Thursday, May 31, 2007

Carson on the Transformed Life

D. A. Carson writes (Still Sovereign, Baker, 259):
One must not conclude…that new covenant believers are anywhere promised moral and spiritual perfection this side of the new heaven and the new earth. Nevertheless, both the Old Testament prophecies regarding the new covenant and the age of the Spirit, and the New Testament claims regarding their fulfillment, lead us to expect transformed lives. Indeed, it is precisely this unequivocal expectation that authorizes Paul to set up the tension we have already noted: the exhortations to live up to what we are in Christ are predicated on the assumption that what we are in Christ necessarily brings transformation, so that moral failure is theologically shocking, however pragmatically realistic it may be. Indeed, it might be argued that this accounts for some of the tension in 1 John….It is worth recalling John’s insistence that believers do sin, and people who claim they do not are liars, self-deluded, and guilty of charging God with falsehood (1 John 1:6-10). At the same time, he repeatedly insists that sinning is not done among Christians. Various explanations have been advanced, but the most obvious is still the best: although both our experience and our location between the “already” and the “not yet” teach us that we do sin and we will sin, yet every single instance of sin is shocking, inexcusable, forbidden, appalling, out of line with what we are as Christians.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Just Showed Up For My Own Life

Our church hosts what they call “First Friday Films,” which happens (usually) on the first Friday of every month. A documentary film with a global message is typically shown and then discussed from a Christian standpoint. This gives people who attend the opportunity to see things outside their bubble and then discuss global issues within a gospel context.

Tonight (obviously not a first Friday) John Gyovai, president of MediaServe International, a non-profit ministry birthed at Bethlehem, hosted a Nomad Show movie based on Sara Groves trips to Louisiana and Rwanda. "Just Showed Up For My Own Life" documents her trip to Louisiana (for Katrina relief efforts), and her trip to Rwanda. Both of these experiences expanded her learning about the world and to allowed her to be impacted by the horror of the genocide that took place there in 1994. The trip to Rwanda also connected Sara with Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission.

Wendy and I have been fans of Sara Groves for years and own all of her CDs. Sara, who lives in Minneapolis was at the screening and spent time answering questions. Our kids were able to talk with her and get her autograph. Her last album, which found its culmination in these trips was titled, “Add to the Beauty.” Her point is that as Christians, we should be adding to the beauty in this world as we are salt and light.

Our goal tonight was not simply to promote another musician to the kids, but for them to see that whatever we do in life, it should have a gospel purpose. This life is not about us, it is about God, and if that means delivering a tour bus full of diapers to a church in Louisiana or traveling with Gary Haugen of IJM to Rwanda, then to God be the glory. Or, if it means picking up your family and moving to the mid-west to learn the Word of God in order to fulfill a calling to preach, then to God be the glory.

Again, we are thankful for the opportunities that God has given us here in Minneapolis, often through Bethlehem, to open our kids’ eyes to more than the Disneyland of America has to offer.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Affections: How Important Are They?

Have you ever noticed that the Bible commands you to feel something? Here are some texts: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom 12:11). “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul?” (Deut 10:12). “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:4, 5). “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4).

In addition to commanding affections (an eighteenth century word for emotion), the Bible also expects Christians to have a certain kind of emotion: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet 1:8).

The conclusion that Jonathan Edwards drew from these (and many other) verses is “true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” Edwards wrote a 377 page book arguing for this conclusion. Well, actually, he spent about 40 pages arguing for this proposition, and then spent 337 pages describing what holy affections are and what they are not. I have spent the last four months immersed in this book and I believe Edwards is right. This book has shattered my paradigms about Christianity, and is causing me to look at my walk and my faith in a new light. Don’t worry, I am not going off the deep end anytime soon, but understanding the role of both the head and the heart in Christianity has become critical in regard to assurance, the fight of faith, and the importance of deep heartfelt worship.

Since I have never been outside the U.S., I can say little about the thinking or mind-set of other cultures, but I am familiar with the culture I am immersed in. Our culture breathes air that says, “men are rational and women are emotional.” Or, worse, that “Christianity is a rational religion only, and we can never trust our feelings. After all, feelings lie, so we must not trust them. We can definitely not trust our feelings when it comes to religion.” Stop for a moment and think about some of the churches you have attended. Have you ever argued or been taught that love is a verb?

Now, love certainly has its verbal aspects; we are to love our neighbor as our self. Nevertheless, when it comes to God, is love only a verb, or is it part verb and part state of being? What about joy? Yes, we are to rejoice, but what do we do when Peter declares we rejoice with joy?

The point of this discussion is that when we examine our faith and our Christian walk, we need to examine the state of our affections. For Christians, affections are not necessarily charismatic outward signs. We don’t have to raise our hands and cry and be overcome during worship. But we must feel something! If we do not feel anything, we are at the best disobedient, and at the worst not even Christian. Peter’s statement is present tense: “though you do not now see him, you [do now presently] love him and you [presently] believe in him and you [presently] rejoice with inexpressible joy.” This is how, in great part, our Christian lives should be.

I beg you to chase this idea down. Summer is a good time to read. Pick up Religious Affections and read it for yourself. Here are some quotes from Edwards: “God has given to mankind affections…. And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters…which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation, and their natural relations…. How they can sit and hear of the infinite height and depth and length and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, holy and tender Lamb of God, manifested in his dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and yet be cold, and heavy and insensible and regardless! Where are the exercises of our affections proper if not here? …. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected!” (Edwards, Religious Affections, Yale, 122-124.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


"If the affections of the soul are not supremely fixed on God, and if our dominant desire and primary goal is not to possess God's favor and to promote His glory, then we are traitors in revolt against our lawful Sovereign....Whether we are the slaves of avarice, sensuality, amusement, sloth, or the devotees of ambition, taste, or fashion, we alike estrange ourselves from the dominion of our rightful Sovereign."

---William Wilberforce

(HT: Breakpoint)