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Category: faith

What Does The Baptism of Christ Mean?

Image sources: DesiringGod.org, Bonnellart.com. Artist: Daniel Bonnell

I was reading my Bible plan on youversion the other day when it led me to the baptism of Christ. I’d never thought much of the event before, but this time it stood out.

Why did Jesus submit to baptism? There are two parts to this answer we should explore: the role of baptism in Jewish life; and what baptism seems to represent in the New Testament Scripture. We will look only at the second for now.

Baptism represents several things. I believe that baptism is representative of repentance from sin, and it prepares our souls for public affiliation with Christ. But why would Christ himself need to be baptized? Is he not sinless? Is he not our master, the one by whom we are named? What is the significance of his act?

While thinking about this and reading a couple articles about this passage, I think that baptism is representative of work that is public and work that is private. Or maybe I’m more correct to say that Christ’s baptism reflected both private and public reality simultaneously. More than this, it referred to Christ’s present and future work, simultaneously.

In Matthew when Jesus says that his baptism fulfills all righteousness, that is a present reality. The reality of the death of Christ is already present to him and he is already working in the task he has been prepared for. It is like a war. When we speak of World War II, or Haiti’s War of Independence, we can think of it as a series of battles, but it is all one event historically. All of these events come together as a unified whole. This is how God sees the work of Christ. In submitting to baptism, Christ also indicates-privately since no one else has knowledge of the event at the time-his obedience to the Father’s plan for redemption of man. This is why He says He is well pleased with His Son. His Son has accepted the cross, and descending and ascending into and from the waters symbolizes his descent to and resurrection from death on the cross.

It is public because everyone witnesses these events. The completion and fulfillment of God’s plan is announced. But it is also indicative of future work. It points in human time to a future reality that will be fulfilled 3.5 years later at the conclusion of his public ministry. The baptism is a symbol that promises the completion of a future reality.

Therefore, the baptism is important because it is yet another testimony of God’s faithfulness to Himself and His promises. To Him, He has already completed His work in you, and your salvation and glorification is one complete and unified event. But he is also promising the fulfillment of a future reality. That you will be presented along with His Son faultless before the throne. It is private because your baptism indicates your obedient acceptance and participation in His plan. But it is public because you declare your identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Present and future, public and private.

Peace and blessings.

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From Sacred Space to Public Grace

I was at a Christmas party with my kids this past holiday season and I was conflicted. The music was hot, the kids were eating well, and everyone was merry. Problem was, I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was trying to figure out why. I mean, I like rap, I like R&B, I like Bruno mars and Beyonce, but today I was unable to enjoy their music. Why? Because this party was in church.

I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t enjoy myself:
-Was I taking a holier than thou attitude?
-Was I being hypocritcal?
-Don’t I hear this music in other places, like the gym?
-Would Jesus even care? Would he be that offended?

Then it hit me: this is supposed to be a sacred space. Then I had to think to myself, what is the role of the sacred in our lives? Why do we distinguish the sacred from the everyday, quotidan, profane?

The sacred is a display of public grace.

What do we mean when we say something is a public grace? Grace is displayed:
-because the sacred indicates our sense of God’s existence
-because the sacred indicates our need for God’s presence
-the sacred displays our desire to know and experience God
-the sacred expresses our submission to His perfections
-the sacred indicates our awareness of sin and need for purity
-the sacred reinforces our hope in the transcendent

When we say that something is profane, on the other hand, we mean to prioritize the lowly over the heavenly, the immediate over the right, the tangible over transcendent. Profanity obscures God, while the sacred is meant to reveal Him.

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Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

Let me say that this statement contains a useful summary of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer believes to be the essence of Christian life, lived for the purpose of building up others in Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes this in the first chapter of his book, Life Together, which crystallizes his theology of Christian community. As time permits, I will try to share a few reflections from this book that I believe are encouraging. I have finished reading the book for some time, but it is difficult to write a review so I will share a few thoughts over the next week or two as I have opportunity. Let us start by discussing the quote above.

We see his emphasis on grace. If you have read more than one paragraph of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writing–in most cases even only one paragraph–you will know that Bonhoeffer believes that the grace of God in Christ is the reason for living. It is the rationale and motivation of our ethics. It is the breath of life and the substance of what we call death. To Bonhoeffer, grace is everything, and so it is fitting that this quote from his book, Life Together, begins with grace.

We see that his focus on grace yields to his acknowledgment that God allows us to live in community with other Christians. I’ve written recently about how much I am disappointed and dissatisfied by church. I think that Bonhoeffer, even if he saw exactly the same data that I experience, he would conclude that even the church experiences that I have had are a supreme gift of grace that must prompt a response of praise and gratitude and not one of self-righteous complaint. When Bonhoeffer wrote this book–one of his last–he was writing as a pastor who was a leader of a non-sanctioned non-denominational seminary in Germany during the Third Reich. Communities of authentic Christianity were not common. So he wrote this with the understanding that the enjoyment of Christian community for many could be abridged at any moment by the governing authorities. Thus, not only is it grace, but it is a privilege if God calls you to live in Christian community with others. If He calls you to respond to Truth in Christ, He does so without respect for your external circumstances. Many are called to labor alone. That is not my call in Christ, thank God. He allows me to live in community with other Christians.

And this brings us to the third thing we see here: community. If we are in Christ, our lives are not our own. Bonhoeffer understood that our lives are lived in Christ, through Christ, expressly for others and not for ourselves. To me, this truth is tricky because, of course, it is only possible for me to be self-aware, physiologically. I can only be aware of things that are revealed to me, speaking from what I understand of our cognitive processes. However, in Christ, our lives are not our own. Starting in my own household, since I am married my body belongs to my wife and not to myself. The desires of my children often come before my own, discipline notwithstanding. Choices that I can make, even if I do want to satisfy my own desires, are circumscribed by household resources that do not belong to me but to my household as a unit. And this is before I leave my doors. If I read the Scripture, yes I am transformed but my transformation affects my brothers and sisters. And much about my spiritual journey cannot be accomplished if I am isolated from my brothers and sisters. How can I experience grace if I never need to ask for forgiveness? How can I experience kindness if I am never put in a position to rely on the sovereign choices of others? I cannot develop self-control or patience if I am never subject to the will of another. I cannot exercise love or be loved if I am not in any relationships. It quickly becomes clear that what Christians call the fruit of the Spirit cannot be cultivated outside of community. It also becomes clear that these fruit are not produced for our own sustenance, but for the sustenance of the entire body.

How is God calling to you to live for the Body? In what ways can you thank God for the Christian communities around you?

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What’s behind the door?

Imagine that you were standing in front of a door that had everything you have ever desired or wanted behind it. If you were told you could have everything behind the door, would you be able to open it?

This is one of the illustrations James K.A. Smith uses when he tries to convince us that we are fundamentally lovers, not thinkers. In his lecture “You Are What You Love,” he makes a compelling case that we are creatures of desire. The narratives that arouse the most desire in us are the ones that direct our thoughts and actions. These desires are so deep that we are not always aware of them. So, while we know what we should say when someone asks us what we should desire, chances are that we love something altogether different. For most people, this should be a harrowing idea.

I’m not sure I would have the courage to open the door. 

I know what I should say when someone asks me what I love. I love the Lord Jesus Christ and want to see Him glorified. I love my wife and my kids and want to give selflessly to them. I love other people and want to see their lives improved. But when I actually reflect on what my actions say about who I love, I love myself. I want to be king over my life, unconditionally. I want my kids to do what I say as soon as I say it. I want my wife to do what I want. I want to be served and not to serve anyone else.

In light of Christ’s commands, I don’t want to open that door. Especially not in front of Him.

I know that my inner life needs to be renovated and re-created. I want my desires to truly be re-made before I come to see Him. If I can be honest, the thought of divine judgment is terrifying because I know that I would hesitate to open that door.

It’s a good thing that God knows we would hesitate. James K.A. Smith paraphrases an important Biblical command by saying “The beginning of all wisdom is to know we don’t desire God.” At this point, it is clear to us that we cannot do this on our own–we need the Holy Sprit’s intervention. We need Him to help us imitate the desires of Christ. Ultimately, this is the goal of Christian discipleship, that our desires would be the same as those of the Lord Jesus Christ. The loves that drive us would be the same as His loves. Our deepest unconscious desires would glorify Him by second-nature.

While I would be absolutely terrified to open the door today, the song “Just Want You” by Travis Greene is my prayer today. Would you make it yours?

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Why is it so hard to find a church? The old wine is good…

christmas holly decoration

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting different results. Jesus puts it this way:

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment,for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed.But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” [Matthew 9:14-17, ESV]

Some may read this passage and say that it clearly addresses fasting. Fair enough. But I think it is a very clear statement that it would be insane for followers of Jesus to expect him to fit into their established traditions. Perhaps one might see this a bit more clearly in his words here:

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” [Luke 5:36-39, ESV]

Do you see that statement at the end? “And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”

I think this statement explains why we see so much division in conservative, Evangelical Christian churches in the United States. We have spent so much time drinking old wine–familiarity with our socio-economic classes, familiarity with our racial communities, familiarity with styles of preaching and teaching, familiarity with culture–that most of us will not even attempt to taste the new wine.

For those of us who do, the answer is often “The old is good.”

I feel these words viscerally because I have been searching for a church for a bit over a year now. It has been the hardest and most frustrating experience of my life. It has gotten to a point where I am very seriously considering not attending church services on Sundays at all, but just reading my Bible through the week and meeting my men’s Bible study on Saturdays.

Slowing down to think about it, I think that my frustration is caused by my insanity. Consider this. I was looking at the website of a local church that is a 20 minute casual walk from my house, and on their blog is a post titled “A Small Church.” In that post I could not believe what I found. Some advice on finding a church from Eugene Peterson.

Go to the closest church where you live and the smallest. After six months, if it isn’t working, go find the next smallest church.

Now, I live in between three neighborhoods in Baltimore City called Roland Park, Guilford, and Homeland. I grew up in the Black Baptist Church. I believe it is very likely that I will not find this experience at the church who posted this blog, because not only is it a different denomination, but it is rooted in the community where I live. So, by Christ’s definition, I am completely unwilling to consider it because it doesn’t match the traditions and culture I have become comfortable with.

On the one hand, I could justify myself in all of this by explaining race issues in the church, explaining how I want my children to grow up and experience what I experienced, how there are relatively few places where I don’t have to apologize for being myself. On the other hand, could God be calling me and my family to taste new wine?

In my mind, I have this idea that most people used to attend neighborhood churches. There wasn’t much thought put into selecting a church because you went to the closest church that spoke your language and fit your denomination. It seems to me that there were several practical limitations that made this an accurate description of most Christians’ church communities until relatively recently. A number of technical advances have made the dilemma I am facing somewhat new.

If I can describe my challenge in two words, consumer Christianity, then I’ll say that my own consumer Christianity is only possible because of technology. I can Google churches on the internet and listen to sermons or look at pictures of the congregation. I can look at maps to see the locations. I have a car that allows me to drive a relatively great distance in a relatively short period of time. I can read reviews of the church before I attend. And, unique to the American/Western context, I am not constrained by the traditions of any denomination. All of these factors have made the church, in my opinion and experience, radically pluralistic. It’s as if Romans 1 has become true for us in our church experience. God has given us over to consumer Christianity.

All of this to say, I’m afraid of trying something new. I’m afraid of going to the church that is in the community where I live. I’m afraid of losing my identity by attending that church. I’m also afraid of preventing my children from developing an African American community. I’ve tasted the old wine, and it is good.

Am I willing to taste His wine?

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Why am I afraid to #RunRichmond?… I’m afraid of the process #RealLifeRealFit

The hardest thing about the marathon is that it is so difficult to know what went wrong last time…

I will start training to get #RichmondReady next week. This weekend, I’ll be preparing my training plan and looking over my calendar for the next three months or so to identify the problematic spots of the training cycle. I’m ready to #RunRichmond, but I have to get over my fear of failure before I’ll be willing to set a goal.

On my birthday last week, I was reflecting on the fact that I’ve never stuck with an athletic training plan all the way through. Last week, however, I was writing a note of encouragement to myself in my training journal because I have been able to stick with the Armstrong Pullup Program for 10 weeks now! My goal is to make it to 20 dead-hang pullups, and the fact that I’ve been able to stay consistent with this program all the way through is such a blessing. I am now up to a max set of 13, so I’d say I’ve got probably a couple months minimum to meet my objective. Although I started out able to do a set of 13, I had an injury and had to start back at 8. Over the last 5 weeks, I’ve made it all the way back to 13, and my upper body physique has been completely transformed. I haven’t missed a workout, and I’ve been able to stick with it.

Now, compared with a marathon training cycle, the pullup training program is a baby’s first step. Not because the pullup plan is easy–it is very difficult. I often feel tired and sluggish because the back is such a large muscle group. However, training for a marathon time goal doesn’t quite have a weight room analogy, in my opinion. Nonetheless, as I said, I’ve never followed through on a workout program so success here has been an unexpected pleasure. I believe that faithfulness in keeping the pullup program will help to transfer discipline over to the marathon. I’m hoping it will, because my biggest fear of the marathon is that I won’t be able to complete the training. I’m afraid of being too tired to do my job, or being too tired to put one foot in front of the other on those midweek runs. I’m afraid of being too tired to wake up and do my weekend early morning long runs. Since my last marathon flamed out in cramps at mile 15, leading to 11 miles of pain, I’m truly afraid of not preparing well enough to meet my time goal, again.

I’m afraid of the lifestyle changes I’ll have to make. I’ll have to lose some weight before the marathon specific phase starts since I’ve been weightlifting, and changing my diet to lose the weight will be demanding. I’m afraid that I don’t have the discipline and perseverance to lose the weight.

I think most of all, I’m afraid of picking a goal and failing to meet that goal. On the last two marathons I ran, I feel like I failed to meet attainable, realistic goals I set for myself and I’m afraid to miss the mark again. While the marathon hurts physically, a lot, I have to find the mental strength to set another goal and put in the work.

Have you ever set goals but failed to meet them? How did you bounce back? What helped you move past the disappointment of failing to achieve a goal you had set?

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Love Redeems: Reflections on Crime and Punishment

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to read fiction, and I like to at least read one every few months to make sure that my heart remains full and refreshed. I read plenty of narrative prose for my research and day job, and I read plenty of prose for learning about Christ and teaching in my church. While I love the beauty of well-written, technical, narrative prose, my heart remains detached from the details of those documents. I cannot remain detached from the fiction that I read.

My latest book was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This was, quite possibly, the best book that I have ever read. For me, the power of the book is in its communicating the power of love to redeem and transform even the most guilty conscience.

In my opinion, this book, like Anna Karenina, was much more about a supporting cast member, Sonechka, than the main character, Rodya. While the book deals mainly with the acts and thoughts of Rodya, his ideas about the doctrine of man from the agnostic/atheistic and theistic/Christian perspectives, social structure and hierarchy, guilt and the identity of man, the book makes its main statements through the actions of Sonechka.

As a Christian, I find Sonechka’s place in the story remarkable. Having become a prostitute to support her family in spite of her father’s alcoholism and depression, her lower caste and occupation makes her essentially untouchable in the contemporary Russian society. Nonetheless, her nobility is demonstrated in her inability to remain indifferent when confronted with the suffering of her family. Rodya rightly sees this aspect of her character, and even appraises her character much more highly than the higher caste Luzhin, engaged to his sister. Luzhin has the higher social position and resource, but he is of much lower character, treating his future mother-in-law and fiancé with great contempt.

At the end of the book, Sonechka is vindicated as we witness the closing scene between Rodya and Sonechka. Having been sent to Siberia for his murder, Rodya has recovered from a sickness and now has the chance to receive Sonechka after an illness of her own. During this time, it becomes clear to him how much he loves her and is indebted to her reckless companionship and faith in his future redemption. We are told at the end of the book that it is her tireless love that convinces Rodya to pursue life, spurning guilt’s heavy weight on his conscience and giving him a taste of the sweetness of life. He is compared to Lazarus, in my opinion. Just as Lazarus is resurrected at the word of Jesus, the redemption of God endures beyond the greatest guilt that can be upon any man or woman. Sonechka clearly believes this, as we see from her reading of this story with Rodya when he visits her after his sister spurns Luzhin, and this story is in the background of the final third of the book as we approach Rodya’s confession.

Crime and Punishment closes with a statement of newness of life for Rodya, a statement of renewal and regeneration. There’s so much more in this that could be explored–the use of a broken vessel to bring life to a guilty soul; the inability to escape one’s own guilt; the fact that our deeds and desires carry us along despite our desire to master them. But I leave the exploration of these topics to my fellow reader.

But here begins a new account, the account of a man’s gradual renewal, the account of his gradual regeneration, his gradual transition from one world to another, his acquaintance with a new, hitherto completely unknown reality. It might make the subject of a new story–but our present story is ended.

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Book Review: Battling Unbelief by John Piper

The premise of this book is that we are tempted to unbelief when we fail to live by faith in the future grace of God. It is the promise of God, in every situation, that inspires the believer to live in radical obedience because we trust in Him. Our trust in His promises sustain us in the present. The introduction of the book gives several examples of the promises of God that sustain us in difficult or ordinary situations:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6)

No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you by my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)

For surely I am with you, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

Neither death, nor life…  nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)

These are given to us as examples to demonstrate to us the grace of God in Christ Jesus that sustains us in every situation. And, these are examples of foundational promises of God’s presence and His good gifts in the future.

There are eight specific areas in which we fail to trust in future grace and fall into unbelief, thereby further falling into sin: anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust. It is not the place to discuss the specific definition of each of these here. Moreover, each manifests itself differently, requiring very different approaches to deal with its effects and restore the believer after the believer has fallen into it. This will also not be discussed here. Instead, we will list the Scripture guidance that prefaces each chapter in order to guide our future thinking on these topics, and to help identify ways in which we might fail to trust in God’s future grace concerning each.

  1. Anxiety–The root of anxiety is inadequate future faith in God’s provision and protection.
    1. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
    2. Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:7)
    3. Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “With what shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
  2. Pride–The root of pride is the lack of satisfaction in God and His Son, Jesus. When we are dissatisfied with God, we seek satisfaction in the things of man.
    1. Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the mighty man boast in his might, nor the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
    2. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:6)
  3. Misplaced Shame– “Shame is a painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt or shortcoming or impropriety. The pain is caused not merely by our own failures but by the awareness that others see them.” Piper goes on to say that the placement of shame is determined appropriate based on the subject’s attitude towards God. If they are shamed by something that brings glory to God (such as awareness by unbelievers that they firmly believe) this brings misplaced shame and we need to pursue God’s future grace in our vindication. If we are shamed by something that repulses God or is sin, this is proper shame.
    1. I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12)
    2. Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame. (Romans 10:11)
  4. Impatience– “Impatience is a form of unbelief we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of God’s guidance. It springs up in our hearts when our plan is interrupted or shattered… The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It’s a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience–to wait in His place, and go at His pace.”
    1. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. (Lamentations 3:25)
    2. Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord… As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11)
  5. Covetousness– “Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God. The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.”
    1. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
    2. I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
    3. There is great gain in godliness with contentment. (1 Timothy 6:6)
  6. Bitterness– “Living by faith in future grace involves overcoming vengeance and bitterness by trusting God to settle all our accounts justly.”
    1. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
  7. Despondency–Despondency is not depression, per se, because depression connotes a clinical condition in our day. It is a sense of spiritual depression that occupies the broad space between a bad day and clinical depression.
    1. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation. (Psalm 42:5)
    2. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
  8. Lust–There are many confessing Christians who disconnect the threats in the Bible from their conduct in real life, thus nullifying-in their minds-the need to be holy. When we do not believe that God gives victory over sin, and not just tolerating it, we can fall into lust.
    1. If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
    2. He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:4)

NOTE: In the chapter on pride, GK Chesterton is quoted: “What we suffer from is… humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason.

NOTE: In the chapter on bitterness, Piper quotes himself: “The dark-valley breath of bitterness cannot survive the high paths of faith in future grace. Grudges demand the valley-vapors of self-pity and fear and emptiness. They cannot survive the contentment and confidence and fullness of joy that come from satisfaction in the forgiving God of future grace.”

NOTE: Piper quotes Edward John Carnell in the chapter on bitterness: “We cannot ignore inconsiderate acts in others; yet we cannot execute the penalty of law. We have no right to complete the moral cycle… Although we sense no spiritual inhibition against crying out against injustice, the purity of our moral life deteriorates the moment we attempt to administer justice.”

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Henri Nouwen on Obedience

To be obedient means to be constantly attentive to this active presence and to allow God, who is only love, to be the source as well as the goal of all we think, say, and do.

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction (2006)

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