This past Sunday at New Life we had the privilege of celebrating the baptism of eight. Baptisms are one of the most precious celebrations for the family of God. It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, each is as fresh and as joy-filled as my first.
These testimonies are too powerful not to share.
Here is one nugget:
“What do I love about Jesus? What’s not to love? I love that he loves me… That’s what I love most about our Lord, that he is so gracious and merciful despite how far we walk away from him.”
Make sure you watch to the end. How good is our Heavenly Father?
1. 3 Reasons Christians Cannot Commit the Unforgivable Sin: Michael Bird handles the question of whether Christians can commit the unforgivable sin.
2. America's Science-Denying, Antiquated Abortion Law: Ardee Coolidge with a strong opinion on America's abortion law, " [D]espite these amazing advancements in science, technology, and medicine, we lag behind the rest of the developed world in one very important area: our abortion laws. In fact, one key aspect of abortion in the United States is so outdated that only six other nations ON EARTH agree with our position (and one of those nations is the forward-thinking paradise of North Korea)."
3. Do You Have a Child-Centered Home? This is a helpful questionnaire.
4. Don't Compliment by Comparing: Eric Geiger shares three reasons we shouldn't compare when we compliment and then concludes, "Compliment. Be liberal with encouragement. But work hard to offer compliments without comparisons. They are more effective and an indication of your maturing."
5. It Turns Out Sexual Liberation Isn't All That Liberating: David French concludes, " Faith and family aren’t guarantors of human flourishing (nothing is), but our nation certainly feels their absence, and our culture aches at their loss."
The past two weeks we’ve looked at Jesus’ difficult words about lust in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s be honest: the standard Jesus calls us to can feel profoundly unfair. It is God, after all, who created us as physical beings. It is God who created us as sexual beings. It is God who gave us desires. God gave us libido. And God gave us imaginations.
And in this, God has created us in his image! God is the being with the most powerful desires in the universe! What kind of image bearers would we be if we did not also have desires?
And so, in recognizing the reality that God created us as desiring beings, we recognize that God has called us to direct those desires at himself and his righteousness.
Is it possible to never lust? No. Not in this life.
But it is possible to fight against anger and lust? Yes.
Tolerating sin is not okay. We must fight with everything we’ve got, small and large.
Knowing what is at stake, Jesus calls us to take radical measures to flee from lust. He says:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Let’s be clear what Jesus is and isn’t saying here. Jesus isn’t calling for self-mutilation. But Jesus is telling us to treat our twisted desires with the utmost seriousness. In fact that little phrase “causes you to” that Jesus applies to our right eye and our right hand is the same word for a trap in Greek. Jesus tells us to treat temptation to lust like a spring-loaded trap. Stay away!
The first two weeks we’ve addressed two large camps of how to do battle: 1) fight for the greatest pleasure of all (God himself); 2) consider the stakes of giving into our lust.
Today, let’s conclude by considering nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives[i]:
In Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper has written a unique book that explores spiritual disciplines in our secular context. Cosper says that his book is “an attempt to sketch out the spiritual landscape of an age that has been called a ‘secular age,’ an ‘age of anxiety,’ and a ‘culture of narcissism,’ and an effort at finding a path into a different way of life.”
Cosper begins to explaining what it means that we live in a secular age. He explains that a secular world is a disenchanted world: “A disenchanted world has been drained of magic, of any supernatural presences, of spirits and God and transcendence. A disenchanted world is a material world, where what you see is what you get.”
The secular world responds to the religious world: “You can believe whatever you want so long as you don’t expect it to affect your everyday experience.”
In this world, spiritual disciplines are a counter-cultural act. They are not just formation: they are counter-formation. They shape us against the world we inhabit. It also means that these disciplines are going to be hard for us. “In a disenchanted world,” Cosper says, “solitude is terrifying.” As Christians, “We’re not called first to act but to cease.” Cosper continues, “As we take up ancient practices like prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting, we will see the way they confront our disenchanted way of knowing the world.”
Where the secular world creates religion of display, in Christ we can experience the reality of peace with God. “The alternative to the disenchanted religion of display--a life spent seeking affirmation in the mirror of the world—is to find rest in Jesus.” Cosper says we don’t need to manufacture spectacle, we need to experience the presence of God in daily disciplines.
What does your interior life look like? Who are you when you’re not displaying yourself?
Who is God? Michael Reeves asserts that the essence of the fullest answer to that question is “a Trinity.” Reeves believes that while the Trinity is something many Christians shove to the back corners of their minds when it comes to relating to God, or perhaps explore with a sort of mechanical interest, with clumsy charts and worse analogies, reflecting on the Trinity is something that should stir delight in us.
Reeves quotes Karl Barth, who once said, “The triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.” Reeves contrasts the Triune God with a singular conception of God (like the Islamic understanding of God), who has a very different relationship with creation. Reeves says that “Absolutely singular supreme beings do not like creation.”
In contract, “Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.” That is to say, the relationships within the Triune God are that which defines God himself. God is relational and loving in his very essence.
If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, the phrase “your own personal Jesus” is heard channeled through the distinctive voice of Martin Gore of Depeche Mode whose massive 1989 hit democratizes the first century Jewish Messiah. Gore tells us to “reach out and touch faith” through whatever experience we can create that makes us feel as though someone hears our prayers and cares.
Martin Gore’s vision of a personalized Jesus is truer today, thirty years after his song hit the charts, than it has ever been. JD Greear wants to lovingly but firmly let us know that You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus in his thin volume by the same name. “Sometimes I hear people talk about ‘my God’ or ‘my Jesus’ as if he were their possession,” Greear reflects. But strangely absent of our personalized visions of Jesus are Jesus’ own claims of who he is. Unhappily for those who like to shape Jesus in their likeness, Jesus tells us that he is, in fact our Lord.
It makes sense that we think we can remake Jesus in our own image. Why shouldn’t we? Our social media feeds cater to our desires, my Amazon webpage is distinctive to me, your Netflix suggestions reflect your tastes. Why shouldn’t we be able to craft a Jesus who suits what we would like in a Savior? Greear reflects, “Those of us who have grown up in a consumeristic Western culture envision an Americanized Jesus who is one part genie, one part fan club, one part financial advisor, one part American patriot, and several parts therapist. Our ‘God’ makes us more narcissistic and materialistic, not less.” In Voltaire’s words, “God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
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