DOCUMENTATION AND ADDITIONAL READING
DOCUMENTATION AND ADDITIONAL READING
Yes, it’s true. You are not enough.
Your strength is minimal. Your capacity is limited. Your ‘peak’ is not sufficient.
You may try again and again, however, left to your own devices, you are liable to fail just as many times. You can attempt to effect change, but self-reliance will ultimately leave you with an inferior result.
This news doesn’t sound especially cheerful or positive, does it? I know. I feel the weight of it, too.
The last couple days have reconfirmed the truth of these statements to me. They are not pleasant to hear, much less acknowledge.
In my prideful flesh, I do not enjoy being humbled. It can be rather disheartening to realize once again that I am not perfect, that I actually don’t have things all together, that my life is not yet in exemplary order.
Things likely appear miserably bleak at the moment and I assure you: they are. If we remain trusting in ourselves and placing our hope upon our own performances, we are going to be disappointed. That is what being cursed by sin entails.
Though, before you leave, before you click away from this thus–far–comfortless blog post, please hear this…
We are not enough, but Christ is. He is more than enough!
Our efforts alone will never be sufficient, never totally satisfactory. We have not been promised that we’ll never experience failure; quite the opposite is true actually.
Sin means falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It guarantees that we will fail, at the very least, to live up to God’s standards (which are perfect, good, and beneficial for us).
Since we inhabit sin-tainted bodies in a condemned world, we are imperfect, weak, inadequate, and incapable of attaining everlasting peace by our own meagre human power.
That is why we need our Saviour.
He is our all-powerful Lord, God Almighty, the One Who cannot be thwarted, defeated or humiliated by anyone. His strength is abundant, limitless, beyond comparison, and He has made it accessible to us!
When we experience regeneration through His Holy Spirit, God supplies us with super-natural strength — the power of Christ, Who is now dwelling within us.
As we take on His life as our own, dying to ourselves, crucifying our old sinful ways and walking in righteousness, He sustains, strengthens, and emboldens us by His awesome might. In fact, it is His power that even keeps us saved.
Whether we are feeling weak or not, He is strong.
His “weakness” is always stronger than our strongest (1 Corinthians 1:25b) and He is forever reliable. We can trust Him when all others forsake us, when we mess up (for the trillionth time), when life seems to be falling apart, when depression threatens to overcome us, when this world disappoints, etc.
Brothers & sisters, may I ask: Along with this weakness you’re feeling, are you lacking self-esteem?
Yes? Good! That is exactly as it should be.
Our confidence needs to be founded in Christ, not ourselves.
So, instead of making further desperate attempts to build up your self-confidence, hold Him in high esteem. In reality, He is the One — the only Sovereign One — Who deserves such praise and adoration. We are less than pitiful, puny little ants compared to the Lord, our mighty, wondrous King.
He must be the solid Rock upon which we stand.
He must be our living, Heavenly, eternal Hope when the temporary pleasures of this earth fade.
He must be the One Who inspires and motivates us to persist upon the road less-travelled.
He must be our All in All.
Please, let me leave you with some precious treasures from Scripture (relating to the issue at hand)…
2 Samuel 22:33
1 Chronicles 16:11
1 Chronicles 29:12
Psalm 34:1-5, 18
Psalm 68:19, 35
Isaiah 41:10, 13
1 Thessalonians 3:13
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
2 Thessalonians 3:3, 5
1 Peter 4:11
1 Peter 5:6-7, 10-11
2 Peter 1:3-7
Select a handful of these passages and look them up in your Bible. They were super encouraging for me to meditate on as I compiled this list. I hope you will benefit significantly from them as well.
And, if you have time, consider undertaking your own word study (via a website such as , or by referring to the concordance in the back of your Bible). Read the verses you find within their greater context to properly understand the message that is being conveyed. Search the Scriptures; and be pointed to Christ.
Lastly, don’t forget to pray!
Go firstly, to the Lord with your weakness. (After all, He has the most authority to help you; He is the sovereign Ruler of the universe.) Acknowledge it before Him and ask for His redeeming power to be seen through your imperfections.
Talk with the One Who is your Strength, your Refuge, your Defender, your Stronghold, your Prince of Peace.
Draw from the deep, soul-satiating well of God’s Word to fortify your prayers and choose to rely upon His lovely, trustworthy promises.
Rest your life entirely upon those sure words because the LORD our God is the epitome of faithfulness.
As you live in Christ, be strengthened in Him also, dear Christian! He will not ever fail you.
Sincerely, your fellow recipient of grace upon grace (John 1:16),
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
Emma is a Reformed Christian blogger who is on a mission to discover what it means to do entrepreneurship in a truly Biblical way. You can find more of her writings (specifically on blogging & entrepreneurship from a uniquely Christian perspective), and sign up for her newsletter, at My Redemption for His Glory. Emma also loves to connect with fellow believers on Instagram.
“I expect U.S. stocks to slide into the middle of next year, falling maybe 25% to 30% from the top, taking nearly all other markets down with them…”
Felix Zulauf was a member of the Barron’s Roundtable for about 30 years, until relinquishing his seat at our annual investment gathering in 2017. While his predictions were more right than wrong, it was the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his analysis of global markets that won him devoted fans among his Roundtable peers, the crew at Barron’s, and beyond. Simply put, Felix, president of Zulauf Asset Management in Baar, Switzerland, always knew—and still knows—better than most how to connect the dots among central bankers’ actions, fiscal policies, currency gyrations, geopolitics, and the price of assets, hard and soft.
With interest rates rising, governments in flux, and the world’s two biggest economies facing off over trade, it seemed the right time to ask him how today’s turmoil will impact investors in the year ahead. Ever gracious, he shared his thoughts and best investment bets in an interview this past week. Read on for the view from Baar.
Barron’s: Felix, how have you been keeping busy since you left the Roundtable?
Felix Zulauf: I’m still running money, but it’s my own money, and I’m still a consultant to investors and institutions. I’m in the market almost every day. I like analyzing the world; the tectonic shifts occurring make it too fascinating to quit.
Which shifts do you mean?
For one, we have left the world of free markets and entered the world of managed economies. This is a major change in my lifetime. Central banks took over the running of economic policy after the financial crisis and run the show to this day. Also, the globalization movie is starting to run backward. The past 30 years saw the biggest globalization process ever, with the integration of China into the world economy. With today’s trade conflict, that is changing. The alternative is more regionalization of the economy, which could create problems for multinational companies.
Is a reversal of globalization inevitable?
The Northeast Asia economic model isn’t compatible with the Western model. In the West, corporations are run for profit. In Northeast Asia, exports have been used to increase employment, income, and market share. In China, average export prices have been unchanged in U.S. dollar terms for the past 15 years, whereas the average wage has gone up six times. A company with such statistics goes bankrupt, but China has escaped that outcome through the use of debt.
The World Trade Organization should have sanctioned China for applying unfair trade practices, but didn’t. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and Europeans, were asleep. President Trump has taken up the issue, as he was elected to do. Middle-class incomes in the U.S. and many European countries have been unchanged or down for the past 30 years in purchasing-power terms, while middle-class incomes in China and its satellite economies have risen tremendously. I expect the trade conflict to continue, with all Chinese exports to the U.S. subject to 25% tariffs within 12 months or so. The Chinese will lose a few trade battles, but eventually win the war.
China will build up its strategic partnerships around Asia, keep expanding in Africa, and try to convince Europe to join its trading bloc. If the U.S. continues to take an aggressive stance, it runs the risk of becoming isolated.I’m not talking about the next 12 months, but the next six or seven years. A trade war might protect U.S. industries for a while, but protectionism weakens industries and economies.
At present, the world economy is desynchronized. The U.S. economy is on steroids due to tax cuts and government spending and growing above trend. China is in a pronounced slowdown that could continue until the middle of next year, at least. The Chinese agenda is to have a strong economy in 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and 2022, the year of the next National Congress. That is why China started to address major problems, such as pollution and financial excesses, in 2017. Cleaning things up led to a slowdown that could intensify in coming months as U.S. tariffs increase.
What will happen thereafter?
China will launch another fiscal-stimulus program, supported by monetary stimulus. When it does, the currency will fall 15% or 20%. The Chinese will let the currency go because they know they can’t please President Trump on trade. They aren’t prepared to do what he’s asking for. We’ll also see fiscal stimulus applied in emerging markets, which are largely dependent on China, and in Europe and maybe the U.S., where President Trump will launch a spending program to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 election.
Global fiscal-stimulus initiatives are poison for bond markets. Bond yields are rising around the world. After major new fiscal-stimulus programs are announced, perhaps from mid-2019 onward, yields will rise quickly, resulting in a decisive bear market in bonds.
What is behind the sudden surge in Treasury yields?
Several factors are pushing yields higher: The U.S. economy is growing above trend, capacity utilization is high, and the intensifying trade conflict with China suggests disruption in some supply chains, which leads to higher prices. The Federal Reserve is selling $50 billion of Treasuries per month, and the U.S. Treasury must issue $1.3 trillion of paper over the next 12 months. All these factors are pushing yields up.
How do Europe’s prospects look to you these days?
Introducing the euro led to forced centralization of the political organization, as imbalances created by the monetary union must be rebalanced through a centralized system. As nations have different needs, the people are revolting; established parties are in decisive decline, and anti-establishment organizations are rising. The risk of a hard Brexit is high. Italy doesn’t listen to Brussels any longer. It kept the budget deficit around 1% of gross domestic product in recent years, as instructed, which meant the country, with a dysfunctional banking system, had no growth and high youth unemployment. The March election brought anti-establishment parties to power that proposed a budget with a 2.4% deficit target. Eventually it will be closer to 4%. The Italian banking system holds €350 billion of government bonds. If 10-year government-bond yields hit 4%, banks’ equity capital will just about equal their nonperforming loans.
By the middle of next year, you’ll see more fiscal stimulation in Germany, Italy, France, and possibly Spain. Governments will not care about the EU’s directives. The EU will have to change, giving more sovereignty to individual nations. If Brussels remains dogmatic, the EU eventually will break apart.
The European Central Bank will quit quantitative easing by the end of this year. The economy has been doing well, the inflation rate has risen, and yet the ECB has continued with aggressive monetary easing, primarily financing the weak governments. This is nonsense. They are the worst-run central bank in the world. I expect the euro to weaken further, possibly to $1.06 from a current $1.15.
So far, the stock market has taken trade tensions and other challenges in stride. Where to from here for U.S. stocks?
The Federal Reserve is draining liquidity from the financial system [by not buying new bonds to replace maturing paper]. It will remove another $600 billion from the market in the next year. The Treasury will issue $1.3 trillion of Treasury paper to finance the budget deficit. All of this means a lot of liquidity is being withdrawn from the market, which is bearish for financial assets. I expect U.S. stocks to slide into the middle of next year, falling maybe 25% to 30% from the top, taking nearly all other markets down with them.
When the declines are big enough, the central planners will come in. Central banks will ease monetary policy, buying assets if necessary. You won’t earn a lot owning equities over the next 10 years, especially if you’re a passive investor in index funds. It will be a much better time for traders and active investors who pick stocks and sectors and do exactly what hasn’t worked for the past 10 years.
In that case, what are your investment recommendations?
I’d be long the dollar, particularly against emerging-market currencies. The Brazilian real could be the next currency that gets clobbered, particularly if a leftist candidate wins the presidential election. I would also short the South African rand, as policies are going in the wrong direction.
I’m bullish on oil because the market is tight. Spare capacity has been declining. Demand has been above supply on a global basis for almost two years. Sanctions on Iran will curtail buying from there, and production in Venezuela and Iraq is declining steadily. One morning, we’ll wake up and crude will be at $95 or $100 a barrel. That will be bullish for U.S. shale-oil producers, oil-service companies, and some exploration and production companies. I would buy the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Productionexchange-traded fund [ticker: XOP]. I would also go long crude, via the spot futures contract. Rising oil prices, a rising dollar, and rising bond yields historically have been a bad combo for equity markets.
Would you short emerging markets at current levels?
I would wait until they bounce a bit more, then short the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF [EEM]. The problems in emerging markets will intensify. Japan, as I mentioned, will be an outperformer. Corporate Japan has worked on improving its balance sheet for 25 years. Japanese companies are highly profitable, and their stocks are cheap. The market is trading for 14 times earnings. The yen is slipping against other currencies, which is a plus. Even if Japan declines with other markets, it will decline less. I recommend buying the DXJ [ WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equit y ETF] and hedging by selling short the S&P 500 against it.
You haven’t mentioned gold, a longtime favorite.
Monetary tightening isn’t bullish for gold. The price might bounce for a few weeks, but I don’t see it moving up in a big way. It is way too early for the bull market in gold. We need a sharp decline in equities (which would lead to further easing of monetary policy) or a weakening of the U.S. economy, which would stop the Fed from tightening further.
What are your thoughts about cryptocurrency?
This area is called Crypto Valley. It is a major center of cryptocurrency and blockchain activity. I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies because I don’t trust the promises of limited supply, but blockchain technology is here to stay. There will be explosive growth in blockchain applications, which will remove a cost layer in the world economy by removing the need for intermediaries. This is a tremendous plus for productivity.
The doctrines of grace are a cohesive system of theology in which the sovereignty of God is clearly displayed in the salvation of elect sinners. Not only is God acknowledged to reign over all of human history, both micro and macro, but He is also seen to be sovereign in the dispensing of His saving grace. From Genesis to Revelation, God is emphatically represented in Scripture as being absolutely determinative in bestowing His mercy. He is shown as choosing before the foundation of the world those whom He will save and then, within time, bringing it to pass.
The Apostle Paul clearly announced God’s sovereign grace in man’s salvation. He wrote that, from eternity, God chose, willed, decided, and planned to save some sinners. To elect is to choose, and God chose who would be saved. Paul wrote: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:15–16). “This is to say, God decides whom He will save in order to display His glory: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4–5); “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thess. 1:4); “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13); God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9); and “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1).
The Apostle Peter and John taught precisely the same supreme authority of God in the salvation of His elect. Peter wrote: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1); and “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). The Apostle John wrote: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come” (Rev. 17:8).
In this system of theology, the glory of God is central. As every planet revolves around the blazing sun, every truth of sovereign grace rotates around this one fixed point—the glory of God. The unrivaled pre-eminence of God stands at the focal point of this theological universe. That God is to be the chief object of praise in the display of His grace is what energizes this solar system of truth. As the compass always points north, so the doctrines of grace constantly point upward toward the lofty heights of the glory of God.
What is God’s glory? The Bible speaks of God’s glory in two primary ways. First, there is the intrinsic glory of God, which is the sum total of all His divine perfections and attributes. It is who God is—His infinitely vast greatness. Glory in the Old Testament kabod originally meant “heaviness,” “importance,” or “significance.” It came to represent the stunning magnificence of certain objects, such as the blazing sun or the regal majesty displayed by a king. Hence, glory came to be used to describe the magnificent splendor and awesome radiance of God Himself revealed to man. In the New Testament, the word for “glory” is doxa, which means “an opinion” or “an estimate” of something. When used of someone’s reputation, it means “importance,” “greatness,” “renown,” or “significance.” God’s intrinsic glory is the revelation of the greatness of His divine attributes to His creatures. It involves God’s greatness and grandeur being manifested to sinners, especially in the salvation of man from sin. No one can add anything to God’s intrinsic glory. God is who He is, never diminishing, never increasing, forever the same, the sovereign Ruler, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, all-true, allwise, loving, grace-giving, merciful, righteous, and wrathful. It is this intrinsic glory that God delights in making known to His creatures.
Second, the Bible also speaks of the ascribed glory of God, or the glory that is given to Him. Doxa also has to do with expressing praise to God based upon the revelation of His supreme majesty. The only rightful response to the display of God’s perfections must be to give Him glory. Man must bring the praise due His name. Man must give the worship that belongs exclusively to Him. The display of God’s intrinsic glory causes man to give ascribed glory to God. The more man beholds God’s intrinsic glory in salvation, the more man ascribes glory to God.
This, then, is the centerpiece of God’s saving purpose in the universe—the revelation and magnification of His own glory. This is what is at the very center of God’s being—the passionate pursuit of displaying His own glory for His own glory. This is what should be at the center of every human life—the promotion of the glory of God, that is, beholding and adoring His glory. This is what is primary in the salvation of every lost sinner—the revealing of the glory of God so that sinners might rejoice in the glory of God. No wonder Paul writes: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
This excerpt is taken from Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson
“My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’” – Psalm 119:81, 82
Scripture reading: Psalm 119:81-88
This stanza picks up on a recurring theme in the Psalms, the Scriptures and our lives: the longing for God to save and deliver us, to come to our aid and help. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD” (Psalm 84:1-2). Longing implies we are often going through experiences in life in which we don’t have what we naturally should have. Longing indicates we are living in a broken and fallen world. Particularly, longing reveals that the communion between God and man is severed because of sin. We long for God’s presence and comfort.
Sin and sinfulness have led to all sorts of difficulty and ugliness in the lives of God’s believers. There is suffering, sickness, straying, sinning, persecutions, etc. “I have become like a wineskin in smoke” (83). Life is fraught with trouble and danger.
In this brokenness, there is one thing we can cling to, one hope that we have: God’s certain Word. He has especially fulfilled His greatest word of all – to send His Son into this world to die for our sins, to restore us to Himself forever and to redeem all of creation. Therefore, our souls are consoled. In God’s steadfast love we have life! Let us, every day, find endurance and strength in God’s written Word and promises.
Suggestions for prayer
Long for God to save you and deliver you from your troubles. Tell God that you trust His Word and pray for comfort in His steadfast love.
But we are often lured away from our first and true passion by other loves. When is the last time you let Jesus invite you to want more of Him? Picture encountering Jesus face-to-face. Imagine that He Himself asks you these two questions:
“Who is it that you are seeking? Have I been among you so long and you don’t know Me?” (John 20:15b, 14:9).
Do you want Jesus so passionately that you can’t imagine spending a day without him? Do you know him so intimately that you come together with him in love, new life is conceived, and the fruit of love is coming forth?
The following guide is a call to the heart of God. Give yourself the gift of time. Slip away with the Lover of your soul for an hour, an afternoon, or a day and soak in this.
Receive His unfailing love. Let the Father hug you and pour His love into your heart by His Spirit.
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1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
The Bible: by Eugene H. Peterson
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002
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29:13 — “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Do you really want to know God’s will for your life? Do you really want to learn His plans for you? God promises to reveal His will to everyone who will obey whatever He tells them to do.
13. You will seek (<√bāqaš, piel) me and find me when (kî) you seek (<√dāraš) me with all your heart. bāqaš (piel) and dāraš (qal) are synonyms which are often used in combination to heighten the thought of attempting to communicate with God and to know his will. When this is done with genuine whole-hearted repentance (cf. 24:7), then the Lord will make himself known to those who approach him (2 Chron. 15:4, 15). The exiles are being informed that the restored status anticipated for them will be conditioned upon a genuine spiritual response from them, and it is this that they are expected to cultivate in their condition of captivity. The wording of the saying about seeking and finding the Lord follows closely that of Deut. 4:29: ‘But if from there [their anticipated dispersion among the nations] you seek (bāqaš, piel) the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for (dāraš) him with all your heart and with all your soul.’ The people are being invited to explore the divine provision already recorded as relevant to their situation. As those who were experiencing the impact of the curse of the broken covenant, they are assured that if they respond with a total and exclusive commitment to the Lord, then he will be accessible to them even in Babylon, and they will enjoy his favour.
29:13 You will … find me when you seek me with all your heart. The Hebrew particle translated as “when” can mean “when” (temporal or conditional) or “for” (causal). The causal idea is that they will find God because they will be seeking him with all their heart. The Hebrew word for “heart” refers to the seat of volition; that is, the heart is particularly the place where one decides to obey or disobey. Seeking God with all one’s heart means coming to him with the willingness to listen and to obey him completely. One can hear echoes of Deuteronomy 4:29 in this verse.
29:13 You will seek me and find me. This amazing promise from the infinitely righteous, holy God to sinful people echoes a promise in Deut. 4:29 and remains true even to the present day (John 6:37). all your heart. See Jer. 4:4, 14; 11:20; 12:2; 17:9.
29:13 These words renew God’s covenant (cf. Deut. 4:29, 30). Finding God is the blessing and joy of restoration (Ps. 51:11, 12). In exile, the people will seek restoration to God, and God will then restore them to the land, renewing the covenant relationship in His eternal faithfulness (v. 12).
13. He confirms in other words the same thing; and yet the repetition, as we said yesterday, is not useless; for as the Jews perversely despised all threatenings, so it was difficult for them to receive any taste of God’s goodness from his promises. This then is the reason why the Prophet employs many words on this subject. By the word seek, he means prayers and supplications, as mentioned in the last verse. And Christ also, exhorting his disciples to pray, says, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” There is no doubt but that he speaks there of prayer; he yet adopted various modes of speaking, derived from the common habits of men. But to seek, when we feel the need of God’s grace, is nothing else than to pray. Hence the Prophet says, ye shall seek me and ye shall find me. And though he addresses here the Israelites, yet this doctrine ought to be extended to the whole Church; for God testifies that he will be propitious to all who flee to him.
But as hypocrites are abundantly noisy, and seem to surpass the very saints in the ardour of their zeal, when the external profession is only regarded, the Prophet adds, Because ye shall seek me with your whole heart. There is no doubt but that the Jews groaned a thousand times every year when oppressed by the Chaldeans; for they had to bear all kind of reproaches, and then they had nothing safe or secure. They were therefore under the necessity, except they were harder than iron, to offer some prayers. But God shews that the seasonable time would not come, until their prayers proceeded from a right feeling; this he means by the whole heart. It is indeed certain that men never turn to God with their whole heart, nor is the whole heart ever so much engaged in prayer as it ought to be; but the Prophet sets the whole heart in opposition to a double heart. Perfection, then, is not what is to be understood here, which can never be found in men, but integrity or sincerity.
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet’s words,—that the Jews, when they began in earnest to flee to God, would find him propitious, provided only they did this in sincerity of heart and not in dissimulation; and also that this would not take place soon, for their hardness and obstinacy were greater than that they could be brought to repent in a short time. Therefore God reminds them that there was need of many evils, so that they might at length turn and divest themselves of that perverseness to which they had wholly surrendered themselves.
Now the whole of this, as I have already observed, ought to be applied to the benefit of the Church; for this promise is to be extended to all the godly,—that when they call on God in their miseries, he will hear them. And Jeremiah seems to have taken this sentence from Isaiah, “As soon as thou callest on me, I will hear thee; before thou speakest, I will stretch forth my hand.” (Isaiah 58:9.) And this circumstance also ought to be noticed, that the Prophet addressed the Jews who were miserably oppressed. Let us then know that this sentence is rightly addressed to those in distress, who seem to have God against them and displeased with them; and this is the seasonable time which is mentioned by David in Psalm 32:6.
This passage also teaches us, that it is no wonder that the Lord doubles his scourges and does not immediately pardon us, because we are not so ready to bend as to return to him on the first day. He is therefore constrained by our perverseness to chastise us for a longer time; and yet this promise is still to be held valid, that if we even late repent, God will be still propitious to us, only that the reprobate are not under this pretext to indulge in their vices; for we see that profane men trifle with God, and wickedly abuse his paternal indulgence. Let the sinner then beware lest he should lay up for himself a store of vengeance, if he waits till the end of life. But there is still a hope set before those who have been long torpid in their sins, that if they at length come, though late, they shall still come in time, for God will hear them. But the exception ought to be carefully observed, that God will not be intreated, except he is sought with the whole heart, that is, in sincerity. So there is no reason for us to wonder that his ears are often closed to our prayers, because we only pretend to seek him, and that we are endued with no sincerity appears from our life. 
Ver. 13.—Seeking God with the whole heart.
I. God must be found before he can be known and enjoyed. “He is not far from each one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Yet this natural nearness of God may be unrecognized by us, and may not be sufficient to bring us into the spiritual communion with him. The God of nature may be “the unknown God,” or he may be recognized and yet not enjoyed as the “Portion” of the soul. 1. Sin hides the vision of God, and drives the soul into remote spiritual banishment from God, even though it cannot affect his physical presence. 2. Our natural limitations of thought and experience surround the idea of the Divine with mystery, and make us feel that though God is partly known there are still ways of God that are far beyond our ken, so that we exclaim in bewilderment and distress, “Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself!” (Isa. 45:15).
2. To be found, God must be searched for with the whole heart. 1. He must be searched for. God does discover himself to men unexpectedly, as to Hagar in the desert and to Moses on Horeb, though we may rest assured that even such exceptional revelations were made to souls whose habit it was to seek after him. Nevertheless before such experience, God draws near to those who do not seek him, to urge them to search and find him (Isa. 65:1). He seeks us before we seek him. Our search is the response of our hearts to his invitation (Ps. 27:8). But this search must be made. The promise of finding is attached to the condition of seeking (Matt. 7:7). The prodigal must return to his father before he can receive the welcome home. Men are waiting for God to visit them, reveal himself to them, do something that will bring them back to him. They may wait for ever, and in vain. God is waiting for us. It is our part to arise and seek him. 2. This search must be with all the heart. The reason why we are disappointed of the answers of our prayers is often that our prayers are so insincere, so cold, so half-hearted. It is reasonable to expect God, the all-seeing, to answer our prayers, not according to the vigour of the language, but according to the fervency of our desires. If we value the knowledge and communion of God aright, we shall seek him with all the heart: (1) with the heart, i.e. sincerely, spiritually, inwardly, not with mere formal inquiries; and (2) with the whole heart, i.e. with singleness of purpose, intensity, earnestness.
3. The reward of seeking God with all the heart will consist in finding him. 1. The search will be successful. God may not be found at first, or, being found, may not be recognized in the way expected. But Scripture and experience both testify to the utility and fruitfulness of the soul’s search after God. If we have not yet found, that may be because (1) we have not sought with “all the heart;” or (2) have not sought in the right way as far as our light and knowledge have indicated it—i.e. humbly, penitently, and as Christians through Christ. 2. The success of the search will be its own reward. The finding of God is described as a blessing of the restoration. It will bring other and lower benefits in its train (ver. 14), but it is itself the greatest boon. “Blessed are they that seek God with all the heart, for they shall find him,”—that is enough for a perfect beatitude. To find God is to find our light, our rest, our home. To know him is life eternal; to commune with him is the joy of heaven.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Je 29:13). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 Mackay, J. L. (2004). Jeremiah: An Introduction and Commentary: Chapters 21–52 (Vol. 2, pp. 167–168). Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 29:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Vol. 3, pp. 435–437). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
The following is a practical guide to biblical interpretation following a three-step process that I have used for years. The Bible is two-thousand years old and often seems very archaic. This makes it hard to know how it applies to us. It can be very frustrating as all Christians are encouraged to read their Bible daily but often are at a loss as to how to understand it and apply the message to their own lives. This process has served me well and I believe it is representative of the best way to interpret the ancient word of God and apply it to today. I hope that it will alleviate some of the “Bible interpretation anxiety” that is out there, allowing the Bible to become real and relevant to your life.
Notice the three sections of the chart. There are three audiences that everyone needs to recognize in the process of interpreting the Bible. In the bottom left, you have the “ancient audience.” This represents the original audience and the original author. The top portion represents the “timeless audience” which transcends the time and the culture of the original situation. It is that which applies to all people of all places of all times, without regard to cultural and historical issues. Finally, we have the “contemporary audience” in the bottom right. This represents the audience of today. Here we will find the application of the Bible with regard to our time, culture, and circumstances.
In Biblical interpretation, it is of extreme importance that one goes in the order of the chart. The goal is to find out what the Bible meant, what it means, and how it applies to us. So many people start with the third step and fail miserably in understanding God’s word. Others start with step number two, attempting to force their own theology on the text. It is important that all steps are covered to ensure interpretive fidelity.
What did it mean then?
The first step is the most important. Here the goal is to ascertain the original intent of the writing. It is very important that one enters into the world of the author and the audience. Sometimes this will be easy, sometimes it will be very difficult, requiring quite a bit of study.
Here are the different issues that you must consider:
Historical issues: There will be historical circumstances that will aid in your understanding of the text. Here, you will ask questions of “occasion.” Who is the original author? Who is the original audience? What purpose did the writing have? When Moses wrote the Pentateuch, what was his occasion or purpose? Was it to give an exhaustive history of the world to everyone or to prepare the Israelite religious community to exist in a theocratic society under Yahweh? When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, what was his purpose? Knowing that in 2 Corinthians he was writing to defend his apostleship as other false apostles were opposing him is essential to understanding every verse. As well, what was Paul’s disposition toward the Galatians when he wrote to them? Was it to commend, condemn, or correct? The occasion will determine so much of our understanding.
Grammatical issues: It is important to understand that the Bible was written in a different language. The New Testament was written in Greek. Not only that, but it was a particular kind of Greek called “Koine.” Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew (small portions in Aramaic). Naturally, other languages will have characteristics that communicate well in the original tongue but can get lost in translation. Greek, for example, works off inflections (word endings) which determine their part of speech. Word placement can add emphasis. These types of things are often hard to translate. I am not saying that everyone needs to be a Greek and a Hebrew scholar to understand the Bible, only that there are grammatical issues that can nuance our understanding of the passage. A good commentary will normally bring these to recognition.
Contextual issues: Every book was written for a purpose. The smallest component of a writing is a letter. We don’t take each letter in isolation but understand that with a group of letters, it makes a word. But we don’t take the word in isolation, understanding that a group of words makes a sentence. And we don’t take sentences in isolation, understanding that a group of sentences makes a paragraph. But we don’t stop there. Each paragraph either represents or is a part of a larger whole that we call a “pericope.” The pericope is the basic argument or story that is being told. The story of David and Goliath is a pericope of many paragraphs. As well, Christ’s parables make up individual pericopes. Finally, the pericopes are smaller parts of the entire book. The purpose of the book will shape the context in which each pericope should be interpreted.
Here is how it looks:
Literary issues: We must remember that there is no such thing as a type of literature called “Bible” or “Scripture.” The Bible is made up of many books from many different types of literature called “genres.” Just like in your everyday life, you encounter many genres and know almost instinctively that they follow different rules of understanding. You have fiction novels, newspaper editorials, commercials, television dramas, academic textbooks, and tickers at the bottom of the news stations. All of these need to be understood and interpreted according to the rules of the genre. In the Bible, we have narratives, histories, parables, apocalyptic prophecies, personal letters, public letters, songs, proverbs, and many others. Each of these is to be interpreted according to the rules of the genre. Just because they are in the Bible does not mean that the rules change. For example, a proverb is a common type of literature that is found in the Bible, but also in many other cultures. A proverb is a statement of general truth or wisdom that does not necessarily apply in every situation. A proverb is not a promise. If it is in the Bible, it is still not a promise. As well, theological histories are just that—theological. Being in the Bible does not turn it into a technically precise and exhaustive history that is supposed to answer every question that we have. We must determine the type of literature we are dealing with if we are to understand it.
What does it mean for all people from all places of all times?
Here is where you are moving from what was being said to what is always being said; from was being taught to what is always being taught; from what the (original) author was saying to his audience to what the Author (God) is alwayssaying to all people. The audience here is timeless and universal. You are extracting the timeless principles for all people, of all places, of all times.
Principle: A general truth that applies universally. A doctrine. A fundamental law. The underlying reality. The essence of the action. The reason for the norm.
Sometimes it is very easy to find the principle as there is no cultural baggage to extract or interpret. Other times it can be very difficult. As well, there are not always principles to universalize. More often than not, the text will only be communicating what was done without any mandate to follow the example. An easy illustration of this is when Paul told Timothy to bring him his cloak (coat) he left in Troas (2 Tim 4:13). This is not to be universalized in some way where Christians are supposed to be bringing people coats, clothes, or anything else to warm themselves with. It is simply what Paul needed in his time and we must allow it to be limited to such. Therefore, you must distinguish between what is prescribed and what is merely described.
On the other hand, we also have material that is already in its principled form. For example, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ has said that “he will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), in the context, this is already a principle. In other words, there is no reason to think that he is only saying this to the recipients of the book in the sixties, but there is every reason to believe that this refers to all Christians of all times. We must simply ask if the passage applies universally or locally.
One way to determine this is to follow the “analogy of Scripture” as you can see on the original chart. Here you are to ask if the Bible, in other places, confirms, repeals, or denies the principle or action. For example, much of the Law in the Old Testament does not find any application to us today, either theologically or in practice. Why? Because Christ fulfilled the law in many ways. The New Testament explicitly tells us that we are not under the law. Therefore, when it comes to animal sacrifices, we no longer need to practice this in any way. Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled this law.
At other times, principles will not be overshadowed by fulfillment and even, often be confirmed in multiple places elsewhere. This lets us know that the principle is universal and not limited to a particular moment in redemptive history. For example, the command not to commit adultery is never repealed and is confirmed in many other places. This is the analogy of Scripture.
Once a solid interpretation has been made, one must look for reinforcement for the principle in other places. These places should never be thought of as more authoritative than Scripture itself, but as an interpretive aid in responsibly coming to a conclusion. Here are the four places to look:
1. Reason: Is the interpretation reasonable? Does it make sense? I am not talking here in a subjective sense but in a very formal sense. If your interpretation directly conflicts with other known information then the filter of reason will drive you back to Scripture to reassess your conclusion. Truth cannot contradict itself. The filter of reason will provide a valuable avenue of assessment concerning your interpretation.
2. Tradition: What do others say about it? Here, you will be dipping into the well of the interpretive community asking for help. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is in all Christians, we hope to find aid from the advice of the Spirit-led community. Not only are you to look to contemporary scholars and theologians, but also to the history of the Church. What has the church said about this passage/issue throughout time. If you come to a different conclusion than the historic body of Christ, it is a good sign that you have taken a wrong interpretive turn somewhere. Though this is not always the case.
3. Experience: Don’t be surprised here. Albeit fallible, our experience is a very important interpretive guide. If your interpretation militates against your experience, this could be a sign that your interpretation is wrong. For example, when we interpret Christ in the upper room discourse concerning prayer “in his name,” we could get the idea that we can ask for anything in his name and expect to receive it. “Please give me a new 2010 Camaro, in Jesus’ name.” “Please heal my mother, in Jesus’ name.” “Please remove this depression, in Jesus’ name.” Been there done that. We all have. When the magic formula does not work in our experience, we return to the Scripture to search for other interpretive options. As well, we should. God expects and requires the analogy of experience in our interpretation of Scripture. The Bible is impossible to understand without an assumption of experience. While experience can lead us wrong and we don’t believe that it can contradict rightly interpreted Scripture, it can help us to figure out how to rightly interpret Scripture.
4. Emotion: Like with experience, we must be very careful here. Our emotions can be extremely important and also extremely misleading. First, they are important by analogy. When we read about God’s love, in order for us to understand this love, we are expected to have had some degree of the emotion ourselves. For us to know what “the peace that passes understanding” is, we have to have experienced some sort of peace in our lives. If we have not, our understanding is going to be two-dimensional. Second, our emotions can direct us to the right understanding. We are told that the Holy Spirit convicts us of the truth. This internal conviction must be a valid source of information. If we feel that an interpretation of a passage is wrong because it does not seem to be emotionally satisfying, this could be an indication that it is indeed wrong. Yet, we must be careful here as our emotions are guided by many other sinful elements that can mislead us to the wrong interpretation as well. Nevertheless, it is a part of the theological process to recognize the part our emotions play in our understanding of the Scripture, both good and bad. If we deny them and act as if they have no part to play, we are only fooling ourselves.
Extraction of the Principles
Once your interpretation has been filtered through these things and affirmed, the cultural baggage must be completely extracted. Again, this involves a separation of the principles from the way in which these principles are applied in various contexts. The danger of skipping step two is tremendous. Skipping this step can make the Bible irrelevant as people fail to realize that there were often cultural issues that determine the application of the principle. These cultural issues are not timeless and will find little relevance in other places. For example, Paul tells the Romans to “greet each other with a holy kiss.” While the principle of showing affection transcends culture, if you don’t extract that principle and apply it properly in your context, you might find yourself in a heap of trouble as you attempt to kiss someone who will take it the wrong way. Interpretation: the act of greeting people with a kiss will not be an acceptable way of showing affection in some cultures. You can just shake my hand. You cannot skip step two.
Another example: Paul speaks of the necessity of women’s head coverings to the Corinthians. What we must ask ourselves is whether or not women wearing head coverings is an eternal requirement of God or if there is some underlying principle that it represents. When I was at church last week, most of the women there were not wearing hats or any sort of covering at all. Does this mean that the women of this church do not believe or submit to the Scriptures? Doing a historical study of this issue reveals that head coverings, in this culture (as well as many today), probably represents both a women’s submission to their husbands and their sexual modesty. In that culture, a woman’s hair was a representative and revelation of her beauty. Failing to wear a head covering was sexually provocative in this culture. This has implications toward the marital bonds and fidelity. However, it is modesty and fidelity that is at issue, not simply the wearing of a hat. In this case, extracting the timeless principle means that the cultural baggage of expression—the hat—gets discarded so that the real issue can come into focus.
We must do our best to distinguish that which is time-bound from that which is timeless. Then, and only then, are we prepared for step three.
How does it apply to me?
Finally, we are ready to apply the Scriptures to the 21st century. Having performed the first two steps, we now have all that is needed to contextualize the principles into our own situation. Having worked the passage down to its basic principles, we must reengage the principles, properly applying our own culture and context.
For example, continuing with the head covering illustration, we must take the basic timeless principle and apply it to ourselves. In this case, here in 21st century Norman, Oklahoma, head coverings or hats have no relevance toward modesty. The way to be sexually promiscuous today would involve many things including the length of skirts and the height of tops. The principle of modesty still applies, just in other ways.
Again, this only applies to the materials that have made it through the process in tact. Historical details, incidentals, and descriptive material will never find this type of immediate and practical application. Like with so much of the Scripture, the primary application will be to believe it. I believe that God delivered the Israelites from bondage. It is a historical event that expresses God’s faithfulness to his promises. Broadly speaking, I can use this as an illustrative of God’s faithfulness to his promises. But there is no reason for me to extract a timeless principle and say that God will deliver all people from all their pain in this life and then apply it to my immediate situation saying God will deliver me from these difficulties that I am going through. It is only the timeless principles that qualify for specific timely applications.
God has promised a lot of things. God has not promised a lot of things. So many times I want to read into the Scriptures promises that he has never made. I remember my mother did this before my sister Angie died. She read one of the Psalms about God’s deliverance and directly applied it to Angie’s depression and her physical deliverance. It destroyed her when Angie died. She thought God had failed her.
It is so important for us to follow this process properly and faithfully. For if we properly interpret the Scriptures consistently, we will be less prone toward discouragement, disillusionment, and distancing ourselves from God. The Bible is so rich and full of application and information but is not a magic book or a wax nose. It means what it means. Proper biblical interpretation by following the steps outlined above will serve us well.
That is how to study the Bible in a nutshell.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian(Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of the latest Hollywood buffoonery displayed at the Oscars, I think it is time for the American public to denounce in the strongest possible terms the rampant hypocrisy of sanctimonious cretins who make their living pretending to be someone other than themselves.
Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix and Barbara Streisand pop to mind as representative examples. All three are eager to lecture the American public on the need for equality and non-discrimination. Yet, not one of the recipients of the Oscar gift bags worth $225,000 spoke out against that extraordinary excess nor demanded that the money spent purchasing these “gifts” be used to benefit the poor and the homeless. Nope, take the money and run.
It is especially galling to see how the Hollywood Community has embraced the era of red-baiting Joseph McCarthy as the new standard for what is acceptable. There was a time that a few brave souls in Hollywood (I am thinking Lucille Ball, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck), spoke out against the blacklisting of actors, writers and directors for their past political ties to the Soviet Union. Now I have lived long enough to see the so-called liberals in Hollywood rail against Donald Trump and his supporters as “agents of Russia.” Many in Hollywood, who weep crocodile tears over the abuses of the Hollywood Blacklist, are now doing the same damn thing without a hint of irony.
If you are a film buff (and I consider myself one) you should be familiar with these great movies that remind the viewer of the horrors visited upon actors, writers and directors during the Hollywood Blacklist:
This was an ugly, awful and evil time in America. It was a period of time fed by fear and ignorance. While it is true that there were Americans who identified as Communists and embraced the politics of the Soviet Union, we scared ourselves into believing that communist subversion was everywhere and that America was teetering on the brink of being submerged in a red tide.
Thirty years ago I reflected on this era and wondered how such mass hysteria could happen. Now I know. We have lived with the same kind of madness since Donald Trump was tagged as a Russian agent in the summer of 2016. And the irony is extraordinary. The very same Hollywood elite that heaped opprobrium on Director Elia Kazan for naming names in Hollywood in front of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, are now leading the charge in labeling anyone who dares speak out against the failed coup as “stooges” of the Kremlin or Putin.
Hillary Clinton’s crazy rant accusing U.S. Army Major and Member of Congress, Tulsi Gabbard, as a Kremlin puppet is not a deviation from the norm. Clinton exemplifies the terrifying norm of the political and cultural elite in this country. Accusing political opponents of being controlled by foreign enemies, real or imagined, is an old political tactic.
Makes me wonder what Edward R. Murrow or Dalton Trumbo would say if we could bring them back from the dead.
Russia will not introduce politically correct terminology such as “parent #1” and “parent #2” any time soon, Putin told a constitutional reform working group on Thursday, as they discussed family values in Russia.
— Read on www.youtube.com/watch
“…there’s a theory that this could have been part of a bioweapons program…”
In keeping with our storied history of presenting readers with plausible theories and allowing them to make their own decisions often times weeks, months or years in advance of the mainstream media figuring them out and/or having the courage to finally touch on them, we’re not surprised to see some of the critical questions we raised about the coronavirus origins weeks ago finally bleed into the mainstream media this morning.
As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope is often called the “Holy Father” and the “Vicar of Christ”—names and roles that apply only to God. He claims the ability to speak ex cathedra, exercising godlike infallibility to add to and augment Scripture (Revelation 22:18). He wields unbiblical, unholy authority over his followers, usurping the headship of Christ and perverting the work of the Holy Spirit.
— Read on www.gty.org/library/blog/B200214
How does understanding attributes such as divine simplicity or immutability or eternity help me to share the gospel with my lost neighbor who has never opened a single theological book in his life?
Recent years have witnessed a growing debate over classical theism—the doctrine of the triune God found in the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and in the Reformed confessions. Authors such as James Dolezal in his book All That Is in God have pointed out how prominent evangelical and Reformed theologians are redefining and/or rejecting various elements of the classical doctrine of God such as the attributes of simplicity, immutability, and impassibility.
Many Christians, however, wonder whether this debate has any relevance outside the ivory towers of academia. How does understanding attributes such as divine simplicity or immutability or eternity help me to share the gospel with my lost neighbor who has never opened a single theological book in his life? These kinds of questions are unfortunate, but they are also entirely understandable. For centuries now, serious theology has been divorced from the life of the church and considered to be only an academic discipline.
This is not the way previous generations of Reformed theologians and churchmen treated these doctrines. Consider the early Reformed confessions and catechisms, for example. These were meant to be taught to those in the church, and they are filled with deep theology. The classical doctrine of God found in these confessions and catechisms was intended to be studied by every member of the church.
When we examine the systematic theologies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we also note that the authors often included an examination of the practical value of each doctrine they addressed. We see this in the theologies of Wilhelmus à Brakel and Petrus van Mastricht, for example. For the older Reformed theologians, there was obvious practical application of the classical doctrine of the triune God. To preach any other God was to preach an idol. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are tireless evangelists, but when they succeed in winning a convert to the false gods they preach, all they have done is to make that person a son of hell (Matt. 23:15).
If our confessions represent the doctrine of Scripture, then “classical theism” is simply another way of saying “the biblical doctrine of God.” What is this biblical doctrine of God? Chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith states it as follows:
If this is the God who is, who has created all things, then the way that this understanding of God drives evangelism should be clear. He is infinitely perfect, and He is infinitely sovereign over all His creatures, and yet man has rebelled against and rejected Him. Understanding the true nature of God shows us clearly that God is different from human beings. He knows all, for example. The sinner cannot con God in the same way he might try to con a human judge. This most holy God hates all sin. This God will judge all sinners. And this God will not clear the guilty. This God is also “most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” He has provided the means of redemption in Jesus Christ.
This is all somewhat general, but let us focus on some of the attributes of God that are most under discussion today. Take the doctrine of God’s aseity, for example. God, according to classical theistic doctrine, is self-existent. How might knowledge of God’s self-existence be of any practical value to us in our own Christian lives or in our evangelistic efforts? In the first place, it helps us understand the Creator-creature distinction. We need to know that God does not derive His existence from anything else. The Creator is not Himself a creature. We derive our existence from God. This should give us great confidence in our evangelism. If God is the One who called all things into existence, we can be confident that He calls the spiritually dead to life.
What about the doctrine of divine simplicity, the idea that God is non-composite? How in the world does that idea encourage or motivate evangelism? In the first place, we need to grasp the significance of divine simplicity for a proper understanding of God. In several lectures and interviews, James Dolezal has asked a helpful question to indicate the importance of divine simplicity. The basic question is this: Does God require anything other than God in order to be God? If your answer is no, you are implicitly affirming the necessity of the doctrine of divine simplicity, because if God is composite, He does depend on something other than God in order to be God. Again, simplicity is an attribute of God that clearly reveals the Creator-creature distinction. God does not have a collection of attributes that are parts of Him. He is His attributes. The love that Scripture says motivated the Father’s sending the Son for us and for our salvation cannot cease to exist any more than God can cease to exist because God is His love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Finally, what about the doctrine of divine immutability, the biblical assertion that God’s being/attributes do not change? There is no attribute that is more of an encouragement to evangelism than God’s immutability because it reveals that God is not fickle. His promises will never change. When God promises that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved and that they will have eternal life, we can rest in that promise. God will never go back on His word because to go back on His word would mean that He would cease to be God, and that is impossible.
Christians are called to take the gospel to a lost world, but the only gospel worth taking to a lost world is the gospel involving the good news about what the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture has done for us and for our salvation. A gospel that calls people to turn to a false God is no gospel at all. Classical theism is simply a shorthand way of describing God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. There is no other God.
READING: Exodus 28-31, Psalm 90, Philippians 2
It’s so easy to think about only our own needs and situations, often to the neglect of others. After all, our problems are real ones, and they grab our attention. In other cases, we focus all our energy on what we want – whether it’s money, power, position, or just stuff. We simply don’t default in the direction of honoring others.
Paul expected better of believers, however. Without ignoring the fact that we do have to take care of ourselves, he wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). Self-centered rivalries and ego-centered hearts have no place among believers, who are to instead exhibit the heart of Jesus – who humbled Himself even to death out of obedience to the Father and love for His people.
How might you show the heart of Christ in your life today? By sacrificially giving time and energy to someone who can give you little in return? By serving behind the scenes, where no one will praise you? By reaching out to the poor and hurting in your community? By offering forgiveness to someone who’s wounded you? Whatever God demands of you to show the heart of Christ, know that you won’t be able to do it apart from the transforming power of God. In that power, however, you can be a witness to the world.
PRAYER: “Lord, I want to serve others today. Help me.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Weekend is for catch-up and review
A recently completed survey correlating political orientation with mental illness confirmed the findings of previous studies: Those on the political left are significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with mental illness than those on the right.
The new survey of over 8,000 people, conducted by science blog Slate Star Codex, found that those embracing leftwing political beliefs are more likely to have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
The results, reports Summit News, reveal that the farther left people are, the more likely they are to have been “formally diagnosed with depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.”
“In addition, the results show that the highest percentage of respondents (38%) who admit being diagnosed with forms of mental illness also identify politically as Marxists,” said the report. “In comparison, just 12.1% of conservatives say they have been diagnosed with a mental disorder.”
These findings confirm those of previous studies.
In an extensive series of surveys involving more than 4,000 interviews conducted over the course of four years, Gallup pollsters in 2007 reported that Republicans had “significantly” better mental health than Democrats, with Independents ranking in-between the two parties.
“One could be quick to assume,” said Gallup’s analysis, “that these differences [in mental health] are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today,” noting that “men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.” However, Gallup revealed, “an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on mental health even when each of these is controlled for.”
Likewise, a 2013 SurveyMonkey study commissioned by left-leaning website BuzzFeed News found that Democrats suffered mental illness notably more than Republicans in almost every category:
Key survey results, which showed that Democrats were roughly twice as likely to have been diagnosed with a mental disorder as Republicans, included: Post-traumatic stress disorder (Democrats 7.95%, Republicans 3.97%), ADD/ADHD (Democrats 9.13%, Republicans 3.97%), anxiety (Democrats 20.84%, Republicans 10.26%), depression (Democrats 34.43%, Republicans 23.51%).
In fact, in every category polled – dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s/autism, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, narcissistic personality disorder, anorexia and bulimia – Democrats reported higher incidences then Republicans, except for dyslexia.
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