Cultivating Fresh Faith Through Your Lifetime

by Lucy Wyndham

Cultivating Fresh Faith Through Your Lifetime

Japan, Germany, and Monaco are countries approaching an aging population looking into retirement or settling in retirement homes. Among the older adults, this is probably the time to slow down, reflect, and take leisure time walking along the coast side, travel the world, or build and live in a wonderful lakeside home. The Millennials and Gen Z’s are picking up the weight and chase after the ‘American dream’ faster than ever. But, before technology became a staple in our lives, our forefathers made sure to look into the Word through meditation, mindfulness, and reflection. Looking for a fresh perspective in your walk with God? Each day provides an opportunity to an enriched life filled with a purpose.

The joy in ALL circumstances

A verse in Philippians 4 pointed, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice’. A worldview devoid of God would have only pinned joy as an event that lasts only for a moment.  But life is a struggle and it doesn’t always go your way. It’s not always happy and it’s not always on time with whatever you asked of God. True joy in your life shouldn’t be dependent on your circumstances. Once we know our Savior, Jesus Christ, we look beyond the circumstances and into the face of the one who gives us substance and meaning. This is why it’s so important to meditate on the truth and joy available to us, as this simple daily practice will help us face our struggles and change our perspective for the better.

Whose image is on you?

In the Gospel of Mark, a man once asked if ‘it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ to which Jesus replied, ‘Bring me a denarius and let me look at it… Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ The man replied, ‘Caesar’s’ to which Jesus responded to give to Caesar what is due to his and to God which is due God’s. Ravi Zacharias, a renowned Christian apologist, made a poignant remark of the questioner’s ‘disingenuousness’ by not asking a follow-up question. If it wasn’t the case, the questioner would’ve asked, ‘What belongs to God?’ to which Jesus would have replied, ‘Whose image is on you?’. To have a calling, you first need to have a caller. Each of us is called for a holy life in Christ, to bear the image of his father, and fulfill the purpose He predestined since time immemorial.

Rethinking retirement

If you’ve never heard it before, more adults are retiring early. While there are many reasons people want to retire early, there’s an ugly truth to this ‘upside’.Adults retiring early experience loss of identity and security. The fear of the unknown may also set in once income dwindles, inflation rate shoots up, and the market crashes. Set scheduled time to reading inspirational texts to guide us in honoring our Creator and love of your neighbor. Living the faith does not come with an ‘expiration date’ and building a robust prayer life liberates you from material concerns.

Make every work matter

God cares for the world through us. Even the first task of man on earth is to ‘work and take care of’ the Garden of Eden. The Bible is replete of insinuations of God feeding His people. The only catch is that it has to be done through work. So what does this imply in your walk in the faith? From the grandest work of a CEO running a multi-billion company to washing dishes, no work is menial, and each work carries with it great dignity. As we are all parts of the body of Christ, we are called to become the ‘hands and feet’ of God.

https://godinterest.com/2019/07/10/cultivating-fresh-faith-through-your-lifetime

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A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

We should empower all of God’s people to dream as missionaries again.
MATT ROGERS

A Disappearing Missionary Impulse

Summer presents a wide array of missionary opportunities for those attuned to how the Spirit of God might be at work in the places they live, work, and play. The pace of life changes—providing more time for interaction with neighbors, coworkers, friends, and even seemingly random strangers that we might encounter on a summer vacation. Each block party or time at the local pool is an occasion when God can bring into our paths those in need of the hope that only Jesus can bring.

These seasons, however, often expose how infrequently most of us are actually looking for missionary encounters. Imagine that you are serving in an international context that had, as a part of the culture’s annual rhythms, a time when people from all walks of life would meet and have occasion for meaningful conversation. You’d likely plan your evangelistic work to take full advantage of this season, knowing that you need use every chance you get to engage the lost because it’s difficult to manufacture such opportunities on your own.

Can the American church regain such a missionary impulse? If we are to do so, the hope rests on common people of God—missionary disciples—infusing their lives with a missionary impulse.

An Unhurried Life

There is perhaps no greater obstacle to missionary living than the breakneck pace of most of our lives. Rather than slowing down, we actually schedule a whole host of events and activities that keep our RPMs up even when we don’t have to. We’re often guilty of overloading even our vacations with so much activity that it’s hard to take a deep breath, look around, and engage in conversation without having to consider where we are going next. The church is a culprit as well. We pack a summer schedule full of events for believers to connect with one another, all the while inadvertently stealing time from meaningful missionary activity. Most of us would find far more margin for missionary practices if we simply slowed down, took a stroll through the neighborhood with no agenda, cooked out with a few neighbors, or hosted a game night and invited a few people we met at the pool. These unhurried rhythms allow us to live as normal people on mission.

Break Free

Next up, we need to find ways to break free from our incessant connection with the chatter of the world. There’s a place for critiquing the ills of social media, which is not my goal here. Rather, I’d merely like to point out how many conversations most of us squander because we are living in a fantasy world of conversations online. Even if we are unhurried, we can be perceived as preoccupied if we always bury our faces in our phones or stick buds in our ears. Simply having our eyes up, looking for people in line behind us at the coffee shop or walking past us in the neighborhood, can provide inroads into far more meaningful interactions than the world of social media will ever provide.

Creative Experimentation

Finally, we should empower all of God’s people to dream as missionaries again. The era of church growth created the illusion that it was the church, as an organization, that designed and implemented events to reach the lost. This impression rendered the majority of the church passive. But, who better to know what would best connect with someone than a neighbor or co-worker who knows and interacts daily with them? Why would we think that three or four leaders in a meeting could come up with better ideas than all of God’s people working toward the same goal?

Missionary disciples own the work and take risks to create and experiment on what would best reach those they are praying for and living around. Risk, creation, and experimentation all anticipate a high likelihood of failure. We try things hoping that along the way we stumble upon a few best practices that can be useful to engage those far from God. And, as we live in community with others in the church, we share these best practices with others so that they might replicate them in their spheres of influence as well. Church leaders, then, should create ways to empower members to such creative experimentation by fueling the fire of ideas that bubble up from the people. For example, churches can fund the well-thought-out projects that various members create rather than throwing money at the same programs they’ve run year after year. By coming alongside of the church’s members and lending strength, church leaders can create a culture where such activity is normative.

What if the church lived with such a missionary impulse this summer? Simple practices multiplied by thousands of believers in countless places around North America could saturate our geography with missionary intentionality.

Matt Rogers is a father of five living in Greenville, South Carolina. He pastors The Church at Cherrydale and serves as an assistant professor of Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt writes and speaks throughout the United States on issues ranging from discipleship, church leadership, and missions.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/july/disappearing-missionary-impulse.html

A Puffed-Up Mind

July 13, 2019 by Mark Clements

Colossians 2:16-18

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” Colossians 2:18.

Early Christians in Colossae faced multiple forms of false teaching from influential leaders who appeared to have supreme intelligence and spiritual experience. These false teachers attacked the simplicity of the believers’ faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, insisting that they were somehow disqualified from the true knowledge of God since their experiences did not match the leaders’ experiences. True believers in Jesus were being judged by religious Jews because they did not observe certain Jewish feasts or festivals. Paul reminded them that those Old Testament ceremonies pointed to Jesus, who came and provided the substance of the promises to which they pointed. Other false teachers had actually strayed from Jesus and were embracing a mystical, experiential cult, promoting a false humility and the worship of angels. Both of these groups were pressuring the believers to leave their foundation of Christ through prideful fleshly manipulation, and Paul encouraged them to resist them.

Daily, we are met with spiritual resistance. God’s enemies will use every tactic possible to knock us off balance, including manipulation, bullying and asserting their superiority because of supreme intelligence or experience. The gospel is simple enough for a child to grasp, but that does not mean it is inferior. It is the power of God and it reveals His righteousness (Romans 1:16, 17). We must actively resist manipulation from false teachers and stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, no matter how smart or manipulative false teachers might be. We are qualified by faith in Christ, therefore no human being can make us disqualified through their vain imagination or high intelligence.

JUST A THOUGHT: Christ qualifies you.

https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/bogard-press-daily-devotional-98/

Is It God’s Goodness that Leads to Repentance?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, July 12, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 30, 2015. -ed.

We live in an age that demands short bursts of rapid-fire information. The day is fast approaching—perhaps it’s already here—when the number of Twitter followers will hold the preeminent place on a pastor’s resume. Sermon lengths are going the way of our shrinking attention spans. Modern pastors are tempted to replace exegesis and exposition with sound bite sermons and slogan theology.

But Bible verses are not slogans or sound bites. They are eternal truths that find their meaning within the overall story God is telling. Uprooting a verse, or even a biblical phrase, from its native habitat can lead to all kinds of mayhem. That is especially the case when, independent of their proper context, verses are enlisted as the supporting cast for someone’s opinion or agenda. Romans 2:4 is one verse that is regularly misused that way—carelessly sprinkled into sermons, interviews, and social media.

For example, in January 2013, Rick Warren explained to his legions of Facebook followers how the verse factored in his evangelistic methods:

In that particular case, Warren was quoting Romans 2:4 (actually only about half of it) as justification for downplaying sin and soft-peddling the threat of judgment. But is that what Romans 2:4 is really all about? Was Paul telling his Roman readers to jettison the parts of gospel preaching that lack curb appeal?

Joel Osteen is even more explicit in his use of Romans 2:4 to defend his feel-good messages:

Listen, don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. . . . Listen, that doesn’t draw people to God. They know what kind of life they live. They know how bad they’ve lived. What you’ve got to do is talk about the goodness of God. Listen, it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. [1]

Joel Osteen may think that people know they are sinners and that we therefore don’t need to warn them or preach about it, but does Romans 2:4 really back up his point?

Moreover, is his point biblical at all? Just as prisons are full of convicts who will proclaim their innocence, Scripture is clear that sinners reject the guilt of their sin. As Solomon explained, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). And even those who do acknowledge their sin have little grasp of the depth of their wretchedness, or the eternal cost of their transgressions.

In fact, it’s ironic that Osteen and Warren would use Romans 2:4 to excuse themselves from discussing sin and the need for repentance, since that verse is plucked from Scripture’s most profound discourse on man’s depravity.

Romans 1–3 is undeniable proof that Paul began his exposition of the gospel by first addressing the universality of sin and the justness of God’s wrath against sin. John MacArthur points this out:

The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgment on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of man’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under His sentence of eternal condemnation and death. Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [2]

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150930

The Consequences of Ignoring God

by Greg Laurie on Jul 6, 2019

I heard about a gallery owner who called one of his featured artists and said, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

The artist said, “Well, what’s the good news?”

“The good news is that a man came in here the other day and was looking at your paintings. He asked whether the value of the paintings would go up if the artist were to die. I told him they would, of course. So he bought every one of your paintings.”

“That’s fantastic,” the artist said. “So what’s the bad news?”

“The bad news is the man was your doctor.”

I think we can all use some good news in a bad world. But even as bad as things are now, they were even darker in Israel in the prophet Elisha’s day. It was, in fact, one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history. Everything had gone wrong. The king had basically become powerless.

A famine had swept the land, and things were so bad that they were actually eating dove dung, or to put it in modern vernacular, pigeon poop. The Scriptures also tell us that a delicacy at the time was the head of a donkey. Even worse, the people actually were turning to cannibalism.

Why had this happened to Israel?

It was a result of their disobedience to God and their repeated worship of false idols. This reminds us of a very important biblical principle: God will not share his glory with another.

You see, God put us on this earth to glorify him. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 NIV). We were put here for that purpose. God wants us to fulfill that purpose.

And he certainly does not want to share his glory with any other gods. Two of the Ten Commandments deal with the topic of placing other gods before him.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t that a little paranoid on God’s part?”

It is not paranoia at all.

If you’re married, how would you feel if your spouse went out with a different person every night? That would be ridiculous. You wouldn’t put up with something like that.

But is it any more ridiculous when we turn from the true and living God to false gods? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down to the idol of success or the idol of money? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down before the idol of fame or the idol of pleasure?

God is saying, “You belong to me. I am not sharing you with another.”

He basically told Israel, “I am your Lord. I am your God. I brought you out of Egypt. Worship me. That is all I ask.”

But they kept turning to false gods. So the Lord allowed them to reap the consequences of their actions. And when the king heard about the people’s cannibalism, he ripped his royal robes. And underneath those robes was sackcloth.

At that time sackcloth usually was associated with mourning and repentance. We would assume that the king perhaps was truly repentant before God. Hardly. Because right after that, he decided he wanted to kill Elisha, the representative of God.

The king was saying, in effect, “Listen, I tried the whole wait-on-God thing. I have tried the whole faith deal. It isn’t working. I don’t want to wait on God one day longer. I am ticked off. And it’s Elisha’s fault.”

Elisha had done nothing wrong. He simply was the Lord’s representative. What the king and Israel were experiencing was a direct result of their own disobedience.

But whoever said that sin makes sense? When people are sinking deeper into sin and reaping the consequences of it, they strike out at God (and sometimes his representatives, even) instead of repenting and coming to their senses.

Maybe you’ve been minding your own business, loving God and living the Christian life, and a nonbeliever has been hassling you. You’re saying, “What on earth is this all about? What have I done wrong?”

Maybe you’re doing something right, because the Bible says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).

We don’t necessarily want to be persecuted, but as Christians we will be. And we’re seeing it more and more in our culture today.

You’d better not say anything critical against any particular race. You’d better not say anything critical against a gender. You’d better not say anything critical about any particular group. But you can say whatever you want about followers of Jesus Christ, and that is acceptable in our culture.

Writing in the early 20th century, G.K. Chesterton said, “You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil.… You may talk of God as metaphor or mystification. . . . But if you speak of God as a fact, as a thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one’s conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can.… It is now thought irreverent to be a believer.”

If that was true back then, how much more true is it today?

I’ve heard it said that Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That is ridiculous. Because the fact of the matter is, those who think the most of the next world will do the most for this one.

The Consequences of Ignoring God

Imitate These Things Not Those

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Not everything in church culture is good for us. How can we tell the difference between authentic discipleship and unholy peer pressure?

Katie had a solid Christian pedigree. She’d grown up in the church, committed her life to Jesus at youth camp, attended a Christian college, and married Jeff, her college sweetheart, immediately after graduation. At the church they’d begun attending, the couple served as Sunday school teachers. Katie also made time in her busy schedule to volunteer with a ministry serving the homeless in their new community. Yet after nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in. “I’m still treated as an outsider by the other women, and it’s not because I’m a relative newcomer. It’s because I work full-time outside the home.” She explained that almost all the other women her age in the congregation were stay-at-home moms who homeschooled their children, and a few older women focused most of their attention on nurturing this group. Besides meeting during the day for Bible studies on how to be better wives and mothers, they often arranged informal play dates and field trips. Katie’s work schedule meant she and her young son couldn’t join them. But it wasn’t the lack of invitations from the other women that troubled her.

After nearly three years at their church, Katie told me she wondered if she’d ever fit in.

“When we first came to the church, Jeff and I knew that my job put me in the minority among the stay-at-home moms, but the pastor assured us it shouldn’t matter, as we were all seeking Jesus together. We appreciated his emphasis on discipleship. As the years have passed, however, I’m noticing that most of the women seem to be copying each other in terms of lifestyle, convictions, and calling. It feels more like a clique than a church,” Katie said sadly. She and Jeff were considering leaving the congregation.

Scripture portrays discipleship as the way in which a mature believer lives out faith in the everyday and ongoing companionship of a younger student. This maturity references age, experience, and faithfulness. It’s a description of the ongoing process of spiritual growth, not the arrival at some state of spiritual perfection (Deut. 6:4-9). The late Dallas Willard called this whole-life learning model apprenticeship, a word that is helpful in translating an ancient concept into our modern context.

Like my friend Katie, I’ve found that sometimes a Christianized form of peer pressure takes the place of true apprenticeship. If your church culture implies that all real believers end up looking, acting, voting, or talking the same, pay close attention. It’s possible you’re seeing peer pressure at work. And though it’s simply a more sophisticated version of what you may have experienced in middle school, the social push to conform to a group’s standards can be just as powerful. Some examples:

  • We tell new believers (or inquirers) that they need to learn to “act like a Christian” in order to fit in at church.
  • We subtly (or not so subtly) discourage young believers from pursuing careers in academia or the arts because those vocational paths are “too secular.”
  • We shun or shame people who, on a theological non-essential—such as politics—may not share the prevailing opinion of our congregation.

The challenge for the more mature in an apprenticeship relationship is to remember that learning happens in different ways at different stages of our spiritual development. There is a time and a season in our spiritual life for imitation. Just as young children parrot sounds and words as they’re learning to communicate for themselves, we learn how to walk with Jesus by patterning our lives after those who’ve gone before us. Imitation serves an instructional purpose.

Peer pressure has “fear of missing out” at its root, and not fitting into the group is viewed as a cardinal sin. If you sense everyone around you competing in an unspoken contest to conform to the group’s standards, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re noticing the effects of peer pressure. The imitation of godly women and men, on the other hand, teaches us essential patterns and practices while honoring individual calling and giftedness.

First-century rabbis would assess a potential apprentice via a long period of living and learning together: They would look for someone who had the capacity and desire to mold himself to be like his teacher. Author Doug Greenwold explained, “Throughout the Gospels, the phrase ‘follow me’ is a Jewish idiom used by the rabbis to mean, ‘Come and be with me as my disciple, and submit to my authoritative teaching.’” Jesus’ words “follow Me” mean far more than “join my team.” They are words that tell us He believes we will seek to pattern every aspect of our life after His.

However, His goal isn’t that we remain perpetual infants, repeating basic lessons over and over again as though we’re in an endlessly looping game of Simon Says. Instead, wanting us to move toward maturity, He empowers us to then apprentice others who will delight in imitating Him as we’re learning to do (Matt. 28:18-20). The writer of Hebrews expressed frustration with his readers’ seemingly plateaued spiritual growth: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).

We see this pattern in action in Paul’s counsel to the church at Corinth. He urges the young church to imitate him while learning to navigate their lives as immature followers of Jesus: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). However, in the personal greetings he uses to conclude the first letter to the Corinthians—those words we tend to zip past because they seem like personal bits of housekeeping—we see how Paul celebrates the diversity of gifts and ministries among those who’ve been mature leaders among those believers.

He asks the Christians in Corinth to treat his protégé Timothy with respect, because though a different person than Paul, the younger man was carrying on a similar, complementary ministry to the apostle’s (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Without denigrating Apollos, Paul noted that this co-laborer in Christ didn’t initially want to visit the church but then reconsidered—a recognition that Apollos was his own man, with his own mind and faith (1 Corinthians 16:12). Paul then offers a shout-out to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. Their ministry to him came in the form of practical financial assistance (1 Corinthians 16:15-18). Finally, he mentions mature church leaders Priscilla and Aquila, who led a congregation in their home, apprenticing young believers in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:19Acts 18:24-26).

The pattern of follow-the-leader was formalized in the early decades of the church. The Didache, a document that dates from perhaps as early as A.D. 100, is an example of an early catechism—a set of questions and answers new believers had to learn or memorize as part of their membership process in the local congregation. The Didache and eventually other forms of catechesis were Discipleship 101 for the early church, focusing on both the essential teachings of Jesus and the baseline practices of corporate confession, communion, and the authority structure God has ordained for life together. Young Christians learned to follow Jesus by following their leaders.

However, imitation should never result in uniformity. Musician Steve Taylor’s 1983 satirical song entitled “I Want to Be a Clone” named the fear driving Christian peer pressure: “They told me that I’d fall away / unless I followed what they say.” Aping the beliefs and behaviors of the influencers in their church may seem to promise a sort of spiritual insurance policy that will seal their salvation—or at least their place in the group. But a life shaped by a healthy fear of God will produce very different fruit than one shaped by fear of being excluded by the in-crowd. Fear of God offers us freedom. Fear of others enslaves.

A better “discipleship program” will not fix this problem, because it runs as deep in each one of us as our fear of being abandoned or left behind. That unexposed, un-discipled fear leaves us vulnerable to peer pressure whether we’re a young Christian or a seasoned leader. As my friend Katie and her husband assessed their experience at the church, they asked God first to reveal their own fears of being left out or forgotten, and then to confirm that they were being obedient in the ways their family was serving Him through work, parenting, and lifestyle decisions.

Jeff and Katie were asking good questions. Those questions led to them seeking the prayer and counsel of other mature believers—their pastor, a friend at church, and other friends in their social network, including my husband and me. The process clarified for them their own calling at this stage of their lives. It also helped them to better recognize the unhealthy peer-dependent dynamics among many of the young families at church. Instead of feeling excluded or judged by them, Katie told me she found new compassion for them. They decided to stay and brought their concerns to the pastor, who told them he was noticing the same issues as they were.

J. Oswald Sanders said, “No living thing comes to maturity instantaneously. In the attainment of intellectual maturity, there is no alternative to the student painfully working through the prescribed courses. Nor is it any different in the spiritual life. Growth toward spiritual maturity will of necessity involve moral effort, discipline, renunciation, and perseverance in pursuit of the goal. There are no shortcuts.”

Christian peer pressure is a counterproductive shortcut. And recognizing it for what it is becomes a powerful step in an apprentice’s journey toward maturity.

Illustrations by Jack Richardson

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/imitate-these-things-not-those

Is Your Worldview Weakening Your Marriage?

Dr. Nancy Pearcey

The Family Project team asked noted author and Christian worldview leader Dr. Nancy Pearcey why a theology of family is important. Here is what she had to say:

The reason Christians need to be more intentional about developing a theology of the family is that we are all children of our age — which means we are prone to pick up the views of those around us, often without even being aware of it.

In their view of the family, Americans have been deeply affected by what is called social contract theory, propounded by thinkers such as Locke and Rousseau.  American conservatives tend to be influenced by Locke, while liberals think more along the lines of Rousseau.  But in both cases, the heart of social contract theory is the idea that the ultimate starting point is the individual, the autonomous self.

Where then do social institutions, like the family, come from?  They are products of choice.

The implications are staggering.  Social contract theory implies that we agree to be in relationships when they meet our needs.  Relationships are essentially redefined as products of enlightened self interest.  Thus if a marriage relationship is not meeting my needs, then I can choose to leave.  If the origin of marriage is individual choice, then marriage is subject to the whim of the individual.  No wonder marriage has become so fragile in our day.

And if we choose to create marriage in the first place, then we can also choose to change it — we can redefine it any way we want.  No wonder so many people today are questioning the very definition of marriage.

By contrast, the biblical concept of marriage as a covenant is that it is a pre-existing social institution built into our very nature.  We don’t create it so much as we enter into it.  (Remember that wonderful older phrase: We “enter into the holy estate of matrimony.”)  The relationship of marriage is a moral entity that exists in itself, with its own normative definition.  That means it confers on us certain moral obligations such as fidelity, integrity, and so on.

The Rosetta Stone of Christian social thought is the Trinity: The human race was created in the image of God, who is three Persons so intimately related as to constitute one Godhead—in the classic theological formulation, one in being and three in person. Both oneness and threeness, both individuality and relationship, are equally real, equally ultimate, equally integral to God’s nature.

Because humans are created in the image of God, this perfect balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life.  On one hand, the Trinity implies the dignity and uniqueness of individual persons.  On the other hand, the Trinity implies that relationships are not created by sheer choice but are built into the very essence of human nature.  We are not atomistic individuals but are created for ­relationship.

The implication of the doctrine of the Trinity is that relationships are just as ultimate or real as individuals.  Relationships are not the creation of autonomous individuals, who can make or break them at will.   Relationships are part of the created order, and thus are ontologically real and good.

This may sound abstract, but think of it this way.  When we are in a relationship. we sense that there is “me” and there is “you” . . . and then there is “the  relationship.”   And there are times when we say, We need to work on “our relationship.”  In other words, we sense that a relationship is more than the sum of its parts—that it is a reality that goes beyond the two individuals involved.

This was traditionally spoken about in terms of the common good: There was a “good” for each of the individuals in the relationship (God’s moral purpose for each person), and then there was a “common good” for their lives together (God’s moral purpose for the marriage ­itself).  In a perfect marriage unaffected by sin, there would be no conflict between these two purposes: The common good would express and fulfill the individual natures of both wife and husband.

A woman recently wrote me an email saying that she had been raised in a home governed by the rule that Christians should not expose themselves to any non-biblical ways of thinking.  But when she read Total Truth, she says,  “I discovered that I had unconsciously absorbed ideas that came from secular thinkers like Rousseau.”  What about you?

Are your ideas about marriage biblical, or have you absorbed ideas from our secular culture that are eating away at the heart of your marriage?

(Adapted from Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, used with permission)

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Nancy Pearcey is author of the award-winning, bestselling book Total Truth: Liberation Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity and coauthor (with Chuck Colson) of How Now Shall We Live?She is a professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University, as well as editor at large of the Pearcey Report. Heralded in The Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” Pearcey has appeared on national radio and television, including C-SPAN. She and her husband homeschooled their two sons. Her most recent book is Saving Leonardo.

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