Saturday, 16 May 2015

How do I know?

Kevin DeYoung has a good answer to the question that believers perpetually ask:  How do I know if I am truly a Christian?  His post is here.  Kevin's approach is refreshing because he calls Christians to look to Scripture for criteria rather than looking to themselves.

Many Christians look at themselves to determine whether or not they are truly a believer.  Many Christians think back to their experience of coming to Christ, when they first "made a decision" for Christ.  They try to examine whether or not their decision at the time was genuine, they try to dissect their emotions or their sincerity or their level of knowledge.  Many dig deep down inside themselves and examine their current doubts and struggles with various besetting sins.  They compare their struggles and doubts with all the commands and/or descriptions in Scripture of what a mature and complete Christian ought to be and they attempt to weigh whether or not they measure up.  Some Christians, probably most often those who have since become convinced of the Reformed perspective of things, look back to their original understanding of salvation and what God did for them in Christ and they can doubt if their original experience of coming to Christ was genuine because they didn't understand very much about the doctrines of grace or the way salvation is a work of God and not a joint effort between God and the sinner.

Doesn't Scripture teach us to examine ourselves to test and see if we really are in Christ?  Yes, it does.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!       (2 Cor. 13:5)
Christians are to test themselves, to examine themselves.  But what does this look like?  Well, certainly an item well worth looking at is the fruit one's life is bearing.  Do I manifest fruit and am I living a life in keeping with the gospel?
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...  (Phil. 1:27)
However, what Christians often do is a form of spiritual naval gazing, or what Douglas Wilson calls "morbid introspection".  This is a process by which the Christian is always looking at themselves, always scrutinizing their own thoughts, desires and doubts.  This seems at first like penitent and humble self examination, but it is really a self-centred practice.  Rather than a humble and helpful growth-inducing discipline, perpetually staring at your heart through a spiritual microscope is really a prideful and self-centered false humility.  This practice places me front and centre.

The true heart of faithful Christian self-examination is not the practice of looking at yourself but of looking to Christ.  When you examine yourself or test yourself, look to see what it is that you are constantly turning to, constantly looking at, constantly trusting in, constantly holding to.  If you are going through a season of doubt or if you are unsure of the genuineness of your faith because of your perpetual struggle with a particular sin, rather than trying to dissect your heart, look to the cross.  Don't trust or doubt based on your feelings of trust or doubt.  Turn your eyes to Christ, your one saviour in this world and your one hope for the world to come.  Don't look at all the sin you still struggle with and place it in a mental scale to see if it outweighs the measure of your faith.  Rather, take that sin and confess it to Christ.  Don't spend all your time examining your inner thoughts and feelings and impressions.  Rather, take this to Christ, place it at his feet, and look to Scripture's promises to you that Jesus has taken your sins, your guilt, your shame, even your doubts, and he has died for them.  Then live in the knowledge that he rose again and sits at the Father's right hand interceding and advocating for you before a Father who knew you and determined to send his own Son to die for you before the world was formed.

The heart of true Christian self-examination is not constantly trying to look inside your own soul but rather looking at your way of life and your doctrine and from that asking yourself, what is it I am really trusting in?  Whatever is inconsistent with a total and complete faith in Christ alone, confess and forsake.  Then turn away from that self-examination and look to Christ.  Rather than dwelling on the state of your own inner thoughts and feelings, dwell in the promises of God to you (Eph. 1:3-14) even as God's Spirit dwells within you.  Rather than trying to test the genuineness of your confession of Christ based on your current feelings, look to what God has said about you in his Word and at your own baptism, where his triune name was placed upon you.  Next time you are tempted to flick on the glaring spotlights of morbid self-examination and point them at your heart, reject your self-centred focus, remind yourself that you don't trust in your self anyway, pray to God to increase your faith, and then go rest in the pleasant shade of the cross. 

Here is Doug Wilson on morbid introspection.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Raising the Dead

"Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works."
                                                                        - Robert Farrar Capon

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

remembering JWMG

One year ago yesterday (May 5) we buried our baby boy, Jack Wesley Martin Glover.  He was delivered premature after struggling but seemingly getting stronger in the womb over Trina's 6 week hospital stay in Vancouver.  He lived outside Trina's womb for an hour and a half but his under developed lungs couldn't hold enough breath to sustain his little life.  Trina got to touch him and talk to him as the doctors frantically tried to sustain his life.  However, God's plan for Jack was not for length of days.  His Heavenly Father and our Great Physician took him home.  Another week in the hospital afterwards for Trina's recovery...the hardest week of all.  Then home to be with our other four healthy children, who were very much missing their parents, and whose parents were aching to be with them.

Tim Bayly writes about parents and churches commemorating the lives of children who are stillborn or who die at a very young age.  He points out that there are big differences with what people in the church believe ought to be done when children die in the womb or when they have lived only a short time.  But he makes a good point that, perhaps especially in our culture of easy and common abortion, the church makes a strong statement when it commemorates the lives of these little ones.  Still, he asks some important and difficult questions, some of which I don't think can be answered in a concrete, one-size-fits-all way.

Trina and I are thankful for loving family, friends and church family who cared for our children and supported our family during the difficult time from February to May of last year, and we are grateful for people's understanding and love in the weeks and months following.  We are also very grateful to all who commemorated Jack's life with us at his funeral as well as to those who upheld us in prayer or were with us in spirit. 

To many people, it is more natural or feels more appropriate to have either a private service or no service at all for a life of such short duration.  But short as it was, Jack's life was a real life and he was woven together by God in his mother's womb no less than any 4 year old, or 14 year old or 84 year old.  Jack's days were numbered by God, and the length of his life was ordained by the one who knows all things and works them all according to his glory and our good, though we may not understand his purposes...yet.  And the primary value of a life is not in what a person accomplishes, or how long they live, or who they know or what they have.  Rather it in the fact that they are made in the image of their Maker.  That fact alone makes even the shortest life a valuable and precious thing.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Self Examination and the Lord's Table

Over the last while, a number of people have asked me about the practice of self examination prior to partaking of the Lord's Supper.  Self examination prior to partaking is certainly commanded of us (1 Cor. 11:27-34).  However, there is a common and long standing idea in the evangelical church that we are to examine ourselves to see if there is any outstanding or unconfessed or unresolved sin issues in our lives and if there are, we are to exempt ourselves from the table until those sin issues have been resolved.  I think this is a confusion between and a jumbling up of the above instructions by Paul and the teaching by Jesus on making things right with a brother before bringing a gift to the altar in the temple (Matt. 5:23-24).  It needs to be said that these are two different situations.  In Paul's instructions, we don't see Christians being told to temporarily excommunicate themselves from the table until they've gotten their sanctification act together.  Rather, in its context, Paul's instruction is one of examining one's overall loyalties.  Are they to Christ or are they to sin?

Doug Wilson has some helpful words on what we are looking for when we examine ourselves prior to partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

C.S. Lewis on the Moral Law of God

"Now we our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing).  Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good.  Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder.  But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home.  All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, 'You must do this.  I can't'."

"The road to the promised land runs past Sinai.  The moral law may exist to be transcended: but there is not transcending it for those who have not first admitted its claims upon them, and then tried with all their strength to meet that claim, and fairly and squarely faced the fact of their failure."

"There is nowhere this side of heaven where one can safely lay the reins on the horse's neck.  It will never be lawful simply to 'be ourselves' until 'ourselves' have become sons of God."

"No creature that deserved redemption would need to be redeemed."

"We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it."

"[Jesus] told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured.  He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses.  This makes sense only if He really was God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin."

                                                                                                       - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Don't follow your heart, lead it

Desiring God has a great post about the dangers of following your heart here.  Rather than following our hearts, Scripture teaches us they need to be led.  Our hearts are not reliable shepherds but wayward sheep.  We ought not follow our hearts but rather to lead them.  And the place we need to lead them is to Christ as revealed in God's Word. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

A failing grade of 99.99%

"...the law cannot give life because it has not power to do so.  The law does not offer assistance to obey it and does not grade on a curve.  It only announces the penalty of death for those who fail.  Even a 99.99 percent obedience rate earns a failing grade."

                                             - David Garland, New American Commentary on 2 Corinthians, p. 172