Jesus, Proverbs and American idols: An appeal to be humble, open-minded, generous, obedient and patient

Tim Keller, digging through Proverbs 3, has come up with five guides to godly living that are useful to pray about for ourselves, our families and our church leaders. They are good checks to see if we are putting these things in our hearts.

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)

Keller goes on to say that this wisdom is personified in the New Testament in Jesus, who did all this by 1) trusting God, 2) being saturated in and shaped by the Scripture, 3) being meek and lowly, 4) becoming poor for us, though he was rich, and 5) patiently enduring suffering on our behalf. These are good, solid truths to think on, pray about and ask God to put in your life and others’.

HT: The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer City to City

Don’t look to your past. Look to Jesus.

“Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past. . . . Never look back at your sins again. Say, ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ.’ That is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions and to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! You just begin to say, ‘I rest my faith on Him alone, who died for my transgressions to atone.’”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, p. 35.

 

HT: Zach Nielsen

About that anger: You’re not that cool

angryJonathan Dodson at Boundless has a good article on anger. And, if you’re sitting there thinking, “Well, that’s nice, but it’s not me,” then you are totally mistaken. Why? Because anger is something we are deal with every day in our lives. Consider what Dodson writes:

You don’t have to be an “angry person” to have a problem with anger. There’s an anger of the garden variety that’s often expressed through complaining, grumpiness, a cutting remark, sulking self-pity, and turbulent frustration.

Take commonplace complaints about the weather. Complaints about the excessive heat or cold can either be a form of small talk or a form of unbelief in God’s good providence. We don’t typically think of complaining as anger, but when framed with the providence of God we are pressed to consider our motives.

Subtle complaining characterizes our culture. According to one statistic, most people in America are exposed to some 3,000 advertisements a day, most of which appeal to a lifestyle grounded in self-comfort. It comes as no surprise, then, that when our comfort is overturned … we complain. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we curse under our breath and complain for the next five miles. If a fast-food attendant is slow in taking our order, they are subjected to our cutting remarks. If work or school becomes demanding, we wallow in self-pity, a weak form of anger.

Under the surface of all the “happy shiny people” called Christians lurks an enemy of our soul — sinful anger.

So, we are all there. What do we need to do? We need to consider our hearts and what God’s word says about what anger means. We need to see anger is not just a problem for ourselves, but is a problem with God. It exalts ourself and belittles God. I like how Dodson describes it:

When I grow angry I find myself losing belief. I lose faith in God’s goodness amid my circumstances. I lose belief in his promises, that “he works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).

This unbelief arises from sinful discontent with God’s wise providence, a failure to trust in His perfect will to do me good, whether through bad weather or good, emotional intimacy or none, apology or no apology. From emotional outbursts to weather complaints, anger arises from a failure to believe the truth, and belief that God owes me something: better weather or better marital intimacy or whatever.

Belief in this false promise is unbelief in God’s promises.

Being angry is not something we should settle for or condone in our lives. We need to examine the ugliness that it is and then reach out to God — in repentance and trust.

Department of complaints

Matt Perman, over at What’s Best Next, nailed me today with a post about avoiding the temptation to complain. It’s an easy thing to do, and I am the chief among sinners. In fact, I am already considering this as one of my resolutions for 2009. Don’t do resolutions, you say? That could be another post.

Anyway, read Matt’s post, digest it, think about it, repent for being a complainer (like me) and then do something about it. I like what Matt said:

Fight the frustration of life by working on behalf of others, even when it doesn’t come easy (or it may not be “your” job). Try to figure out something you can do, even if it’s not obvious at first.

Thank you, Matt, I needed that. God is good. And, if you ask, who then can we complain to, since life often seems not fair. Try this: Tell your complaint to God.

Don’t be a Grinch: Fight for joy

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118:24

Do you know people like this? Is this you?

Do you know people like this? Is this you?

I love that verse. There is a lot of suffering and doubt in Psalms, but there is a lot of hope, too. People who know me here that verse a lot from me. For one thing, I love it because it tells me that a) God made this day and everything I’ll experience in it and b) he wants me to be happy about it and trust Him. Also, I take it as a command: Be happy.

Now, there are some of you, like the Grinch over there, who say: “Why should I rejoice? What do my feelings have to do with anything?” Or maybe you think that your emotions are something that comes and goes, but it’s your duty and sense of responsibility that really matter. Oh really? Does the Bible back you up? Does God really command how we should feel?

John Piper addresses just such a thing in a sermon on Romans 12:9-13:

(There) is a deeply defective way of seeing God and of understanding your own emotions. The truth is that God does have a right to command that we feel anything we ought to feel. If we ought to feel joy in the Lord, he commands, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4). If we ought to feel the sorrow of sympathy, he commands, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). If we ought to feel gratitude for a great gift, he commands, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). If we should feel remorse for our sin, he commands, “Be miserable and mourn and weep” (James 4:9). If we should feel fear of sin, he commands, “Fear the one who after he has killed has the power to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5). And so on.

The fact that our hearts are so distorted by sin that we don’t feel what we ought to feel does not mean that God cannot command what is right and good and fitting for us to feel. We are responsible to feel what God commands us to feel. So I plead with you, be more serious when you read these commands than you might be if you thought God has no right to tell you what you should feel toward others, and that you have no accountability for your emotions.

So, back to the beginning: How do we do something we don’t feel? Again, Piper helps us here by giving us 15 things we can do to “Fight for joy” and not be a Grinch:

1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.

2. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.

3. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life.

4. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt – how to fight like a justified sinner.

5. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is.

6. Meditate on the Word of God day and night.

7. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.

8. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.

9. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.

10. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.

11. Get the rest and exercise proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.

12. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature.

13. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.

14. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy).

15. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the unreached.

It is not good that there are unhappy people anywhere. For some, it may be a medical issue that they have no control over and for them we must extend grace and help them. But there is hope. God does not command what he won’t help us to do. Seek God. Go with God.

Related:

How to Fight for Joy conference message (audio)

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A Christmas warning: Learn to love (the world) less

To me, it seems awesome when you can take the truths of God’s word and the preaching of John Piper and somehow put it in a rap song. And it really works. This, of course, is through the artistry of Shai Linne and the the grace of God. This is a powerful message, especially this time of year when we start to turn the things that we love in this world (family, friends, what we love to eat, play, our hobbies) into little idols. Love the things of this world less. Love God more.

As Shai says: I don’t want to go to Heaven if God is not there.

Shai Linne on iTunes

HT: Tim Brister