Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Real Christianity - Pt.3

Chapter 3
Faulty Thinking About Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, a Few Comments on the Interaction of Emotions and Faith

Section One: Essential Truths of Authentic Christianity

  • There are certain essential facts about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, which the Bible teaches, and, historically, the Church embraced. They include:
  1. God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us.
  2. Jesus Christ willingly left the glory of the Father and became a man.
  3. Jesus was despised by many people. He was rejected and experienced sorrow and grief.
  4. Jesus suffered because of our sin.
  5. Jesus went to the cross and took our sins with Him so that through His death we could have eternal life when we repent of our sin and accept what He has done for us.
  6. Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where He now is in the presence of the Father and intervenes for us.
  7. Because of what Jesus has done, we can come into the presence of God with confidence and get the help we need when we are in trouble.
  8. God gives the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to those who enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  9. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that makes us true Christians.
  10. The influence and activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives works to transform us and make us the kind of people God intended us to be.
  11. True believers will be raised from the dead and live forever in God’s presence.
  • These are the basic truths of Christian faith. …Virtually everyone who goes to church has heard these things repeatedly. However, that does not mean that those who know these things intellectually have a deep understanding of their significance or experience their transforming influence in their lives.

  • What does it mean to love God? True love is passionate. “Cold love” and “unfelt gratitude” are contradictions. When we love someone, we like to talk about him or her. Such conversations are rarely without emotion. We want to be with them. We delight in doing things for them. We love to show them how we feel. The mention of their name makes our hearts pound and our faces light up. Authentic faith responds to the work of Jesus Christ in just such a way.

Section Two: Emotions and Faith

  • Only those who have such faith understand that part of the beauty of Christianity is that it integrates all the dimensions of true humanity, bringing appropriate subordination and dependence so that the whole man, using all his faculties, can be transformed by the power of God in such a way that all of who he is can be used to the service and glory of God. God wants our hearts as well as our minds. … God desires that we relate to Him with love, warmth, tenderness and zeal. He hates lukewarm religion, the very thing some current clergy advocate.

  • One way of assessing valid emotion in relationship to faith is to look at the object that has stimulated the emotion. …When emotion is a response to truth or to a clear comprehension of the nature of God and His goodness to us, then emotion is valuable and appropriate.

  • True love is not simply an emotional response. It manifests itself in acts of kindness, generosity and those actions that produce the greatest benefit to the object loved. Therefore, as Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). …This is the true test of the value of emotion.

  • Like Paul, the poet Ovid confessed: I see the better and approve it, but I follow the worse. How true this seems for those who seek to follow Christ. We find within ourselves desires that draw us away from Jesus. We act in ways that are contrary to what God has said is for our highest interest. All the factors that should keep us from acting in such ways seem to be hidden when some insignificant object of desire takes stage in our hearts.

  • Emotions can so easily distract us that it becomes imperative that instead of being seduced and distracted by them, we need to attempt to train them to become allies in our quest for a godly life.

  • We know that Jesus is the Son of God. Surely such knowledge alone is adequate to cause us to live holy lives. We know Jesus is the Savior of the world. Is His suffering on our behalf not enough to cause us to rid ourselves of anything that hinders our wholehearted devotion to Him? It would appear not. But if our faith has brought us to the point where we have experienced authentic affection for Jesus, and if our knowledge of His death on the cross has penetrated our minds and made its way to our hearts so that we experience genuine gratitude, then we have a whole new set of resources to motivate us to follow and obey and trust Jesus. Are not these responses to Jesus reasonable? The unreasonable response would be to have no feeling whatsoever about God’s love and mercy and grace.

  • Authentic faith knows of an entirely different set of dynamics that make it possible to experience the unseen. Jesus is not some remote abstract concept. He is a person. He is not “out there” somewhere. It is a thin veil that separates us from Him. He is present. That which obstructs our view does not change the fact that He is here.
    We have a resource that is far greater than the verification of the senses. The Holy Spirit has come to live within us. It is His job to make these things experiential in our lives. The Spirit is our helper. Our inability is our great asset; it creates a humility that becomes dependent on God’s grace working in us.

Section Three: Faulty Thinking About the Holy Spirit

  • A life of spiritual reality requires the enabling influence of the Holy Spirit. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our understanding, purify our minds, and work in our lives to help us become conformed to the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit creates authentic faith. … He enters the human personality with His presence in order that Christ might dwell in us. The Holy Spirit brings all that the Father decreed, and all that the Son accomplished, into our experience. It is impossible to have authentic faith apart from the operations of the Spirit.

Section Four: Faulty Thinking About Acceptance with God

  • [People] think that if they don’t sin too much and live a reasonably good life, they will get to heaven. … Often the people who use even some of the right language are not really relying on the redemptive work of Christ or God’s grace as much as on their own efforts to achieve their own ideas of what it takes to live in a proper relationship with God. Their focus is on their own accomplishments, not on Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. When we think like this, it is almost impossible to come to grips with the inadequacy of our own efforts or the impossibility of fully meeting the obligations of God’s Word. We create an illusion that will keep us from acknowledging our own guilt and helplessness. We have not come to terms with our inability before God.
  • Authentic Christianity is a way for the most wayward of men and women to enter into a right relationship with God based solely on the fact that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). They have confused the outcome of getting right with God with the means of getting right with Him. Only when we have come empty-handed to the foot of the cross and cried out for God’s mercy and grace, and been reborn by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, can we even begin to live the life to which God calls us.
  • We see what is required of us: a total dependence on the atonement of Christ and the empowerment to live a life that pleases Him made possible by the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives; a surrender to Christ, not only as Saviour, but also as Lord of our lives; a resolve to learn from the Bible and to live a life of obedience to Christ’s commandments.
  • Let us apply these things to our own lives. Have we cast ourselves completely on the grace of God and the work of Christ? Do we consider these the only source of hope in life? Are we progressing in our affection for the Lord and taking advantage of all resources provided by Him to deepen our love? I think we should bow humbly before the throne of God in prayer and seek the pardon and grace given to us by Jesus. I think we should ask God to create in us a spirit of true repentance and undivided faith in Jesus Christ. I think we should continually strive in these things so that we are not satisfied until we love Him fully. I think we should pray that we would be filled with joy and peace and hope through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think we should diligently study the Bible so that our affection is rooted and rational. As we meditate on the passion of the Lord and as we worship Him in prayer and praise, we should attempt to practice the presence of Jesus continually.
  • It makes no sense to take the name of Christian and not cling to Christ. Jesus is not some magic charm to wear like a piece of jewelry we think will give us good luck. He is the Lord. His name is to be written on our hearts in such a powerful way that it creates within us a profound experience of His peace and a heart that is filled with His praise.

No comments: