One Thing You Lack

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The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-30)

Sermon Audio Link

Passage:

And a ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But He said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed You.” And He said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Luke 18:18-30 (ESV)

Sermon Audio Link

Sermon Notes:

• The Question

How does one obtain eternal life?

• The Rich, Young Ruler

Calls Jesus “Good Teacher” in a manner of flattery, as there is not one example in the entire Talmud of a rabbi being addressed this way; addressed with an attribute possessed only by God. Jesus doesn’t correct him by saying He is not good, but rather that only God is good and invites the young man to reflect on his own words. Have you ever heard someone say something and thought they should take a moment to think about what they just said, and maybe the answer they are looking for already resides in the very words they spoke?

His question carries the assumption that salvation or eternal life must be earned and that something in addition to the work he was currently doing was required.

• One thing you lack…

But is it really just one thing, or three?

It sounds like three things: 1) sell what you possess, 2) give it to the poor, 3) follow me. How are these three (commands/demands) requests really one?

The young ruler claims that he has kept all the commands Jesus mentions since his youth, but Jesus only mentions the commandments dealing with our fellow neighbors, not those that deal directly with God. He uses His request to expose what the young man lacks, and how he desperately fails to measure up to the law. The very first of the commandments is to have no other God before the one true God of Israel… Jesus shows how money is sitting in the place of God in this young man’s heart, and it deeply grieves him when asked to depart with it.

These demands may be summed up like this: “Your attachment to your possessions needs to be replaced by an attachment to Me.” It’s as though the man stood there with his hands full of money, and Jesus said, “You lack one thing; reach out and take my hands.” To do this the man must open his fingers and let the money fall. The “one thing” he needs is not what falls out of his hands, but what he takes into his hands.

The poor are always the beneficiaries when this transaction happens — when a person treasures Jesus above money. That’s why Jesus mentions the poor. We are all spiritually poor without Christ. But the main focus is what is happening between this man and Jesus. Jesus does not merely expose the closed-handedness of the young ruler, He alludes to the truth that if the young man rightly understood who Jesus was, if he knew the good character of God, he would cry out for mercy, not complacently seek reward. All the fitness God requires is for you to feel your need of Him…

• God loves to give good gifts.

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Illustration — “Delighting in our cat, Winston”

Kathryn and I do not have children (at least not yet), but we do have a young cat. Even in the caring for this small animal, as two imperfect people, we delight in providing good things for him. We love giving him wet food, treats, new toys of any kind, letting him sleep in our bed and snuggle with us. We truly enjoy giving him good things, and watching him respond with excitement and joy.

The Father enjoys delighting in His children by giving them good gifts… but how does one receive something when their hands are full? Often times our hands are full of idols, unready to receive God’s love. And we mistakenly think that idols are just bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

“… I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak… We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

• The One Thing

Jesus tells the rich young ruler, He tells all of us: You lack one thing. You lack Me. Stop treasuring money and start treasuring Me. You want to inherit eternal life? You want truth? You want to enter the kingdom of heaven? You want to be justified? You want to be righteous before God? Only by your attachment to Me will you inherit eternal life, be saved, find truth, enter the kingdom, be justified, and have any real meaning to your life. If you would be perfect — which is the only way into God’s kingdom — follow Me. Be connected to Me. Depend on all that I am for you.

There is no “go and do likewise” command present here in the discussion. Jesus isn’t asking this of everyone He talks with; He doesn’t tell everyone everywhere to give away everything they have. That is not the point here. Jesus uses a humorous illustration to explain how difficult it is for those who appear materially blessed to have God first in their heart; Jesus doesn’t say that anybody who has material blessings cannot be saved.

If you gain the whole universe, and have not Jesus, you are infinitely impoverished compared to the one who doesn’t just have the treasure, but is the Treasure. If you are bankrupt and indebted beyond your ability to ever reimburse that whom you owe, the option to just do a little more seems rather silly, doesn’t it? “One thing you still lack. . . . Me!”

• Disordered Love & Trust

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Illustration — “The pain of the illusion of loss”

Winston’s need for what appeared to be torture in order to heal… the rich young ruler’s need to let go of his idol of wealth in order to see God as what he truly needs.

While Christianity was able to agree with pagan writers that inordinate attachment to earthly goods can lead to unnecessary pain and grief, it also taught and teaches that the answer to this was not to love things less, but to love God more than anything else. To rightly reorder your love. Jesus even tells people that they should hate their family in a hyperbolical (extreme, purposefully exaggerated) comparison. You should love God so much, that other relationships look like hate by comparison, but actually, if you love God that much, you cannot help but pour out your love for all of His creation.

How weird would it be if I enjoyed my wife’s material possessions more than I loved and interacted with her? Wouldn’t it seem odd if I was faced with a decision to choose our TV or our marriage, and I chose the TV? That would look like a pretty dumb decision and quite a dysfunctional relationship, would it not?

The disciples (viewing this through their cultural lens), ask who then can be saved?! Jesus makes is clear no man can save himself, it is impossible. But God saves. As long as we think we are not that bad, the idea of grace will never change us. Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief and sorrow is not to be eliminated, but seasoned and supported with love and hope.

“God is not only more demanding than people care to think, but also more generous than they have dared to hope.”

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• So, what are you holding onto?

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, it is not inherently evil to be considered financially rich. But Christ called this young man to give up his wealth in order to follow Him, exposing that he valued cash above Christ. Today we see two VERY controversial issues constantly talked about in the media: homosexuality and a women’s right to “reproductive freedom.” For some, those are two hot topics they are not willing to let go of. For others, it may be literally anything… Whatever materials, family, pets, rights, liberties, etc. that we possess, we were created not to view the created as ultimate. Does that make sense? We are valuing created things above the Creator Himself when we see things merely as our own, to do whatever we wish with our possessions. Jesus is showing us here that we should consider it all worthless compared to Him.

So try to take some time to search your heart for what things you may be holding onto or valuing more than a relationship with God. I pray that we don’t make the common mistake of thinking extensively about someone we know who should really hear this message, and consider these words ourselves… because just like me, without Jesus: You lack.

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7 Traits of Great Team Members

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Whether in the office, at a school, on a sports team, in the warehouse, at a restaurant, on the sales floor, at home, or anywhere else you can think of, there are definite characteristics that most good team members personify.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, or even each characteristic fully explained, but here are 7 traits that make a great team member:

1. Sense of humor.

It’s critical on any team that you be able to laugh… with each other… at life… at corny jokes… and sometimes even at yourself. We should have fun together and learn to never take work or sports too seriously. We should work hard and play hard, but never at the expense of losing sight of the bigger reasons behind such things. When we are having fun that makes any team we are on better.

2. Team spirit.

We should not have any lone rangers or solo acts on our team. It’s never a one man show. We should actually rebuke struggling and working alone! We are part of a team and no one should be carrying any burden on their own, without the help of their teammates.

Especially in the game of basketball, it is impossible to win a game by ourselves. There cannot be any W’s to add to a stat sheet without every player, every coach, or even every person involved in helping the game take place from refs to those running the clock and keeping the facility in shape, all the way to our parents. Similar to how there is no such thing as a “self-made millionaire” in that regardless of how it may appear, they had help and “luck” involved in whatever financial success they’ve achieved, as well as the millions of dollars actually coming from other people… there are no self-made athletes or solo winners in sports. This is all the more obvious in team sports; in basketball there are five players per team actively playing at any giving time, with other players to sub, and opponents. If we attempt to act as if we’ve created our own abilities, earned every achievement alone, and are solely responsible for any success, whether athletic, academic, business, financial, etc. we buy into (and then subsequently try to sell) a monumental lie. When you act as if you are your own creator in any way, it is cosmic plagiarism.

This doesn’t mean we neglect ourselves or don’t try to improve ourselves, but we shouldn’t be working to better ourselves to the detriment of those around us. We should also want to make those around us better. As corny as the old acronym sounds: T.E.A.M. means together everyone achieves more… it rings true. As many rings as Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, etc. have on their hands… not a single one of those rings were earned or won by their hands alone… not to the slightest degree.

3. Work ethic.

We shouldn’t be worried about constantly micro-managing everyone and everything. It is not possible to dictate how hard or how often our teammates will work. We need to simply rely on people having the sense of responsibility and inner drive needed to put in strong effort and work hard. We can only control our own efforts, and we should be pushing ourselves to always give whatever task is at hand our best. The best competition we have is against ourselves to become better.

Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group… Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team. We want to encourage everyone to work their hardest and passionately give every practice, every game their best, but we cannot control anyone else’s actions.

As a coach for the Dallas Thunder organization, I like leaders who are passionate about Christ and people, and are also willing to do what it takes to accomplish our vision and goals. I want to see all of us resting in the already finished work of Jesus Christ; and from that rest, work in glad assurance that our efforts are never in vain. (The Book of Hebrews; Philippians 2:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1st Corinthians 15:58)

Also, good teammates know who they are and what their role is every time they step onto the court, into the office, on the field, in the store, etc. They assume that wins and losses rest entirely on their shoulders. That’s not true, but the best teammates always think that way.

4. Healthy personal life.

We deal with a lot of messiness in other people’s lives, do we not? No team is immune to the tragic effects of the Fall on the entirety of humanity. Balance is one of the most important components in basketball and it is a very important part of life. We must always keep things in perspective so that we can maintain emotional control. It would make it very difficult to maintain the level of competitiveness required of us if we were not personally living healthy lives spiritually, emotionally, and as much as it depends on us and we can help it, physically healthy.

We should be more concerned with our character than with our reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. We shouldn’t feel like we cannot expose the pain and sorrow we are facing in life at any given time. We should be comfortable enough with our teammates to confess sin, admit weakness, and acknowledge our short-comings; as well as announce good news, proclaim victory over a struggle, and give praise for anything that has turned out well.

5. Open spirit.

We share burdens with one another. Our teammates don’t live on an island all by themselves. Nobody should be trying to live completely alone, ever. The more we learn to trust each other the greater this process of being a good team becomes. We are open to challenge the “system,” the sport, and each other in an attempt to make ourselves and our team better.

We never want to be such a skeptical pessimist that we spurn any new advice on technique, process, or point of perspective. We should be most interested in finding the best way, not in having our own way.

6. Loyalty.

It is imperative in our organizational structure that a team member be dedicated to the vision, organization, and senior leadership of the team.

For any relationship to be healthy, to survive, and to flourish to any degree, there must be trust, respect, and loyalty among all those within the relationship. Once an individual is a part of a partnership or group, they must consider the affect their actions will have not only on themselves, but everyone involved. The characteristic of being loyal and committed to not bailing out of things even when the going gets beyond tough, gives everyone an ironically liberating sense of comfort.

True freedom is not being unshackled to create your own truth, but is liberating submission to the Truth. Freedom is not the complete absence of any restrictions, but rather the presence of the right restrictions put in place. For example: a fish out of water. The fish is not more free when released outside of the confines of the water, but instead his ability to enjoy life is drastically hindered and he is sure to die.

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty.” – John Wooden

7. Servant’s heart.

If one cannot approach their position from a humble point of serving others and Christ then he or she will not be able to work well on our team. It’s the model of our entire ministry and must be represented first by our coaches.

Discipline and self-control are much easier for us when our hearts and affections are stirred for something greater than ourselves. How you treat creation shows how you feel about the Creator. Strong people don’t put others down… they lift them up. In the end, much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

The “Necessity” of Pain

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In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11 and 12, the author does a masterful job explaining how “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Then goes on the unpack how Jesus Christ is the author, founder, and perfecter of our faith. However, for those of us still skeptical after reading the book of Hebrews… think about a time when you went to a doctor.

Seriously, stop and consider a time when you went to a doctor. If you’re like most people, chances are you have gone to a doctor at some point for an issue, and you found out you needed a routine procedure. It was nothing major, in fact it was really quite simple, and could be taken care of at an outpatient office. You were told about what needed to be done by the doctor, and even some close friends had gone through the same thing. You felt confident going in, and you knew what needed to be done and there was nothing at all to worry about. Nobody had ever had any problems or complications with this kind of minor procedure before. However, when you got to the doctor’s office, and walked into the room, you saw the knives, needles, and other tools that were about to be used. All of a sudden you were having doubts, second thoughts, and questioning the very necessity of this whole thing… what the heck happened?

It was sight… that sneaky little thing called sight had done you in. Your very seeing of the medical tools caused you to doubt… until then, you were as calm and cool as a cucumber… you knew when walking into the room everything was going to be okay, and you had a very real rational, cognitive understanding of the whole situation… but now after seeing a knife and needle, you were freaking out a little… (or maybe it was a routine filling at the dentist and the moment he busted out that needle to stick in your gums, you began wondering if you really even needed that tooth after all…)

While our doubt is healthy inquiry, disbelief is a willful choice. So, what if we do believe… we must ask then, why do so many of us who claim that we believe in God, trust Him, and put our faith in Him, start to second guess the very Creator of our life the moment we see a little dry patch in our life, or the second we spot a desert in the horizon?

“You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” – Gandalf to Bilbo, at the end of The Hobbit

When we really consider what has helped us grow and mature most in our life, we will usually see it wasn’t the best or easiest circumstances. Many people have to admit that most of what they really needed for success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences. Some look back on an illness or great setback, and recognize that it was an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth for them.

“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” – Ecclesiastes 7:1 (ESV)

When God wounds, He wounds like a surgeon. He doesn’t wound like a criminal. He doesn’t bash your whole world with a bat; that is not what He does. But God will lovingly take the scalpel to you. We all, like a cancer patient, have a serious infliction of sin in our hearts, and often times that requires some rough chiseling and intense reshaping of our hearts. Because the heart of the problem with humanity is the problem of the heart.

“The most perplexing theological question is not why there is suffering in this world, but why God tolerates us in our sinfulness.” – R.C. Sproul

Just as Job’s patience in suffering turned him into an example that has helped hundreds of millions of people, and just as Jesus’ temptations prepared Him for His history-changing and world-saving career, so God’s Spirit leads us into our wilderness for our good.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. . . . [Pain] removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Advice on suffering from one who has never suffered deeply is always shallow, stale, and unconvincing. Wounded healers are needed, and in Christ, we have a great physician who suffered more than we can imagine. When you are in moments of pain or shock, the things that come out of your mind and mouth are the most primal things in your being. And when Jesus was in such moments, out came the words of the Bible.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” – John 16:20-24 (ESV)

Compassion

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Henri Nouwen explained it well that “Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”

Our God has displayed ultimate compassion in His Son, Jesus Christ. By putting on flesh, stepping down into darkness, walking this earth, feeling pain, temptation, loss, weakness, abandonment, betrayal, hatred from others, unjust persecution, and wrongful sentencing from the government… witnessing the death of friends, and even experiencing death Himself on the cross and disconnection with the Father, the triune God has shown us He is not immune to pain. Rather, God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it upon Himself. In Jesus Christ’s birth, life, and death He suffered in love, identifying with the abandoned, persecuted, and godforsaken. The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, eloquently observed, “For love is exultant when it unites equals, but it is triumphant when it makes that which was unequal equal in love.” Might we be moved by His grace and reflect this great love to the world instead of trying to merely subdue it with suffocating law. Because everything that isn’t gospel, is law.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” – John 15:1-17 (ESV)

“For it was fitting that He, for whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:10-18 (ESV)

Blinded by Ourselves

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There are numerous catchy self-help phrases and popular inspirational quotes circulating in our American culture today that go something along these lines: “Listen to yourself, not the noise of the world. Only you know what is right for you… Listen to your heart, follow your feelings. Nobody else can tell you how to feel.”

The Scriptures (and history too for that matter) explicitly tell us how much we are to trust our gut and rely on our own feelings though. Just taking a glance through the Proverbs, we read in 3:5, “Do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 12:15 states, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 14:12 teaches us, “There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” And then Proverbs 28:26 tells us, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

Paul says in 2nd Corinthians 5:15 that Jesus came so that those who live would no longer “live for themselves.” Paul is arguing something significant here, something that every Christian should remember. He is arguing that the DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin inserts me into the middle of my universe; the one place reserved for God and God alone. Sin reduces my field of concern down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. Sin really does make it all about me.

Because the inertia of sin leads away from God’s purpose and glory toward my purpose and glory, as long as sin is inside me there will be temptation in life to exchange God’s glory for my own. In ways that are subtle and not so subtle, I begin to pursue the alternative of human glory. Things like appreciation, reputation, success, power, comfort, and control all become way too important. Because they are too important to me, they begin to shape the way I think about everything in life, the things I want out of my life, and all of the things I do in my life.

“The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of grace and salvation is God substituting Himself for us. We put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God puts Himself where we deserve to be.” – John Stott

We would do well to remember also, that no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one else talks to you more. The things you say to yourself about God, you, and others are profoundly important, shaping your participation in things and experiences in life. So many of us just sadly function in a regular state of gospel amnesia. We forget to preach privately to ourselves the gospel that we declare publicly to others.

“Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.” – Tim Keller

Some of us today seem to believe that what we feel has greater value or holds a greater element of truth than what we would reason through by thought and logic. Too many of us still operate as if we don’t have any major blind-spots in our life. C.S. Lewis addressed this very craziness years ago in his book The Abolition of Man, “No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.”

“Our feelings are an essential part of our right response to reality, but they should never in themselves be the determiner of reality.”

Even if we don’t acknowledge, believe in, or accept the reality of something, it does not change the reality itself. So we must consider that if sin blinds (and it does) then as long as sin remains in our heart, there will be pockets of spiritual blindness. And the really scary thing with spiritually blind people is that they’re blind to their blindness. This means that we all need “instruments of seeing” in our lives as much as any of the people around us (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Henry David Thoreau famously said, “It takes two to speak truth – one to speak, and another to hear.”

We need to understand and realize that our relationship with God, our spirituality, although immensely personal, was not designed to be exclusively private. The more you make your struggles and your victories private, the more you turn sanctification into a crawl and the less you’re able to know God relationally. Our faith has never been meant to be private. You weren’t created to hide or keep your feelings, your love, your mind, to yourself. We were designed to have spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers, spiritual brothers and spiritual sisters, spiritual sons and spiritual daughters. We were designed to live in community; to have men and women above us who speak life and encouragement into us and walk with us, and men and women underneath us whom we can serve, help to guide, and mentor.

“Being true to ourselves doesn’t make us people of integrity. Charles Manson was true to himself, and as a result, he rightly is spending the rest of his life in prison. Ultimately, being true to our Creator gives us the purest form of integrity.” – John Wooden

And in regards to communal sanctification, C.S. Lewis eloquently put it this way, “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” To live life well, it requires real relationships, and authentic community. In order for there to be genuine, real, deep relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you and then you have to submit to it. Like there are things that I do that my wife doesn’t like. I know… I can’t believe it either… Anyhow, there have been times where she’s engaged me on those things and she was like, “Look, this is not ok, I don’t like this.”

So what makes my relationship with my wife life-giving and intimate is that I can hear that and respond. I can humbly submit, apologize, and work to better love and serve her… or more realistically I will argue and be stubborn for a little bit first, before the Holy Spirit (often times through prayer, a friend, or a book) blows me up and opens my eyes to the unbelievable amount of selfishness that still resides in my heart. But in our relationship, my wife can contradict me and I can contradict her. And it’s a faulty illustration at some levels because you never really get to contradict God or motivate Him to change, but do you see what happens if you make God, or truth whatever you want it to be? You have no God or objective truth at all. You have a robot or something made by your own hands, imagination, something that our own ignorant minds created that has existed for a mere fraction of a fraction in the scope of history.

“A long life will eventually beat the pride out of you, and if it somehow doesn’t, death will provide more than enough proof of your weakness.”

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us. At the same time, the Gospel solution when a person is blind to some serious issues in their life (or even when they become aware and are paralyzed by a sense of guilt or unworthiness or uselessness) is not to increase self-esteem; the Biblical answer to a paralysis of low self-esteem is not cultivating a high self-esteem. It’s sovereign grace. (“Fear not you worm…” – Isaiah 41:14).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not less than an understanding of biblical truths and principles, or simply the correct set of beliefs, but rather it is infinitely more. The truest spirituality, the most humble worldview framework, the real essence of salvation is knowing a Person (John 17:3). As with knowing any person, there is repenting and maturation and work and weeping and rejoicing and celebrating and encountering. The gospel calls us to a wildly passionate, intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ, and those around us. We are to love God above all, and love our neighbors as ourselves. And that is the core of true salvation and freedom, that is the greatest reality.

Some Theological Implications from Job

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1. Freedom of God:

Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this does not mean we will ever understand Him exhaustively. The Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; that is, we can never fully comprehend His whole being. Scripture not only teaches us that God’s whole being is incomprehensible, but each of His attributes – His greatness, power, thoughts, ways, wisdom, judgments, knowledge, love, mercy, and grace – are well beyond human ability to fathom fully. Not only can we never know everything there is to know about God, we can never know everything there is to know about even just one aspect of God’s character or work (Psalm 145:3; Job 26:14; 36:22-23, 26; 42:1-6; Isaiah 40:13-14; 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36). Because God can never be fully known, those who seek to know God should be deeply humbled in the process, realizing that they will always have more to learn. The appropriate response to God is a heart of wonder and awe in light of His incomprehensible greatness. God’s incomprehensibility also means that beliefs can be held with firm conviction even though they may be filled with inexplicable mystery. The Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and many other core teachings of the Christian faith are profoundly mysterious; believing them requires a robust affirmation of the incomprehensibility of God.

Also, God’s personal and sufficient revelation of Himself should foster solid conviction among believers. We need not live in ambiguity and uncertainty about who God is and what He demands of His creatures. The increasing influence of Eastern religions on the West, certain postmodern views of truth, and religious pluralism all emphasize God’s incomprehensibility so much that He is eventually made to seem unknowable. It then becomes impossible to say anything definitively true or false about Him, and people then think that the only heresy is claiming that there is any heresy at all! On the contrary, because of His gracious revelation and illumination, God can indeed be known. God’s knowability should lead to eager, diligent, devoted study of God’s Word so that we can understand Him as He has revealed Himself and avoid any false view of God that will dishonor Him. We should never grow apathetic in seeking to know God because we are in fact able and equipped to know Him and to please Him with our lives.

2. Testing of Satan:

The book of Job sets out from the beginning to show that the reasons for human suffering often remain a secret to human beings. Indeed Job’s sufferings come upon him because Satan accused him in the heavenly courts, and the reader never learns whether these reasons were explained to Job; probably they were not. God controls and uses evil, but is never morally blameworthy for it (Exodus 4:11; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6). However God’s relationship to evil is understood, both His complete sovereignty and His complete holiness must be maintained. In his great suffering, Job says, “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). We are told that Job’s assessment of God’s providence over evil is correct in that “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). The greatest evil ever done, the crucifixion of Christ, happened because of unspeakable human sin, but all within God’s perfect plan. “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf Acts 4:27-28). Even human rebellion unintentionally ends up serving the perfectly wise purposes of God. Nothing – not even sin and great evil – can ever ultimately frustrate God’s sovereignty. Christians can be sure that God will one day defeat all sin, evil, and suffering. Until then, God can be trusted because He is wise, holy, sovereign, and powerful and is always working out His plan to perfection (Romans 8:28) – even when in the short term it may not seem to be so from our earthly, human perspective. The picture of Satan being our accuser and God being our advocate is very clear in the book of Job. As a Christian, we are to embrace this accusation, admit that we are weak and we all fall ridiculously short of God’s standards of righteousness, but we are to then find comfort and rest in the fact that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, who became the propitiation for our sins (1st John 2:1-2).

3. Retribution and Justice:

The book of Job warns us of following God just for His blessings. We are to love God, our Father, for Himself; we are not to try and use the Father for our own self-centered ends, but rather love, enjoy, and serve Him for His own sake. It’s not often realized, but even careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God. Sin is not just the breaking of rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge and thinking that your way is better than God’s way. Job’s friends offer no real help to him as he struggles through his suffering. They come to “comfort” him (Job 2:11), but Job ends up declaring them “miserable comforters” who would “comfort” him “with empty nothings” (21:34). These friends represent an oversimplified “orthodoxy,” based on a misreading of the wisdom tradition to the effect that all troubles are punishments for wrongdoing. Their “comfort” consists largely of applying this message to Job, urging him to identify his sin and repent of it. In so doing, these friends serve as a mirror for all readers who might be inclined to say similar things to people in distress. Astonishingly, the Lord does not take Job to task over his words, instead calling them “right” (42:7). The author does not provide a theodicy in the sense of defending the justice of God. Job’s friends serve as a foil to that end. Their wisdom is a human effort to resolve this dilemma, but as far as the author is concerned, these efforts fail. God also declares that the friends are wrong (42:8). Elihu’s intervention probes further, but neither is he the intermediary whom Job seeks. The author is concerned about the triumph of faith in a time of suffering. To this end his hero succeeds. Job can triumphantly declare, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (19:25). Job’s resolve to love and trust the one who seems to attack him as an enemy is evident throughout. The book as a whole illustrates that a full understanding of God’s reasons for events is not a pre-requisite for faithfulness amid terrible suffering. Further, Job’s deep perplexity and questioning are not a provocation to God.

Job longed for an advocate, an arbiter, someone to plead his case before God in chapters 9-11. “For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay His hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not dread of Him terrify me.” (Job 9:32-34) Like many in the Old Testament, Job longed for the awaited Messiah, and put his hope in the Christ to come. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1st John 2:1)

4. Strength for Suffering:

The problem of suffering is timeless, whether national or individual. The most important key word in the book is the term “comfort”; the book shows where true comfort is to be found. In 2:11 Job’s three friends come to comfort him; in 6:10 Job takes comfort in not having denied the words of the Holy One; in 7:13 Job claims that God will not allow his bed to comfort him. In 15:11 Eliphaz claims to be offering the comforts of God, while in 16:2 Job calls his friends miserable comforters, and in 21:34 he declares they are trying to comfort him with empty nothings. In 21:2 Job sarcastically offers to his friends the “comfort” of hearing him out. The key comes in 42:6 (where “repented” can also be read as “am comforted”). When Job’s relatives and friends come to comfort him in 42:11, this is probably ironic: Job found the comfort he needed in the vision of God’s unsearchable wisdom.

Evil and suffering may be, if anything, further evidence for God and our eternal need for His grace. The story of Job clearly shows that suffering is allowed by God for our good and His glory. For if you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because He hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have at the very same time a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know or understand. But you can’t really have it both ways. Most of our modern objections to God are based on poor, warped views of fair play and justice.

As a Christian, we should realize better than others that most of what we’ve needed for success in life comes from us having to go through some very difficult and painful experiences. We should be able to look back on our lives and see that sometimes that illness or extremely difficult period we struggled through was not God turning His back on us, but rather an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth. It is a detrimental mistake to think that if you abandon your faith in God it would ever somehow make the problem of evil or suffering any easier to handle. However, many people claim that “all the philosophizing in the world does not just let God off the hook.” God, however, cripples this complaint by what He has done through Jesus Christ. God deliberately came to earth to “put Himself on the hook” for us and experienced the greatest depths of pain and suffering on our behalf.

Christianity does not provide the reason for every single experience of pain and suffering, but it does supply us with deep resources for actually facing pain and suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair. On the cross Christ went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceed ours as infinitely as His knowledge and power exceed ours. In Christ’s death, He suffered in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it on Himself. We cannot even begin to fathom the depths of His love and there will never be a greater love than that of Jesus Christ.

To suffer for Christ out of love and obedience in the face of pain, rejection, and suffering is the greatest thing we could ever do with our lives. We should, especially as Christians, find joy in our pain and in turn praise Christ through our sorrows. For in the end, the beautiful promise of the Gospel is that even if we lose everything in this world, we still have Christ (Romans 8:18). We still receive the greatest thing there is in our relationship with Christ, because “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We cannot comprehend the immense value and worth it is just to know Him and be known by Him.

Also, as Christians we need to know that our suffering is not in vain. Because for those who suffer, the Christian faith provides a resource not just for the teaching of the Cross, but also for the fact of the resurrection as well. Christ promises a future that is not just a consolation for the life that we suffered through or the life that we never had, but a restoration of the life we’ve always wanted. Jesus insisted that His return will be with such power that the very material world will be purged of all decay and brokenness (Romans 8:18-39).

Christ promises that He will not only heal all things, but all that might-have-been will be. Our hope is that in Christ and the restoration that He is going to bring, everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost. Some day, things that look like broken glass to us here will make sense… as small parts of a beautiful stained glass picture of God’s redemptive work throughout history.

Grace-motivated Marriage

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No marriage will be unaffected when the people in the marriage are seeking to get from the creation what they were only ever meant to get from the Creator. The only true source of love is Christ. No husband or wife can “complete” one another, satisfy their deepest longings, or fill the “eternal hole” in the other’s heart. Neither can be the source of identity for the other, or the object of worship.

Now I am the best husband I ever am when I’m fully concentrating on, thinking on, meditating on, and sitting under gospel preaching and teaching; when I am positioned under the life-giving waterfall of the grace of Christ. I’ll tell you why. When I am completely dialed in to the fact that, through no merit of my own, through no act of my own, and because of nothing I can do, but simply because God is merciful and gracious, He loves me, then as I engage my wife, there is this overflow motivated by being loved that flows over into my relationship with my wife.

Do you know when I’m a horrible husband? When somebody preaches a sermon on, “Here’s how you be a great husband.” Because I’m a type-A moron. So I find myself buying into the lie of moralistic behavioral modification. So I will immediately go, “Let me build up this grid. Let me start to do these things. She’ll respond this way, and I’ll do this.” So I start to go, “If I do this, she’ll do that, and what will come about is bliss.” Has anybody else tried that route? Am I alone in this? Well, I think some others may have stumbled into this type of mentality as well. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work.

“The greatest threat to the church isn’t atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness which doesn’t come from Christ.”

But when I continually hear, “Do these things, and get these results.” I’ll find myself beginning to buy into that lie, because my flesh loves that, because I’m a doer, because I can be crazy disciplined and stubborn, because I can control this or that. It has never brought me any freedom. It has never brought me any joy. It has never brought me any healthy fruit… but my flesh still loves it.

So I’m the best husband I ever am when I understand that God is patient, that God is merciful, and that God is gracious to me. And as I am the recipient of that love and grace, that overflows onto my relationship with my wife. I’m the best husband I am, not when I read a book on marriage that shows me how to handle my wife. I’m the best husband I ever am when I am completely attuned with God’s free gift of mercy, and grace, and wired into the fact that He delights in my strengths while growing me out of my immaturities. I’m a better husband when I’m aware that I am far worse than I ever dared to imagine, yet in Christ, I am far more loved than I ever dreamed I could be. I’m just a better husband when I’m aware of that.

So the solution to what is wrong with my behavior is not someone telling me how to modify my behavior, it’s not medication, it’s not “finding myself” or my wife just doing these or those particular things; it’s better seeing and understanding the gospel. All too often we hear messages on how to fix this, correct that, change this, modify that… but in all this if you don’t ever get to Jesus, if you’re not getting to the gospel, then it’s only playing into the pride of man. We must get to the fact that my righteousness is a gift from God, and Him alone.

The righteousness I have is God’s, it has been granted to me by the work He alone already accomplished. (Ephesians 2:1-10; We do not help or assist God achieve our salvation.) Anything good in me, is there by Christ’s grace. More than a lack of love and respect for our spouse, our problem is a lack of love, respect, reverence, awe, and worship of our great triune God: our Father, our Lord Christ Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

When I actively pursue Christ, I better understand love. True love is willing self-sacrifice, for the good of another, that does not demand reciprocation, or that the person being loved is deserving (Ephesians 5). Love is also willing… the key character quality of love is willingness. Love, loves to love. Love loves to give, serve, build up, praise, encourage, sacrifice, and love all the more.

The goodness/kindness of God leads us to repentance… not the law or the continual, consistent repetition of a beat-down explaining how we fall short in every way. So why would we think that would work differently in our marriage, which is meant to reflect Christ’s love for His bride, the church?

To the degree you forget how fully you have been loved by God, you will forget how to love others in your life. So when I am focused on myself and how to control my behavior with the expectation of getting certain results, I am forgetting how to really love my wife.

Love grows best in the soil of gratitude. When we remember the love of our Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the help of the Holy Spirit, only then are we truly equipped and able to love others. We need the love of God to be where the roots of our hearts reside, because only there can we get what is needed to absorb and grow to love others with true love.

Some of us are still wrestling with this in monumental ways; still walking in doubt because we just doubt God’s affection for us. And that’s idolatry, because what you’re doing in essence is looking at the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and going, “That’s not enough. You’re going to have to show me something bigger than that to convince me You really love me.” Some of us are still wrestling with all of this because we doubt Christ’s affection for us despite the fact that He went to the cross and died for you. He went to the cross despite knowing you, despite knowing every stupid thing you’ve ever done, as well as every single dumb thing you have yet to do.

All the sin, weaknesses, and failures in the life of a believer have already been fully covered by the blood-soaked cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is exponentially and infinitely more powerful than any sin. So we can break the silence, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face.

God will never give you a task to complete without enabling you with the resources to accomplish it. He is the resource. We must depend on the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, the Spirit’s help. We must always run back to and rest in the Gospel.