The Secret Key to the Christian Life is…

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Christians yearn to be better Christians, that is, more like Christ. We would like to have greater victory over our sins, we’d like to pray more (often, and fervently), we’d like to “do” more in service to God and His purposes in the world. We want to be more faithful and diligent in our devotion to Christ.

Therefore, many books are published with titles that reflect this inner desire. “The Keys to Passing Your Spiritual Tests”, “The Secret of the Lord: the Simple Key That Will Revive Your Spiritual Power”, etc., etc. I don’t mean to make too much of this language, but it brings up the question, “Is there a secret key to the Christian life?” Is the Christian life “locked”, and only some Christians have the “key”?

No, not really. Conceptually, it would be nice if there were simply such a key. It would make the Christian life a lot easier. Perhaps that is what makes such books so popular. If we just had more knowledge, the right facts, following Jesus wouldn’t be quite so difficult.

However, I have found no easy way to deny myself, to take up a cross, and follow Him. No easy way, but a joyful way. The “secret” of the Christian life is really no secret at all. It is expressed throughout the Scriptures. It is our union with Christ by faith that we become better Christians, have greater victory over our sins, and accomplish more for the kingdom of God. All Christians have this “key”, so use it!

C.M. Granger

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Truth Revealed in Questions

It’s easy to pass over rhetorical questions in Scripture.  I do it frequently, but have been trying to take note of such questions when they come up.     BibleAlthough a rhetorical question is not asked to illicit a reply, it is helpful to reflect on the question and its intended effect.  For instance, Isaiah 40:14 asks, “Whom did he [God] consult, and who made him understand?  Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?”  The implied answer?  Absolutely no one.  No one teaches God anything, for he has all knowledge and wisdom.  The question reveals a significant truth about the Lord.

1 Corinthians, in particular, contains a lot of rhetorical questions.  Don’t pass over them.  When one is asked, pause and meditate upon the implied answer. In chapter 4 Paul admonishes the Corinthians for causing division in the church by favoring and following one teacher over another.  He advises them that they should consider the apostles simply as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In verses 6 and following he says, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.  {Rhetorical Question Alert} For who sees anything different in you? {No one}   What do you have that you did not receive? {Nothing}  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” {Hmm.  Great question.  I shouldn’t, I have no reason to}.  What do these questions tell us about ourselves?  That there is nothing inherent in us which makes us different from any other sinner, we have received everything from God, and we cannot take credit for any aspect of our salvation.

Here we have questions that give us answers with regard to the doctrine of God (Is. 40:14) and the doctrine of man  (1 Cor. 4:6-7).  In Scripture, there is truth to be discovered even in the questions!  Give them due consideration…

C.M. Granger

A Culture of “Peter Pans”

I was reading the latest issue of IMPRIMIS today, and was struck by a brief piece by a young teacher, Jason Barney. He quoted Cicero in Latin, and then translated it…

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. “Not to know what happened before you were born, that is to be always a boy, to be forever a child.”

Jason Barney went on to observe the following about our culture — and I think he hits the bullseye.

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“Too many citizens of our country today are, in Cicero’s terms, forever children. If knowledge of the past matures the soul, it is not something we can afford to marginalize or sideline. Unfortunately, the hard work of gaining knowledge, eloquence, and wisdom is all too often skirted by teacher and student alike. Because we have neglected knowledge of the past and the great tradition of historical understanding, we live in culture of Peter Pans, flying free in Neverland with no past and no future, only the ever-present game, the mock battle against pirates or Indians. Wendy’s stories, with their plot of real challenges to be overcome, only reveal to us our immaturity, the fact that we are forever children who won’t grow up.”
[read the whole Jan. 2013 issue here]

We see this immaturity not only in the culture at large (and it is, sadly, very hard to miss), but we also see it in modern theological inquiry. There are many who are giving their two-cents on the church, or Scripture, or the Trinity, etc., without an awareness of what has been discovered or established (or ruled-out) long before them — both in the content of the doctrine being discussed, as well as in the realm of methodology employed.

This is very sad to see, given the clear charge of Jesus to His disciples — to make disciples (not merely converts) and to teach them everything He commanded. In the church, as in the culture at large, the older generation bears much of the blame for the present deficiencies. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of bright, culturally-engaged scholars and pastors (such as Kevin DeYoung), on the scene who give me hope.

May the Lord have mercy, and help us recover and restore what has been lost.

 

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Are You a Groundhog or a Christian?

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There are seven festivals instituted by God for the Israelites.  These festivals were shadows or types of Christ.  You can find a detailed description in Leviticus 23.  Males were required to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate three out of the seven – The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks and The Feast of Booths.  The one that’s probably most unfamiliar to us is The Feast of Booths.  They had to hold a holy convocation for the first day, and a holy convocation for the eighth day.  No ordinary work was to be done.  You can read about all the details of this festival in Leviticus 23:33-44.  The point I want to emphasize here is what the Israelites were suppose to remember during this time – that the people of “Israel dwell in booths when I (The Lord) brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (verse 43).

The children of Israel had to leave the ‘comforts’ of their homes and live in these ‘booths’ for seven days.  This helped remind them that when God brought them out of Egypt, they had nothing but His presence.  If they had His presence, then they needed nothing else to survive.  These booths, or ‘tabernacles,’ were reminders, but they also pointed forward.  They were to look forward to the Messiah who would be ‘God with them.’   The tabernacle stood as a visible witness that salvation was God’s way or no way.  It typified the Incarnation of Christ.  The tabernacle was also a visible reminder that God’s presence – the most holy place, was off limits; it was only accessible by a representative.  The curtain dashed all of our hopes, and kept us out of the presence of God.

But the greatest miracle the world has ever experienced happened over 2000 years ago – Jesus was born.

John said that Jesus dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14).  Jesus said that He was the only way to the Father – there is no other name whereby men can be saved.  Jesus became our hope that entered into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19).

Why do we need to participate in a shadow?   We don’t need to go back to darkness and build booths.  Jesus said He was the light of the world.  A shadow disappears when the sunlight is directly overhead.  When the true Light of the world came, He dispelled the shadows.  Those festivals were not the real thing, they only pointed to the real thing.  Only a groundhog is foolish enough to believe that a shadow is a real thing… Are you going to be Christ-follower, or a groundhog?

 

Brian L. Spivey