Monthly Archives: July 2012
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1: 10-11
For those of us who are happily married, we confirm our marriage often by saying, “I love you,” to our spouse. We support this with acts and words of support and kindness. But do we confirm our calling in Christ and His Kingdom? Is our life a hymn of thanksgiving to Christ for the love He has shown us? Does our life confirm this with willing acts of devotional obedience – serving in, and promoting His Kingdom?
Peter reminds us that a life lived this way prevents us from stumbling (over sinful acts) and confirms our place in the kingdom/family of God. Now isn’t that a great reason for making “every effort”?
Yesterday, to celebrate my birthday, we had a family day. Most of the family were able to get together and we did a host of simple things. The day started with an old family tradition in which the “birthday-ee” gets his or her presents in bed. After breakfast we went for a walk along the coast, then we had a picnic in the bracing air of a seaside town and in the afternoon I built Lego and some baked or read. In the evening we had a family meal, watched old super 8 family movies and finished off with a telephone call to an overseas family member and watching “Cool Runnings”.
It was a simple day. But the joy of having family together and enjoying each other’s presence was fantastic.
So I weep when I see families pulling each other apart or living in each other’s company with constant tension or anger. Families are intended to be places of refuge, comfort, support and encouragement. They are places where warm memories can be shared and enjoyed.
My constant plea with young couples is that they work together on the purpose of their family. Sure, there will be tensions and moments of anger, however, encourage each other with a picture of what the family can be and should be. If you are struggling, seek wise mentors – people whose marriage has blossomed in time and one you would like to emulate. Ask them for their secret for success.
Work at your family as a team. As I was reminded yesterday, it is such a precious treasure.
Friends and colleagues connected with Covenant College in Geelong are currently working on a project called “The 5th Gospel”.
A group of 4 went to Israel earlier this year to film and do research. Initially the intent was that this material could be used in the History and Bible courses at the College. However it is becoming obvious that this effort could have far wider uses in other schools, churches and homes. To this end the project is being introduced to the community on the 4th of August. If you are in the vicinity you are very welcome to come along and hear about this exciting venture.
Yesterday I quoted from the dutch classic by Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit. There is another work that many English speaking readers may not be aware of: Promise and Deliverance by S.G. De Graaf. This was written in the first half of the C20th as teaching tool to assist in the teaching of young people and translated into English a number of years ago. This 4 volume set is in fact a brilliant excursion through the Old and New Testament looking at the centrality of Christ throughout Scripture; the promise of Christ in the Old Testament and the Deliverance of the promise in the New. Christian school teachers, parents and Sunday School teachers will find this a useful tool to stay out of the trap of moralising Biblical stories but rather remaining centred on the “main story”.
These books are available as PDFs at Paideia Books along with many other wonderful books – many from the dutch Calvinist tradition.
Below is a quote from the first chapter on Gen1-2:
1: The Kingdom of God
In this first section of Genesis we are not just told that God created
all things. What is revealed to us first and foremost is the Kingdom of
God. At this point we cannot speak of this Kingdom as the Kingdom of
God’s grace, for by grace we usually mean the favor to which we have
lost all claim, i.e. the favor of the forgiveness of our sins. To avoid confusion,
therefore, we should speak here of the Kingdom of God’s favor.*
The institution of the Kingdom of God is central to this chapter. In
preparing the earth in six days, God repeatedly brings forth the higher
from the lower and makes the lower subservient to the higher. Finally He
creates man and makes him king (Gen. 1:26-8). With the creation of
earth’s intended king, God reaches the culmination of His work. We
hear something of His rejoicing when He says: “Let us make man in our
image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion.” These words
give us the impression that God is saying: “Now let Us make man. Now
We are reaching the climax of Our work.”
The Dutch Minister/Statesman, Abraham Kuyper wrote a wonderful series of devotionals on the Holy Spirit entitled The Work of the Holy Spirit which initially appeared in a weekly Christian publication. It is a detailed and thorough explanation of the development of the work of the Spirit through the Old and New Testaments. Over a hundred years later this is still a wonderful and inspiring work. It is available online at CCEL.org.
The first quote is from chapter 1 and the following quote comes from chapter 37:
“The need of divine guidance is never more deeply felt than when one undertakes to give instruction in the work of the Holy Spirit—so unspeakably tender is the subject, touching the inmost secrets of God and the soul’s deepest mysteries.
We shield instinctively the intimacies of kindred and friends from intrusive observation, and nothing hurts the sensitive heart more than the rude exposure of that which should not be unveiled, being beautiful only in the retirement of the home circle. Greater delicacy befits our approach to the holy mystery of our soul’s intimacy with the living God. Indeed, we can scarcely find words to express it, for it touches a domain far below the social life where language is formed and usage determines the meaning of words.
Glimpses of this life have been revealed, but the greater part has been withheld. It is like the life of Him who did not cry, nor lift up nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. And that which was heard was whispered rather than spoken—a soul-breath, soft but voiceless, or rather a radiating of the soul’s own blessed warmth. Sometimes the stillness has been broken by a cry or a raptured shout; but there has been mainly a silent working, a ministering of stern rebuke or of sweet comfort by that wonderful Being in the Holy Trinity whom with stammering tongue we adore as the Holy Spirit.
“The Church has a calling in the world. It is being violently attacked not only by the powers of this world, but much more by the invisible powers of Satan. No rest is allowed. Denying that Christ has conquered, Satan believes that the time left him may yet bring him victories. Hence his restless rage and fury, his incessant attacks upon the ordinances of the Church, his constant endeavor to divide and corrupt it, and his ever-repeated denial of the authority and kingship of Jesus in His Church. Altho he will never succeed entirely, he does succeed to some extent. The history of the Church in every country shows it; it proves that a satisfactory condition of the Church is highly exceptional and of short duration, and that for eight out of ten centuries its state is sad and deplorable, cause for shame and grief on the part of God’s people.
And yet in all this warfare it has a calling to fulfill, an appointed task to accomplish. It may sometimes consist in being sifted like wheat, as in Job’s case, to show that by virtue of Christ’s prayer faith cannot be destroyed in its bosom. But whatever the form of the task, the Church always needs spiritual power to perform it; a power not in itself, but which the King must supply.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 peter 1:5-7
The Christian life is not some inert situation. Faith, as Peter reflects, is a doorway to a whole new way of existing, no, more than existing, truly living. In this passage, which has echoes of Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23) we see that we have a responsibility in this new life to build our spiritual muscles. By God’s “divine power’ there are steps we can take to me more Christlike and productive in the kingdom.
The first after faith is
- goodness or excellence: this describes the expectation that the character of Christ now grows in the person of faith,
- then the next is knowledge or wisdom, the ability to distinguish good from bad – especially important at the time of writing as false teachers were having an impact. This is an importance that is not diminished today.
- The third is self control. This is the ability to have authority over our sinful nature. Some believed if they were saved they could do anything they liked. Peter stresses that the child of God reflects a control over their actions rather than abandonment to their desires.
- That in turn enables endurance – the mature Christian is resolute and determined to maintain this new life,
- and exude a godliness – a way of living that shows reverence to God and a right attitude to those around him –
- mutual affection or brotherly love. As John writes, how can a person love God and hate his brother (1 John 4:20)? The two are inseparably linked.
- These all culminate in the fulfilment of the law – love. Our lives are to be witnesses to Christ’s agape – sacrificial – love. This is the love for the lives and souls of people around us that empowers the mission of the church.
Above are three short verses we can all spend a life time in practising and the more we do, the more we will see Christ.
Currently one of the books in my rotation is “Think Like Jesus” by George Barna. In fact it is a re-reading as I first read it a few years ago. Barna’s contention is that far too many Christians do not a have Christian World-view. They do not have a Biblical grid through which to see the world and therefore are not only unable to make Biblically/Christian informed choices but they are subject to the insidious influences of other world-views; world-views that are presented through the popular media, celebrities and the like. I don’t think I need to go into detail.
Barna confesses that he ran away from the concept of a Christian World-view for years. But it was the lack of Christian maturity he encountered in his church surveys that made him reconsider the concept. His definition, which I happen to find useful, is that a Biblical World-view is a means of experiencing, interpreting and responding to reality in the light of Biblical perspective. He adds, it enables us to answer the question, “What would Jesus do if he were in my shoes right now?”
I agree with Barna that there is a paucity of Christian thinking in churches and amongst Christians. I also agree with Barna that one of the key reasons is the lack of in depth Bible teaching in the church and in the home. Christians do not have the Biblical foundations upon which to develop this Biblical perspective. However, even within churches where the Bible is seriously taught there is another issue. Christian are taught “what to think but not “how to think”. Christians desperately need an apologetic (defending the faith) framework to defend and promote the faith against all comers.
Why do we need this world view? Simply, whatever the issues that society brings up (and they change and morph every generation), whether it be the internet, the nature of marriage, family, work, media, and so on, we need Biblical framework to construct a response or an answer. What films or TV shows should I watch or books should I read? How should I use my time, talents and wealth? What about the environment, global warming and elections? Because the issues and questions are endless a healthy Christian life requires a well considered World-view.
To have an inkling of what Jesus would do, we also need to understand the Word of God and the relationship with God that was central to his life.