Tag Archives: Bible

The Spirit of the Age

“The world can no more fulfil a man than a triangle can fill a circle. We are to resist its temptations: the fact that ‘everybody is doing it’ can easily weaken the Christian’s resolve to take a stand on many issues, but temptation in any form must be resisted at every turn. We are to repel its pressures: in a permissive society there are very real pressures to go along with the majority and to abandon the lonely pathway of submission to biblical absolutes, but they must be resolutely turned aside as siren voices.”

-John Blanchard, from Truth for Life, p. 111

Advertisements

What Shall I Do?

As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” – Mark 10:17 (WEB)

I’ve been journeying through the Gospel of Mark this year, spending about 3 weeks a chapter before moving on. I’m now in chapter 10, and have been camped out in the passage about the rich young ruler. Over the last few weeks, I’ve looked at the commentaries and listened to a bunch of sermons on this passage. I’m not quite sure why I’ve fixated on it the way I have but a few things come to mind.

There is perhaps no greater question that a human being can ask than the one that this young man asks of Jesus here. He was obviously someone who took great care in many things of his life and you can probably imagine him having a quite orderly way about him. He knew the Scriptures, being quick to answer Jesus that regarding the commandments, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth” (10:20). Unlike some of the comments and sermons I’ve seen and heard on this verse, I picture this young man being in earnest when he said this, rather than boastful or arrogant. Jesus Himself saw something different in this young man, as we are told in the next verse, “Jesus looking at him loved him”. I can picture a faint smile on Jesus’ face when hearing this reply. But Jesus saw in him what He sees in so many of us. There is often something (and often more than one thing) that is so part of our identity that we can’t see ourselves living without it. In this man’s case, it was his wealth for sure, and quite possibly also his ruling status. It’s speculated that at that time he was a ruler in the synagogue. One of the first things we are asked when we meet someone new is “What do you do?” This answer appeared to have meant everything to this man. And he simply wasn’t ready yet to let it go.

In his Confessions, Augustine famously said in prayer to God, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” I think in the back of his mind, this young man was thinking along these lines. He cared enough about his soul that he sought Jesus out to ask him, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” But Jesus, sensing that this was another who was “not far from the kingdom of God”, saw the last stranglehold on the man’s life would be his toughest to let go, “…and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions” (10:22).

The Bible is silent on what ultimately happened to this man. I see glimpses of hope that this man came to the end of himself eventually and placed his trust in Christ later on. We can’t know for sure of course. But regardless, this story is one that is worth our deep reflection. In Luke 5, we read the accounts of Peter, James, John, and Levi, as they encounter Jesus in the flesh as this man did. Their response, however, was different – “… they left everything, and followed him” (v. 11 & 28).

God knows there are things in my life that are so ingrained that it will take nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit to purge them for good. At times, they feel like a death grip. I’ve asked, as the rich young ruler did, “what shall I do?” and yet, like him, have not always liked the answer that God has given me. But Jesus does not settle for rearranging the furniture of our lives. He levels the structure and builds in His own way. This is unsettling. However, for those of us who, by His grace, have been called to Him, can be confident that He also looks at us and loves us. He is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The Long and Winding Road

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

-Matthew 1:17 (NASB)

I’m beginning another trek through Matthew and stopped for a bit today to think about the long list of names that begin his Gospel. Patriarchs, kings, ordinary folks, and some notable women run through this genealogy. Lists of names, which are found so often in the Old Testament but much less so in the New, don’t on the surface seem to make for great reading. But I look at these names with a bit of wonder; fallen men and women, some with great but flawed makeups (Abraham, David, Solomon), others with lives that resembled the thief on the cross (Manasseh). In The Gospel of the Kingdom, C.H. Spurgeon remarked, “We will not pry into the mystery of the incarnation, but we must wonder at the condescending grace which appointed our Lord such a pedigree.” All of these share in the long line of God’s faithfulness – a promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 that in him, “all the families of the earth will be blessed”; to David in 2 Samuel 7 that “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” Promises separated by hundreds of years …and I find it greatly humbling that now thousands of years later, this long and winding road now puts we who belong to God in this same story.

It’s difficult not to feel a mix of emotions when thinking about each of the names in Matthew 1:1-17 – frustration, anger, sadness, pity. It’s also easy to look at my own life and feel the exact same things. But this genealogy that Matthew preserves for us reminds us that all of us – sinful, wretched, and fallen as we all are, all who come to Christ -by grace through faith- can be assured that He will in no way cast them out (John 6:37). All of us can then rightly take our place in this grand story and be assured He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Image via Sten [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Book Review: “Asking the Right Questions”

I’m on vacation this week and trying to catch up on reading. It took me just two days to finish Matthew Harmon’s new book, Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. I found Harmon’s book a helpful guide​ to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Harmon begins with a flyover guide to the Bible based on six pieces – creation, crisis, covenants, Christ, church, and consummation. He then spends the majority of the book on developing the right questions to ask in our Bible reading. I found his discussion of the “fallen condition” vs. the “gospel solution” especially good. He provides an outline at the end of the book that summarizes his main discussion on understanding and applying the Bible, which would be good to print out and keep in your Bible.

Overall, this is a good resource for getting a grasp of the Bible’s big picture and tools for understanding and application. You can watch Harmon discuss his book below:

 

John 17:17

bench-1868070_640“But permit me to ask you in love, if it is indeed the Word of God, why have you not paid that attention to it which it deserves? The same reasons which would deter you from willfully throwing it into the fire, should induce you to study it carefully, to make it the foundation of your hope, and the rule of your life; for, if it is indeed the Word of God, it is the rule by which your characters will be decided, and your everlasting state fixed, according to the tenor of the gospel, which proclaims salvation to all who have repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to those alone.”

-John Newton, March 30, 1800

Beware of Sinking Sand

You sometimes reflect upon the state of your soul, and enquire, is Christ mine? May I depend upon it, that my condition is safe? Your heart returns you an answer of peace, it speaks as you would have it. But remember, friend, and mark this line, your final sentence is not yet come from the mouth of your Judge; and what if, after all your self-flattering hopes and groundless confidence, a sentence should come from him quite cross to that of your own heart? Where are you then? What a confounded person will you be? Christless, speechless, and hopeless, all at once!”

– John Flavel, from The Fountain of Life

Affections and Knowledge

“The grace of God influences both the understanding and the affections. Warm affections, without knowledge, can rise no higher than superstition; and that knowledge which does not influence the heart and affections, will only make a hypocrite.”

— from The Works of John Newton, Vol. 1, p. 136.