Category Archives: Pride

Medicine for the Discontent

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:11-13

Discontentment is a seed of destruction that is easily stirred in the heart, even of those who have experienced overwhelming mercy and deliverance. Take, for instance, the people of Israel who were brought out of slavery from Egypt. The Lord provided for all of their needs, but grumbling and complaining were never far from their lips. The manna wasn’t good enough and water bursting forth from the rock was not sufficient to keep their gaze on the God who had been merciful to them. They focused so intensely on what they did not have that they seem to have forgotten the work done among them. Not only did they long for what they did not have, they also began to view their former slavery through rose colored glasses. “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger (Ex 16:2-3).”

What’s at the root of Discontentment?

1. Ungratefulness and Entitlement 

The first and primary root of discontentment is our attitude towards God. It is rooted both in our ungratefulness for what God has graciously done, and in an attitude of entitlement regarding what we think God should be doing. In actuality, it is an anti-Christian, anti-grace state of mind, where we deceive ourselves into believing that we’ve earned what we have, yet deserve more.

2. Selfishness

I have found that when I am discontent, it is not only my attitude towards God that is perverted, but also my attitude towards others in need. Discontentment reveals our self-exalting, self-gratifying tendencies. Think about it, when you are worried or anxious about what you do not have, are you the least bit concerned with the needs of your neighbor? It appears to be impossible to display Christian love to others while also exalting the self. Paul says, “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… (Phil 2:4-5)” Discontentment is opposed to humility and counting others more significant than yourself.

Medicine for the Discontent

So, how are we to make war against our discontentment? The medicine for the discontent is rejoicing. I do not mean to simply cheer up, but a process of renewing the mind. Again, Paul helps us here in Philippians when he writes, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (4:8-9).” We rejoice and are made content by God’s grace when we think upon Christ, his person, work, and his transforming us in Spirit.

In other words, discontentment is not going to simply go away. I am not an advocate of sitting by and hoping you stop struggling with certain sins. I am a firm believer that putting to death the deeds of the flesh requires intense effort that is Spirit-filled and grace driven. I am encouraged by the words of Paul that are mentioned at the beginning of this post where he writes, “for I have learned in whatever situation to be content.” Contentment is not natural and must be learned. Yet, we are given greater hope still. We are not left to our own devices, for they only stir up more discontentment. We can do all things through him who strengthens usPaul finds his contentment in the strength that Christ gives, not in his own ability and singing “hakuna matata.”

Therefore, Christian, when thoughts of discontentment arise in your heart and mind, turn your gaze to your Redeemer who bought you with his life and who is now at work in you. This requires effort, but effort that is rooted in Spirit that works in you. Rejoice, because he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion and he will supply all of your needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

Foolishness

When is the last time you sat down and actually thought deeply about the Gospel? Unfortunately, many believers see the Gospel as elementary teaching, which only goes to show they don’t understand it. The Gospel is beautiful to those who believe, but it is absolutely foolish to most of the world.

Have you ever had someone who does not believe repeat the Gospel back to you? Them: So you’re telling me that God, who is one, but not just one, He is also three, Father, Son, and Spirit—created the world but man has messed it up? Us: Yep. Them: And so the Father, who is God, sends the Son, who is also God and He puts on flesh like you and me while remaining fully God? And a virgin gives birth to this God-man? Us: Yep. Them: Okay. Let me get this last part. He lives a perfect life, but ticks off the religious people, so they kill him? And then on the third day he came back to life in his flesh and bone body and then floated up to heaven? Us: Exactly. Them: And then one day he is coming back so he can raise everyone from the dead in a real flesh and bone body in order to judge them and for those who believe, they will live forever with him on the perfected earth, to which heaven will descend on, but those who reject will be separated for eternity? Us: Yea. Want to join in?

This sounds loony—we are a weird bunch.

In Acts 18:1-11, Paul is building tents and witnessing to the people of Corinth. Luke describes Paul as diligently proclaiming the Gospel in the synagogue, pleading and reasoning with them in regards to Jesus as the Christ. Unfortunately, these men revile and oppose him, meaning they were literally making fun of Paul and calling him names because of what he was teaching. It gets to the point where Paul basically says, “Fine, if that’s the way you want it. I am guitless!” I get the picture of Showtime at the Apollo where the crowd begins to boo, mock, and laugh at the person performing. Take a look:

 

Like that, but more intense, violent, and not because Paul was a bad singer. Why the heavy name calling and opposition? 1 Corinthians 1 helps piece this together where Paul describes the cross as a stumbling block for the Jew and foolishness to the Gentiles. Seeing the Gospel in this light, I can understand why many pastors want to soften the blow by making God more cuddly, the Gospel less foolish, and people not so wicked. The problem is whenever that becomes your message, it becomes an entirely different message than the Gospel that Paul and the rest of the apostles are teaching! When you redefine God and the Gospel, you have a different god and a different gospel, neither of which actually exist. As Christians, we should be careful whenever we begin to redefine terms because it can quickly shift from a “different perspective” to all together NOT Christian. Thus, Paul is saying that when the Gospel is conformed to the “eloquent” wisdom of man it robs God of His honor and strips the cross of its power.

To those of us who are Christians, here is the peace and comfort. It is not up to us to save. In Acts 18:9-10, Jesus comes to Paul by night and tells him to press on. He says, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” At this point Paul has seen two converts in Corinth, yet Jesus says, “There’s many more. Go find them!”

Believing in the true Gospel makes it impossible for you to be proud. When I become proud, I forget the Gospel.The moment that I start adding or taking away from the message, I begin to rest in a modified, powerless, soul-damning pile of fluff that is no gospel at all. The person and work of Jesus Christ, the wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, is the sole reason we boast—not in our eloquent, noninvasive, powerless gospel, but in the true Gospel that saves us to the Father, through Christ, and by the indwelling Spirit.

 

The Danger in Wanting to be Known

I like being told I did a good job. One of my favorite things to do is to teach God’s word. I enjoy teaching and I would be lying if there is not some small part of me that is bummed out when no one says, “Good job” when I am done. I hate this about myself. I hate that I like the attention. I hate that my flesh wants to use the Gospel of Christ for my own personal gain. I can honestly say that I feel God has led me into these opportunities and ultimately I want to see people’s lives changed. However, my pride is always near to me.

I read an article from Christianity Today called Pastoral Narcissism and it was convicting and edifying. In it the author used the following quote from T.S. Elliot:

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm– but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

Were it not for grace…Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:1-4. I read this verse and I don’t see my name—that’s good with me.

Confession

Over the course of the summer the subject of confession has come up often. I have some buddies that I meet with and we know when we come together that we are going to ask each other tough questions so we can grow in godliness together.

I was at middle school camp a couple of weeks ago with three other adults and forty-one middle schoolers. Yes, a forty-one to four ratio is not favorable for the adults and needless to say, at the end of the week I had to confess… a lot.

The speaker at camp hit on the subject of confession hard one particular night and it really sunk in with many of our students and in our church group time, they starting confessing sin left and right. I shouldn’t have been surprised at what I heard. My belief in Total Depravity should have prepared me for anything, but it didn’t. The confessions ranged from hypocrisy and disobedience to parents, to self-loathing and cutting. All in all, it was a good time as a group. We were able to pray and encourage one another and I think the beginning of some real healing took place.

One particular thing the camp speaker said that really bothered me was he was stating how vertical confession (between us and God) is easy and involves no accountability. He stated that horizontal confession (between one another) is the difficult part because we are afraid for people to see us as we truly are, broken. I get what he was saying about vertical confession being easy because we have so privatized our faith that we can struggle with dark sin for years and no one will know because each time we say, “Sorry God, I’ll try harder next time.”

Again, what he said really bothered me, not because I thought he was wrong, but because I agreed with him completely.  So here is my question: Why is it so easy for us to confess our sin to God? Is it because we know He already knows? Is it because we take His grace and make it cheap? Do we take 1 John 1:9 (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) as a license to sin?

Ultimately, this is where I land. If this is our attitude in our confession of sin to God, then we have revealed that we have NO fear of the Lord in our lives. I would also submit that it is impossible to put off sin without a hatred for it and we cannot truly hate it unless we have a genuine fear of the Lord. In Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Solomon’s last written words as an old man who tested everything under the sun and found no pleasure in them were, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether god or evil.”

So fear the Lord. Guard your steps. Jonathan Edwards once described God as an archer whose bow and arrow is pointed steadily at your heart and the only thing that keeps him from releasing that arrow is His love and mercy. We are often so arrogantly certain that God will forgive us, and He will. However, keep this in mind, he has killed some of His people for a lot less. Just ask Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).

Disclaimer: In defense of Jeff Mangum (the camp speaker), his focus that night was not on fearing God, but on confessing sin to one another so that genuine community and healing would take place. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Jeff a little over the course of the summer and I do not think he would disagree with me on the issue of fear.

Feel your ears

I have noticed within my heart as of a late, an increased sense of accomplishment and pride concerning what I think I know. This is something that I am praying that God would help me mortify because it is deadly to my joy in Christ. When you become a part of an institution that teaches you insight into Scripture that you have never heard, it is easy to look down at others and think, “poor, pitiful you.. If you only knew what you were reading.” It sounds terrible to think this way about my brothers and sisters and I am fully aware of this fact. These thoughts are sporadic and fleeting but they are present nonetheless. That is why I could not help but laugh, continue to laugh, and laugh more when i received a facebook message from a close friend of mine who finds himself in the same situation I am. The message contained a quote from Martin Luther, the great German Reformer, which will humble me and continually remind me that I have a long way to go.

“If you feel or imagine that you are right and suppose that your book, teaching, or writing is a great achievement…then, my dear man, feel your ears. If you are doing so properly, you will find that you have a splendid pair of big, long, shaggy asses’ ears…”