My Soul Faints for You

Pursuing Joy in Every Prayer

Article by Jon Bloom
Staff writer, desiringGod.org

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” If that is true, then prayer, like everything else we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), is first and foremost a pursuit of our satisfaction in God. Unlike everything else we do, though, prayer is an especially vital and precious means God has given us to grow our joy in him.

Why do I say this? Because in prayer, we go straight to God — the one who is not only the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17) but is himself our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4). We see this beautifully expressed in one of David’s prayers:

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

When we pray, we are pursuing a fuller joy, a deeper pleasure, a more abundant life in God. We want to glorify him all the more in all we do, so we ask him to satisfy us all the more with himself. We pray to see more of his glory, to experience more of his strength and help, to feel more joy in God.

Root and Goal of Every Prayer

So, prayer is an especially vital and precious means God has provided us to pursue our joy in him. That does not mean our experience of prayer, if done right, will always leave us feeling more satisfied with God, or that it will produce satisfying results relatively quickly. That is not what the Bible teaches us, and Psalm 16 isn’t the only kind of prayer we find in the Bible.

“Prayer is an especially vital and precious means God has given us to grow our joy in him.”

The prayers of Scripture are amazingly diverse. They cover the spectrum of human experience. Along with sweet expressions of adoration, strong declarations of faith, and songs of exultant joy, there are prayers of perplexity over God’s ways, groaning in suffering, confession of sin, and deep laments. But could even these more difficult prayers — prayers that help us voice our anguish and confusion in painful seasons — also be means of pursuing joy in God?

I believe they are. At root in both sweet, savoring prayers and in the troubled prayers of the afflicted is a pursuit of God as the source of the petitioners’ satisfaction. We tend to see this more explicitly in the former, and sometimes only implicitly in the latter, but God, our exceeding joy, is the goal that unifies them. Look with me at several examples from the Bible’s inspired prayer book, the Psalms.

My Soul Faints for You

When we think of a prayerful pursuit of God-satisfaction, most of us likely think of prayers, like Psalm 63, that sweetly savor God:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips. (Psalm 63:3–5)

Or we think of prayers that communicate a deep longing for God:

My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

Or we think of prayers that rejoice in God’s deliverance:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure. . . .
May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (Psalm 40:1–216)

In these prayers (and many more like them), we hear the pray-ers explicitly delighting themselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). Their joy in him is palpable, and they long for more.

Revive Our Joy in You

But when biblical prayers express repentance, anguish, or sorrow, they are still pursuing joy in God. When Israel was under the discipline of the Lord due to sin, for instance, the Sons of Korah prayed,

Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:6–7)

What do they really want? For the people of Israel, who are experiencing God’s indignation (Psalm 85:4), to once again experience joy in God.

When David, as an individual, had grievously sinned against God, he poured out this prayer of deep repentance:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin. . . .
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1–212)

David, in his repentant grief and regret, is still seeking satisfaction in God. He’s not only asking for forgiveness and cleansing, but amazingly dares, despite what he has done, to ask God to restore his joy.

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

But what about the desperate prayer of someone in severe affliction?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1–2)

“Prayer, at heart, is a pursuit of our exceeding joy: God.”

This prayer was uttered first by David, and then later by the crucified Jesus (Matthew 27:46). We’ve seen how David sought God as his supreme satisfaction, his “exceeding joy,” and the writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Are there any clues, though, that this prayer itself really is a pursuit of joy in God? We read further down:

The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever! (Psalm 22:26)

Though the afflicted one has not yet received his answer, he’s tasting joy in the future hope that he and others who seek God will not only be rescued, but they will be satisfied in the God they seek.

Even in Our Darkness

But what about Psalm 88, perhaps the most desolate prayer in Scripture? It is a bewildered cry of one in the agony of deep depression, and it almost seems devoid of hope. But it’s not completely devoid of hope. We can hear a flicker in the prayer’s opening words:

O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry! (Psalm 88:1–2)

This psalm likely gives voice to the experience of some reading this. I know something of this kind of desolation. Can we say such an anguished prayer is even remotely a pursuit of joy in God? I believe we can, even if it is remote — even if it is only implicit.

The very fact that the petitioner, though in great misery, turns to God in prayer, and looks to God as the source of his salvation, implies that he sees God as the source of the joy he so desperately longs for — not unlike David pleading with God to restore the joy of his salvation. I think that’s why God included this prayer in the Bible: we glorify him when we seek him as our satisfaction, even in our deepest darkness.

If you are in a Psalm 88 season, John Piper’s booklet When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God — and Joy is a wonderful resource, full of wise, seasoned, gentle, biblical counsel.

At All Times

When we speak of prayer as a primary means God has provided us to pursue our satisfaction — our joy — in him, we do not at all mean to be reductionistic. The prayers of the Bible are very diverse and pursue joy in a wide variety of ways.

“The prayers of Scripture are amazingly diverse. They cover the spectrum of human experience.”

In their diversity, the prayers in Scripture show us how to pray “at all times” (Ephesians 6:18). God has provided these for us so that whether we are in seasons of praise or lament, adoration or confession, we might know how to seek deeper satisfaction in him. It is God who has the power, the authority, the wisdom, the grace, the goodness, the righteousness, the mercy, the wealth, and anything else that is needed, and it is God alone who is the source of the joy the pray-ers ultimately seek. Each pray-er looks to God as the source of fulfillment and the spring of satisfaction.

Prayer, at heart, is a pursuit of our exceeding joy: God (Psalm 43:4). And that’s by design. Because “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Parenting With Patience

Jan 3, 2019

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26

The thought of sitting quietly and waiting patiently for God to bless our lives with His grace can seem daunting or impossible in today’s world of instant gratification. I run across numerous people, especially myself, that say they are stressed out on a daily basis. Whether it is our faith, family, work, friends, finances, or something else, stress seems to come from any and every angle. Patience seems to be the most useful quality that we could hope for in today’s fast paced world. If only the Bible could teach us patience in relation to the stressful situations that we find ourselves in today. The good news is that the Good News does just that. God has spelled out everything we need to find peace and patience in these situations and He hid it in plain sight in the Bible. Not only does He teach us to be patient, but He repeatedly shows us His grace and patience with us by His example. I hope to shed some light on God’s instructions for patience with our children in today’s world. Where better to start than the beginning in Genesis?

Patience by God’s Example
In early Genesis, we get a glimpse of how to be patient with our children by observing God’s patience with His children. God instructed Adam to “not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). In what seems like the next breath, Adam and Eve eat from the tree after some influence from the serpent in Genesis 3. I hope that I am not the only one that can relate to having my children disobey my instructions immediately after giving them. Ha ha! God demonstrates patience with His children with a delicate combination of grace and discipline. God speaks to the serpent saying “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God provides the initial revelation of His covenant of grace in this statement. The woman’s offspring refers to Jesus Christ who will defeat satan through his crucifixion. After blessing His children with grace, God provides discipline to Eve in Genesis 3:16 in the form of pain through childbirth. He disciplines Adam in Genesis 3:17-19 through working the ground to produce food to eat. God provides this first example of how to be patient with your children with a balance of grace and discipline. How do you balance grace and discipline as a parent?

Patient Balance
It can be far easier as a parent to lean too far to the side of grace and neglect disciplining your children. We are reminded that “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). By being impatient and choosing the easy path as parents, we set our children up for failure in the future by not carefully disciplining them. There are numerous places in scripture where we are given instructions about how to exercise patience to raise our children. Ephesians 6:4 tells us “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Discipline and instruction take time and patience. Ask any school teacher and they will tell you that it takes lots and lots of patience. All of us are born into this fallen world, surrounded by sin; especially impatience which is enabled in today’s culture. God did not create us to be patient from birth, but He blessed us with numerous instructions in scripture to overcome and learn patience. What are some things that you do to exercise patience during times of discipline?

Carefully Patient
Careful discipline requires a parent to be patient. Hebrews 12:11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” If we are patient and endure discipline as children and parents, then God will bless us and allow us to reap the harvest of righteousness from what we have learned. As a child, discipline seemed to last for an eternity for me. Like many children, I was impatient and wanted the discipline to be through so that I could go back to doing whatever it is that got me in trouble in the first place. Discipline was unpleasant and painful, and as you can imagine, it was also an often repeated experience that I landed myself in based on my actions. Praise to God for blessing my parents, coaches, and teachers with patience to use discipline and grace to shape me as God instructs us. Proverbs 22:6 instructs us to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I have great appreciation for this wisdom from the book of Proverbs as an adult that has lived through this as a child. As parents of four, including two teenagers, this message requires every bit of patience that my wife and I have, and even some patience that we have not yet developed. Being patient with our teenagers is one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced in my life. Like most parents I’m sure, I frequently find myself in prayer asking God for the faith and assurance that we have done enough to start our “children off on the way they should go.” The Lord reminds us to be patient and wait until our children have fully matured as adults to see that “even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Patience vs. Culture
This would not be Discerning Dad if there was no discussion about how patience is counter cultural as Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Proverbs 29:15-17 says “To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child. When the wicked are in authority, sin flourishes, but the godly will live to see their downfall. Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.” How many times have social media, advertisements, or even your own family influenced you to take the easy way out and give your children everything they want? Proverbs 29:15-17 tells us to be patient when culture tells the world to act in this selfish, impatient way. With patience and discipline, we will have peace of mind and a happy heart. I pray that God provides revelation to all parents who want to be their child’s friend instead of their parent. Being a parent is difficult, especially one who is patient and balances grace and discipline. How have you faced cultural opposition when it comes to patiently parenting your children?

I am not an expert when it comes to patience, especially with teenage children, nor am I an expert in God’s instructions to us for patience. However, I hope that God has worked through me to reveal wisdom to you during this writing as God has provided revelation to me.

Prayer
Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Your everlasting patience with us. Thank You for teaching us patience by Your example. Thank You for blessing us with the opportunity to struggle with this most challenging yet most rewarding job of parenthood. Whenever we question if we are raising our children right or when we struggle with patience, I pray that You bless us with Your grace and lead us to Your Word. Amen.

Andy Haas
Guest Discerning Dad

Guest- Andy Haas- Parenting with Patience

Lay Aside the Fear of Legalism

The Wells of Grace in Godly Discipline

by Sarah Walton Guest Contributor

Christians, of all people, desire to make changes for the better: to break patterns of sin, live more faithfully, and grow in godliness. And yet, our battle with sin remains, and our enemy works tirelessly to distract, discourage, or weigh us down in that pursuit. One of his well-known tactics is legalism, reducing the Christian life to a series of dos and don’ts, and turning a joyful, Spirit-filled walk with Christ into a joyless, calculated pursuit of goodness in our own strength and for our own glory — a pursuit void of real gospel grace and genuine freedom.

There is another danger, however, that is often more subtle than the suffocating trap of legalism; it’s one that neglects spiritual effort out of the fear of legalism. Pastor Colin Smith wisely notes this trend growing in younger Christians and offers this warning: “Don’t let the fear of legalism rob you of the benefits of a regular pattern of walking with God.”

In our resistance toward legalism (which is good and right), we easily can swing the pendulum, and neglect the very avenues of ongoing grace God has given for our good.

Legalism and Discipline

Some years ago, while my husband and I were in a small group with other young Christian couples, a man suggested that we shouldn’t force ourselves to pray before each meal. “If we did, wouldn’t that be legalism?” he asked. “If we don’t feel thankful in the moment, aren’t we being hypocritical and legalistic to pray and thank God for our food simply out of habit?” Although something seemed a bit off in his reasoning, I found myself pondering it anyway. For a while, I even tried a little of his method, praying before I ate only when I felt moved to do so. I will admit, this caused me to grow only in a spirit of thanklessness.

As I considered Pastor Colin’s warning, I began to realize what a subtle, yet real, lie this has become in many believers’ lives. For fear of being legalistic, we can rob ourselves of the benefits of a regular pattern of walking with God in the spiritual disciplines. But the apostle Paul tells us to resist this way of thinking in 1 Corinthians 9:24–27:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The danger of confusing legalism and Spirit-empowered discipline is that we can lose the very God-appointed means that are crucial for our ongoing growth, sanctification, protection, and intimacy with Christ. So, as we consider whether our personal disciplines (or lack thereof) are based on legalism or the gospel, we can ask ourselves, “Am I striving to live up to the law in my own strength, in order to earn God’s forgiveness and favor, or am I striving in the strength of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of growing up in Christ and reflecting more of him?”

Legalism stems from putting confidence in our own efforts and abilities, producing pride and self-righteousness. Discipline, on the other hand, recognizes that we are already fully accepted by God through faith alone, and that we need to depend on the power of the Spirit, and exert effort to strive toward holiness, producing freedom and joy as we grow in godliness. Such discipline reflects a heart that is living wisely now in light of our security in Christ and the imperishable reward that is to come.

Will It Help Me Run?

When John Piper was a teenager, he heard a sermon on Hebrews 12:1–2: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.” The preacher challenged him to run his race well by not only asking, “Is it sin?” but “Does it help me run?” Piper continues,

“Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way, or does it help me run?” That is the question to ask.

Ask the maximal righteousness question, not the minimal righteousness question. . . .

If you have that mentality about your life, then you will ask not, “How many sins can I avoid?” but “How many weights can I lay down so that I am fleet-footed in the race of righteousness?”

Do you find his words as convicting and motivating as I do? Do we want to live seeking only to avoid sin, or do we desire to run the race with proactive intentionality, laying aside anything that prevents us from running well? This will take discipline! If we want to be equipped to run the race, we will prepare ourselves for it.

Even in the Dry Seasons

I’m certain that most of us would admit that, at one time or another, our sitting down in God’s word, praying, or going to church has been purely a duty rather than a delight. But reading, meditating, memorizing, hearing, and applying God’s word is food to a believer’s soul. Apart from these disciplines, we will be prone to drift from the truth and susceptible to being swept away when the storms of life come.

In fact, the times we feel least like reading the Bible and sitting in church are typically the times that we need it the most. If we neglect these disciplines, it will do more than keep us from legalism; it will keep us from the life-giving truth, hope, and power that we all desperately need. We need to stop making excuses for why we don’t have time to read, study, and meditate on Scripture. Though our habits will look different depending on the season of life, we need to creatively find ways to feed ourselves with God’s word, especially in these seasons.

We have one life, one race, one chance. How we spend our time greatly reflects what we value.

Privilege of Discipline

We each have unique areas that will require more discipline than others. For example, would we consider it legalistic for an alcoholic to keep alcohol out of his home? Is it legalistic for those who feel controlled by their smartphone to turn it in for a less fancy flip phone? Is it legalistic for a family to say “no” to a sport that has games only on Sunday mornings for the sake of making church a priority? No, it isn’t. It’s creating spiritual disciplines and protection for themselves in areas where they know they are vulnerable.

It would be beneficial for us all to seek wisdom in prayer, counsel, and God’s word to see if there are areas in our lives that may require us to put new habits and disciplines in place for the purpose of laying aside anything that does not help us run well.

Christian, as you look ahead to the start of a new year, beware that you don’t add weight to your shoulders by pursuing goals and changes out of guilt or in self-reliance. But let us also not be deceived into lives lacking discipline. Over time, godly discipline, under the banner of the gospel, will begin to feel less like mere discipline and more like the privilege that it is.

Godly disciplines are not legalistic. Rather, they are the appropriate and wise responses of a chosen, forgiven, redeemed, and Spirit-indwelt child of God.

More than a Feeling

by John MacArthur Wednesday, January 8, 2020

 

On a cross-country domestic airliner some time ago, I plugged in the earphones and began to listen to the music program. I was amazed at how much of the music dealt with love. At the time I was preaching through 1 John 4, so the subject of love was very much on my mind. I couldn’t help noticing how glib and shallow most of the lyrics were. “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” is a classic by worldly standards. But few people would argue that its lyrics are truly profound.

I began to realize how easily our culture trivializes love by sentimentalizing it. The love we hear about in popular songs is almost always portrayed as a feeling—usually involving unfulfilled desire. Most love songs describe love as a longing, a passion, a craving that is never quite satisfied, a set of expectations that are never met. Unfortunately, that sort of love is devoid of any ultimate meaning. It is actually a tragic reflection of human lostness.

As I thought about it, I realized something else: Most love songs not only reduce love to an emotion, but they also make it an involuntary one. People “fall” in love. They get swept off their feet by love. They can’t help themselves. They go crazy for love. One song laments, “I’m hooked on a feeling,” while another confesses, “I think I’m going out of my head.”

It may seem a nice romantic sentiment to characterize love as uncontrollable passion, but those who think carefully about it will realize that such “love” is both selfish and irrational. It is far from the biblical concept of love. Love, according to Scripture, is not a helpless sensation of desire. Rather, it is a purposeful act of self-giving. The one who genuinely loves is deliberately devoted to the one loved. True love arises from the will—not from blind emotion. Consider, for example, this description of love from the pen of the apostle Paul:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

That kind of love cannot possibly be an emotion that ebbs and flows involuntarily. It is not a mere feeling. All the attributes of love Paul lists involve the mind and volition. In other words, the love he describes is a thoughtful, willing commitment. Also, notice that genuine love “does not seek its own.” That means if I truly love, I’m concerned not with having my desires fulfilled, but with seeking the best for whomever is the object of my love.

So the mark of true love is not unbridled desire or wild passion; it is a giving of oneself. Jesus Himself underscored this when He told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If love is a giving of oneself, then the greatest love is shown by laying down one’s very life. And of course, such love was perfectly modeled and embodied by Christ.

The apostle John is often referred to as “the apostle of love” because he wrote so much on the subject. He was fascinated by it, overwhelmed with the reality that he was loved by God. He often referred to himself in his gospel as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20; cf. 13:2320:221:7).

John echoed his most famous words (John 3:16) when he wrote in his first epistle that “God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:8–9). John understood that knowing true love is inescapably bound to knowing the one true God. When he declares that “God is love,” he is explaining that it lies at the very heart of God’s character. And we’ll consider that next time.

(Adapted from The God Who Loves)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200108

Making Sense of God’s Love

by John MacArthur, January 6, 2020

 

Love is the best known but least understood of all God’s attributes. Almost everyone who believes in God these days believes that He is a God of love. I have even met agnostics who are quite certain that if God exists, He must be benevolent, compassionate, and loving.

All those things are infinitely true about God, of course, but not the way most people think. Because of the influence of modern liberal theology, many suppose that God’s love and goodness ultimately nullify His righteousness, justice, and holy wrath. They envision God as a benign heavenly grandfather—tolerant, affable, lenient, permissive, devoid of any real displeasure over sin, who without consideration of His holiness will overlook sin and accept people as they are.

People in past generations often went to the opposite extreme. They tended to think of God as stern, demanding, cruel, even abusive. They so magnified God’s wrath that they virtually ignored His love. Little more than a hundred years ago, nearly all evangelistic preaching portrayed God only as a fierce Judge whose fury burned against sinners. History reveals that some dramatic shifts in how we think of God’s love have taken place over the past three centuries.

Love in the Light of God’s Wrath

Perhaps the most famous sermon ever preached in America was Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards was a pastor in colonial Massachusetts and a brilliant theological mind. He preached his most famous sermon as a guest speaker at a church in Enfield, Connecticut, on July 8, 1741. This sermon sparked one of the most dramatic episodes of revival in the Great Awakening. Here is an excerpt that shows the preacher’s graphic and frightening bluntness in portraying God’s dreadful wrath against sinners:

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.

The language and imagery were so vivid that many people who heard Edwards trembled, some cried out for mercy, and others fainted.

Our generation—weaned on “Jesus loves me! this I know”—finds Edwards’s famous sermon shocking for an altogether different reason. Most people today would be appalled that anyone would describe God in such terrifying terms.

But it is important that we understand the context of Edwards’s sermon. Edwards was no fiery emotionalist; he appealed dispassionately to his hearers’ sense of reason—even reading his message in a carefully controlled tone lest anyone be emotionally manipulated. His message ended with a tender appeal to flee to Christ for mercy. So the overall tenor of that evening’s service was decidedly uplifting. It signaled a time of great revival throughout New England.

Edwards has been falsely caricatured by some as a harsh and pitiless preacher who took great delight in frightening his congregations with colorful descriptions of the torments of hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a warm and sensitive pastor as well as a meticulous theologian, and he stood on solid biblical ground when he characterized God as an angry judge. Scripture tells us, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, KJV). Edwards’s sermon that night was an exposition of Deuteronomy 32:35–36: “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the Lord shall judge his people” (KJV). Those are biblical truths that do need to be proclaimed. And when Jonathan Edwards preached them, he did so with a humble heart of loving compassion. A broader look at his ministry reveals that he also heavily emphasized the grace and love of God. This sermon alone does not give us the full picture of what his preaching was like.

Yet Edwards was not reluctant to preach the unvarnished truth of divine wrath. He saw conversion as the loving work of God in the human soul, and he knew the truth of Scripture was the means God uses to convert sinners. He believed his responsibility as a preacher was to declare both the positive and the negative aspects of that truth as plainly as possible.

Wrath at the Expense of God’s Love

Unfortunately, a later generation of preachers were not so balanced and careful in their approach to evangelism, and not so sound in their theology. Charles Finney, an early nineteenth-century lawyer-turned-revivalist, saw conversion as a human work. Finney declared that revival could essentially be manufactured if preachers would employ the right means. He wrote:

There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. . . . A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. [1]

Finney believed that people could be psychologically manipulated into responding to the gospel. One of his favorite measures for heightening emotions was preaching passionately about the fiery threats of divine vengeance. By this he sought to intimidate people into responding to the gospel. Whereas Edwards had looked to the Holy Spirit to use the truth of Scripture to convert sinners, Finney believed it was the preacher’s task to evoke the desirable response—through artful persuasion, browbeating, manipulation, or whatever means possible. He found that terrorizing people was a very effective method of arousing a response, and his repertoire was filled with sermons designed to heighten the fears of unbelievers.

Preachers who adopted Finney’s methods often carried them to preposterous extremes. Preaching about divine wrath was often theatrical. And the subject of God’s wrath against sin began to be preached to the exclusion of God’s love. All this had a very profound impact on the popular perception of God. The typical Christian of the mid-1800s would have been scandalized by the suggestion that God loves sinners. But as is so often the case in history, an obvious error ends up being remedied by an even greater one.

Love at the Expense of God’s Wrath

With the rise of liberal theology the pendulum swung hard in the opposite direction. Liberalism (sometimes called modernism) was a corruption of Christianity, based on a wholesale denial of the authority and inspiration of Scripture. It was a growing trend throughout the nineteenth century, influenced strongly by trends in German theology.

While retaining some of the moral teachings of Christianity, liberalism attacked the historic foundations of the faith. Liberals denied the deity of Christ, the historicity of the Bible, and the uniqueness of the Christian faith. Instead, they proclaimed the brotherhood of all humanity under the fatherhood of God—and consequently insisted that God’s only attitude toward humanity was pure love. In fact, the overarching interpretive principle for liberals became the theme of love. If a passage didn’t reflect their definition of divine love, it was disallowed as Scripture.

In the early part of the twentieth century, liberalism took mainline Protestant churches by storm. Evangelicalism, which had dominated Protestant America since the days of the founding fathers, was virtually driven out of denominational schools and churches. In a few decades, liberalism virtually destroyed the largest Protestant denominations in America and Europe.

Love Rendered Meaningless

Sadly, what was true of liberalism then is all too true of evangelicalism today. We have lost the reality of God’s wrath. We have disregarded His hatred for sin. The God most evangelicals now describe is all-loving and not at all angry. We have forgotten that “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). We do not believe in that kind of God anymore.

Ironically, this overemphasis on divine beneficence actually works against a sound understanding of God’s love. Some theologians are so bent on this perception of God as all love that when things go wrong, they see it as evidence that God can’t really control everything. They believe if God is truly loving, He can’t be fully sovereign. This view makes God into a victim of evil. [2]

Multitudes have embraced the disastrous idea that God is impotent to deal with evil. They believe He is kindly but feeble, or perhaps aloof, or simply unconcerned about human wickedness. Is it any wonder that people with such a concept of God defy His holiness, take His love for granted, and presume on His grace and mercy? Certainly no one would fear a deity like that.

Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly that fear of God is the very foundation of true wisdom (Job 28:28Psalm 111:10Proverbs 1:79:1015:33Micah 6:9). People often try to explain the sense of those verses away by saying that the “fear” called for is a devout sense of awe and reverence. Certainly the fear of God includes awe and reverence, but it does not exclude literal holy terror. “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread” (Isaiah 8:13).

Love in Harmony with God’s Other Attributes

We must recapture some of the holy terror that comes with a right understanding of God’s righteous anger. We need to remember that God’s wrath does burn against impenitent sinners (Psalm 38:1–3). That reality is the very thing that makes His love so amazing. We must therefore proclaim these truths with the same sense of conviction and fervency we employ when we declare the love of God. It is only against the backdrop of divine wrath that the full significance of God’s love can be truly understood. That is precisely the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. After all, it was on the cross that God’s love and His wrath converged in all their majestic fullness.

Both God’s wrath and His love work to the same ultimate end—His glory. God is glorified in the condemnation of the wicked, and He is glorified in the salvation of His people. The expression of His wrath and the expression of His love are both necessary to display His full glory. Since His glory is the great design of His eternal plan, and since all that He has revealed about Himself is essential to His glory, we must not ignore any aspect of His character. We cannot magnify His love to the exclusion of His other attributes.

Nevertheless, those who truly know God will testify that the deepest spiritual delights are derived from the knowledge of His love. His love is what drew us to Him in the first place: “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). His love—certainly not anything worthy in us—is the reason He saved us and bestowed on us such rich spiritual privileges:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–6, emphasis added).

The right approach is to study God’s love within its biblical context. This series will proceed with that goal in mind, considering some of the major aspects and implications of God’s unsurpassed love. And next time we’ll begin by considering God’s love as it is biblically defined.

(Adapted from The God Who Loves)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200106

VIDEO Rep. Lesko: ERA ‘Would Be Used by Pro-Abortion Groups to Undo Pro-Life Laws’

By Susan Jones | February 13, 2020

 

(CNSNews.com) – The House of Representatives on Thursday debated a resolution that would remove the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which simply reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

But Republicans argue the amendment has nothing to do with equal rights: it’s all about protecting abortion.

During the floor debate, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) argued that the ERA is “not necessary” since women’s equality of rights under the law is already recognized in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

And she had another major objection:

If ratified, the ERA would be used by pro-abortion groups to undo pro-life legislation and lead to more abortions and taxpayer funding of abortions. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at what pro-abortion groups have done and what they say:

In 1998, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state’s ERA required the state to fund abortions. NARAL Pro-Choice America which supports abortions, asserted that the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion and require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws. In a 2019 letter to the House Judiciary Committee, the ACLU stated the Equal Rights Amendment could provide an additional layer of protection against restrictions on abortion.

In conclusion, this bill is unconstitutional; the ERA is unnecessary since constitutional federal, state and local laws already guarantee equal protections; and the ERA, if ratified, would be used by pro-abortion groups to undo pro-life laws.

Congress passed the proposed constitutional amendment in 1972, but it wasn’t until Democrats took control of the Virginia Legislature this year that the ERA received the required support of three-quarters of the states.

However, the 1972 congressional resolution contained a seven-year deadline, later extended to 1982, for getting the necessary 38 states to ratify the amendment.

Meanwhile, five states have “unratified” the amendment in the intervening years.

On Thursday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) noted that the deadline imposed by Congress was not part of the actual amendment but was contained in the resolution passing the amendment. “If Congress can set a deadline, it can remove a deadline,” Nadler said.

But ranking member of the Judiciary Committee Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said the current resolution is an “end-run” to get around the fact that the ERA’s ratification deadline has come and gone.

The chief sponsor of the resolution removing the deadline for ERA ratification is Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who told her colleagues on Thursday that “women are fed up.”

“I rise today because the women of America are done being second class citizens. We are done being paid less for our work; done being violated with impunity; done being discriminated against for our pregnancies; done being discriminated against simply because we are women,” Speier said.

“The ERA is about equality. The ERA is about sisterhood, motherhood, survival, dignity, and respect.”

Speier said the “outrage” expressed by The Women’s March, the Me-Too Movement, and the Pink Wave “is because we have been disrespected, devalued and diminished in our society. And we are fed up.”

https://cnsnews.com/article/washington/susan-jones/rep-lesko-era-would-be-used-pro-abortion-groups-undo-pro-life-laws


“Faith and reason are mutually reinforcing”


November 2019 • Volume 48, Number 11 • Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas
Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court

Hillsdale College held a dedication ceremony for its new Christ Chapel on October 3, 2019, during a two-day gala to celebrate the College’s 175th anniversary. The following are excerpts from the dedication address. A video of the dedication ceremony may be viewed online at fourpillars.hillsdale.edu.

This is a very special occasion—the 175th anniversary of Hillsdale and the dedication of Christ Chapel. This beautiful Chapel is a culmination of years of generosity, planning, and hard work. And the end result is at once stunning and glorious.

The Chapel’s enduring beauty highlights the transcendence, the sovereignty, and the grace of God. It truly illustrates how architectural design can reflect the character of God and evoke a sense of reverence for His majesty.

Everyone involved in the financing, planning, and construction of this Chapel should rightly be proud. It is a magnificent accomplishment. But we’ve gathered here today not just to admire this beautiful Chapel—we have gathered here to dedicate it.

The word dedicate in this context means “to set apart and consecrate to a deity or to a sacred purpose.” To dedicate this Chapel appropriately, then, it is worthwhile to reflect on the purposes for which we are setting apart this sacred place on a college campus.

The primary purpose of a chapel is to provide a place where man can enter the presence of God. It provides a sanctuary in which man can withdraw from the chaos of our world and seek a sacred stillness. For as Elijah learned on Mount Horeb, God so often comes to us not in the storms, not in the earthquakes or fires of life, but in stillness—in a “gentle whisper.”

Accordingly, men and women have long sought respite from the noise and commotion of daily life, where they can “be still, and know that [He is] God,” where they can seek an inner calm and a transcendent peace. Beautiful chapels, such as this one, provide that sacred space for stillness, a place for an encounter with the Divine. As the architect of this Chapel has written, “When you enter a church, it is as if you are entering through a gateway from the profane toward the sacred.”

It is difficult to overstate the significance of the role that this Chapel will play in the life of Hillsdale College.

***

Although a chapel is a place for many activities, it also serves as a statement about the importance of those activities. The construction of a college chapel, in particular, is a public declaration that faith and reason are mutually reinforcing. And in 2019, the construction of a chapel is a bold act of leadership at a crucial time in our nation’s history. So I would like to underscore briefly the broader significance of the decision that Hillsdale College has made in building Christ Chapel.

Beginning in the early 1900s, many elite private colleges and universities began to face questions about the continuing relevance of religious instruction on campus. These questions would have surprised the founders of those schools, many of which were created in part for the express purpose of providing religious instruction. But as time went on and as schools moved away from their religious roots, the relevance of religion to higher education was increasingly questioned, and campus chapels, in particular, came to be viewed as relics of a bygone era.

With the completion of Christ Chapel, Hillsdale College has staked out its position in this debate, and its decision serves as an example for all of us. The construction of so grand a chapel in 2019 does not happen by accident or as an afterthought. Christ Chapel reflects the College’s conviction that a vibrant intellectual environment and a strong democratic society are fostered, not hindered, by a recognition of the Divine. Hillsdale College affirms, with the writer of Proverbs, that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

By constructing this Chapel, the College upholds the continued importance of its Christian roots, even as it respects the rights of each person to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Our country was founded on the view that a correct understanding of the nature of God and the human person is critical to preserving the liberty that we so enjoy.

John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He recognized that the preservation of liberty is not guaranteed. Without the guardrails supplied by religious conviction, popular sovereignty can devolve into mob rule, unmoored from any conception of objective truth.

As I think about our political culture today, I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s warning that, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it on to them . . . [to] do the same.”

Each generation is responsible both to itself and to succeeding generations for preserving and promoting the blessings of liberty. Faith in God, more than anything else, fuels the strength of character and self-discipline needed to discharge ably that responsibility. That is why I am so encouraged by the construction of Christ Chapel.

Hillsdale College’s Articles of Association affirm that “inestimable blessings” flow from “the prevalence of civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety in the land.” The College was founded on the belief that “the diffusion of sound learning is essential to the perpetuity of these blessings.” Thus Hillsdale College was founded on the understanding that the battle to preserve and promote freedom in our country will be waged in the hearts and minds of the people.

Rather than shrinking from the battle, Hillsdale is rising to the occasion by investing in the intellectual and spiritual development of its students, so they can provide God-honoring leadership in our country. Let it be said of them what was said of David, that he “served the counsel of God in his own generation.”

Students, faculty, administrators, and friends of Hillsdale, let this Chapel be more than just an impressive building. Let it be a place where people enter the presence of a majestic God. Let it be a house of worship, of prayer, of meditation, and of celebration before God. Let it be a haven of rest for the weary, a place of healing for the wounded, a place of comfort for the grieving, and a source of hope for the despairing and forgotten.

Let it point to a day when “the dwelling of God” will be “with men,” when God himself will “wipe away every tear” and mend every wound. Let it be a place where tomorrow’s leaders discern their callings and grow firm in their convictions. Let it stand as a bold declaration to a watching world that faith and learning are rightly understood as complements, and that both are essential to the preservation of the blessings of liberty.

Let this Chapel equip and inspire us to honor God in whatever He calls us to do. For as Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans, “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

May God bless each of you. May God bless Hillsdale. And may God bless this wonderful country.

Original here