“[T]he old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.” –G. K. Chesterton
These sermon notes on self-control are better than a heap of Babylonian bricks. Wilson aims his admonition at the angry, but certainly there is application for all sorts of afflicting or tempting emotions. It all starts from the text: “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, KVJ).
Notice that a man who is not self-governed is compared in the first instance to a man who is defenseless. Not having rule in his own spirit, which means he does not have rule over his own spirit, means that the walls of his “city” are little more than rubble. Now this means that self-control is a wall, a bulwark, and you should want walls like Babylon had, where four chariots could drive abreast around the top of them. Now that’s a wall. But there is more. The man who has “no rule” is a man who has no rule over his spirit. In other words, the problem is that his soul is tempestuous. He lets others live in his head rent-free. This is the man who is defenseless.
Someone who is self-controlled in his spirit is someone who is a warrior. His city is not defenseless, but this control is not just a defensive posture. Note what Proverbs tells us elsewhere. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).
A man with self-control in his spirit can defend his city, but more than this, he can take a city.
I highly recommend Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity by Rebekah Merkle. Here is a taste of the book where she describes the glory of a woman who gives substance and shape to an idea.
Our job as women—and it’s a phenomenal responsibility—is to enflesh the weighty truths of our faith. If our role is to make truth taste, to make holiness beautiful, then what does that look like in the details?
As a random example of this, take Christmas. Christmas is, of course, when God did ultimately what we women can only shadow. The ultimate enfleshing. At Bethlehem, God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the Consolation of Israel was born of a woman–and that moment was so staggering that even the stars had to come down and see it. And then, every year, we celebrate that moment. We take one of the most difficult theological truths—the Incarnation—and attempt to show that truth through our celebrations. The men can talk about the Incarnation, church fathers can write important treatises about it, pastors can preach about it, theologians can parse and define it…but we women are the ones who make it taste like something. We make it smell good. How crazy is that?
“And for my next trick, I will take Athanasius’ De Incarnatione and I will say it with cookies and wrapping paper and cinnamon and marshmallows and colored lights and tablecloths and shopping trips and frantically-last-minute-late-night-Amazon-orders and ham–and I will do it in such a way that my four-year-old will really get it, and it will send roots deep down into his soul where it will anchor his loves and his loyalties and shape his allegiances well into his nineties.” (175-76, one paragraph that I made into three)
Knocking down dualism is good, but not as good as never letting it be built in the first place. I’m thankful for my wife who helps me get it better, even if late.
From John Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 32:
[T]he Lord willed that the mind of his servant (Jacob) should be oppressed by this anxiety for a time, although without any real cause, in order the more to excite the fervour of his prayer….For although he anticipates our wishes, and opposes our evils, he yet conceals his remedies until he has exercised our faith.
We, also, are to learn from him, that we must fight during the whole course of our life; lest any one, promising himself rest, should willfully deceive himself. And this admonition is very needful for us; for we see how prone we are to sloth. Whence it arises, that we shall not only be thinking of a truce in perpetual war; but also of peace in the heat of the conflict, unless the Lord rouse us.
I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, at least for myself to reference in the future. It’s from Wayne Grudem’s book, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture, pages 64-65.
IS THE UNITED STATES A CHRISTIAN NATION?
(1) Is Christian teaching the primary religious system that influenced the founding of the United States? Yes, it is.
(2) Were the majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States Christians who generally believed in the truth of the Bible? Yes, they were.
(3) Is Christianity (of various sorts) the largest religion in the United States? Yes, it is.
(4) Did Christian beliefs provide the intellectual background that led to many of the cultural values still held by Americans today? (These would include things such as respect for the individual, protection of individual rights, respect for personal freedom, the value of hard work, the need for a strong national defense, the need to show care for the poor and weak, the value of generosity, the value of giving aid to other nations, and respect for the rule of law.) Yes, Christian beliefs have provided much of the intellectual background for many of these and other cultural values.
(5) Was there a Supreme Court decision at one time that affirmed that the United States is a Christian nation? Yes, there was, but that wasn’t the issue that was under dispute in the case. It was in an 1892 decision, Church of the Holy Trinity v. the United States, 143 US 457 (1892). The ruling established that a church had the right to hire a minister from a foreign nation (England), and thus the church was not in violation of an 1885 law that had prohibited hiring “foreigners and aliens … to perform labor in the United States.” The court’s argument was that there was so much evidence showing the dominant “Christian” character of this nation that Congress could not have intended to prohibit churches from hiring Christian ministers from other countries. It seems to me that here the Supreme Court was arguing that the United States is a “Christian nation” according to meanings (3) and (4) above. There is a long history of significant Christian influence on the United States.
(6) Are a majority of people in the United States Bible-believing, evangelical, born-again Christians? No, I do not think they are. Estimates range from 18 to 42% of the US population who are evangelical Christians, and I suspect a number around 20% is probably more nearly correct. In a 2005 poll, Gallup, after doing a survey designed to find how many Americans had true evangelical beliefs, came up with a figure of 22%. In addition, there are many conservative Roman Catholics who take the Bible plus the official teachings of the Catholic Church as a guide for life, and a significant number of them have a personal trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. But even if these groups are added together, it does not constitute a majority of people in the United States.
(7) Is belief in Christian values the dominant perspective promoted by the United States government, the media, and universities in the United States today? No, it is not.
(8) Does the United States government promote Christianity as the national religion? No, it does not.
(9) Does a person have to profess Christian faith in order to become a US citizen or to have equal rights under the law in the United States? No, certainly not. This has never been true. In fact, the Constitution itself explicitly prohibits any religious test for public office:
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States (Article VI, section 3).
In conclusion, how can we answer the question, “Is the United States a Christian nation?” It all depends on what someone means by “a Christian nation.” In five possible meanings, the answer is yes. In four other possible meanings, the answer is no. Because there are that many possible meanings in people’s minds (and possibly more that I have not thought of), I do not think the question is very helpful in current political conversations. It just leads to arguments, misunderstanding, and confusion.
I already tweeted a link to this, but “Two Kinds of Voting, Two Kinds of Disruption, and Two Kinds of Unrighteousness” should be read in its entirety. Here’s just one of many fantastic points:
the act of voting is also a civic duty that tells people what we think America means, what we want to teach our kids about moral leadership, what face we want America to present to the world, and what sort of candidates we want more of in coming years.
Senator Sasse is dangerously close to getting my write-in vote whether he wants it or not.
When the laws regulating human society are so formed as to come into collision with the nature of things, and in particular with the fundamental realities of human nature, they will end by producing an impossible situation which, unless the laws are altered, will issue in such catastrophes as war, pestilence and famine. Catastrophes thus caused are the execution of universal law upon arbitrary enactments which contravene the facts; they are thus properly called by theologians, judgments of God.
—Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, Kindle Locations 303-306