Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chapter 9: The Discipline of Commitment

A few things we discussed from Chapter 9: The Discipline of Commitment

Avoiding Cruise Control:

‘As believers we need to be careful that we do not make a similar mistake. We can be committed to a set of Christian values or to a lifestyle of discipleship without being committed to God Himself. But Paul said, offer yourselves to God, and in doing that commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please Him.’ Page 149

We thought this was quite a challenge. It is easy to slip into ‘Cruise control’, as mentioned in chapter 7. Its easy to hold to a set of Christian values, or uphold a certain level of ‘Christian lifestyle’, or conform to the Christian culture around us or in our church, without truly being committed to God himself and pleasing Him. What level of holiness does God require? What is our motive for seeking holiness? Are we offering ourselves as living sacrifices as Romans 12:1 calls for ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.’ We should not let the peer pressure of our particular Christian culture hold us back from pursuing holiness and committing ourselves to God, Even if it means challenging the status quo.

Put on Christian Virtues:
‘If we want to be like Christ in his character we must commit ourselves to putting on His virtues’. Page 154 We often work and pray for Gods help in putting off our sins, but do we pray for him to help us put on the fruits of the spirit? Maybe we are unbalanced in concentrating on the ‘do not’s’ whilst neglecting the ‘dos’. ‘And just as we need to make a commitment to deal with all sin in our lives without exception, so we need to make a commitment to be just as diligent in putting on the fruit of the spirit.’ Page 154

This attitude should effect our whole lives. ‘The truth is, though, God knows I am a Christian and He knows I work for a Christian organization. If I would be ashamed to have a tourist identify my impatient driving with a Christian, how much more should I be ashamed before God. After all, He is the one I have committed myself to, to seek to please in all my thoughts and words and actions. So our commitment to pursue holiness must embrace every area of life and must include both the significant and the seemingly insignificant things we do.’ Page 155 As Jerry said ‘This principle applies to the way a student approaches his or her studies, to the way we do our shopping and buying, to the way we compete in games and athletics to the way we decorate our houses and keep our lawns, and even to the way we drive.’ Page 155 We should intend to live every area of our lives in such a way that it glorifies God.

What Model do we present?:
This also leads us to think about our lives at home, and how we live before our children. What model do we present to our children in the way we live our lives? Are we living before our children with integrity in a way that pleases God? Do we walk humbly before our children, so that whilst they see that we sin, they see that it is not our intention to sin. We should try to help our children see that the standard we are reaching for and teaching them is not ‘our’ standard but it is Gods perfect standard.

The importance of the Gospel of grace:
‘So we see once again the relationship of grace and discipline. A loving response to God’s grace and mercy is the only motive acceptable to God for the commitment Paul called for. And it is the continual reminding ourselves of His grace and mercy that provides the only enduring motivation to sustain such a commitment and keep it from becoming oppressive. That is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.’ Page 162 A right understanding of the gospel is so important in our Christian lives. Believing that you chose Christ; that it was your work in choosing to accept the offer of salvation that saved you, does not produce the gratitude in our heart that we feel when we understand that salvation was all the work of God’s grace and mercy alone. If we believe we chose Him we feel that we had some part in our own salvation, and we are partly grateful to ourselves for accepting it, not just to God for offering it. Understanding Grace changes our motives, we are grateful because we understand that without Gods grace and mercy we could not be saved, we could not save ourselves. We try to please God because we love Him and are grateful that he showed us such amazing mercy and grace. We pursue holiness, not because we think it will make us closer to Him or keep us from ‘back sliding’ or even because it is the ‘right’ way for a ‘Christian’ to behave, but because we want to.

“So an all-out, unreserved, nothing-held-back commitment to the pursuit of holiness may be exhausting, but it will not be oppressive it is grounded in grace. But to be grounded in grace it must be continually referred back to the gospel.” Page 162

“God not only asks us to commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, but provides the grace to enable us to do it.” Page 162

‘Run, John, run. The law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.’ Page 94

Thursday, July 03, 2008

In our disussions this week, this book was recommended.

Publishers notes:

by Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs was a preacher to the great congregations of England in the 17th century. This classic book of his is concerned with promoting the often elusive jewel of peace and contentment in the heart of the believer. 228 pages, from Banner of Truth.

'We live our lives in a discontented world and it is all too easy for the Christian to share its spirit. This book remedies this spiritual disease in practical biblical ways. '

Chapter 8: Dependant Discipline

They say better late than never...
So here are a couple of points we discussed on Chapter 8: Dependant Discipline.

To Pray and Do
As I read through this chapter, again I felt some familiarity with my time in ‘Charismatic Christianity’. On reflection, maybe I was the ‘spiritual’ person Jerry spoke about on page 132. “Today, we would tend to divide into two camps. The more ‘spiritual’ people would call an all-night prayer meeting. To them, posting a guard would be depending on human effort instead of God.” I often prayed the prayer on page 134 “We often use the expression “Let the Lord live His life through me.” I am personally uncomfortable with this expression because it suggests a passivity on our part. He does not live His life through me. Rather as I depend on Him, He enables Me to live a life pleasing to Him.”

I had even heard people suggest in certain circumstances (especially healing) that it would be a lack of faith, or not trusting God if you did anything other than pray and wait. We sang songs and prayed prayers that pleaded with God to ‘Use me’, ‘Fill me’, ‘Send me’, ‘Make me’. We had ‘faith’ that God would do it. But though we never said it, I think we often thought (or hoped), that he would do it miraculously. That something amazing would happen and we could say ‘It was all God’. “It is the idea that we can do nothing but trust that is particularly troubling to me. I believe that the psalmist – and Nehemiah and Paul – would say, “Man’s part is to trust and work. God’s part is to enable the man or woman to do the work.” … God’s work does not make our effort unnecessary, but rather makes it effective. Paul did not say, “Christ show contentment through me.” Rather he said, “I have learned to be content through Him who give me strength.” Page 135

In the beauty of hindsight I see that God did answer our prayers but the answers usually came through people who were living out their faith, not just praying about it and waiting for God to act.

The results are the Lords
This chapter was a lovely reminder that we must trust and work. It also reminded us through the analogy of the Farmer List of 'must do’s' and 'can’t do’s' that even with all our hard work and obedience, all the results are the Lords. Like the farmers crop, only God can make us grow.
“There are six things farmers must do and only two things they cannot do. They can even to a degree circumvent the weather by irrigating in case of drought. But the one thing they absolutely cannot do is the most critical of all. Without the life that makes things grow, all their disciplines of farming are useless... They will put all their confidence in the performance of their duties, not in God, who makes things grow. As far as they are concerned, their success depends on themselves.
As in the cases of farming, God has ordained certain disciplines or practices that are necessary in order to grow in holiness. We must observe these or we will not grow, just as farmers will not produce a crop if they do not perform their duties. There is only one thing, however we cannot do. We cannot make ourselves grow.” Page 138

Do you take for granted the spiritual life that makes you grow? Is your confidence in God or your own observance of the necessary disciplines and practices or the christian life? We need to be disiplined and dependant.

"Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God's help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christs sake" Jonathan Edwards