Christian Living

Test the Spirits

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives though to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).

A “simple” man is not an ordinary man. The Hebrew word implies the idea of being naïve. He believes what he is told. He takes what he hears “at face value” without measuring whether or not they are true. Everything is believable. He is rash in his decision-making and careless in his behavior. He is a gullible man, which is why Solomon says that he “believes everything.”

A modern-day analogy may be the person who is duped into thinking the need for what an infomercial is selling or that news is accurate just because it is spoken from a reporter on television.

The “prudent” man, by contrast, measures things with accuracy. He is, you might say, Berean (Acts 17:11) and always looking to measure what he hears according to what Scripture teaches.

The truth that resonates from this proverb is timeless. Jerry Bridges has said that “to believe every word of God is faith; to believe every word of man is credulity.”

In our day, there are so-called preaches claiming new revelation or additional interpretations that no one in church history have ever discovered. The “simple” will believe what he hears from preachers like this, because of their giftedness in communication or because the listener refuses to study out things he hears.

The Bible teaches us to test the spirits to evaluate whether or not they are from God (I John 4:1).

Don’t believe everything you hear and make sure everything you see is verifiable.

 

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Charles Hodge, Describing Sanctification

Image result for charles hodge“Sanctification does not consist exclusively in a series of a new kind of act. It is the making the tree good, in order that the fruit may be good. It involves an essential change of character. Just a regeneration is … a new birth, a new creation, a quickening or communicating a new life; … so sanctification in its essential nature is not holy acts, but such a change in the state of the soul, that sinful acts become more infrequent, and holy acts more and more habitual and controlling.” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology)

Am I Humble Or Proud?

Humility. The Christian life could be summarized into this one virtue, because it is the way we come into God’s family at salvation. Jesus put it this way in Luke –

‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

I had a professor who used to say that we are a lot like God’s camera men: we are never to be in the picture.

Thus, to be a prideful Christian is an oxymoron. Richard Baxter, that English Puritan of the 17th century, wrote in The Reformed Pastor, “It is a contradiction in terms, to be a Christian, and not humble.”

What then is humility? One simple answer comes from a book entitled Humility: The Forgotten Virtue by Wayne Mack, who is a former professor of mine:

“Humility, then, consists in an attitude wherein we receive our own insignificance and unworthinesss before God and attribute to Him the supreme honor, praise, prerogatives, rights, privileges, worship, devotion, authority, submission, and obedience that He alone deserved. … It means having a servant’s mind-set and always putting self last.” (pg. 26)

In the Bible, we see countless examples of saints expressing this kind of godly humility that God longs for in all of us.

  • Abraham referred to himself as “dust and ashes” when he approached God in prayer asking for mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).
  • Jacob realized his unworthiness to be an object of God’s faithfulness in providing for him and his forefathers (Genesis 32).
  • When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, Moses questioned himself as worthy of being God’s chosen to lead the Hebrews from Egyptian captivity; Moses saw his physical inabilities (Exodus 3).
  • When Gideon was called to lead Israel against Midian, he felt his smallness and thought he was the last one in the land God wanted to lead His army (Judges 6).
  • John the Baptist felt quite uncomfortable with being asked to baptize Jesus; he said he was unworthy to even untie Jesus’ sandals (John 1).
  • When Peter was initially called to leave his fishing vocation to follow Christ, he was hesitant because of his sin (Luke 5).

And how does one determine if he is like Gideon, Moses, or John the Baptist. You could ask yourself any or all of the following 4 questions.

  1. Who draws the moral boundaries in your life? The proud determines their own “right and wrong.” The humble use God’s Word as their standard.
  2. What is your initial reaction when you are given a gift? The proud enjoys being in the center of honor. The humble is shocked that anyone would give them anything.
  3. Where is your sufficiency? The proud thinks their own strength and smarts will be enough for a fulfilled life. The humble doesn’t trust themselves is not ultimately dependent on any other but God.
  4. Do you feel God or society owes you something? The proud feels entitled. The humble knows nothing is owed them … ever.

 

An Illustration About God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

The question of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (aka “free will” or “meaningful choice”) is a question every generation of the church has pondered and inquired about.

It is a biblical tension that we see in Scripture (e.g., Matthew 11:28 – will; I Timothy 6:15 – God’s sovereignty). And because Scripture never contradicts itself (I Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 6:18), the truth of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are in no need to be reconciled. You never need to reconcile friends.

It is better to ask the question, “How do these two biblical truths work together” (or “hand in hand” as Randy Alcorn writes) and not a “God’s sovereignty vs. man’s responsibility” question. These two truths are not competitors; they are on the same team.

But we are still left with a need to better understand this tension. Let me give you an example I have found helpful in my own understanding of the question.

I have 3 boys in my home. Our oldest is in 7th grade and our youngest is in 3rd grade. Annie and I are “in the thick and thin” of raising children. It is parenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In our home, we have rules, guidelines, expectations, boundaries, laws, etc. We expect our children to obey what we ask of them, because their obedience is a direct reflection of how they think of God (Ephesians 6:1).

And even though they are handsome young men and a joy to be around, these boys are sinners. They don’t always follow our rules; they will choose to disobey at times. They periodically grumble about our expectations of them in our home.

On the other hand, there is no mistake about who oversees the home. Annie and I are the parents. We are the leaders of our home. You might even use the word “sovereign.” The word “sovereignty” implies rule over a domain. Our “kingdom” is the home and Annie and I are sovereign over it.

Image result for hand in hand alcornYet, our sovereignty in our home does not mean that our children do not have the choice or the will to do what they want. In other words, just because they choose to disobey doesn’t mean we aren’t in charge of our own home.

Part of our headship includes giving them the choice to obey or disobey.

Thus, in the home there is “free will” and sovereignty. They work together. Our boys do not question who is sovereign in the home; and Annie and I do not question whether they have “free will” or not. We are sovereign; our kids have a choice.

God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is a true partnership.

For further reading on this biblical tension, I would highly commend to you Randy Alcorn’s book on this very subject. There I no book I would recommend before it – Hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Meaningful Choice.

Ray Ortlund, On the Connection Between Romans 8:28 and Loving God

Image result for ray ortlundFrom the human perspective, the people who own Romans 8:28 love God. They do not just believe the Bible, important as that is. They do not just go to church, important as that is. They love God. They embrace his purpose. There are no longer happy in sin. They want what pleases God. They gladly suffer the loss of all things, in order to gain Christ. People who love God – they are the ones to whom the assurance of Romans 8:28 belongs. And this is right, because the mentality of love is all-inclusive. Love entails trust and hope and all the other virtues of the heart that bind us to God. And love for God is most convincing when offered to him in the furnace of affliction. Love does not resent God. It does not rage against God. Love bows in worship and accepts the will of God without expectation of good. (Ray Ortlund, Supernatural Living for Supernatural People)

An Undervalued Step in Determining God’s Will

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

One of the most common questions I receive as a pastor is, “How can I determine God’s will for my life?”

It’s an understandable question because we are faced with decisions every day and at every stage of our life:

  • Whom should I marry?
  • What church should I attend?
  • What should I study in college?
  • Should I even go to college?
  • When it is the right time to buy a house?
  • How many kids should my spouse and I have?

Many of the regular decisions we make are not directly addressed in the Scripture. For example, the Bible won’t tell you to marry a person with a particular name or racial background. All the Scripture will say on the subject of “whom should I marry” is not to marry an unbeliever if you are a Christian (II Corinthians 6:14).

So, when the Bible doesn’t give us specific information on those other issues, how do we know we are making the right ones?

Answer: seek counsel from the wise.

Maybe the most undervalued step of making decisions is listening to the wiser and more spiritually mature people in our lives (e.g., elder or pastor at church, grandparent, parent, mentor, school teacher, etc.). Solomon is saying that when several of those counselors are giving you the same advice, it is likely that God is telling you what to do. Thus, heed their counsel.

To decide their corporate counsel is not worthy to be heeded is to show arrogance. It is to distrust the truth of Proverbs 11:14. It is to communicate to your multitude of counselors their wisdom does not match your own.

Of course, applying Proverbs 11:14 correctly also means that we surround ourselves with the right people. In other words, don’t seek the counsel of people who you are convinced will tell you what you want to hear. Look for godly people who tell you what you need to hear.

When making decisions, don’t discount how God uses the spiritually advanced to influence us towards His will.

Image result for multitude of counselors

David Platt, Describing Faith in God

Image result for david platt“Faith is not confidence that trials won’t come your way. Faith is confidence that no matter what wind and waves come your way in this world, the God of the universe will be right there in the boat with you. His power and His presence will see you through. Christian, you are not alone, and ultimately you are safe in the presence of the One who has ultimate authority over all disaster” (David Platt, Exalting Jesus in Matthew)