Thursday, September 4, 2008

Real Christianity - Pt.4

Chapter 4

Section One: How Belief Influences Behaviour
  • Those who hold to the biblical doctrines of the work of Christ as the basis of acceptance tend also to take the Bible’s instructions concerning righteous living more seriously. Those who have created a system of their own tend to water down what is required in the practice of their faith. … If he or she is not guilty of some gross violation of the accepted cultural morality, no one questions whether or not that person is indeed a Christian. The word “Christian” implies no more than a sort of general assent to Christianity and a degree of morality in life that is little different from the good Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist.

  • The plain teaching of the apostles demanded a strict standard of Christian morality and behaviour. Christian character is to be a reflection of living in a relationship with a holy God. This character is first and foremost a product of understanding and embracing the finished work of Christ on our behalf and of unreservedly devoting ourselves to God. … God has called us to be sworn enemies of sin. We are to wage war against it and strive to give it no opportunity in our lives.

  • Having made a commitment to Christ, we are to yield ourselves without reserve to the service of our King. We are no longer our own. All that we are belongs to Christ. We are to become instruments set apart for the honour and glory of God. This is the ruling principle that is to guide all we do. Whatever has been the motivating force of our lives before Christ is either to be abandoned or to take a distant second to this. We are to be submitted to the Lordship of Christ. The motto of authentic faith is this: “Do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

  • Living this way has challenges. Not only is Christ in us, but also our old fallen nature is still in us. The Holy Spirit has supernaturally imparted the nature of Christ to us. Our fallen nature has been with us from birth. These two will not live together in harmony. We will experience constant reminders of the conflict of the two, yet we will have a fixed desire and determination to pursue conformity to the character of Christ. It is this resolution that distinguishes authentic faith from cultural Christianity. … When a man or woman possesses authentic faith, the pursuit of holiness is a joy.

  • Authentic faith is motivated toward obedience to the will of God by an understanding of the glory of God, by a sense of trust and hope in Him, with an appreciation and awe for His goodness, in a spirit of joyfulness, and with continual gratitude.

  • The common denominator among those possessing authentic faith is the determination to devote themselves to the service and glory of God. The other common characteristic is an awareness of how inadequate they are to achieve this goal without grace and empowerment.

  • God is not looking for a divided heart. Heavenly treasure is to be our primary pursuit. A lukewarm faith is an affront to all we affirm about him. God is not interested in sharing His glory with any competitor. The Bible is filled with this truth. To place the glory of anything over the glory of God is idolatry. When the supreme love of the heart is directed toward anything other than God, idolatry has taken place. Whatever draws our heart from Him, engrosses our minds or holds the number one spot in our affections is an idol. Only God is to be the object of our supreme worship.

Section Two: The Behaviour of the Cultural Christian

  • True faith is something that so pervades our lives that it affects everything we do. It is a matter of the heart, where its reality becomes our supreme influence. It seeks to root out anything that is contrary to its truth and attempts to bring all the heart’s desires and affections under its control. … [But for many] only certain thoughts, time, resources and influences are under the jurisdiction of faith. The individual remains master of the rest that falls outside this self-constructed box. Faith is for Sunday, such an individual thinks. If I meet my religious obligations, I am free to live my life as I wish. … The space occupied by faith will diminish over time, until it is hardly active at all. … At best, we give our leftovers to God and keep the rest, indulging ourselves in the full and free pursuit of personal pleasure.

  • We work, we play, we work, and we play – but our spirits are neglected in the cycle. When God begins to stir our souls with the anxiety that something is not right, we respond by seeking distraction.

  • Often, it is not possible to identify any one supreme passion that has distracted us from the pursuit of God. The various threads of our lives are so intermingled and diversified that we are not always able to identify where our distraction lies. … Most men and women are ignorant of their true state and oblivious to the things that have replaced God in their lives.

  • If a friend is sick of suffering physically, we are concerned to the extent that we will attempt to prescribe some remedy that might alleviate his or her ailment. But when a friend is spiritually ill, we do very little to help alleviate this illness. We avoid confrontation, hoping that some third party might come along and minister to him or her.

  • Authentic faith works to keep the eternal in focus. This kind of attitude contrasts sharply with that of nominal Christians who are almost entirely preoccupied with the concerns of this world.

Section Three: The Concern About What People Think About Us Compared to the Attitude of Authentic Christianity

  • The desire to be admired by other people, in all its various forms, has come to totally consume most people in our culture.

  • To please God is a wonderful motivator toward that which is good and lovely. The desire to please man is full of dangers. … The state of mind most conductive to our true condition is one of humility and recognition of the extent of our flaws. In order to live in a way that pleases God, we need to aggressively fight against our natural tendencies toward arrogance and self-importance. … God alone is to be exalted. All our glory is to be turned to the glory of God.

  • Pride and self-love are never very far from the heart of all we do. … The acquisition and pursuit of material wealth is never to be our primary motivation.

  • Pursuit of personal recognition…is a dynamic that fills us with vain conceits, vicious passions and the tendency to set our affections on things that steal our hearts away from God. … To fight this battle, people with authentic faith recognize that they must avail themselves of all the resources God provides to resist this love of self that continually encroaches on their sacred space. These resources include a rigorous self-examination to reveal our own flaws. This provides a reality check that reminds us of our need for Christ. … Another check on this tendency is to form friendships with others who are also seeking to please God.

  • The things the world values will one day count for nothing, while all that God values will last forever. … The most effective way to keep all this in balance is to make the pleasure of God our overriding desire.

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