd-Jones gives the surprising conclusion of supplying yourself with a steady stream of biography in your reading.  On the whole a fascinating essay entitled “Knowledge- False and True: A Warning Against Dead Orthodoxy”em>

My last word—how are we to get this knowledge? I give you but the bare headings. Bible study! Obviously you start there. But in addition, self–examination. How vital that is! Reading the Bible is not enough. Self examination! How do you examine yourself? If you read your Bible correctly, you will soon discover. Ask yourself questions, apply what you are reading to yourself. Say: ‘This was spoken to a Pharisee, is it true of me?’ and so on. But if you want further help as regards self–examination, read the diaries of men who have truly known God. Jonathan Edwards drew up a list of questions for people to ask themselves. John Fletcher of Madeley did exactly the same thing. You can use them if you like. But however you do it, be sure that you do it. Examine yourself!

Then another thing—and I want to emphasize this—balanced reading! I am concerned about this. I know of nothing that has such a tenndency to produce false knowledge and to make men victims of this false knowledge, as reading which lacks balance. If a man reads nothing but theology, he is exposing himself to this danger. I would therefore advise that we should always balance our reading as we balance our material diet. You should not eat only one kind of food. if you eat nothing but proteins you will soon be ill. You should always have a balanced diet. That principle is equally essential here. ‘What do you mean?’ asks someone. Well, if I may say so with humility, the thing that has been of the greatest help to me has been to balance theological reading with the reading of biographies. That is the best advice I can give. I have always done this: I have always done it on holiday and I have tried to do it day by day. But on holiday in particular I used always to give my mornings to reading some theological work, but I was also careful to read some biography at night. It worked like this. Having read for three or four hours in the morning I felt before lunch that I was quite a considerable man, and that I had a great deal of knowledge which I would be able to display to others. There I was! But I remember very well when I first ‘stumbled’—and I am speaking the truth literally—when I first stumbled across Jonathan Edwards in 1918. 1 had never heard of him before but I began to read him and I soon discovered that you cannot read a page of Jonathan Edwards without feeling very small indeed. It completely corrected what had been happening in the morning. The best antidote to the poison of false knowledge is to read a biography like that of Jonathan Edwards or Whitefield or Fletcher of Madeley…How monstrous, how ridiculous how foolish it is to think that we know these things, that we have a knowledge of God simply because we have garnered a certain amount of intellectual and theoretical and academic information! ‘Grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.’ Can we say with Spurgeon that we know what it is to be ‘embraced’ by Him? Have we ever really been there in His presence in a ‘sensible’ way—using the term ‘sensible’ as the Puritans used it? To ‘know and feel’ that God is near!

What is the value of all the knowledge we may have if we are ignorant of that! ‘Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.’ (I Cor. 13: 2). May God preserve us from this ‘false knowledge’ which is not knowledge but a counterfeit, and which is finally useless!

We say without hesitation that he who contemplates God’s sufferings for a day, an hour, yes, only a quarter of an hour, does better than to fast a whole year, pray a psalm daily, yes, better than to hear a hundred masses. This meditation changes man’s being and, almost like baptism, gives him a new birth. Here the passion of Christ performs it’s natural and noble work, strangling the old Adam and banishing all joy, delight, and confidence which man could derive from other creatures, even as Christ was forsaken by all, even by God.

Martin Luther, A Meditation on Christ’s Passion 1519, LW 42, pg 11

ACT’S OF THE APOSTLES 28: 23-30 (11.16.08)

During our parish retreat last year, while Iain and I were away at the consecration of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of S.C., you came up with the mission statement for our parish.  It reads: “To inspire all people, through the power of the Gospel, to become living members of the Body of Christ.”  It is a powerful statement for many reasons, reasons that we have gone over before and reasons that we will go over again.  But today, I might like to draw your attention to one aspect of the mission statement, that being that when you fashioned it, you did so in such a way as to state that you believe the Gospel accomplishes something and is used in a specific way to do so.

You and I are of course, not the first to believe that our “product” is meant to achieve something.  In fact, much of corporate America goes to great expense and trouble to state clearly what they think their products can and cannot achieve and what is the proper way to use said products.  Listen to the following:

On a plastic plate:  this item does not rust

On the package of a Batman costume:  Cape does not enable user to fly

On a hair color kit:  do not use as an ice cream topping

On a bottle of milk:  After opening, keep upright

On a chainsaw:  Do not try and stop the saw with your hands

On an can of insecticide:  Kills all kinds of insects…Warning:  this product is harmful to bees

As foolish as some of them sound, the above companies have gone to great lengths to state what their product accomplishes and how it is mean to be used.  At Trinity, we have done the same thing.  At Trinity, we believe the number one thing we have to offer the world, the one thing that no one else in the world can offer except the church, is the Gospel.  We believe the Gospel is meant to be proclaimed, principally in words (though deeds bear witness to it) and that it accomplishes something quite specific.  Namely we believe that the Gospel has the power to cause men and women, dead in their sins, to come alive to God and become living members of the Body of Christ.  More recently, we have even attempted to state what we believe a “living member” of the Body of Christ looks like.  We believe when God has transformed someone’s heart through the Gospel, that they will “live, grow, serve, and give.”  That is, they will come alive to God in worship,  grow in the knowledge and love of him, serve the church and the community, and give of themselves towards the work of the Kingdom.  As a church, it is important that we not only consider how this happens, but that we also consider what keeps it from happening.  For the answer to this question, we turn Acts ch. 28 for our final sermon in this series. (more…)

let me remind you that if you will look at interesting things you will not sleep; and how can you be kept awake in the enchanted ground better than by holding up your Saviour before your eyes? There are some things, it is said, which will not let men shut their eyes if they are held before them. Jesus Christ crucified on Calvary is one of them. I never knew a Christian go to sleep at the foot of the cross; but he always said—

“Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross I spend.”

And he said, too—

“Here I’d sit, for ever viewing
Mercies’ streams in streams of blood.”

But he never said, “Here I would lay down and sleep;” for he could not sleep with that shriek, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” in his ears. He could not sleep with “It is finished!” going into his very soul. Keep thou near to the cross, Christian, and thou wilt not sleep.
Then I would advise thee to let the wind blow on thee; let the breath of the Holy Spirit continually fan thy temples, and thou wilt not sleep. Seek to live daily under the influence of the Holy Ghost; derive all thy strength from him, and thou wilt not slumber.
Lastly, labor to impress thyself with a deep sense of the value of the place to which thou art going. If thou rememberest that thou art going to heaven, thou wilt not sleep on the road. If thou thinkest that hell is behind thee, and the devil pursuing thee, I am sure thou wilt not be inclined to sleep. Would the man-slayer sleep if the avenger of blood were behind him, and the city of refuge before him? Christian, wilt thou sleep whilst the pearly gates are open; the songs of angels waiting for thee to join them; a crown decorated with delight to be worn upon thy brow? Ah, no!

“Forget the steps already trod,
And onward urge thy way.”
“Weak as thou art, thou shalt not faint,
Or, fainting, shalt not die;
He feeds the strength of every saint,
He’ll help thee from on high.”

read it all here

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
SESSION 5: THE CALL TO LOOK INWARD

Recap: We have now both discussed both the function of leadership in the church as well as the qualities and commitments of a leader in the church. We will now address the spiritual growth of the individual soul as well as tending to the spiritual growth of the parish at large

Throughout Scripture we are called by the Holy Spirit to look inward and tend to our own spiritual growth. So we read “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Tim 6.20), “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed” (2 Tim 2.15), and “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every evil” (1 Thes 5.19-22). And of course Paul will write to the Church in Philippi: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2.12).

Discussion Question: What are some of the requirements God places on his people in these verses? How does that make you feel? What comfort can be derived from the quote from Philippians? What is the sequence of events in the quote from Philippians?

(more…)

William Cowper

William Cowper

To keep the lamp alive,
With oil we fill the bowl;
‘Tis water makes the willow thrive,
And grace that feeds the soul.

The Lord’s unsparing hand
Supplies the living stream;
It is not at our own command,
But still derived from Him.

Beware of Peter’s word,
Nor confidently say,
“I never will deny Thee, Lord,” —
But, — “Grant I never may.”

Man’s wisdom is to seek
His strength in God alone;
And e’en an angel would be weak,
Who trusted in his own.

Retreat beneath his wings,
And in His gace confide!
This more exalts the King of kings
Than all your works beside.

In Jesus is our store,
Grace issues from His throne;
Whoever says, “I want no more,”
Confesses he has done.

-William Cowper, Book III, Hymn 74
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