Monthly Archives: November 2010

Poor Pitiful Me!

The Destructiveness of Self-Pity

[Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.

1 Kings 19:10

Self-pity is feeling sorry for oneself: a pathetic state of self-absorption. Self-pity is an individual’s own belief that they are a victim of pernicious circumstances and hostile people: “no one’s life is as hard as mine.” Christians walking in self-pity long for attention, condolences, and admiration for their “unbearable suffering.” Christians experiencing self-pity want their wounded ego to be massaged by others: see my sacrifice, see my suffering, see my heroic efforts, etc. Self-pity is smashed when we see our Savior’s sufferings and recognize that in a fallen world no one is immune from pain and disappointment.

The nature and depth of human pride are illuminated by comparing boasting with self-pity. Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. Boasting sounds self-sufficient. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing.

The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego, and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but as heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.

John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996), 250.

Who is a Sincere Person?

One in Whom There is No Guile

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matt. 5:8

A sincere person’s life is transparent before God and people. Their inward thoughts, intentions, and motives are pure. Sincere people are people whose actions and attitudes are unmixed, thereby lacking any devious or manipulative qualities (John 1:47). Deceitfulness and hypocrisy are inconceivable as real options in their Christian lives. Sincere people refuse to wear masks and act differently in front of people by projecting an image or playing a part. Habitual lying is inconceivable to a sincere person: they will suffer hurt before they would lie to cover their tracks (Psa. 24:4). Jesus honors sincere people, he declares that they will have a beatific vision of God (Matt. 5:8).

When we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” our answer, if we are awake is, “My God, how am I going to be pure in heart? If ever I am to be blameless down to the deepest recesses of my intentions, You must do something mighty in me.” That is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do. He did not come to tell us to be holy, but to make us holy, undeserving of censure in the sight of God.

Oswald Chambers, Biblical Ethics (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1997), 22.

Advent Waiting

Advent Waiting

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3 ESV

Advent waiting is the prayerful longing for God’s Holy Spirit to pour upon us. In preparation for the coming church and secular year, we yearn for the transformation of our hearts. Advent waiting is gratefulness for Christ’s first coming while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. Advent waiting converts our personalities as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies.

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world.  In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face. Oscar Romero, martyred archbishop of San Salvador, points to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for Advent waiting:

Even when all despaired
at the hour when Christ was dying on the cross,
Mary, serene,
awaited the hour of the resurrection.
Mary is the symbol
of the people who suffer oppression and injustice.
Theirs is the calm suffering
that awaits the resurrection.
It is Christian suffering,
the suffering of the church,
which does not accept the present injustices
but awaits without rancor the moment
when the Risen One will return
to give us the redemption we await.

Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love, trans., James R. Brockman, S. J. (Farmington, Penn.: The Bruderhof Foundation, 2003), 27.

The season of Advent begins this Sunday, November 28th.

Christian or Secular Time?

The Church Calendar

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Church has a choice: live by Christian time or secular time. The Church can center its worship in the events of the life of Christ or it can celebrate every holiday that the Hallmark Card Company invents. From its earliest beginnings, the Church celebrated Jesus Christ: his birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return. The annual cycle educated the Church in the gospel saturating believers in redemption history by grounding the saints in the life of Christ through worship, preaching, and the sacraments.

Advent is a time to wait. Christmas is a time to rejoice. Epiphany is a time to witness. Lent is a time for repentance and renewal. The Great Triduum is a time to enter death. Easter is a time to express the resurrected life. After Pentecost is a time to study and evangelize. Of course we are to do all of these Christian practices all of the time. But a rule of thumb is that a specific time set aside for each facilitates and empowers our Christian experience at all times.

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 180.

Ever Looking

The Second Advent and Christlikeness

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The second coming (i.e., Second Advent) occurs when Christ returns in bodily form to receive the church and judge the nations. That coming is personal and real for we, the Christ-followers, will see him face-to-face and rejoice in his appearing. Knowing that one day we will see Jesus visibly, we are powerfully motivated to walk in holiness (1 John 3:2-3). Christ died on our behalf, the Holy Spirit changed our hearts; as result, God freed us from our bondage to live for him. In gratitude, we desire to please our Savior by our behavior. “No shame,” is the watchword for the expectation of Jesus’ coming (1 John 2:28). We desire our lives, attitudes, and actions to honor Christ upon his return.

Living in the reality of Christ’s return makes a difference in a Christian’s behavior. Since Christians someday will be like Him, a desire should grow within the Christian to become like Him now. That was Paul’s passion, expressed in Phil. 3:12–14 (see notes there). That calls for a purifying of sin, in which we play a part (see notes on 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; 1 Pet. 1:22).

John MacArthur, NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, Electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Word, 1998), 1 Jn 3:3.

Those who denounce the doctrine of the second advent as speculative, fanciful and unpractical, would do well to reconsider the subject. The doctrine was not so regarded in the days of the apostles. In their eyes, patience, hope, diligence, moderation, personal holiness, were inseparably connected with an expectation of the Lord’s return. Happy is the Christian who has learned to think with them! To be ever looking for the Lord’s appearing is one of the best helps to a close walk with God.

J.C. Ryle, Day by Day with J.C. Ryle, “Second Coming”, 281.


The Season of Advent

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The season of Advent celebrates two comings in the life of Christ: one future and one past. Advent prepares our hearts for the second coming of Christ for he will bring history to an end by fully establishing his kingdom. Also, Advent prepares our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s first coming, Christmas. Advent is a season of joy for we are grateful for Christ’s coming in the manger and Advent is a season of repentance as we know that Christ comes again in holiness, power, and judgment.

Advent waiting is the prayerful longing to see Jesus face-to-face and experience the God’s Holy Spirit pouring upon us in love and grace. In preparation for the coming church and secular year, we yearn for the transformation of our hearts. Advent waiting is gratefulness for Christ’s first coming while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. Advent waiting converts our hearts as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies.

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world.  In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face.

Pope John Paul II in his address on Dec. 18, 2002 said,

The liturgy of Advent . . . helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.

The season of Advent begins Sunday, November 28th.


Drink From the Fountain

The Fountain Filled With Blood

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Rom. 5:7-8 NLT

I’ve been visiting the county jail a good bit recently. Reaching out to those who find themselves at the end of themselves. When in prison one thing is exposed that for all of us is true, we all have broken the law. Whether man’s law or God’s law, we are all in need of forgiveness. The message of a fountain filled with blood that when drawn cleanses us from sin is a message welcomed in the darkest dankest prison. The message of the Cross still frees the prisoner whether the prisoner is literally behind bars or suffers internal bondage from sin’s chains. We are all called to drink of the fountain of forgiveness that is the Cross and there find forgiveness abundant and free (Isa.55:1-3; 55:6-9).

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth.

For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Causing God’s Heart to Beat Faster

Blessing God With a Thankful Heart

You have ravished my heart, My sister, my spouse;

You have ravished my heart, With one look of your eyes.

Songs 4:9 NKJV

When we look to Christ in faith and trust his goodness in the midst of our disappointing and perplexing circumstances, we bless God’s heart. When we are genuinely thankful “in” and “for” all things, we cause his heart to beat faster (1 Thess. 5:16-18, Eph. 5:20). When we see God’s appointment in the midst of our disappointments and say, “Thank you God, ” we bring joy to our heavenly Father.  A thankful heart trusts God’s goodness irrespective of whether we understand our on-going tribulations and persistent trials. A thankful heart knows that the Cross has conquered this fallen world and that our troubles are small compared to Christ’s great suffering on Calvary’s tree.

Jesus is moved to happiness every time He sees that you appreciate what He has done for you. Grip His pierced hand and say to Him, “I thank Thee, Saviour, because Thou has died for me.” Thank Him likewise for all the other blessings He has showered upon you from day to day. It brings joy to Jesus.

Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994).

We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.

C. S. Lewis cited in The Quotable Lewis, edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989), 579.

Thank God!

Thank God in All Things Whether Good or Bad

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Col. 3:17

Thankfulness is a genuine gratefulness flowing from our hearts which sees God’s appointment in the midst of our disappointments. A thankful heart trusts God’s goodness irrespective of their unexplained difficulties, chronic trials, and persistent obstacles. Thankfulness says “yes” to God’s grace knowing that whether good or bad, the Lord can use our circumstances for his glory and our growth.

The apostle [Paul] says. “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5.18). Why so? Because God makes everything work for our good. We thank the physician, though he gives us a bitter medicine which makes us sick, because it is to make us well; we thank any man who does us a good turn; and shall we not be thankful to God, who makes everything work for good to us?

God loves a thankful Christian. Job thanked God when he took all away: “The Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21). Many will thank God when He gives; Job thanks Him when He takes away, because he knew that God would work good out of it. We read of saints with harps in their hands (Rev. 14.2), an emblem of praise.

We meet many Christians who have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths; but there are few with their harps in their hands, who praise God in affliction. To be thankful in affliction is a work peculiar to a saint. Every bird can sing in spring, but some birds will sing in the dead of winter. Everyone, almost, can be thankful in prosperity, but a true saint can be thankful in adversity. A good Christian will bless God, not only at sun-rise, but at sun-set. Well may we, in the worst that befalls us, have a psalm of thankfulness, because all things work for good. Oh, be much in blessing of God: we will thank Him that doth befriend us.

Thomas Watson, All Things for Good, Puritan Paperbacks series (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2008), 62-63.

Coppin’ an Attitude?

What’s Your Mental Disposition? Christ or Self?

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Phil 2:5 NLT

Our attitude is a mental disposition, or frame of mind, that affects our thoughts and behavior. A good attitude is an inward disposition of thankfulness indwelt by Christ: a thankful attitude sees the world through God’s eyes, good yet fallen. As we respond to our circumstances from God’s perspective, we make right responses. These Holy Spirit inspired responses produce right behavior enabling us to perform righteous deeds. These deeds exalt Christ and produce righteous praise to our Heavenly Father.

In other words, enjoying Christ creates a good attitude and that attitude produces holiness to the praise and glory of God. Scripture calls us to have the same mental disposition of Christ who laid aside all heavenly splendor for the goal of laying down his life for us. His attitude was one of unselfish delight in his Father’s will.

The one attitude of the life is Jesus Christ first, second, and third, and nothing apart from Him. The thing that hinders God’s work is not sin, but other claims which are right, but which at a certain point of their rightness conflict with the claims of Jesus Christ. If the conflict should come, remember it is to be Jesus first (see Luke 14:26).

Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1946), 33.