distractions and self-control

The point is that we all do exactly what we want to do. We eat what we want to eat, watch what we want to watch, listen to what we want to hear, read what we want to read and so on. That is why I wrote The Lie articles and why John Piper pushes the idea of Christian Hedonism. We have to reorder our desires from the lesser to the greater with God’s grace and power and thus become transformed. II Peter 1:3 and II Cor. 3:18

This article about the temptations of being distracted by Facebook instead of reading the Bible or doing necessary schoolwork is a great example of the need for a conscious decision to put the best first ahead of everything else.

Later on that evening, I thought more about my internal battle between Facebook and my Bible. I understand that one of my desires as a Christian should be to know God more deeply; the reality is that I spend very little time actually getting to know Him. Too often, my hours are spent pursuing other human beings through convenient electronic means like Facebook. My life can quickly become all about striving to know my buddies better than my Lord.

Honestly, I don’t think I understand the gravity of my distain [sic] of daily time with God. It’s not an issue of salvation, of course, but I do think that it’s essential to my spiritual health and growth. The thing is, I can spend hours upon hours on the internet browsing Facebook or messing with my electronic devices; I find it absolutely disgusting when this takes the place of God.

What is my true priority in life? I need a serious wake-up call.
Scripture is not only profitable for me, but it’s absolutely essential in order to be competent and to live my life well. Within those sacred pages I find everything that God has deemed necessary to tell me. There is so much depth and wisdom within those pages. Yet I somehow buy into the lie that the Bible is just boring and not worth my time. How would my life look if I poured myself into the pages of my Bible instead of pouring myself into the pages of Facebook? Radically different, I think.

Go read the rest of it.

Hat tip to Challies.


Bible translations and study

as I said before, I am kind of a nut about Bibles. The bottom line is that I think everyone should get one that they will read and then read it for all its worth.

Having said that, at Bible study yesterday morning the importance of using a literal translation in your study became apparent. (in my next post above, I will explain why I use the ESV as my primary translation) We were looking at Colossians 1:24 as a case study for how to approach a difficult verse.

Here it is in a literal translation, the ESV:

“24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,”

Paul is telling the Colossian church that Christ’s afflictions lacked something and he is filling up that lack with his own suffering. Wow. That is a presumptuous thing to say. It sounds arrogant and borderline blasphemous. Time to wrestle with the text and figure out what he is saying.

Now look at the same verse in a paraphrase, the NLT:

“24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.”

Do you see the difference? In the NLT, the interpreters have already done the wrestling with the text for you. They decided that what Paul meant was that he was participating in Christ’s continuing sufferings through His body the church. Then that is how they wrote the verse.

I think it is a very important part of Bible study for each individual christian to see the text in as close to the original languages as possible. The Berean Jews examined the scripture for themselves to see if what Paul said was true. They couldn’t do that if somebody else had already interpreted away portions of the text and put into the text what they thought it meant.

If this verse is studied as it is rather than how it is interpreted to be, then a student might go to Philippians 2:27-30 and find a similar locution by Paul. They might see that what Paul believes was lacking in the service by the Philippian church and in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice is delivery of the message. Then the student could see the beautiful thing that Paul is saying. That he is willing to put his own body on the line in much physical suffering in order to make sure that the colossian church and other churches like them all over Asia minor and Greece get to hear about Christ’s sufferings. The student might then reflect on the verse in Romans 10 where Paul, quoting Isaiah, called the feet of gospel messengers, “beautiful” and think about what those feet actually looked like after walking hundreds of miles to share the gospel. Dirty, blistered, gnarled, calloused, feet with bone spurs are beautiful because they are part of the suffering that completes Christ’s incomparable affllictions on the cross.

As part of the priesthood of the believers one of the spiritual sacrifices that we offer is sincere, disciplined, serious, regular study of the book that God breathed out for us.

In order to perform this task most effectively, we must study the text that we have that is as close to the one God breathed out as possible. I love the Bible.

The Bible you will actually read is the best one for you. Too many christ followers never pick up a Bible at all except to take it to church for an hour on Sunday morning (or Saturday night or whenever their group assembles in a big box with the chairs all facing same way). So first and foremost, get one that you can read and one that you will read.

But in order to do what Paul told Timothy to do, to engage in a disciplined effort to study scripture and get to know God better, you need to find and study a literal translation rather than a paraphrase where somebody else has already made decisions about the meaning of a difficult verse.

Resurgence Blog

Resurgence has redesigned their website with a new joint blog. Added to the blogroll over to the right.

Here is a recent post from Mark Driscoll about the importance of studying in a christian’s life. Good stuff and here is the conclusion:

Because Jesus humbly entered into history as a human being, He had to grow and learn just like we do (Luke 2:52). Subsequently, when we see Jesus frequently quoting Scripture from memory throughout His life, we must infer that He spent considerable amounts of time hearing Scripture, reading Scripture, studying Scripture, and memorizing Scripture.

personal revelation?

the Thirsty Theologian is hard core when it comes to personal revelations from God. Quoting Sinclair Ferguson who gives three reasons why people these days prefer personal revelation to reading the general revelation contained in the Bible. Here is Mr. Ferguson’s third reason:

3. Direct revelation makes it unnecessary to engage in painstaking Bible study and careful consideration of Christian doctrine in order to know the will of God. By comparison with immediate revelation, Bible study seems—to be frank—boring. Although rarely said, underlying all of this is a sinister thought: the Bible is not very clear. By contrast, it is assumed that direct revelation cannot possibly be misunderstood.

—Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), 107.

then get a load of the Thirsty Theologian’s follow on comment:

I believe most Christians are just too lazy to do the hard work of Bible study. The less apathetic among them fall back on the entirely sentimental reasons one and two.

All this is very sad, because those people are going to learn absolutely nothing from God, because God is not going to speak to them. Yes, my subjectively-guided friend, you read that right. If you claim that God has spoken to you, I don’t believe you. I don’t think you are lying (unless you say it on TBN; then I’m quite convinced you’re making it up); I just think you are deluded, mistaking the voices in your head for the Holy Spirit.

ouch. I think TT is correct on this one. I just don’t know if it is laziness or conditioning. I think that some people don’t want to expend the mental effort of concentration to study to show themselves approved workmen. I also think that some people have been conditioned somehow into having the mistaken belief that studying the Bible requires special training.

It doesn’t. Just read it. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. Believe Him. Pick up a Bible, any Bible and get with it.

Hat tip to the Ramblin’ Pastor Man

Deacon stuff

I added the narrative explanation of deacon qualifications and role below the outline on the Deacon Outline page. Yes, that’s right, even more words.

what is our hope?

I Peter 1:13 says that we need to prepare our minds for action (the KJV word picture is to “gird up the loins of your mind” I love that!) be sober minded and set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to focus our attention and avoid the distractions of this world in favor of such hope, we need to know what it is. What is our hope? To whom was Peter talking? According to verse 1, he was talking to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered throughout Asia Minor.

Peter more fully describes the hope he is talking about in verses 3-9:

3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4. to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5. who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7. so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8. 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, 9. obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

and he juxtaposes the hope they have in what is to come against the various trials that are grieving them here on the earth. In other words, the hope upon which they are called to fully set their minds had nothing to do with making their present earthly circumstances better. All of their trials were designed by God to test the genuineness of their faith so that it would result in praise, honor and glory to God at the end.

The hope was and is salvation by Jesus in Heaven where the tested genuineness of their faith would redound to the the glory of God. That is why He saved us in the first place. To the praise of His glorious grace. That is why we are called to share the gospel with others, to increase and magnify the praise of His glorious grace.

Now then, think about the prosperity gospel preachers. What is the hope to which they are calling people? More money, better relationships, better and more satisfying work and career…etc. How biblical is that hope? Whose desires are the object of that kind of hope? Who is at the center of that worldview?

Sean Lucas had a post about Joel Osteen recently that nailed the difference between the true hope of the Bible to which we are called to focus our minds and the false hope of the prosperity gospel. Spend a little time and go read the whole thing. It is great. Here are a couple of pieces of it to get you started:

I think the driving reason that Osteen is hugely popular is that he sells hope. Books like Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You provide a message of hope that my life does not have to be the way it is right now; that God is powerful and able to change my life; that God is profoundly interested in my life and is near to me. And while that message of hope is packaged in the code language of the prosperity Gospel and positive psychology (like the phenomenally successful book by Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier), at the end of the day, people leave Lakewood feeling as though there is a greater meaning and purpose for their lives.

The biblical priority is that God in the Gospel rescues, delivers, frees and sustains us to make much of God. He is the great good in the Good News–and it truly is amazing: that God would save his wayward children for the fame of his name; would shape worshippers who will find their deepest satisfaction in making much of God; and would gather together a worldwide body of worshippers who hallow his name

Did Jesus Claim to be Messiah (the Christ)?

Some of you have seen John Hagee’s video advertising one of his books. In it he makes the startling claim that the Jews can’t be responsible for rejecting Jesus as Messiah, because He never claimed to be Messiah. This video is just amazing because surely John Hagee should know better, but he is blind. See Isaiah 42, especially verses 18-25

I bring this up today because John MacArthur has posted an outstanding roundup of virtually all of Jesus’ claims to be God. It is an astonishingly long list for a pastor like Hagee to have missed.

here is MacArthur’s conclusion:

“All of the above lines of evidence converge on one inescapable point: Jesus Christ claimed absolute equality with God. Thus He could say, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me” (John 12:45); and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9–10). And thus we can conclude that “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), and we can worship Him accordingly as “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).”

The Hagee video has bothered me for a while. I think it shows a susceptibility to which all of us are prone. All of us have the potential to read the Bible to see what we want to see rather than what is there.

Reading the Bible fully to take the text as it is rather than trying to find pieces to fit into a preexisting theological framework is very difficult. It requires the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit and it requires that we approach the word with humility

Obviously, it is very important to read the bible and spend time getting to know God through His word to us that He breathed out for us to have. It is just as important to spend that time wisely by approaching the Bible as it is rather than as we wish it to be.