Friday, July 27, 2007

Thoughts on salvation

Two thoughts I have had about salvation recently are: (1) we are almost totally wrong about the way we pray for the salvation of others and (2) salvation is anything but simple.

In his book, Why Revival Tarries, Leonard Ravenhill mentions how wrong we are about prayer. He accuses us of giving God advice rather than simply laying our burdens before Him and petitioning Him. I think he's right. I have heard so many people pray for the salvation of others, asking God to soften the soil of their hearts or send some kind of revelation or do this or do that specific thing to save them, as if we knew the process of salvation better than God Himself. I don't think it is wrong to ask for specific things to happen in someone's life, but telling God what He must do to save someone is prideful and God hates pride.

The reason we probably do this is we think salvation is simple. Actually, the more I think about it, I find that salvation is unfathomably mysterious, unquestionably scandalous, and unmistakably an act of God Himself. It is mysterious because I cannot understand the process of how a sin-loving, God-hating person can be suddenly transformed into a sin-hating, God-loving individual. It is scandalous to because God who is absolutely holy has chosen to pardon and befriend sinners. It is an act of God because no human effort, though we are His vessels, can accomplished the radical transformation that salvation requires.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Done with Intellectualism

"Yearly we use mountains of paper and rivers of ink to reprint dead men's
brains, while the living Holy Ghost is seeking for men to trample underfoot
their own learning, deflate their inflated ego, and confess that with all their
seeing they are blind. " Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries

Why is it that the sum of our pursuit of God is too often only an intellectual pursuit, when in fact it should be a spiritual one? I have mistaken the intellectual study of God's Word for getting to know God. Make no mistake, there is a place for intellectual study, but that is not the whole of getting to know God.

Several weeks ago, I realized that "with all my seeing I am blind." That is why I come to loathe "devotions." It is solely an intellectual pursuit, when in fact pursuing God is something beyond pure intellect. Even after this realization, I fell prey to intellectualism again as I began to lay out my plan for this year's high school Bible study at church without even consulting God! Can you imagine!

God had to slap me upside the head and say, "Hey, you claim you want to know Me, you want your students to get to know Me, and yet here you go again with this intellectual study as if it was a chore. How about just relying on Me each week instead of making your own plans? Take it a week at a time...NO PLANNING! I will reveal to you each week what to teach your students about Me. I want you to depend on Me and let Me have control."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Joy and Suffering

What really is the connection between joy and suffering? It seems pretty simple at first. I mean, I've been told all my life that true joy comes from suffering. Its almost like the formula every Christian is supposed to memorize: input=suffering, output=joy. I know that its true, or at least I've been told that its true, even though I don't feel as though I've truly suffered. I mean sure, I've had bad hair days, times of loneliness or depression, or times when everything was going wrong according to my plan, like getting in a car accident. But if I stood before the New Testament church and told them that was suffering, they'd laugh me out of the room. I know I'm going to suffer eventually. For as long as I've known what my calling was I knew I was going to suffer. The more I read the Bible, the more I realize that suffering is almost required. "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer."

And I know, or at least have been taught, that this will lead to joy, but how exactly does that happen?

Before I dive in, here's something I found on the internet by googling "joy and suffering" and I thought it was very good and provided some much need insights, it may help you as well:

I didn't really set out to study this, it mostly just fell in my lap as I did my normal reading throughout the week, so here goes. This is nothing academic, just the rambling thoughts at the start of an investigation that will probably take the rest of my life. There were three links I found in Scripture between joy and suffering.

The first link

2 Corinthians 8:1-2 "Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overlowed in the welath of they liberality."

Poverty makes us generous...what? Its true though. When I deliver a pizza to the guy with a Corvette, his tip is generally smaller than the guy in the dingy apartment building, though there are exceptions. The passage goes on to say that Jesus, though He was rich, became poor for our sakes, that we might become rich. That doesn't mean we'll be "rich" per se; it means that we will suffer with Christ to be made like Him. We will be rich as He was rich. And His riches are far more than money ... joy perhaps?

The second link

1 Thess. 1:6 "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit"

They were in great affliction when they heard the gospel, and became saved and were filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Hmm ... a connection between suffering, joy and the Holy Spirit.

The third link

1 Peter 4:12-16 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you."

Here is another connection between suffering, joy and the Holy Spirit. There are two interesting things I find in this passage. First, when we suffer for Christ, we receive joy from the Spirit who comes upon us in that time. Second, we are not joyful because we are suffering, but because we look forward to "the revelation of His glory"! When Jesus suffered on the cross, He was not enjoying the actual suffering, rather "for the joy set before Him, [He] endured the cross."

Two things I find in conclusion:

1) Joy comes from the Holy Spirit in the midst of suffering: Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17

There must be something in suffering that drives us into the intimacy of His Spirit in whose presence alone we can find strength and true joy.

2) Joy comes not from the suffering directly, but from the expectation of Jesus' coming: Rom. 8:16-18; 1 Peter 2:18-23

And ultimate joy will not be found until that glorious day.