Wrong Motives Produce No Lasting Joy

Recently, I have been reading through the wonderful allegory by John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. We were also blessed to obtain an audio dramatization from Master Books that we would highly recommend to anybody who loves this story.

One scenario stands out in my mind and I have been pondering for some time now. The characters involved in the scene are Christian and Pliable, both of whom come from the City of Destruction. The first carries a weight of sin upon his back and is plodding on the way to the Celestial City as quickly as he is able, while the latter has nothing that seems to be holding him back.

Pliable is a clear reflection of the defining of his name. Pliable means easily influenced or easily bent. From the beginning, we know that he is a follower and not a leader. He follows Obstinate in trying to get Christian back to the City of Destruction, but quickly changes his mind when he hears of the wonders of what is in store for those who reach to the Celestial City.

sloughofdespond

As I considered Pliable, I thought of Christian’s early attempts at seeking to be an evangelist and how similar it is to much of what we find in evangelical circles today. Christian’s methods of reaching the unconverted changes later in the story, but to begin with, they are far from appropriate and certainly not Biblical. Let’s us think about some of the problems with Christian’s approach to reaching Pliable.

1) Pliable is not in dire straits as is Christian. As mentioned previously, Christian has become aware of the burden of sin, but Pliable has not. No person has ever come to Christ who has not been first brought to the awareness of the danger he or she is in. If they do not believe they are fleeing from the wrath of God, then there is no true conviction.

2) Pliable is easily swayed first from Obstinate’s viewpoint and then to Christian’s, and it is not long before he returns to the City of Destruction because he does not like what he finds on the path to the Celestial City. A person who is convinced to follow another, other than Christ, will not follow for long until another comes along with a more persuasive argument. We will be like King Agrippa who told Paul, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.”

3) Pliable then listens to the wonders of what heaven will be like and becomes enraptured with all the glories that will soon be his. It is in this way that Christian makes a mistake. He seeks to share with Pliable that which is designed to gain the attention of a worldly person, but he forgets some of the most important factors of evangelism. He fails to address that Pliable is not aware of his sin, he is not aware that his city will soon be destroyed, and he is not aware that trials and tribulations are the lot of all who live godly in Christ Jesus.

4) Pliable soon learns the reality of the Christian life and he is not impressed. In seeking to follow the way of Christ, he, like millions today, thought that this would be his best life now. He thought that there were no troubles to assail him and that life would become easy. He sought to come to faith for the wrong reasons, namely, because of what he thought he could get, and not because of what had already been accomplished through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5) Pliable falls into the Slough of Despond which Bunyan describes like this:

This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

This became too much for Pliable for he cannot stand to be mired in such filth. Instead of fleeing to the cross as Christian does, Pliable immediately climbs back out of the Slough and makes a beeline for the City of Destruction. Christian learns that for all to be well with his soul, he must flee from his sin. It is only when our sins are nailed to the tree that we can know the joy of forgiveness and no further condemnation.

Pliable is like many today who think that they can come to Christ with their own good works or apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. For those who know Christ, we must seek to share the truth of the Scriptures that no man comes to Christ who does not realize the depths of his sin and the matchless wonder of the Savior. Truly, Pliable’s wrong motives for wanting to be a follower of the Way produced no lasting joy. Fellow believers, if we use wrong motives to seek to entice people to follow Christ, we cannot be surprised when we find that we have only made false converts.

Ever Learning

Today is an easy day to praise the Lord. The sun is shining, I can see God’s hand at every turn while feeling His love and protection. There are days it is not so easy though, yet praise is not an option. It is a necessity.

Trust, Colorful words hang on rope by wooden peg

I wish I were better at consistently praising Him, even when everything around me looks like it’s falling apart. This is an area God does help me in though. He often reminds me that, even when I can’t see it, He is working. He loves me and, no matter what happens, I am still His beloved child.

I am so grateful to have the best Father in the world. His love for me is not measured by how successful I am. He simply wants me to trust Him and serve Him with all my heart. I am still learning how to do that as well, but I am thankful that He doesn’t give up. He constantly encourages me to try, try again.

I expect I will never stop learning until the day He takes me Home but I pray I will pass my tests with flying colors. He is so good!

A beautiful hymn by Fernando Ortega to give Praise to the Lord the Almighty today.

God’s Story

God’s Story  Gods Story

A review by Stuart Brogden

 

This book is subtitled, A Student’s Guide to Church History. As one who has greatly benefited from studying church history, I was most eager to read this book as I think all Christians would learn much that is helpful by such a study. In the introduction, Brian Cosby says “knowing church history helps explain our identity … helps explain the present … guards us from repeating mistakes … testifies to God’s powerful working as HIS STORY.” Studying church history done well will have much in common with the historical narratives in Scripture – showing the brute truth about God’s people: redeemed sinners who still struggle with sin and obey with less than perfection.

 

In chapters 2 – 10, our author provides a quick overview of the history of God’s people from Genesis through the Great Awakening, giving details that should whet the appetite of any young – or older Christian – to discover more about the providential care for His people in all ages.

 

The last couple of chapters provide a warning to all who might be drawn aside from the study of the Scriptures. Church history shows that those who do not cling to the Bible as the Word of God inevitably drift to using human wisdom to determine eternal outcomes. In the 11th chapter (they are not numbered), Cosby details four categories of abandonment of Scriptures as the rule for life and godliness, with shipwrecks of faith being the inevitable outcome. First, he describes revivalism, headlined by Charles Finney – who gave us altar calls and myriad “new measures”. Dispensationalism arrived at about the same time. Second, Cosby tells us about liberalism – which denies the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. This leads professing Christians to deny the virgin birth, the creation account, and pretty much anything essential to the Christian faith. He names people so we will recognize them when we read other documents, so we are properly warned. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is known as the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology” and had many followers, including Henry Ward Beecher, Adolf von Harnack, Albrecht Ritschl, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, John Hick, and John Shelby Spong.

 

The third abandonment of Scripture is cults, which are typified by the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both of these cults have a heretical view of Jesus and the trinity, each has their own twisted version of the Bible. These factual departures from the Word of God does not stop millions of people from following these cults and leading many to a certain doom apart from Christ. The fourth and last category is evolution. I was happy to see this listed, as I have come to see this view as particularly incompatible with Christianity, yet accepted by many Christians who are too impressed by what men call science. There is no evidence of any evolutionary change in kinds – from non-dog to dog, etc. All the “proof experiments” document that environmental adaptation (known as micro-evolution) is common. Change in kind (macro-evolution) has never been documented, much less has evolution been shown to be the cause for the origin of any species.

 

The last chapter is a review of four influences in the 20th century that have encouraged or derailed many Christians: fundamentalism (reaffirming the essentials of the Christian faith), neo-orthodoxy (the Bible becomes the Word of God when used by God to draw a sinner to faith), Pentecostalism (a focus on experience rather than Truth), and evangelicalism (emphasizing the historic Protestant theological convictions). This last also brought a mixture of revivalism and new measures as churches experimented with different forms of entertainment worship.

 

This excellent book finishes with an exhortation from the author that should encourage every Christian, young or old:

 

As we look back through the history of the Christian church, we see God’s faithfulness to preserve his people in spite of their sin and rebellion against his truth. We see a great cloud of witnesses, generations of those who have embraced Christ by faith, beckoning us onward as we will one day be translated from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. And until that day comes, we pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

 

I say amen!

 

This is a very good book, easy to grab hold of. Parents should put this in front of their children, read it with them and discuss the attributes of God and the sinfulness of man that are always on display. This latter ought remind that none but Jesus does helpless sinners good. Flee to Him. This book shows us the way.

There is JOY in Serving Jesus!

Some churches still sing the old song, “There is Joy in Serving Jesus” but I wonder if they really believe what they are singing. Way too many go to church, sing the songs, hear the preaching, but still look as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Life is hard. There’s no doubt about it. But, for a Believer, joy should flow out of our hearts because we are sons and daughters of the King! He didn’t promise us that life would be all sunshine and roses but life is not all thorns either.

quotes-about-joy

Don’t let Satan blind you to the many blessings you have received at God’s hand. Ask God to help you get your mind off of the negative and onto Him. You are called to be a Light, to radiate with His love. If you have lost your joy, you can’t do that. If you think you are joyful, ask yourself if others can see that joy. If they can’t, I doubt that you are as joyful as you think you are.

I hope you can sing with all your heart:

There is joy, joy
Joy in serving Jesus
Joy that throbs within my heart
Every moment, every hour
As I draw upon His power
There is joy, joy
Joy that never shall depart.

Unity in the Trinity

This came to me while I was working on a sermon from Hebrews 1:1 – 4, on a point focusing on the identity of the Son of God. 

Consider this parallel – when God the Father completed His creation work, He rested from that worktrinity_diagram. He continued to guide redemptive history and the Scriptures show His active involvement in shaping history and the lives of men. The Lord Jesus, after He had finished His work of atonement, He sat down at God’s right hand – resting from His work of redemption. He yet works – serving as our high priest and advocate, our protector and shepherd. And so it is with the third person in the holy trinity – the Holy Spirit worked during and after Pentecost to bring about the birth of the church, with many signs and miracles. Though the bulk of these miracles have ceased, the foundation of the church having been completed, the Holy Spirit continues His work of giving us illumination as we read the Scriptures; convicts the world of sin and the righteousness of Jesus. In each of these creation works and in all of the ongoing works, the three persons of the trinity are completely unified. Recall that the world was created through Jesus, and we read that the Spirit hovered over the waters during this event, as if giving birth. The Father chose those to be redeemed, Jesus atoned for them, and the Spirit has sealed them until the Day of Judgment. They each had a time of one-time creation work, followed by resting from that work, while continuing on, in unity, with other work required for our good – and their glory. This is the identity of the Son – completely at one with the Father and the Spirit.