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To change internally through external acts can be flesh.

But to change externally through internal devotions can be just as flesh-ly.

Conversely, the external application of word and sacrament can have a wonderful effect internally.

And an internal resolve to look away to Christ can brilliantly impact your externals.

Neither outside-in nor inside-out is the right method for change.  The division the bible makes is between flesh and Spirit.

The real issue is whether the Spirit is leading us to Jesus and His finished work. It’s the Spirit who takes us outside to Christ who offers up our true standing before the Father.

I talk about this here in a recent sermon on Romans 8 (audio here).

13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

What does it mean to put to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.  Not by the law, not by the flesh, not by will power or human effort.  What does change look like that is by the Spirit?

Well, imagine you lie.  You lie to protect your reputation, you tell everyone you’ve done something that you haven’t done to sound like a big shot.  And afterwards you feel bad about lying.  And you want to stop lying like that because it’s getting to be a habit.

Now at that point – what is Christian about that resolve?  Non-Christians resolve to tell the truth too.  There’s nothing Christian about trying to be a better person.  There’s nothing Christian about putting sins to death.  It’s the WAY you put them to death that’s the real difference.

See, you could put it to death through the law.  You could say “The law says Thou shalt not lie.  I’ve broken the law.  I’ll punish myself and put myself under condemnation until I feel I’ve done my penance and then I’ll try really, really hard to be honest next time.”

Two problems with the law approach.  First, it doesn’t work.  Second, I’ve just resolved to be my own Saviour.  I don’t need Jesus for this.  I don’t need the cross, I don’t need the Spirit.  I’m just trying to be more moral.  There’s nothing Christian about resolving to tell the truth.

But Paul tells me to put lying to death BY THE SPIRIT.

What’s that?  Well to figure out that, we need to figure out what the Spirit is up to in the world.  And verse 14 will tell us what we need to know.  Here’s what the Spirit is up to:

14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Verse 15 calls the Spirit “the Spirit of Sonship.”  So the Spirit of the Son makes US sons and daughters of God.  The Spirit sweeps us up into Jesus so that we share Jesus’ relationship with God.  And what is Jesus’ relationship with God.  He is the Son, who calls out to God, “Abba, Father.”  And now, BY THE SPIRIT, so do we!

Abba is a word for Daddy in many middle eastern languages.  It’s intimate, it’s affectionate.  It’s also deeply respectful.  But here’s the question: Who on earth gets to call Almighty God, Abba?  Calling the Queen “Liz” is bad enough.  But at least calling her Liz doesn’t presume anything about your relationship to the Queen.  To call God “Daddy” you’re not only being incredibly intimate with God, you’re also making a claim on Him.  You’re saying “God, You are my Father and I am Your child.”  And children have certain rights.  In verse 17, Paul will tell us one of those rights – we have inheritance rights – as children of God we are heirs of the cosmos.

So that’s what the Spirit is up to – He’s communicating Christ to me, He’s testifying to me that I am in Jesus and in Him God is my Father, He’s communicating all that that means…

Now come back to verse 13 and ask “What does it mean to put to death the misdeeds of this Adamic body BY THE SPIRIT?”

Here’s what it means.  It means I open up my bible, I read the Spirit’s words and I allow Him to tell me:  “Glen, don’t you realize you HAVE the righteousness of Christ?!  You ARE God’s beloved child, unimprovably so.  So Glen, when you lied, who were you trying to impress?  Why lie?  You are dead to lying now, not because there’s an anti-lying law.  You’re dead to lying because, What need is there to lie?

The Spirit is constantly telling me, “I am a trillionaire walking around the millionaires club.”  And my lying exaggeration is like flashing around a counterfeit £50 note, trying to impress people.  That doesn’t impress people in the millionaires club.  And it completely forgets that I have a trillion pounds to my name?  What am I doing?

So put lying to death BY THE SPIRIT.

It works for all sins.

Put porn to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Why go after that counterfeit intimacy, when Jesus brings us into His eternal fellowship with the Father?

Put covetousness to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Do you really need the latest outfit or the latest gadget, when you’re about to inherit the universe?

Put anger and harsh words to death BY THE SPIRIT.  Don’t you realize you’re loved and appreciated and declared righteous in the heavenly realms?  Do you really need to assert your rights here and now?

Whatever the misdeeds of your Adam nature, put them to death BY THE SPIRIT.

To change by the Spirit means to have my gaze drawn to Christ who is my righteousness.  It means the Spirit re-reminding me that Christ is my standing before the Father.  All my sins spring from trying to live independently of Jesus and establishing my own standing in the world.  So look out to Christ who offers up the real you.  That’s how Christian change occurs.

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That is Adam’s race.  Cut off from its LifeSource.  It flourishes for a while.  It can look and smell good.  We can dress it up with all kinds of bling.  We can surround it with feasting and fun.  But there’s no life in it.  It’s decaying by the minute.  And it’s end is the rubbish dump.

 

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God created us male and female, in the image of God He created us (Gen. 1:27). Those theologians who say they are all about the Trinity, who at the same time say the homosexual heresy is no big deal, are missing one of the central places where God has decided to reveal His nature and character. Nicea was important, but the great confession was long before Nicea. The foundational creed about the Trinity is a sexual one, and it was first confessed when Adam first knew his wife. The foundational confession about the Incarnation is also a sexual one (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23).

Doug Wilson.

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Stephen Baldwin has been ridiculed for his comments on Celebrity Big Brother regarding evolution.  He said:

If we’re descended from apes, how come there are still apes?

Ok, a misunderstanding of the theory.  But is the theory more or less silly than the misunderstanding?

Here’s Richard Dawkins answering the very objection Baldwin makes.  See if you can watch it with a straight face:

What we have here is a Professor of Zoology faced with a line up of four apes and an accountant from Swindon.  And he refuses to identify the odd one out.  The whole story he invests his life in says that none are superior to any other – all are equally well adapted to their environment.  It’s just 4 monkeys and Pam sitting in a tree –  M-U  T-A-T  I-N-G.

To say that Dawkins has put Baldwin right is like saying:

Ohhh.  Sorry for thinking your theory was nuts.  I thought you believed in alchemy.  Now I realize you have a magical goose to lay your golden egg.

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Walking through a London train station yesterday I had to weave my way through hundreds of protestors.  Their favourite placard seemed to be this one:

photo from here

The message reads: Our climate is in our hands.  And at least 20 000 gathered in the capital to remind us of this: we’ve got the whole world in our hands.

Maybe it’s coincidence but it’s pretty close to a Guardian headline this week that said, regarding Copenhagen,  “Our destiny is still in our hands.”

Wouldn’t we love that to be true!?  How we long to be this world’s solution!  And therefore, however costly it might be, we are eager to cast ourselves as the problem.  (See this former post entitled ‘Anthropogenic‘)

The cost we seem willing to pay to keep ourselves at the centre beggars belief.  The Spectator reports the cost of making good on pledges agreed at the G8 summit:

A high global CO2 tax starting at $68 could reduce the world economic output by a staggering 13% in 2100 – the equivalent of $40 trillion a year.  That is to say, it would cost 50 times the expected damage of global warming. (Bjorn Lomborg, The Spectator, 5/12/09)

But hey – that’s the price you pay when you take your destiny into your hands.  And you pay it willingly and with self-righteous zeal.  Because you are coming of age.  To this you were born.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and all that.

But Christmas tells a different story.  He is the One we were waiting for.  And the government is upon His shoulders. (Isaiah 9:2-7).

Yet whenever we turn from Him we become slaves to the devil’s lie: ‘Be like God’.  And the result is a captivity to fear and an incessant struggle to make the world work.  We end up as slaves and we willingly pay for the honour.  Eventually in blood.  But no cost is too dear in order to secure our own messianic delusion.

I don’t know about the science involved here.  But if you ever wonder whether a skeptic’s approach to the debate could  account for the so-called scientific consensus on warming or why people would be willing to pay so much if it’s unnecessary – I think the gospel has ready answers for this.

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Some more thoughts from Crabb’s School of Spiritual Direction…

Image of God:

Crabb very strong on ‘male and female’ being integral to image.  The united plurality of humanity imaging the trinity.  But he first unpacks image according to four aspects:

Personal being – longing

Rational being – believing

Volitional being – choosing

Emotional being – feeling

But all four are deeply perverted.

Femininity

[Must look this up] Female means to be ‘bored through’ in Hebrew.  To be opened. To receive.

The physicality of men and women reflects differences at a deeper level.  Think of the commonest sexual problems between men and women and you’ve already seen the commonest emotional problems.  A woman finds it difficult to open up. Difficult to warmly receive another and come fully to rest in that intimacy.  And yet to do so is to experience her femininity at full strength.  A man  finds it difficult to boldly move out in strength, to enter in and bless.  And/or he enters in with haste and for his own benefit – to serve himself and not others.  Yet when he moves out in strength and service he experiences his masculinity at full strength.

Submission is to fall in line with a larger story.

Submission is not give in to any demand. It’s not true submission to receive ungodly movements.

It invites and calls forth godly movements.

If you’re married to a real woman, you’ve got two choices- be a real man or kill yourself.

A real woman says ‘I’m Christ’s.  You can’t destroy me, you can only hurt me. I can rest.’

Prov 21:9 – contentious/quarrelsome spirit. Word for an ‘umpire’. They blow the whistle.

The temptation for a woman is to constantly play the umpire/referee/judge.  To stop play and cry foul.  And no player is grateful for that.  To give in to a contentious spirit is not to honour a woman – it is to bend to an ungodly power play.  (Keep the play going and involve her in the game, not as umpire, but as player!)

Prov 21:19- contentious and vexing = ‘I’m going to change you and if not I’m going to make you pay.’

Cold, stand-offish, quarrelsome is the very opposite of femininity yet the natural perversion.

True femininity is to reveal the invitational nature of God.

Core terror for women – invisibility.

What grows out of that is a clenched fist.  “I will not feel that terror.”

A deeply feminine woman is so at rest in God’s delight at her undamageable beauty (no matter how many times she’s been abused etc…) that she invites others to enjoy the beauty of God by relating invitationally not controllingly; openly not guardedly; courageously not defensively, with one purpose in mind – to encourage another to be consumed by God’s beauty.

Masculinity – movement.

There’s not a man alive who’s not afraid of women – his wife in particular.

Word for male in Hebrew same as for remember.  A man remembers and moves.   ‘Male’ was the person who reminded the king and moved the king’s agenda forwards. [Again, must look into this]

Man is to move without fear with one purpose – to awaken the appetite for God in another because He remembers the purposes of a loving God. He knows he has the weight to impact the lives of others for good.

– Ex 2:24 – The LORD remembered (literally: “male-d”) them.

Interesting aside:  In Exodus every time the people grumbled, He blessed them. In Numbers, every time the people grumbled, He judged them.  That’s what happens with maturity.  There’s often a honeymoon but after a while God brings consequences!

Adam transmitting LORD’s command to Eve was a masculine thing to do – remember and move.

Greatest fear of men is weightlessness. (The silence of Adam!).

[Larry said] “I think I’m a far better teacher than husband. I have a gift and I’m comfortable. That’s why a lot of Christians marry their ministries.”

So how are men supposed to move?

Men move more comfortably when there’s a code.

Men should have the courage to move when they don’t have a clue what to do. To enter into chaos and move purposefully. You move by faith even if you don’t feel your weight. Felt inadequacy is an opportunity to become more dependent.

Brokenness is realising something is desperately wrong and nothing will fix it without the omnipotent Spirit of God.

But I naturally move towards areas in which I feel more competent. Therefore I shrink my world and retreat from my calling.  I sit on the couch and shut off.  And of course my wife then blows the whistle even louder.  My natural cowardice calls forth her natural controlling.  It’s a vicious circle.  As head, the man must break this.  He is to move out in spite of the controlling pull (and even more so, in spite of his own natural cowardice) and lead.

When you don’t know what to do, do something.  Even if you make a mess, just get involved.

Four metaphors for sin in OT

Genesis 4: City builders.  Cain is cursed as a restless wanderer but he builds a city

(Lewis) God gives us many resting places on the way home but He forbids us to make them home.

City building is our determination to feel now what we can only feel in glory.

Now that I have X I have what I need.

Jeremiah 2:13,14: Well diggers.

The LORD offers us His living waters, we make for ourselves broken wells!

Who or what are you using to fulfil your demands?

Isaiah 50:10-11:  Fire lighters

We are to trust the LORD in darkness, but we find survival strategies.

Ezekiel 13:10f: Wall Whitewashing

God is committed to demolishing our whitewashed walls.

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Sorry no responses to comments yet.  I literally have a few minutes before bed…

 

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habits

 

Like coathangers, we own a hundred bibles but have no idea how they came to be ours.  One of them is called a “Life Application Bible.” 

As far as I can tell, it exists in order to footnote every biblical indicative so that a moral imperative may be added.  This is, we are assured, the cure to our spiritual malaise.  Just listen to this endorsement on the back cover:

Evangelical Christianity is suffering from an acute case of spiritual malnutrition.  The symptom is well known – defection in personal standards of living.  The cure – Vitamin A – application of God’s Word.

This remedy is both refreshing and realistic, calculated to change the will.  Not merely satisfying curiosity or making us smarter sinners, the Scriptures were given to make us more like Jesus Christ.

Wha?? 

What’s the understanding of the bible here?  The Spirit’s testimony to the Son?  Christ’s love-letter to His bride?  The deposit of faith given to the church for the sake of proclaiming Christ to the world?  No.  At base the bible is, apparently, given for individual piety.

What kind of anthropology is this?  Change the will and you’ll correct the ‘defection in standards of living.’  ! 

What kind of salvation is offered?  Apparently we are not to become merely ‘smarter sinners’ – well what then?  Do we become subtler sinners?  more self-righteous sinners?  self-satisfied sinners?  There’s one option that is assuredly closed to us – that of ceasing to be sinners!  So why not a smarter sinner?

This approach to Scripture and to Christian faith is not good.  And yet, doesn’t this kind of thinking throb away beneath much of what passes for evangelicalism?  Isn’t the majority of ‘evangelical’ preaching informed by just such beliefs?  I’d say our spiritual malnutrition is not because of a lack of this kind of application.  We’re spiritually anaemic precisely because we have turned the Scriptures into moralistic or therapeutic self-help.  No wonder other Christians deride us as simplistic legalists.

For a thought on what good application is, go here.

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