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It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
We are being pulled in opposite directions. Our flesh is magnetized to sin. It pulls, draws, and entices us. The Holy Spirit dwelling inside Christians is magnetized to holiness. While the war within may leave us exhausted and overwhelmed, this simple truth can transform our perspective on the tension we feel: The Holy Spirit has come to set us free.
Sin, although still as enticing as the forbidden fruit Eve ate, ensnares and enslaves us. A seemingly small sin leaves our souls constricted and heavy. When we choose sin, we are building a prison for ourselves.
When we follow the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit, we are set free from our prison and sin begins to lose its hold on us. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can equip us to withstand sin and can transform us. As we learn to depend on and accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we experience the joy of living a Spirit-filled life.
The Spirit of God breathes inspiration, while the carnal mind breeds vanity.
Fred C. White
Luke 23 – 24
The Seminary of Suffering
By John Piper
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less reliance on self and the world. I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of life have come through times of ease and comfort.”
But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him has come through suffering.”
The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ.
Thus, Paul stresses that in our sufferings the glory of Christ’s all-sufficient grace is magnified. If we rely on him in our calamity, and he sustains our “rejoicing in hope,” then he is shown to be the all-satisfying God of grace and strength that he is.
If we hold fast to him, “when all around our soul gives way,” then we show that he is more to be desired than all we have lost.
Christ said to the suffering apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded to this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
So suffering clearly is designed by God not only as a way to wean Christians off of self and onto grace, but also as a way to spotlight that grace and make it shine. That is precisely what faith does: it magnifies Christ’s future grace.
The deep things of life in God are discovered and magnified in suffering.
Some time ago Matthew Arnold prophesied that poetry would come to replace religion; and the personal heretics have made this true in a sense which he probably did not foresee. Poetry has, naturally enough, not yet attempted the salvation of souls or the enlightenment of the understanding; but the cult of poetry is taking on some secondary religious characteristics – notably the worship of saints and the traffic in relics. Every teacher of English has had pupils to whom the study of literature principally meant a series of acts of devotion to various dead men who wrote poetry. We have biographies of Keats and even (I believe) of D.H. Lawrence which are almost exercises in hagiography. We have even had such tangled trinities as “Christ, Shakespeare, and Keats” proposed to us. If we have also our “debunking” biographies, that is but the reverse side of the same medal: blasphemy is the child of religion.
From The Personal Heresy
The Personal Heresy: A Controversy. Copyright © 1939 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Is God concerned with the material well-being of Christians? Tough Questions with R. C. Sproul @biblegateway
Is God concerned with the material well-being of Christians?
The short answer to that, emphatically and definitely, is yes. Not only is God concerned about the material well-being of Christians, he's deeply and profoundly concerned for the material well-being of the whole world. God created a material world. He created man as a material creature with profound material needs. All we would have to do is go to the Sermon on the Mount to see Jesus' great expression of compassion for those who are in material want. There's a tremendous emphasis of concern in the New Testament that we as Christians have a profound care for those who are hungry, poor, naked, and homeless. That concern indicates a concern for the material welfare of people. The New Testament has a lot to say about wealth and poverty and the various causes and circumstances involving those conditions.
There are frightening warnings to the rich, for example, particularly those who would put their confidence in their wealth rather than in the benevolent concern of God. In this regard Jesus says, "Take no thought for tomorrow, what you should eat, what you should drink, what you should put on; but rather, consider the lilies of the field that they neither toil nor spin. Solomon in all his glory is not arrayed like one of these." He is saying that we can become so preoccupied with the accumulation of wealth that we miss the kingdom of God; we have a concern for the material things to the neglect of the spiritual things. Because we see the world preoccupied with material things and woefully neglecting the spiritual, we may be inclined to become extremists in the opposite direction and say, "All that God cares about are spiritual things." Again, a balanced view of Scripture will prevent us from coming to that conclusion, because there is nothing wrong with a concern for material welfare.
In another manner of speaking, God cares for people, and people are material creatures who require material things in order to survive. If God cares for people, obviously he cares for their material well-being. Health and healing from sickness are material matters, and so God's concern for our health is a concern for our material well-being.
“Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “you have sown well. And you, Narnians, let it be your first care to guard this Tree, for it is your Shield. The Witch of whom I told you has fled far away into the North of the world; she will live on there, growing stronger in dark Magic. But while that tree flourishes she will never come down into Narnia. She dare not come within a hundred miles of the Tree, for its smell, which is joy and life and health to you, is death and horror and despair to her.”
. . . Aslan suddenly swung round his head . . . and fixed his large eyes on the children. “What is it, children?” he said, for he caught them in the very act of whispering and nudging one another.
“Oh—Aslan, sir,” said Digory, turning red, “I forgot to tell you. The Witch has already eaten one of those apples, one of the same kind that Tree grew from.” He hadn’t really said all he was thinking, but Polly at once said it for him. (Digory was always much more afraid than she of looking a fool.)
“So we thought, Aslan,” she said, “that there must be some mistake, and she can’t really mind the smell of those apples.”
“Why do you think that, Daughter of Eve?” asked the Lion.
“Well, she ate one.”
“Child,” he replied, “that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after.”
“Oh, I see,” said Polly. “And I suppose because she took it in the wrong way it won’t work for her. I mean it won’t make her always young and all that?”
“Alas,” said Aslan, shaking his head. “It will. Things always work ac- cording to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”
From The Magician's Nephew
Compiled in A Year with Aslan
The Magician's Nephew. Copyright © 1955 by C. S. Lewis Pte., Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1983 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With Aslan: Daily Reflections from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © 2010 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Extracts taken from The Chronicles of Narnia. Copyright © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1950-1956. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
The Danger of Drifting
By John Piper
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)
We all know people that this has happened to. There is no urgency. No vigilance. No focused listening or considering or fixing of their eyes on Jesus. And the result has not been a standing still, but a drifting away.
That is the point here: there is no standing still. The life of this world is not a lake. It is a river. And it is flowing downward to destruction. If you do not listen earnestly to Jesus and consider him daily and fix your eyes on him hourly, then you will not stand still; you will go backward. You will float away from Christ.
Drifting is a deadly thing in the Christian life. And the remedy for it, according to Hebrews 2:1, is: Pay close attention to what you have heard. That is, consider what God is saying in his Son Jesus. Fix your eyes on what God is saying and doing in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
This is not a hard swimming stroke to learn. The only thing that keeps us from swimming against sinful culture is not the difficulty of the stroke, but our sinful desire to go with the flow.
Let’s not complain that God has given us a hard job. Listen, consider, fix the eyes — this is not what you would call a hard job description. In fact, it is not a job description. It is a solemn invitation to be satisfied in Jesus so that we do not get lured downstream by deceitful desires.
If you are drifting today, one of the signs of hope that you are born again is that you feel pricked for this, and you feel a rising desire to turn your eyes on Jesus and consider him and listen to him in the days and months and years to come.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We try so hard to be self-sufficient. Although we delight in helping others out of our strength, it takes a giant swallow of our pride to accept help. We avoid feelings of brokenness and dependence. We would rather struggle for months on end before admitting we need help. This tendency stunts our growth because it rejects the help and power God has provided.
Although unseen, the Holy Spirit is the invisible hero dwelling within us. God knows our weakness and provided the Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen, and sustain us. The Spirit comes to our rescue time and again. We are loved and our weakness is never mocked. When God calls us, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit will equip us through His insight and power. The evidence is clear in both the life of Christ and the lives of His followers.
The first thing that accounts for God’s using D. L. Moody so mightily was that he was a fully surrendered man. Every ounce of that two-hundred-and-eighty-pound body of his belonged to God; everything he was and everything he had, belonged wholly to God.
R. A. Torrey
Luke 21 – 22
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