Daily Archives: August 26, 2016

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NASB) 

The manner of our Lord’s death was one designed by the Romans to humiliate its criminals. The cross was a place of shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity, degradation, and ignominy. The Roman soldiers were experts at this form of execution in which the criminal was beaten, undressed, arms spread and nailed to a cross-beam, feet nailed to a vertical beam, and hoisted above the ground for the world to see. However, as we read in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (above), Paul decided to know nothing among those to whom he preached and ministered except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

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Constructive Christian Criticism (Murray)

The Reformed Reader

There are times when one Christian needs to address the bad habit, sin, or fault of another Christian.  Obviously there’s a wrong way to do it (many of us know this from experience!).  So how do we give constructive criticism in a good, Christian way?  I appreciate David Murray’s advice on this.  He wrote the following on constructive criticism:
1) It is Preceded by Praise.  For criticism to have any hope of accomplishing anything, it should be set in the wider context of praise.
2) It is Infrequent.  Some people think that a little bit of praise sprinkled here and there permits them to launch frequent nuclear missiles at their unfortunate targets.  [Some] recommend a praise-criticism ratio of at least 3:1 and ideally closer to 5:1.
3) It is Limited.  Effective criticism aims at one specific target and refuses to take potshots at anything else.  ‘And while…

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Have We Lost Our Minds?

Our blindness has reached its maturity; we have lost our way, lost our sense of direction, and lost our compass. So warmed by our feelings of “authentic” self-satisfaction and cherished moral autonomy, most Americans don’t even realize we are blindly, and yes, authentically, careening into an abyss. History attests to our demise. More importantly, God assures us of it.

When we 50-somethings were children, American optimism taught us that we could be astronauts, professional athletes, astrophysicists, or neurosurgeons. Our choice. Imagination alone limited potential and opportunity, and dreaming big guaranteed living large. But our societal professors lied to us. They told us social, physical and mental limitations were artificial; leftovers of a less wise age, they were illusions to be rejected. Modern dreams, we were told, come true. Was there a ceiling? Well, only as high as our thoughts could rocket.

Of course the promises failed, because unlimited human potential and catching stratospheric dreams are myths. And even though nearly all of us landed jobs with monetary values tumbling well below the cloudy thresholds, most of us still clung tightly to the lie. Why? We loved it. Even empty optimism tasted good. Even after we abandoned the hollow hopes in a chest of yesteryears, we never forsook the lust for self-fulfillment. We had become junkies for sugary sanguinity. We became fools for the lie that the world really is our oyster.

But it is worse than that. These lies of previous years not only hung around the neighborhood, they reproduced like rabbits. Refusing their confining boundaries, they hopped to new realms and bounded to new heights. Autonomy and opportunity were no longer just about professions, but about our entire existence. Vocational choices, all ours, of course. But so too are personal and moral choices. Sexual freedoms, all ours. Gender choice, all ours. All decisions, all ours. Kuyper’s Christ had met his match. Together with millions of others, we claimed, “There is now not a single square of inch of the universe over which my own heart does not declare, ‘it is mine.’”

It was and is disastrous. Any who still think freedom comes by asserting self, welcome to the cage of sin, the Alcatraz of condemnation. The Almighty himself warned us that defiant claims and defiant dreams shackle every self-proclaimed master of his own fate and captain of his own soul (to coopt Henley’s famous Invictus). Indeed we have boarded our own ships, but rather than charting their courses and piloting to new vistas of self-determination, we find ourselves slavishly gripping the oars with sullen faces and whitened knuckles. As oarsmen chained to our filth and foolishness, we stroke desperately at our moronic immoral monotony.

Consider a few illustrative points, some of which smack very close to home. Yes, even some self-identifying evangelicals sit brashly in the seat of scoffers. Desecrating the law of God, we have demanded the unrestrained murder of infants in the womb. Untold numbers of “Christians” defend a woman’s right to abortion. Defying the Word of God, we have ordered our nation to redefine marriage and normalize homosexuality. Even certain “evangelicals” like Mathew Vines, argue that the church has misinterpreted the biblical sexuality texts for millennia. Hordes, millennials in particular, have grafted themselves into Vines’ “gospel” defense of homosexuality. Denying biblical wisdom, we have told our children they can believe whatever they wish about themselves and their world—their gender, their identity, their religion, their morals, their music, their video games, their gods. “Believe, say, think, and be whatever you want. God will love you anyway.” All such “Christian” versions of my-child-is-the-center-of-the-universe are pagan to their core. Our children have taken our beloved lie and run with it into an abyss of hopelessness.

In Babel-esque form, this 21st century wisdom informs us that God is who we make him to be and that we can get to him on our own terms, in our own way, by our own theological preferences, using our own moral grid. Our lives are for us, defined within us, and governed by us. Our advance is so great, in fact, that should we decide God doesn’t exist, well, poof! He somehow disappears. What power! What freedom! What foolhardiness.

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5 Ways to Discern True and False Repentance

The Bible contains several aides that are designed to help believers distinguish between true and false repentance. It is important that we are able to distinguish the two, because the difference between them determines how we respond to our fallen brother or sister. If we are to bring law to the proud and grace to the humble, then it is essential that we are able to discern between pride and humility.

Every Christian will likely encounter this scenario: someone you know and who professes Christ has a major sin in their life exposed. As a result, relationships are harmed, their reputation is destroyed, and their heart is broken. You, as their friend (or pastor or spouse) are left wondering how to respond.

You know that Christians are called to forgive and restore other believers who have their sin exposed, but you also know that this is only true if they are repentant over their sin. For example, the command in Galatians 6:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) to “restore” a fallen believer is paired with an exhortation about the importance of self-examination (vv. 2-4). Or Paul, in 2 Corinthians 7, tell the Corinthians that he stands ready to forgive them, because the exposure of their sin produced godly sorrow as opposed to worldly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

So what are you supposed to do? The person in front of you says they are repentant. They saythey are sorry about their sin. But is that enough?

The Bible contains several aides that are designed to help believers distinguish between true and false repentance. It is important that we are able to distinguish the two, because the difference between them determines how we respond to our fallen brother or sister. If we are to bring law to the proud and grace to the humble, then it is essential that we are able to discern between pride and humility.

For example, as I mentioned above, Paul extended the Corinthians grace (instead of law) because he judged their sorrow to be a sign of godly repentance as opposed to worldly sorrow. But how did he know the difference? After all, the person who sits in your living room weeping about their now known sin may or may not be truly repentant, so how could Paul know?

He tells us that godly sorrow leads to repentance because it is accompanied by indignation, fear, deep longing, zeal, and justice (2 Corinthians 7:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Why did he choose those words? Well, taken together they represent someone who is broken over the nature of their sin more than the consequences of it. They provide five marks that the person is sorry they sinned, rather than sorry they got caught.

Indignation: Godly sorrow is a form of godly anger. This is an anger at sin—not the consequences of sin, but at sin itself. The broken believer is sorry about their sin, but they are more than sorry: they are disappointed and grieved that the depravity brought into the world through Adam resides in their own heart.

Some people are angry their sin was exposed. Their concern is to cover their sin and convince others to do that as well. Like Saul who only wanted Samuel to go with him for appearance’s sake, these people are not grieved over their sin. True repentance doesn’t create anger at those who know the sin, but rather anger at the nature of sin itself. This is why Paul describes true repentance as a form of indignation.

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