Feeds:
Posts
Comments

To a Christian who does not think he can “be to sure” of where he will go when he dies

“For you have been born again, not of a perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

“Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

“Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expresses in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless He is born again.” John 3:3

“He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.” James 1:18

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

Being “born again,” or “regenerated” like Jesus and Paul mention is totally a work of God. We don’t play an active role (we are passive)- “so that no man can boast.” All credit is due to God, none to us. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The New Testament often talks about a new spiritual rebirth. Christians are “not born of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13).

Alive in Christ; pardoned

A theme in the in the New Testament is that we were formerly “dead in our trespasses and sins,” but believers have been “made alive in Christ,” once and for all. The book of Hebrews points out the details of “the new covenant,” the benefits from it, and how radically different it is than the law.

No more sacrifices are required to appease God, because Christ, once and for all, met the demands of God for the atonement of our sins (Hebrews chapters 7-11). Jesus was the perfect sacrifice demanded by God to meet His requirements in order to reconcile sinners to Himself. Therefore we have “been reconciled” and as Hebrews talks about, “Christ is our mediator,” and He “intercedes for us.”

Paul says in Romans 8:33, “Who will bring any charge against those God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding of us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or danger or sword?” He continues in verse 38, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our position before God forever changed when we accepted Christ by faith. At that time we are “justified” and “pardoned.” (We may or may not be able to point to a certain moment). At that moment we were “born again,” “regenerated,” meaning God has imparted new spiritual life to us. All of our sins (past, present and future) have been paid for in full. Because we are mysteriously “in Christ” God views us as unblemished children, not objects of wrath as we formerly were. When we are pardoned and justified by faith in Christ how can be we condemned? We have been put in the position of beloved children by God, not by ourselves. Therefore, our status before God is not dependent on our weakness; our status before God depends on His strength. God has chosen us (we have not chosen Him) as His children, and He will protect us. Christians are confident in his keeping rather than our losing.

Our Confidence

Our confidence comes from faith in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. And also knowing that God has imputed Christ’s work and righteousness to us; just like the bible says. Our assurance springs forth from certainty of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The faith we have in those things has been given to us by God. We could not be convinced of those things in our own power as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The man without the Holy Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

We are not climbing a ladder to heaven. We can not work our way there. Our confidence does not come from our ability to “stay in grace,” but rather assurance that God will keep us there. If He has provided the means of grace for us, will He not provide security for us?

The Holy Spirit: Our Keeper

God knows we are fallen and has not entrusted fallen creatures to “keep their salvation” by their effort. So, God has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell in us. God the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us. The Holy Spirit has “sealed” us and marked us as God’s possession. He (the Holy Spirit) also imparts spiritual wisdom, helps us, leads us into truth, guides us, comforts us, and counsels us. As Jesus says, in John 16:13-14, “He (the Holy Spirit) will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

The Holy Spirit puts a new nature in us and a new principle, new desires. Those Godly principles, (that Jesus said the Spirit would make known to us), conflict with the “natural man,” or the sin nature that still resides in us. Hence the struggle against “the flesh” that Paul talks about in Romans chapter 7.

The regenerated man’s life, including thoughts, words, deeds, should look different than the man whose life is ruled by the sin nature (and unenlightened) rather than the Holy Spirit. We all have friends who can not understand our principles and we can not understand theirs- this is evidence of the different type of “engine” in us. The Spirit does not set our minds on worldly things. The scriptures call us “aliens” and “foreigners” and that is what we should sometime feel like. We have been “set apart” for God’s glory in a fallen world. The cross is our motivation and inspiration- not money or accolades, sex, power, happiness or comfort- which does not make sense to most people.

Evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to know more, do more, repent more, believe more, love more, and walk closer with God. The Spirit produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in a person (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the opposite of “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Jesus, who is worthy of our confidence is why we are certain we will go to heaven when we die. A colossal hope, and consolation in our current suffering and trials, is looking forward to our earthly death. It is then we will be united to God and see Christ face to face, who is the all-satisfying treasure of our souls. That day will be glorious. We will be eternally free from our sins and consequences of them, and temptation, we will receive a resurrected and perfect body (1 Corinthians chapter 15), and there will be no more pain. What hope do we have if we are not longing for that day?

How can we be heavenly-minded, as we are told we are, if our salvation is in flux? Is the bible lying to us when it says we have been “forgiven” and “freed from the powers of darkness?”

Conquerors

We are humbled and privileged by these mind-blowing truths; knowing that the initiative was and is on God’s side. C.S. Lewis puts it in perspective: “God does not love us because we are intrinsically good or worth loving, but because He is intrinsically love and infinitely loving.” Lewis also said, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

It has been said the people who were focused most on heaven are the people who did the most on earth. Our having faith in the existence of an eternal home already prepared for us is motivating. Confidence, not fear of flux, is encouraging. One more Lewis quote: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Jesus’ perfect life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection is what we rely on. We have absolutely zero confidence in ourselves. Our confidence comes from a “Spirit not of timidity” (2 Timothy 1:7), but from bold given to us by the risen and living God. We can be confident because of what He says He has done for us in His word. We can take Him at His Word. Jesus has “conquered sin” for us; He has lived the perfect life that we can not; He has “taken the sting out of death.” He told us these things so we can be confident in our forgiveness.

If Jesus has “triumphed over death” for us how can we still be subject to it? Was Paul lying in Romans 6:6 when he says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin?”

Paul goes on: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God.”

We can trust Him when He says we are forgiven.

Advertisements

From A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God, quoting scripture and Spurgeon in support of predestination:

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all-“as many as,” not one less-who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He-in every case-dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today-and, since He changes not-from eternity.”

“I want a gold hat- I will get one if I do that.
I want silver on my wrist- I will get it if I do this.
Rewards, rewards- are what I live for. I work hard, pay me by the hour.
Be prompt with my wages so they don’t sour.”
–author unknown

“Jesus gives the ultimate incentive for our obedience, namely, closer intimacy with Him.”
“You reward our purity with more delight when we worship.”
“Blessed are the pure at heart, their reward is that they shall see God with a more gorgeous view.”
“You manifest more of yourself to those who keep your word and those who obey.”
“Avoid anything that would grieve God’s amazing presence.”
“I despise anything that would give hindrance to me, and keep me from experiencing His intimacy.”

–Timothy Brindle

“My one son is wicked to me- he does not listen to me, he does not obey me, he does not talk to me, he disrespects me, and causes me much pain, heartache and worry. My other son is kind to me- he listens to me, he obeys me, he talks to me, he respects me, he brings me much joy and causes me to be thankful, happy and feel loved. Who do I have the better relationship with?” –author unknown

I admittedly don’t know much about how the bible speaks about heavenly/spiritual rewards. So, I try not to write about specific revelations in regards to that, in order to avoid misinterpreting and/or misrepresenting the scriptures. I don’t think the scriptures are as cut and dry as we would like them to be about rewards and the blessings of obedience. However, that does not mean one can not contemplate on them based on God’s character through Jesus teachings, other revealed operations of God, and reality (natural theology). We can know one thing for certain; we can know from studying God’s Word, rewards and blessings of obedience are not similar to the world’s works based systems.

The idea that humility is a reward, a byproduct and privilege of God the Holy Spirit’s operation in our lives, is probably not what we imagined as a reward or blessing. However, is it not a reward to be cared for the by creator of the universe that He shows us our pride which exposes our need for a Savior? Is it not a blessing of obedience when we are brought to our knees in submission and weakness and cry out to God? Ironically, those things are blessings of obedience, namely, living the life provided by the Spirit and subsequently being rightly related to God.

“Reward” has to be (re) defined. “Riches” have to be (re) defined. “Wealth” and “blessings” have to be (re) defined. We can discern this from knowing other paradoxical truths about God. Because His ways are higher than ours, and we are constantly surrounded by values opposite of His, we have to intentionally try to set all we think we know aside when considering God’s ways. We have to rearrange our mindset. Timothy Keller puts it well; God “wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, and comes to wealth via giving away.”

If we are to know what a reward truly is we have to interfere with our typical thinking. Just as Jesus did not come to establish an earthly reign, with political authority, or presidential status with riches and clout- like we might have thought- our aim should also be the “unseen,” spiritual Kingdom of God; a kingdom that takes honor in a low position, humility in a high position, and achieves power through weakness. If our natural thinking is naturally backwards wouldn’t it follow suite that we think unlike God in regards to rewards and blessings of obedience?

Some religious traditions and secular interpretation of those traditions may suggest that rewards and blessings are material- like hats, tons of friends, a high ranking, a front row seat, or watches, a cooler looking chair, gold bricks, a brighter glow, more rings on a halo, or a superior more ornate residence that we will receive in heaven for our earthly works.

I think there are stupefyingly simplistic answers to a couple questions already asked. What is our motivation? Jesus is our motivation. What inspires us towards obedience? Jesus is the reason we are inspired. What are our rewards? Jesus is our reward. Tell those things to someone who has not experienced intimacy with Christ and they will walk away and go back to where they came from; trying to amass perishable goods for their perceived personal gain. Although, the only truly good thing that person has is time to repent (the possibility to believe in God) and, in the end, that will be taken from them if they don’t repent. If our motivation is gold bricks, the best possible reward will be gold bricks, i.e. something dead and truly worthless. If our motivation is Christ our reward will be Him, i.e. something living and truly priceless.

We do not earn “wages” or spiritual rewards as we might expect. The reward for the efforts that Christians are instructed to practice, such as, fleeing from sin and treating God as God, is intimacy with Christ. The byproducts of obedience our manifold; they are our riches and our reward. For example, (lasting) peace, (lasting) love, (lasting) joy.
Just as I don’t have to earn my wife’s love in order for her to give it to me, I don’t earn God’s love in order to receive it. If I love my wife the blessings “built in” my relationship to her. If I am in right relationship with her I will be rewarded simply as result of it.

The ultimate and satisfying reward, namely, intimacy with Christ, as expected, produces the characteristics of any normal and natural progression of a close relationship; familiarity, closeness, trust, vulnerability, security, protection, love, sharing/disclosing good and bad details of life, and unconditional acceptance. All these things, if we are fortunate enough to experience in a relationship with a person, (spouse, parent or friend), are the greatest “dividends” one could want. Although they are not tangible rewards that could be purchased, they are the greatest “rewards” we can possess. Although they are without price (freely given) they are the most valuable, the most precious, the most rewarding “things” we can have. The most valuable things to me cost me nothing (monetarily speaking), i.e. my wife (she says she would have married me without a diamond, “but the diamond was nice”), my arms and legs, my brain, and my heart. The things that are the least valuable to me cost me the most, i.e. my house, my car and my college degree (my parents paid for most of it).
When we are saved we get “everything for nothing,” this is not like our world, where we get “something in return for something else.” A blessing is a gift, it is undeserved and unearned. In a relationship one does not have to (should not have to) earn love in order to receive it- it is freely given because one loves the one they are affectionate towards.

Likewise, there is no amount of money you could pay me to try to completely reject Christ. As believers, we could take or leave all the money in the world. Our treasure is in heaven, Christ is our satisfaction. Awesomely odd, isn’t it?

Here are just a few rewards that are certainly not going to appeal to the unbeliever, but are the longing of a true Christian:
1. The honor and privilege to worship a good and loving God.
2. The joy of casting our crowns (gifts) at His feet.
3. To see God more clearly without the entanglement of sin.
4. The longing for ultimate pleasure and satisfaction.
5. Knowing God and living in perfection.
6. The enlightenment and clarity of Godly thought and it’s outcome.
7. Longing for perpetual self-denial, and sacrificial self-effacing conduct.
8. Becoming what we were designed to be (finally living like we were meant to); servants and friends of God and co-heirs with Christ.
9. Looking forward not to what we earned, but what God wants to give us.
10. Final and eternal freedom from our rebellion of proper relation to God.

Our wanting physical gifts and having the lust of our eyes met rather than the deep needs of our heart and soul is a carnal desire. Spiritual gifts, such as humility, meekness, and selflessness do not meet the needs of the selfish part of person. “Reward,” according to the worldly definition “adds” something to a person, such as, wealth, more identification, more fame, status or class. In contrast, a reward, from a heavenly perspective, is freedom from wanting those things. A heavenly perspective cultivates the desire to “become less,” in order that God can increase and be seen as He is; the all satisfying treasure of our souls.

If we become less aware of what we have and more aware of what we give (worship to God), why would we care if we have more? We would not. We would only want out of a desire to give back (to God), which is the opposite of having a reward for ourselves.

The bible is clear about how essential “knowing” Christ is. Paul says in Philippians 3: 8-10, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider then rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ…” Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…”
(to be continued…)

We’re saved by grace through faith, that’s it. But if we’re saved we’ll hate unrighteousness. We praise God for His super amazing grace, but killing sin is the fruit of our saving faith. It’s no excuse that we’re totally depraved, because we’re united to Christ who rose up from the grave. We’re not debtors to our flesh, but to Him who resurrected us. He redeemed us all on the cross, so to grow in holiness is our reasonable response.” -Timothy Brindle, in his song “Let’s Kill Sin”

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” –Jesus

We’re all not so outward with our imperfections, but some are. How, then, can we who think the bad things that more animated people say and do, criticize and condemn them? Being reserved in nature is something that can turn out snobbishness. If reservation is our temperament we have to be all the more observant of our thoughts and honest within our quiet hypocrisy.

By the same token, though, we should not act out on everything we think in order to be honest to our thoughts, just for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy. There is much value in taming the tongue, exercising self-control over it and other things, trying to refrain from gossip, fighting the urge to do wrong, and cutting off (or fleeing from) the sin before it “has legs.” All of those valuable things help avoid further entanglement and further disobedience to our Lord.

Unfortunately, in the name of “authenticity” some do not try to tame their tongue (they say in order to be honest with themselves), or fight the urge to do wrong (in order to avoid hypocrisy), or refrain from and cut off gossip. If I were to be honest with my feelings I would run into the back of cars if they cut me off, take a baseball bat to this laptop, (visibly) flip out at Walmart, and tell the high-ups in the corporation I work for what I think of them. This concept of “authenticity” is bogus and it mocks God. If we “put legs” on our thoughts we would be arrested within hours of waking up. The same concept has been used by some who have pawned off their own sinfulness, saying “it is not I who does the sin, but sin living in me that does it,” therefore, they say, are not responsible for what they do. Both are shams. As Christians we have been called to a giant undertaking that requires much exertion, much effort, much energy, much hard work, much endurance, much suffering, and much application. The task is so large that God sent a helper to assist us.

Recently I had the sad privilege of observing some of my “brothers” exhibit a lack of outward restraint, and disregard for fighting against their inclination towards sin. (Some of this story is exaggerated) From what I could tell there was no hesitation or restraint from obvious waywardness. I was in a car being driven as the driver was gawking at a girl at the same time he was talking about sleeping with his girlfriend. As the passenger boasted about his sexual prowess he took a few chugs of a vodka and tonic to become further inebriated.

Meanwhile, I found a bible in the backseat of the car and said, “Whose is this?” The driver said it was his and he said he reads it often. One of the passengers said with compliance and enthusiasm, “everyone needs Jesus.” Interesting, I thought. I spent the next couple days in confusion about this situation, trying to sort out my feelings. I felt hypocritical; like I was self-righteous for criticizing their actions, when I, although not so outwardly sinful, also disobey God. Part of the absurdity of this situation was how pronounced, proud and unabashed these guys were with their blatant disrespect for God. If they had been boasting in Christ so fanatically it would have been remarkable, rather it was about fornication and intoxication.

I also felt pride and thankfulness because I was not like them, therefore I felt like I was more deserving of forgiveness and salvation than them. I found myself wanting my “spiritual workload,” spiritual disciplines, and Christian resume to come to my defense, as to remind God I was not as bad as them and puff myself up in my own mind. I was disillusioned by what it means to be a Christian, I felt legalistic, I felt anger towards my “brothers” for taking advantage of grace; and sorrow that they would grieve the Spirit of God and not consider His commands. Which feelings were right?

Sidenote: I do think it demonstrates our pride and idiocy how our observation of what we perceive as “nominal” or “carnal” Christians leads us to believe that we are more deserving of forgiveness, salvation and grace. Compared to Jesus, we are all ”carnal.” And even to the great Christ followers we may look as unresponsive to Christ as those we criticize. As Hooker puts it, “The best things which we do have somewhat in them to be pardoned.” Aside from grace, which is the only means to forgiveness, we would all remain guilty. It has been said, “no matter how deep the water, without Christ, we are all drowning.” That is true.

Sidenote done. I found it ironic, at least my mind made it to be, that the sermon that very Sunday was on Matthew chapter 20. It is a parable Jesus tells about workers in a vineyard. One group of workers worked 12 hours and another group worked only 1 hour. Despite one group laboring all day and the other only for one hour, both groups received the same amount of wages; a denarius. Each group was paid according to what the landowner wanted to give them. In this case, the wages handed out did not seem congruent with what was earned by either group. The wages were not dependent on the work done, but rather the choice of what the landowner wanted to pay them. What a counter-cultural idea that offends common sense- the opposite of how the world’s system operates. One group of workers displayed commitment, perseverance and hard work and the other group none of those. Therefore, one would think, they should not receive the same amount.

That parable made me think about what happened in the car earlier in the week with those guys. Some of my disgust and anger came from this feeling that I was the 12-hour worker and they were the 1-hour workers. I.E., that I was more deserving of the wages I was due according to my labors for God and His principles. (It is clear their actions were contrary to God’s will- as it is His will that we obey and vigorously oppose our tendency not to.) The parallel between this real life situation and the parable was striking.

The point is, anyone who does not strive after Christ like we think we do is not less deserving of forgiveness, salvation and grace than we are. The crazy thing about grace, and we all need this engrained is that, it is never merited. Our self-denial, service, sacrifice, intentional effort of being set apart from worldly values, practicing charity, patience in trail, guarding our hearts, trying to be more like Jesus in all our little ways, fighting distractions in order to keep Christ the focus, being consciously aware of considering God’s will in everything we think and say, do, does not earn us justification, pardon or salvation. Our having justification is not dependent on “how many hours we work.” At the same time, however, the list of Christian attributes is fruit of the Spirit, byproducts of a relationship with God. Fruit of the Spirit is evidence of our faith, and proof of receiving and continuing in Christ’s love, and also, sanctification.

As the parable tells us, the landowner said to the 12-hour workers who grumbled after they got their 1 denarius, “Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my down money?” Jesus not only spoke this parable, but He lived it, when He welcomed the thief on the cross into paradise only moments before their deaths. That seemingly scandalous, unwarranted benevolence of something so “undeserved” upends our rationale. This demonstrates that no matter how much work we put in, what we receive depends on how the “landowner” wants to divvy out his denarius (wages).

This leads me to my point, which raises several questions. Why work 12 hours if the person who works 1 hour will get rewarded the same? Are they truly rewarded the same? What is a reward? What is our motivation to starve our sinful appetite and to fight against our corrupt self-centered tendencies?

What inspires us towards obedience? What stirs a desire towards practical holiness and closer relationship with God if, in the end, we are going to receive the same reward as the thief next to Jesus?

What about someone like Job who would be considered a “12-hour worker,” but was not rewarded accordingly? What about someone who hates God and appears blessed and rewarded?
(To be continued…)

I’ve been re-re-reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy lately.  It is easily a favorite of mine.  The point Willard makes very clearly is that the heart of the gospel is discipleship to Christ.  In Chapter 8, Willard focuses on the topic of practical discipleship.  I’ve pasted below some great quotations from the chapter, also with the intention of capturing the flow of his theme throughout:

Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church.  It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians.  These are only effects of the underlying problem.  The fundamental negative reality among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us.  And it is an accepted reality.  The division of professing Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over fifteen hundred years. (p. 301)

Disciple defined:

A disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.

He lives in the kingdom of God, and he applies that kingdom for the good of others and even makes it possible for them to enter it for themselves.

The disciple or apprentice of Jesus, as recognized by the New Testament, is one who has firmly decided to learn from him how to lead his or her life, whatever that may be, as Jesus himself would do it.  And, as best they know how, they are making plans – taking the necessary steps, progressively arranging and rearranging their affairs – to do this.  All of his will, in one way or another, happen within the special and unfailing community he has established on earth.  And the apprentices then are, of course, perfectly positioned to learn how to do everything Jesus taught.  That is the process envisioned in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. (p. 291)

Then how do we make disciples?  Willard says we must first be a disciple (see above quotations).  Then we must actually intend to do so.  How do we then do it once we are ourselves a disciple and have made the conscious decision to do so?

Lead people to become disciples of Jesus by ravishing them with a vision of life in the kingdom of the heavens in the fellowship of Jesus.  And you do this by proclaiming, manifesting, and teaching the kingdom to them in a manner learned from Jesus himself.  You thereby change the belief system that governs their lives.  (p. 305)

To enable people to become disciples we must change whatever it is in their actual belief system that bars confidence in Jesus as Master of the Universe.  (p. 307)

We must study our friends and associates to see what they really do believe and help them to be honest about it.  We understand that our beliefs are the rails upon which our life runs, and so we have to address their actual beliefs and their doubts, not spend our time discussing many fine things that have little or no relevance to their geniune state of mind. (p.309)

A few of us really care for the king
We’ve got to fight when you’re in sight
For other men staring’s no thing
“Well don’t look then”
Well sis, I wasn’t lookin’
But if I’ve gotta nose can I help smellin’ the cookin’
I know you can blame it on the weakness of men
But the weakness is made weaker when we see your skin”
by Ambassador in his song “Body Talk”

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing.” -Apostle Paul

A person should not expect longevity and durability from a relationship derived from a mere sensual, instinctive, animalistic, initial response.

It is obvious, but necessary to point out; a person is going to like a person who is attractive to them and looks are the first thing we recognize in a potential mate. The scenario that I am writing about it is when, a woman is dressed provocatively and/or seductively and several men stare because, by her presentation it is clear her intentions are to arouse and provoke imaginations or stares. This scenario is not based on those intrinsic character qualities, but mere appearance. This type of attention seeking and attention giving game can be seen walking down the street, in shopping malls, at games, in gyms, at concerts, at restaurants and anywhere. And, unfortunately, if unchecked by truth, playing this game is just our (flawed) nature.

The key is that the woman looks indecent, or is purposely dressed to seek notice by wearing revealing clothes. It is not the clothes themselves that are bad, it is the motives, the thoughts, of the woman as behind them. The outward provocative appearance is a result of inward thoughts or lack thereof.

If a woman dresses provocatively, it is contradictory for her to expect a man who will not take his first notice at only her physical features. (Again, it is natural and true that physical features are the first thing we all observe in a person. But, it is to the degree to which the instinctive (sin) nature is provoked intentionally by one person and indulged in (unchecked) by the other that is the difference between right and wrong (righteous and unrighteous).

This provocative woman, weather she likes it or not, is communicating that her body is more important than her character. She is essentially saying that she is insecure in who she is, so in order to find worth, security and identity she seeks those things out in (corrupt) interest from men, which will not truly give worth, security and identity. Perhaps, what a woman really wants (unconditional and sacrificial love) and what she is setting herself up for is incompatible. (Maybe it is being presumptuous that every woman longs for pure love.) If a provocative woman wants to be treated like a piece of meat, then she is doing a fine job of cultivating those types of relationships. The (natural) byproduct of her thoughts and actions are compatible with a quick, flash in the pan, relationship.

So, why is it a surprise when “love” does not last? Maybe it is because people expect to be loved when they are merely appealing to lust and selfishness in the other person in the first place. Lust and selfishness do not produce love, just like a weed does not produce an oak tree. The qualities that will produce love are respect, honor, selflessness, consideration to name few.

A man may see a provocative woman and say, “I want that.” He would never say, “I wonder how I could love her and honor her.” That considerate thought could not be further from the mind of a man led by his impulses and selfish physical drive. If this scenario was the first interaction between this man and this woman, from the very get-go the relationship, from the man’s perspective, is based on “what he can get.” This is clearly not a genuine interest in the woman or stemming from a desire to truly love her. Contrarily, it is coming from an adulterated wish stemming from self-centered motives. Wanting satisfaction for self at the expense of another with no commitment or consideration of them is the opposite of love.

“Love” is not frivolous affections, it is not infatuation. “Love” is not something that comes and goes with feelings; it is not truly “love” if it is passed from partner to partner. Love is not any of the things that mainstream media, most movies and films, or Hollywood actors/actresses, and subsequently our culture, define it as.

Love is not necessarily drawn out by any excellency (or deservedness) in its objects. Love lies in the nature and character of the lover, i.e. their affections, attachment, commitment and ability to exercise deliberate choice over momentary feelings. Love can not be earned or bought. Love is not automated or programmed- it is a choice, a decision. Love is freely given. Love expresses itself by actions. Love demonstrates itself. Love is about the lover’s unreserved graciousness on the beloved. Love seeks the welfare of the beloved before it’s own. Love never fails. Love is compelling and enticing. Love is the truth. Love is gentle and sincere. Love endures. Love requires hard work. Love forgives. Love drives out fear. God is love.

She’s just the flavor the week” by American Hi-Fi in their song “Flavor of the week.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting…” Proverbs 31:30

“Nobody is seeking a hottie that’s highly indecent
Except when they wanna use the hottie for obvious reasons
Please know you’re body be speakin’”
“Relationships we see are quick- a flash in the pan” by Ambassador in his song “Body Talk”

How we dress communicates without words. Our body does “talk”, meaning, what we wear says a lot about us. To be clear, I am talking specifically about woman here and how they dress, for two reasons. 1. Men aren’t  “striking” or “provocative,” in the same way women can be (as far as I can see), therefore, nothing they wear can make them so. 2. Women are not as visual as men, therefore, what men see with there eyes effects them more than what woman see with theirs.

Another important thing to clarify, since definitions can be subjective, it’s important to point out, I am differentiating between the definitions of attractive and provocative. Attractive, as I am using it, refers to intrinsic qualities. I am defining attraction as interest derived from the revealing of decent and respectable character, i.e. those that can’t be seen at first glance. Attractiveness does not necessarily appeal to or arouse that “quick trigger” that guys have towards lust and wantonness. On the other hand, provocative does.

Provocative has a sensual (strictly physical) connotation, appealing to the senses. I am referring to “provocative” as the desire that arises from a single glance- not intrinsic qualities or respectable character strengths. Provocative, according to Webster is “provoking or tending to provoke, as to action, thought or feeling.” The actions, thoughts or feelings usually arise from a place not of cognitive judgment, but one resulting from corrupt motives, namely self-centeredness and the part of self that seeks carefree, (non-committal) pleasure.

Because the flame is sparked by something so transitory and momentary, naturally, the flame (or “love” as our culture call is) will be quickly extinguished. Just as the senses and emotions are quick, undiscerning and instinctually, so is the flame that is sparked. This should come as no surprise that a relationship initially based solely on the physical will end in heartbreak; the feeling of being used and abused and then discarded. If anything more than a quick exchange is expected then the person had unrealistic expectations. Point being, if a person wants a relationship that has sustaining, not transitory, properties they will base it on intrinsic qualities and respectable, noble characteristics; such as trust, love, forgiveness, and selflessness. In order to do that it has to start on a very basic level: how a person dresses, how their body talks and what they are communicating about themselves with their clothes.

I don’t think people think, “I can’t wait to entrust myself to someone for a short period of time, be a piece of meat to them, and then be thrown to the curb.” However, that is what women imply by their attempts to appeal to men’s senses, and it should come as no surprise that they get treated accordingly.

Christians would say that the “flesh,” the part of us that has impure desires, is summoned and/or tempted when a provocative woman is in sight. Therefore, this comes as no surprise to the Christian who has a good foundation in the understanding of nature of sin. Christians are instructed to flee from this desire (because it is contrary to God’s will) and cut it off, not pursue it, think about it, imagine it, or act on it.

Perhaps this self-seeking attitude, which produces non-committal, “carefree,” relationships has undermined and slandered the word love. Maybe this is has caused detriment to the family structure, and specifically led to divorce and out of wedlock children. All research, secular and non-secular, shows divorce and single parent families to have devastating effects on a given family and society as a whole.

These facts are “natural theology.” Natural theology is the use of reality (how things actually are) as a testimony to intended functionality as taught in the bible. For example, the bible teaches it is bad to kill someone, and reality corresponds to and agrees with, that teaching. Natural theology tries to look at the congruencies and incongruencies in any theory to arrive at a conclusion about the (designer’s) intent for a given object or system. For example, as demonstrated by the devastation caused by broken families, as confirmed by research, it can be concluded that divorce is not the designer’s intent for such a system. Similarly, the heartbreak that comes from relationships based on transitory, instinctive feelings affirms that such relationships are incongruent with the intended function of a (biblically based) relationship. It is no surprise that the bible tells us to flee from such instances and avoid all-together such relationships. Natural theology naturally points out misuse, abuse, extortion and distortion of systems by pointing out the good and bad effects of it.

Reality is a commentary to what the bible teaches- and the bible is a flawless commentary on life.

The principles taught in the bible communicate the best way to live (for God’s glory and our good) and give flawless direction to imperfect people. It is not the systems and institutions that are corrupt and imperfect- it is the people that make them up.