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.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts!
We regularly learn about the discovery of an entirely new species of plant or animal found somewhere on the planet—often in the depths of the ocean or the heart of a jungle. When that happens, it reminds us of the mysteries of God’s creation over which we have been made stewards.
Recommended Reading: Revelation 5:11-12
As well as mysteries on earth, there are mysteries in the heavens. Not complete mysteries, for we have been given glimpses in Scripture of what lies beyond our sight. Angels fall into the category of “known” but not “well known.” Angels exist for sure—they are mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Bible. But they are invisible to us (Jacob saw angels in a dream, but not while awake—Genesis 28:12), yet apparently all around us (Psalm 103:20; Hebrews 1:14). All appear to have been originally loyal to God, but some rebelled and fell from His presence (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9). They are invisible to us but innumerable before God (Revelation 5:11).
Someday all mysteries will be revealed. Until then, glory today in the wondrous works of God—including His angels.
Humility is the ornament of angels, and pride the deformity of devils.
Read through the Bible: Luke 21 – 22
Watching Over Me
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) was an Italian painter and architect. One of his most famous paintings is The Guardian Angel, a lavish painting completed in 1656 of a beautiful female angel with wings holding the arm of a child as he walks on a path. The image of a guardian angel has occupied the imagination of countless artists through the years—the most frequent presentation is of an angel in a child’s bedroom guarding the child as she sleeps.
Recommended Reading: Psalm 103:20-22
Are such images biblical? Angels themselves certainly are, as is the idea of them guarding the children of God. Angels perform God’s Word (Psalm 103:20) and are sent “to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). The song many children learn to sing—“All night, all day, angels watching over me”—lays the foundation for a serious biblical truth: Angels are God’s ministering spirits whose assignment is to watch over His children.
Keep in mind—“all day and all night”—that you are being watched over by the angels of God. Give God thanks for His angelic protectors and live with conscious, spiritual awareness of their presence.
Under Christ, as the head, angels are the guardians of the Church.
On The Fall
The doctrine of the Fall (both of man and of some “gods,” “eldils” or “angels”) is the only satisfactory explanation. Evil begins, in a universe where all was good, from free will, which was permitted because it makes possible the greatest good of all. The corruption of the first sinner consists not in choosing some evil thing (there are no evil things for him to choose) but in preferring a lesser good (himself) before a greater (God). The Fall is, in fact, Pride. The possibility of this wrong preference is inherent in the v. fact of having, or being, a self at all. But though freedom is real it is not infinite. Every choice reduces a little one’s freedom to choose the next time. There therefore comes a time when the creature is fully built, irrevocably attached either to God or to itself. This irrevocableness is what we call Heaven or Hell. Every conscious agent is finally committed in the long run: i.e., it rises above freedom into willed, but henceforth unalterable, union with God, or else sinks below freedom into the black fire of self-imprisonment. That is why the universe (as even the physicists now admit) has a real history, a fifth act with a finale in which the good characters “live happily ever after” and the bad ones are cast out. At least that is how I see it.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Words to Live By
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II: Family Letters 1905-1931. Copyright © 2004 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
May God bring strength and comfort to these dear people of faith in the light of this despicable hateful, appalling act. Our heart and tears goes out to their families and community.
As we have seen, this life of faith allows me, indeed it encourages me, to ask the hard questions. I am not an automaton robotically checking all the right boxes devoid of emotion. God asks me to come seeking, asking, pounding on the doors of heaven sharing every feeling that churns inside me when caught up in the agony of life’s incongruities, inequities, and injustices. There is no such thing as off limits or out of bounds in these conversations with him. There is a release, a freedom that is gained as I dump my burdens in His lap. I can whisper, sob, even yell if I must. I come with my questions. As I tarry, I leave with His peace. And I am reminded that many have shared the same, indeed far worse, life experiences and emotions throughout the ages and even now. See Psalm 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 77, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, and 140, for example. Authentic faith, a faith that goes the distance, is an honest faith! (When Faith Is All There Is: Faith Is Enough by Stan Winder and Kimberly Allston)
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Origen of Alexandria - Theologian and Allegorical Exegete
Verse: Matthew 19:12
The blistering persecution set in motion by Emperor Septimus Severus in 202 tore apart the family of the young Origenes Adamatius (185 - 254), who would become one of the leading systematic theologians of the early church. Born into a Christian home in Alexandria, he was the oldest of seven children. As a youth he memorized lengthy passages of the Bible and often perplexed his father, a teacher of the Bible and Greek literature, with difficult theological questions. The happy home life was suddenly disrupted in 202, however, when Origen's father was imprisoned.
The sixteen-year-old boy might have been utterly distraught, but instead the ordeal served to strengthen his faith. Fearing his father might forsake his faith out of devotion to the family, he pleaded: "Do not change your mind because of us." Shortly afterward, Origen's father was beheaded and his property confiscated, leaving his widow and young children in dire straits. Through the generosity of a benefactor, Origen continued his studies for a year and then became a teacher and later the head of an Alexandrian catechetical school in order to support his mother and siblings.
For Origen, theology was intricately tied to spiritual formation. He practiced strict asceticism, denying himself normal pleasures in order to suffer with Christ, even castrating himself to avert sexual desires. With his asceticism came humanitarian outreach, primarily aiding those suffering under persecution. Some of his students were sentenced to death, and he himself hid in homes of both pagans and Christians in order to escape execution.
Under Origen's teaching and administration, the Alexandrian school grew. His scholarship captured the attention of church leaders, who invited him to preach and teach elsewhere, much to the chagrin of his bishop, Demetrius, who demanded that he return home. How dare he tour as a celebrity speaker! "It has never been heard of and it never happens now," the bishop seethes, "that laymen preach homilies in the presence of bishops."
Origen, for his part, was not easily muzzled. Traveling through the Mediterranean world, he spent time in Caesarea, where he was ordained by the bishop, who believes such acknowledgment of his ministerial gifts is appropriate. When Demetrius learned of this "breach of jurisdiction," he was livid, accusing Origen of teaching heresy and exposing the secret of his youthful self-castration. In the ensuing conflict, Origen was banned from Alexandria and his ordination was rendered null and void.
Other bishops, however, ignored the retraction of his ordination and invited him to serve as a priest and teacher under their jurisdictions. He eventually made his home in Caesarea, where he combined his work of teaching, preaching, and writing in wide-ranging fields of biblical studies, theology, philosophy, natural science, and ethics. His intention, however, was not to establish a liberal arts program. Rather, his focus was mission outreach—bringing pagans into the faith through his appealing educational offerings. During the later years of his life, Origen traveled as a theological consultant, frequently called upon to judge the orthodoxy of a particular churchman or teacher whose beliefs are in question. With the help of a wealthy benefactor, he was able to devote his time to research and writing.
During the persecution under Emperor Decius, Origen was arrested and imprisoned. Although nearing seventy, he was afforded no mercy. According to Eusebius, his torture was severe. Among other agonies, his legs were "pulled four paces apart in the torturer's stocks." Released from prison, he died soon afterward.
Unlike many of the leading Christians of the early church, Origen will never be given the title of saint. In the sixth century he was deemed a heretic for several of his controversial views, including his belief in a Trinitarian hierarchy. But he held views even more abhorrent, what a critic called "the fabulous preexistence of souls" and "the monstrous restoration which follows from it." This restoration was a form of universalism in which God's love in the end prevails over his wrath.
Possible with God
By John Piper
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16)
God has a people in every people group in the world. He will call them through the gospel with Creator power. And they will believe! What a power is in these words for overcoming discouragement in the hard places of the frontiers!
The story of Peter Cameron Scott is a good illustration. Born in Glasgow in 1867, Scott became the founder of the Africa Inland Mission. But his beginnings in Africa were anything but auspicious.
His first trip to Africa ended in a severe attack of malaria that sent him home. He resolved to return after he recuperated. This return was especially gratifying to him because this time his brother John joined him. But before long, John was struck down by fever.
All alone, Peter buried his brother in African soil, and in the agony of those days recommitted himself to preach the gospel in Africa. Yet his health gave way again, and he had to return to England.
How would he ever pull out of the desolation and depression of those days? He had pledged himself to God. But where could he find the strength to go back to Africa? With man it was impossible!
He found strength in Westminster Abbey. David Livingstone’s tomb is still there. Scott entered quietly, found the tomb, and knelt in front of it to pray. The inscription reads:
OTHER SHEEP I HAVE WHICH ARE NOT OF THIS FOLD; THEM ALSO I MUST BRING.
He rose from his knees with a new hope. He returned to Africa. And today, over a hundred years later, the mission he founded is a vibrant, growing force for the gospel in Africa.
If your greatest joy is to experience the infilling grace of God overflowing from you for the good of others, then the best news in all the world is that God will do the impossible through you for the salvation of the unreached peoples.