Fruit of the Spirit 3: Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

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Ultimate peace: fearing nothing. I doubt very many of us could say there is nothing that we fear but the truth is, for those who know the Lord, we never have a genuine reason to be afraid. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That is the key: present your requests with thanksgiving, and trust God to take care of the situation. Once you hand it to Him, truly release it. He will carry your burden so that you don’t have to.

Like love and joy, peace is something others notice. In this world of constant change and turmoil, peace is a rare commodity but one that many would like to possess. You have the ability to do so.

I realize if you have walked in fear a long time, this may be difficult for you, but I encourage you to consciously work to get there. Start by thanking God that He is in control of a situation, even if you have no idea what in the world He’s doing. Thank Him for His love and His care. Ask Him to remove all fear and wariness from you and replace it with His peace. Do this as long as it takes until you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is listening and has only good in store for you. His definition of “good” may be different than yours but it will be good in the end.

peace1Be encouraged, dear Brothers and Sisters. This world is not our final Home. One day all the things that trouble us here will be gone forever. I am looking forward to that day but, for now, let’s do our best to walk in the Spirit so that we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Man of Sorrows

Spurgeon’s Sorrows Sorrows

A review by Stuart Brogden

Zack Eswine has written an easy-to-grasp overview of a condition many Christians and pastors spend too little time understanding. Some because they’ve bought into the lie that being healed by the stripes of Christ is a temporal healing, and we should have no sickness if our faith is strong enough. Some because they do not understand mental problems and do not trust psychiatrists. Eswine studied Charles Spurgeon, who suffered with depression and wrote about it, and he brings the Word of God and the words of men to bear to clear the air and give us hope. My hope is to bring to light a few of the good insights this book has to offer and help my fellow Christians better understand this issue so that we might be used to do good to our brothers and sisters who are suffering with depression.

So let’s sample this book, see how Spurgeon dealt with it, and how our Creator advises us.

Chapter 3

Conversion to Jesus isn’t heaven, but its foretaste. This side of heaven, grace secures us but doesn’t cure us.

“Though substantial healing can come, Charles reminds us that often it waits till heaven to complete its full work.

“We do not profess that the religion of Christ will so thoroughly change a man as to take away from him all his natural tendencies; it will give the despairing something that will alleviate that despondency, but as long as that is caused by a low state of body, or a diseased mind, we do not profess that the religion of Christ will totally remove it. No, rather, we do see every day that amongst the best of God’s servants, there are those who are always doubting, always looking to the dark side of every providence, who look at the threatening more than at the promise, who are ready to write bitter things against themselves …

“Therefore we sufferers of depression in Christ may grow terribly weak, even in faith, but we are not lost to God.

“It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that He is so.”

This is critical for us to grab hold of – our position as children of God, His redemption and righteousness is not based on or determined by how we feel. It is based on His work to earn His place as the Lamb of God, taking our sin upon Himself, and imputing His righteousness to us. These facts and the promises of God are what determine our standing before Him. Our emotions are given to us by God but we are prone to being dragged away from Truth by them.

Chapter 4

“Religion offers both a challenge and a help to those who suffer mental disorders. This challenge surfaces when preachers assume that depression is always and only a sin.”

The author goes on to identify the hope is, as studies which indicate people who are part of a religious community do better with mental health (citing Lauren Cahoon, “Will God Get You Out of Your Depression?” (ABC News, March 19, 2008))

Depression for the Christian is often based on the perception that God has abandoned him. This is a very tangible example of how our theology matters and how our faith must rest in Christ and not our perceptions of His love for us. No doubt, this is easy to say and terribly hard to find comfort in when one is captured by his emotions. Our author quotes saints of old often and here, he shows us they did not neglect Satan. The devil doesn’t cause depression but he certainly is eager to encourage it! At this point, the Christian must fight.

“We plead not ourselves, but the promises of Jesus; not our strengths but His; our weaknesses yes, but His mercies. Our way of fighting is to hide behind Jesus who fights for us. Our hope is not the absence of our regret, or misery or doubt or lament, but the presence of Jesus. “Doubting Castle may be very strong, but he who comes to fight with Giant Despair is stronger still!”” (a quote from Charles Spurgeon, “Christ Looseth From Infirmities,”)

He goes on to cite “three tough words” from Spurgeon. First, he defends those who suffer by pointing them to Christ. Secondly, he cautions them not to haunt themselves on purpose with the dreaded notion that somebody somewhere might be happy. Thirdly, Spurgeon would – when he thought it necessary, be direct with those who refused to fight their depression. His sermon, A Call to the Depressed, is cited as a prime example of this tactic. “Perhaps in this sermon, we see Charles the human being trying imperfectly to administer help to sorrows not easily diagnosed. In his earnest and fragile attempts to help, we see our own.”

Chapter 6

“Jane Kenyon’s remarkable poem, “Having it out with Melancholy,” poses two “God” problems associated with depression and our attempts at care. First, depression ruins our “manners toward God” because it teaches us “to exist without gratitude,” and tempts us to answer the purpose of our existence as “simply to wait for death,” since “the pleasures of earth are overrated.” Second, depression tempts our friends to offer the following advice: “You wouldn’t be so depressed if you really believed in God.””

This chapter provides the reader with biblical counsel for those who are depressed, who, our author points out, “lean on metaphors” to describe how they are feeling. Mental problems are hard to convey to those who have not experienced them, so abstract descriptions rarely suffice. The Bible communicates mental anguish via metaphor: Ps 88:3-7, 69:15, Job 13:25, Prov 18:14, et. al.

Three ways metaphors are sufficient to communicate to those in depression:

“(1) Metaphor leaves room. It does not propose to cover every angle, understand every possibility or to explain every detail. It does not require only one possible explanation. Language that proposes to do this with depression exposes its ignorance of the situation at hand.

“(2) Metaphor allows for nuance and difference. Since each person’s experience with depression differs, metaphor allows for diverse expression. Formulaic prose or platitudes immediately reveal their lack of realism regarding how depression damages someone.

“(3) Metaphor requires further thought and exploration. It is a word of invitation more than destination which, we observed earlier, is crucial for gathering up the debris of depression.”

The Bible communicates a creator God Who completely understands His creatures and the plights we face.

“A larger story about God exists that possesses within it a language of sorrows so that the gloomy, the anguished, the dark-pathed, and the inhabitants of deep night are given voice. Such a god-story is neither cruel nor trite. Such a story begins to reveal the sympathy of God.”

Divine sympathy is your teacher, dear caregiver; your ally and friend, dear sufferer. Let His sorrow’s language help you.

Chapter 7

Four ways we can make things worse:

“1. We judge others according to our circumstances rather than theirs. “There are a great many of you who appear to have a large stock of faith, but it is only because you are in very good health and your business is prospering. If you happened to get a disordered liver, or your business should fail, I should not be surprised if nine parts out of ten of your wonderful faith should evaporate.” Jesus teaches us about those who lay up heavy burdens on others but do not lift a finger to help (Matt. 23:4).

“2. We still think that trite sayings or a raised voice can heal deep wounds. A person “may have a great spiritual sorrow, and someone who does not at all understand his grief, may proffer to him a consolation which is far too slight.” Like a physician who offers a common ointment for a deep wound, we “say to a person in deep distress things which have really aggravated him and his malady too.” In this regard, Charles teaches us the Scriptures, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25:20).

“3. We try to control what should be rather than surrender to what is. We must not “judge harshly, as if things were as we would theoretically arrange them, but we must deal with things as they are, and it cannot be questioned that some of the best believers are at times sorely put to it,” even “to know whether they are believers at all.” The Scriptures teach us about Job’s friends who struggled at this very point.

“4. We resist humility regarding our own lack of experience. “There are some people who cannot comfort others, even though they try to do so, because they never had any troubles themselves. It is a difficult thing for a man who has had a life of uninterrupted prosperity to sympathize with another whose path has been exceedingly rough.” The Apostle Paul teaches us to comfort others out of the comfort that we ourselves have needed and received (2 Cor. 1:4).

“According to the Bible, when we encounter someone who weeps, we too are meant to weep (Rom. 12:15). When someone encounters adversity they are meant to reflect and meditate, and we with them (Eccles. 7:14). Without this together-sympathy our attempts to help others can lose the sound of reality. The loss of this sound of reality forges the larger reason for our harshness.”

Chapter 8

I wrap up with the author’s review of how our Savior relates to us. The common passage, Hebrews 4:14-16 (Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.) emphatically tells us that Jesus has suffered temptation and is able to sympathize with us – and He bids us come to Him! He is the cure what ails our souls and minds. This is not, as we are told, only in the here-after – the Lord is our comfort in this age. For in this age we are hated by the world, attacked by our flesh, and wearied by all the effects of sin that inhabit us and our environment. Jesus is our ever present helper and that’s where I want to end.

We Are Christians First, Americans Second

There is a video floating around in social media where a preacher by the name of Tatsuo Akamine was arrested for “disturbing the peace.” The officer eventually arrested him and took him away. I am writing, not to give an exhaustive thought on the whole situation, but to present a lost theology that I think applies here and in many other contexts within our American culture.

First, it is best to watch the video to get some background.

Also, if you want to tap into my brain as to what sparked me to write about this, please read Tony Miano’s article about what both the preacher and the officer did wrong. It is very enlightening, and it will further assist where I am coming from in this article. (Tony Miano is a  preacher with 20 years of law enforcement experience as well as several run-ins with the law in other countries)

Let’s kick start this with a thought from Charles Spurgeon from “Lectures to my Students.”

I am somewhat pleased when I occasionally hear of a brother’s being locked up by the police, for it does him good, and it does the people good also. It is a fine sight to see the minister of the gospel marched off by the servant of the law! It excites sympathy for him, and the next step is sympathy for his message. Many who felt no interest in him before are eager to hear him when he is ordered to leave off, and still more so when he is taken to the station. The vilest of mankind respect a man who gets into trouble in order to do them good, and if they see unfair opposition excited they grow quite zealous in the man’s defense.

Obviously, this portion of LTMS would be fitting if the preacher, Tatsuo, was yielding to arrest without giving any resistance. But it is a great point to ponder should we have to be persecuted for righteousness sake.

I had a brother in Christ who came and helped us during an outreach for Cheyenne Frontier Days 2014 here in Cheyenne, Wyoming that talked about all the times he was arrested and set free. That’s right! He has been arrested multiple times, held in confinement, but no charges were ever made against him! Why? This is what he says (not exact words).

“Our law system, unfortunately, is designed for you to plead ‘not guilty’ so that you can pay court fees, lawyer fees, and so on. Although I could easily challenge the law, I don’t. Why? When I go to court, and they hear about what I did, when they ask me if I would like to plead guilty or not, I always say, ‘Guilty your honor.’ That shocks the judge and officer every time. They are expecting me to say ‘not guilty’ and evoke amendments and rights, but I don’t have time for that. When they ask me ‘why’, if I am allowed to give an explanation, I just kindly tell them,’If preaching the gospel is a crime, then I am guilty as charged.’ This way, they can see that I am being unlawfully held. But if they charge me with something, it actually has to be illegal, or they have to find some way to dig up a law that says it’s illegal. They haven’t done it yet, and I continue preaching and handing out tracts and talking to people until one day it actually becomes illegal.”

This is a great point to consider. I have often felt this way when discussing the subject of preaching the gospel. Sure, we don’t have any right to be dishonoring to the Lord and belligerent. And we do have rights as Americans. But we are Christians first, Americans second. We are to yield to detainment even if it is unjust at times, and we know it.

In my career, I have been brought to the law before, but not for preaching the gospel. But I still applied the same biblical principles of peace, yielding to those in authority, and cordial, Christian behavior. It really helped people to see that I wasn’t the monster they wanted me to be. It made the process much smoother, and in the end, God delivered me without conviction. If He didn’t, I was still prepared to endure what I felt would be God’s will for me at the time. That’s right. I was ready to go to jail for something I didn’t do. It is a different feeling. It is a different way of thinking, knowing that I would have to prepare to praise God for going to jail. Military jail at that. But God is faithful and sovereign.

The reason I felt this way is because whether it is for the gospel or not, I feel like we forget that God’s people have endured different kinds of suffering in the Bible. Also, there are multiple Scriptures that teach us something about yielding to authority without resistance, even if we know we are in the right. I pray these Scriptures would help us to have a right attitude about how we are to approach authorities.

Ecclesiastes 10:4 “If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, Do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offenses.”

Titus 3:1-2 “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”

Romans 13:2 “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

1 Peter 2:23 “…who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…”

I know that each Scripture above has its individual contexts. I know that when it comes to the gospel, we are to obey God rather than men. I know that if the laws of the land are unjust, we are to take up the banner of Christ and speak up against it. However, don’t take what I am saying out of context. The Scriptures above indicate some kind of yielding and suffering under authority. If a ruler or authority comes against you, control your body and tongue, and yield to the authority that has been given to them. This doesn’t mean you always have to remain silent. It just means your attitude and motives need to be submissive to the authority that has been granted to them when the time comes for you to face arrest, detainment, or possibly death (if it ever comes to that). Also, another option, as Tony Miano points out in his article, is to actually stop doing whatever is causing the authority to come against you, and further inquire about the law or contact a law organization like Liberty Institute to find out more information.

One final thought. In presenting these texts, I am not saying you shouldn’t go to the law if you feel it is necessary. I am also not saying that you shouldn’t utilize some of the resources like Liberty Institute that help people who are unlawfully charged. What I am saying is that maybe it is time we start showing the world how sovereign God by showing some submission, and how we care more about souls being saved than our own rights. Some of us like to tell non-believers that we don’t have any other rights before God because we are sinners who have broken His law, and yet turn around and demanding “our rights” when law enforcement challenges us. This ought not to be so. We are to be Christians first, with the humility of Christ to guide us in our sufferings and persecutions. If we are to be hauled away by the law, go to with a humble heart that doesn’t resist. If it is not for the gospel, the same applies, because we are still ambassadors of the King.

I pray God prepare us all for the persecution that is on the horizon. I am also desperately praying for revival. Go into all the world. Preach the gospel to every creature.

Fruit of the Spirit (Part 2): Joy

I have several friends who are battling depression right now so I know it is no coincidence that the next Fruit of the Spirit is Joy.

It was only a few years ago that I went through a long period of depression. Prior to that time, I saw depression as a spiritual issue, and I still believe it is.  I saw another side, however, and that is that no matter how much I made myself look at the positive, it did not make me feel better inside. I fervently prayed for God to restore my joy or take me Home. Thankfully He answered that prayer by filling me once again with joy and a sense of His presence. Sure, there are still bad times but God’s grace is there, walking with me every step of the way.

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I do not know how people who don’t have the Lord get through life because truly it is often the joy of the Lord which is my strength. If you do not have that joy right now, don’t stop asking for it and fighting to receive this important fruit. Once you receive this joy unspeakable and full of glory, you will be able to share it with others.

In closing, let me remind you that tears may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. Don’t give up hope. Everything happens for a purpose to those who love God. He will complete the work He’s begun in you if you will surrender and allow Him to do so.

Incarnational Sonship

I recently had a run in with someone who posed themselves as believing a doctrine called the “Incarnational Sonship” of Christ. I soon discovered this was merely a small, insignificant theological problem compared to his views about the Trinity as a whole. Nevertheless, the actual position of the Incarnational Sonship of Christ peaked my interest because I had never heard the term before. In essence, the doctrine can be briefly summed up by saying that it is a position in which someone does not believe that Jesus was the “Son of God” from eternity. This doesn’t mean that they believe Jesus Christ is not eternal. They just believe that the Sonship began when he was “begotten.” In other words, the title of  Son of God did not become realized until Jesus’ incarnation.

Although this sounds strange to the ears, and would merit anyone espousing this doctrine having to reinterpret the many Scriptures that affirm the eternal Sonship of Christ, I believe it is possible to hold this position and be truly born again (I’m making room for grace). Moreover, I recognize that theological ignorance or semantical misunderstanding can play a role as to why someone would choose to believe this doctrine, even after being confronted with the insurmountable truth that Christ was always the Son of God before time began.

Surprisingly, John MacArthur once held to this doctrine (other advocates were Ralph Wardlaw, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Finis J. Dake, & Walter Martin). Thankfully he no longer believes it, but I figure posting his article here would be fitting. After all, why write about something when someone else credible has done the work, right? It is my hope that in revealing this doctrine we all become more aware of the various kinds of Christological teachings, even the ones the skate on thin ice.

http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A235/Reexamining-the-Eternal-Sonship-of-Christ

 

I also stumbled across a gem of a post that explained this theology in contrast to the Eternal Sonship of God. After researching this doctrine, I found this contrast helpful.

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

Jesus was always the Son of God. He is the Eternal Son. “Son of God” is Who He Is. His Sonship directly relates to His Deity.

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

Before the incarnation, Jesus was the Eternal Logos, not the Son. “Son of God” is What He Became. His Sonship directly relates to His incarnation, and has no bearing on His essential Deity.

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

Christ’s Sonship is essential to His true identity and cannot be divorced from the person that He is. “Son of God” is who He is in His being of beings.

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

Being the Logos is essential to His inherent unchanging identity.”Son of God” is merely a title and role that He assumed, a relationship He was born into.

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

“Son of God” means equal with God, indicating likeness or sameness of being.

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

“Son of God” as an attribute of assumed humanity speaks of subservience, being less than God. [A debatable point]

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

God the Father has always been God the Father.

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

God has always been God. Prior to the incarnation He was “father” in a metaphorical sense as Creator. With the Incarnation He became a Father in the literal sense. Relationship does not involve a change in Person.

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

The Father-Son relationship has eternally existed in the Godhead. Before the Incarnation the Son was ever in the Father’s bosom.

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

Before the incarnation there was no Father-Son relationship in the Godhead. This does not imply there was no Triune relationship between persons (God, Logos and Holy Spirit), merely that we have no other term but “God” to represent the 1st Person of the Trinity. The Logos was ever in God’s bosom.

 

ETERNAL SONSHIP:

The Father sent His own Son into this world (see John 3:16-17; Galatians 4:4; etc.).

INCARNATIONAL SONSHIP:

God sent His own Logos — the One who was born Son — in Person into this world. Once again, a change in relationship does not equate to a change in Person

Taken from bro.ralph@gmail.com

 

Because of my recent experience, here is a warning/exhortation. If you come into contact with someone that believes that Christ was not eternally the “Son of God,” take a breath and don’t be quick to label them as a heretic. Find out if they believe whether Jesus eternally existed with the Father before the world was made. If they deny that Jesus, as the 2nd person of the Trinity, did not exist with the Father before time began, and/or they believe that Jesus and the Father are not one essence yet two distinct persons (not “manifestations” like some Oneness Pentecostals like to say), then it is safe to expose it as heresy. If, after pleading with them and correcting them on their position, they remain resolute, warn them about their dangerous position, that you will be obligated to warn others concerning them (especially if they are a teacher/leader), and that they will be marked as a heretic. You want to give space for them to admit openly that they are willing to at least consider the essential doctrine of Christ and His eternal essence.

If provided an opportunity, follow up and find out if there is any change or a willingness for further discussion. If, for whatever reason, they are unwilling to discuss the issue with you, and remain staunch concerning their heretical position, then the removal of the right hand of fellowship is sadly in order. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk with them in future contexts, pray for them, or perhaps further assist them with good works (if they care to have you in their company) that may open their hearts to the true gospel. It just means you can no longer consider them a brother or sister, or among those who are truly born again. However, if they are a teacher, leader, or just a strong advocate of their heresies, one of the options is avoidance.

Some Scripture concerning the handling of heretics: Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 1 John 1:7-11.

One final thought. It is one thing to contend against a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, etc. that are openly affirming their denomination and what they believe (whether ignorantly or with knowledge), but it is quite another when you have someone that marches among the ranks of Christianity who are posing to have a biblical view of the essentials of the faith and are found wanting. Also, it is important to reserve heretical judgment toward someone until we are absolutely sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, they are believing historical heresies.  Always verify and ask for clarity. We are to treat all people with respect, but we must fear God and sin enough to speak the truth to others that may hold to damnably erroneous views of Christ. Let love lead our motive, truth organize our thoughts, the gospel guide our passions.

9 Steps Toward Personal Apostasy

personal apostasy

John Bunyan in the classic novel, Pilgrims Progress, illustrates the 9 progressive steps toward personal apostasy. This list is modified and modernized for your understanding. Please read and take heed. Save this in your journal, your computer, or make it your bookmark, but remember this well. I have bolded words that are important elements of understanding. If you want to read this portion of Pilgrims Progress in context, click here

  1. You draw away your thoughts from the remembrance of God, death, and judgment to come.
  2. Then, you slowly stop private duties like closet prayer, curbing your lusts, watching for temptation, sorrow for sin, and the like.
  3. Then, you turn away the company of lively and warm Christians.
  4. After that, you grow cold to public duty, as hearing the word preached, reading the bible, godly fellowship, and the like.
  5. Then, you begin to pick holes in the coats of some of the godly; and do it maliciously, that you may have a seeming excuse to throw [the Christian] religion (for the sake of some sin you have seen in others) behind your back.
  6. Then, you begin to adhere to, and associate yourself with, carnal, loose, and immoral men/women.
  7. Then, you give in to carnal and immoral discourses in secret; and you are glad if you can see such things in anyone else that is called Christian, that way you can commit your sin more boldly through their example.
  8. After this, you begin to play with little sins openly.
  9. And then, being hardened, you prove yourself to be as lost as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, you perish forever in your own deception.

Prevenient Grace

Manfred:

I have come to see the argument over God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility as a key dividing line between true submission to God and actual worship of self. Those who cannot accept the hard teachings of God always come up with a man-pleasing alternative. From “natural causes” for the crossing of the Red Sea to “natural causes” for the resurrection of spiritually dead souls – our natural state is to deny God’s sovereignty. There is no neutral corner into which we can retreat. We who have been born again by the Spirit of the living God must submit to Him, though our flesh fails us and always tries to lead us astray.

Originally posted on Truth Unchanging:

Many have posited what they call the doctrine of prevenient grace which, according to their view, grants the power of “libertarian free will” universally. Most seem clueless about how they are using that term. The more intelligent of them will actually attempt to define what they mean by free will. They define it as “a person’s ability to choose other than he has chosen.” If I choose to eat chicken, I have equal ability to choose to eat steak. I have no issue with the idea that God has granted people the freedom of choice. Even the vilest sinner is free to choose to leave his sins and follow Christ if he wishes. If he should choose that option, he would do so because he had chosen to do so freely and apart from external constraint. By that, I do not mean that the human will is autonomous and acts…

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