Monday, February 7, 2011

If the Salt Has Lost Its Savor

The Barna Group identified six major patterns emerging among Christians in America in their year end report:

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Questions to Ask as You Pursue God's Will (based on II Thessalonians 1:11-12)

1. Make your calling and election sure.
2. What's your motivation? What's your desire? Ask for conviction or assurance from the Holy Spirit.
3. How do you make decisions- Evaluation or Intuition? One is not better than the other, but finding a friend who decides issues in the other way can be helpful.
4. What has God said or promised concerning your desire or resolve? Are you willing to trust Him?
5. Does your desire fit with the corporate resolves of your local body of believers? Is it an individual resolve or part of a larger ministry?
6. Where are you in prayer concerning your resolve? Are you waiting on god? Wrestling? Can others join with you in prayer? Are you ready to step out?
7. Are there other resolves, related to your desire, that God is leading you to make? Begin a habit of continually seeking, testing, trusting, and trying.

According to Grace

We began this series by saying that the whole passage is held together by the structure of Paul's prayer. It ends by reminding us that the whole of our lives, the ability to make resolutions, the ability to act by faith, the chance to access the power of God to vindicate our cause and His, comes to us by grace. Grace calls us, equips us, empowers us, then rewards us with great honor for our loyalty. And we have done only what it was our duty to do. To whom much is given, much is required.

Reciprocal Glorification

"So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him." One commentator writes that the result of our resolves, our acts of faith, when they are combined with the power of God, bring "reciprocal glorification." We are not to presume that we can share the glory that belongs to God alone, for He will not share His glory with another. So, in what sense do we share His glory?
A long time ago, I read Matthew Henry's wonderful phrase "God has twisted interests with us." For the modern Ozymandias, their selfish pursuit for glory will end in eternal ruin. However, for the lover of God, we want nothing more than to marvel at the glory of Christ when He is revealed. The vindication of His justice and sovereign rule is also vindication of our own faith in Jesus. It is the vindication of our loyalty to Christ. It is our glory to have remained faithful and it is His glory to be marveled at by those who count it joy to have held on to Him. Sun and moon, we shine with the glory of Christ.

Friday, February 4, 2011

God's Will By God's Power

Paul's prayer for God's will on the part of the Thessalonians is that God will add his power to their resolves, their acts of faith, so that He is glorified. We might make an assumption here that God's power is on the other side of the equation- that there is God's part and our part.
Here is where I have fallen down all too often in my resolves and my acts of faith. I have assumed that when they came with no power, God had decided to say no. I forgot the lesson of the widow and the unjust judge. I gave up. I stopped wrestling. I let go before he blessed me.
"As the people of God, we must never be content with unanswered prayer. We cry out to the Lord, and we do not do this because we merely want to hear ourselves talking in a religious way. We do this because we seek deliverance and salvation." -Doug Wilson
"It is atheism to pray and not to wait in hope" -Richard Sibbes
Wrestling. Waiting on God. Abiding under. Time to beg God for fullness, for power. We have lived too long in emptiness.

Every Act Prompted By Faith

The parallel term for our resolve to do good for the glory of God in the text is "every act prompted by faith." I've already mentioned that Paul assumes we are not running out with God's credit card to pursue our own desires. What we want to do is guided by our faith. Two observations are helpful for me here:
1. My faith grows, not by focusing on the size of my faith, but upon the object of my faith. Books like "The Holiness of God" by A. W. Tozer, "Desiring God" and "The Pleasures of God" by John Piper can be huge in helping us to know God better. Large amounts of scripture reading can show us how God works and desires to work with His people.
2. My acts of faith should be grounded in the promises of God. "Pleading the promises" means connecting the concerns of God and the promises of God to our own petitions in prayer. I want to do X because it addresses a concern of God in the world (like caring for widows and orphans) and God promises to help (I can do all things..., Ask anything in my name..., ).
As James declares, true faith is never alone. It is trusting God and stepping out. The proof of our faith is in our actions. May God help us, as we seek to do His will, to resolve great things and to trust Him for the results of our actions.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Every Good Resolve

What started this series of blogs was a small textual question in v. 11. The KJV says that the purpose or resolve that is good is God's. The NIV says that the purpose or resolve that is good is mine. Who's right? It turns out the "his" is added in the KJV. Since the good resolve or purpose is parallel to an act prompted by faith, most modern translations, including the ESV, make the resolve or purpose relate to the believer rather than God.
Wow! My good purpose. Paul does not assume that the believer will rush out, promise in hand to pursue selfish ends. He assumes the believer has a desire and passion to see the glory of God. It is the glory of God that begins and ends this prayer. What Paul does see is a holy desire to have a specific role in the accomplishment of God's glory. That desire, that resolve, is the beginning of pursuing God's will.
How do I arrive at that resolve? Ask the Holy Spirit. Study your personality, gifts and abilities. Ask the leadership in your church. Then, when you have an idea that excites or burdens you, check your motivation against the glory of God. Finally, scour the scriptures for instruction and promises on the idea you have in mind. The Holy Spirit may convict you of a selfish or sinful goal or obstacle. He may give assurance that your idea could help reach the goal of the glory of God.
The good steward is always looking to make a profit for his Master. A good resolve is nothing but a good idea with feet on it.