In a book about leadership I read this principle: “When it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate” (Extreme Ownership, 54). This applies across many domains, not just in leadership, but in personal sanctification.
Preaching is easy, at least in many contexts. Talk is cheap compared to conduct. Teachers may have the best classroom rules, laminated and taped to the wall in the front of the room, but if they don’t enforce them, they don’t matter. Parents often give the best lectures to their kids, but if they don’t follow through, if they don’t hold to the standard, the words fall to the ground.
The same applies in our discipleship to Christ. He does not call us to know His commands, He calls us to obey them. That begins with learning; we hear or read His word, and we can even repeat the standards to ourselves. But they will know that we are disciples not merely by what we preach, but by what we tolerate in our own attitudes and actions. Do we preach against lying while excusing our cheating? Do we preach against lust while taking the second, longer look? Do we preach against anger while tolerating heated annoyance? Do we preach against cowardice, just quietly in the comfort of our heads?
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)
We know the standards, do we tolerate our disobedience to them? The Lord our God is a jealous God. He knows the standards, He gave us the standards, and He does not tolerate our indulgence of self.
One of the ways we know if we’ve been born again is our attitude toward those who sit around the Lord’s Table with us.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)
This meal of communion is only for Christians, those who are born again, and Christians are those with a particular affirmation and with personal affection.
Those who are born of God believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” Any claim of new life apart from confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is a bogus claim. The lyrics sung by the born again are clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised and anointed one, the substitutionary sacrifice who died on the cross for sins, was buried in a tomb for three days, and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection.
The harmony of the born again song is loving other born-againers; this is not a solo act. We who are born of God confess Christ and care for one another. Diluted affections for, resistance to forgive, and reluctance to fellowship with other believers calls into question one’s spiritual life just as failing to breathe calls into question one’s physical life.
If you’re harboring resentment or anger toward a brother, whether the size of a cruise ship or kayak, you should repent and make that right before you celebrate the symbol of our uniting love. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and we who are born again must love all the others who share our living hope.
Come, eat, drink, and celebrate your born again life in Jesus the Christ. Come, eat, drink, and commune with your born again family.
When some Greeks came to see Jesus, Jesus said it was the hour of His glory. Then Jesus explained the truth of buried seed bearing abundant fruit.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23-24)
The way of fruit is sacrifice and burial for sake of life. This is not only the way God made the world to work, this is the way He made men to receive glory. We remember battles. We remember sacrifices. We memorialize those who gave what they had, and in a thousand ways we don’t even recognize, we are the fruit of many men’s deaths.
Of course this is ultimately true in the gospel. Jesus took on flesh to spend it, He came low so that He could be lifted up on a cross, and He knew that such a death would be His glory.
We learn the path to glory and how we ought to imitate Him. In the communion meal we start by remembering His cross-work, and consider the results of His death and burial. It wasn’t just His resurrection, it is the many brothers who He has raised since. May we remember, may we rejoice, and may we not give up our place in the line.
Perhaps one of the most response-provoking visits of our trip to the United Kingdom was an unscheduled stop for Sunday morning worship at a church in Coventry, England. Our coach driver had a friend who attends the church there and, though that friend ended up not being there, we enjoyed a different service than most of us are accustomed to.
Everything was different, and similar, all at the same time. Most of our students, however, saw more of the differences than the similarities. We sang a few of the seven-eleven songs—songs with seven lyrics repeated eleven times—and that is not an exaggeration. There was nothing heretical said, though it was comparatively light.
We had quite a conversation on the coach following the service that continued over the next day or so. Of course our church has been working to develop our liturgy, to deepen our understanding and practice of worship, and some of our youth had not really experienced Church Lite.
It was fantastic, in one way, to hear their critiques. Where was the sense of sin? Where was the repentance? Was the service attempting to manipulate emotionally? How did the preacher connect his points? Were his illustrations appropriate?
The Bible urges us to watch others and consider their conduct. The Proverbs are full of persons to observe, most of whom we should avoid. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul admonished believers to not be like the entire generation of disobedient.
But, the primary point of all this is to remind us to repent. Look at them, and think about what I am doing wrong, how I am sinning, how I need to grow up. It is the wrong way to appreciate our emphasis in worship on sin and repentance and be best at criticizing others who don’t do it like us.
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
4 of 5 stars to Scholarship: Two Convocation Addresses On University Life by Abraham Kuyper
Good reminders of our great, and highly privileged, responsibility to study all the world of the Lord.
5 of 5 stars to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
2018 – Now my favorite book in the series.
2009 – 3 of 5 stars.
This was my first time on the Dawn Treader, and it was as fair a journey that I imagine I would like from fiction. I do mean that to sound positive.
I enjoyed the end the best, not because it the book was finished, but because the imaginative description of the place nearest Aslan’s land made me eager for heaven, whatever (and however much better) the non-fiction version will be like.
I was sad for both Lucy and Edmund that they would never return to Narnia. I was glad that Eustace changed for the better, even though it took seeing himself as a dragon. I always get excited (for the kids, you know) when Aslan shows up.
When Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, what did that miracle do? It seems that there are at least two things. First, it enabled the party to continue. Second, it demonstrated that Jesus had divine power.
But is that it? Is the point of the miracles to reveal Jesus as God? It is certainly one of the things that happened, and it is important to acknowledge Jesus’ identity. But any given sign that Jesus did, such as turning the water into wine, is intended not merely to make us think about that one event, but to think about every time God ever does a similar natural thing.
Athanasius was the first to make this connection regarding the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis followed up on it in his essay, “Miracles.” All the miracles Jesus performed were supernatural, but they were focused demonstrations of what God is always doing naturally.
[E]very year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. (God in the Dock, 29)
It doesn’t make the miracles less significant, but it does mean we should be more in awe and giving thanks for the mundane.
The Lord’s Table is not a miracle, but as we eat the bread and the wine it is a focused, and special, opportunity to remember the death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection and the vindication of His sacrifice for sin. But this is not the only time we should think about God’s provision of bread and wine, or about His provision of a church body, or His provision of everything, and how He is building it all together.
Many things come into focus when we focus on this meal rightly.
Although I probably could get an exhortation to confession from every page in Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, I promise I won’t. That said, contentment and thankfulness and emotional self-control requires constant vigilance, and it often requires repentance of fear and anxiety as well.
The confession of every Christian is, Jesus is Lord. At conversion we repent from self-will and self-serving. We turn away from sin and are delivered from our slavery to unrighteousness. Jesus is Lord, we submit to Him.
Sanctification is the process in which our wants and wills are transformed by the Spirit, from the inside out. We are free from sinful wants. We are also becoming more and more free from sinful reactions.
This Genesis 3 world is tough. Even in the 21st century West not everything is easy, and much of our days is spent carrying some sort of burden. The burden carrying is right in so far as we receive it as from the Lord. Where we go wrong is when we add to our suffering an attitude of slavery to the suffering. Burroughs wrote,
“How unseemly it is that you should be a slave to every cross, that every affliction should be able to say to your soul, ‘Bow down to us.’ …Truly it is so, when your heart is overcome with murmuring and discontent; know that those afflictions which have caused you to murmur have said to you, ‘Bow down that we may tread upon you,'” (147)
How easy it is to elevate our troubles into masters, when we answer questions from friends, rant on social media, or just in our emotional reactivity. Our souls are free, not from suffering, but from being slaves to suffering. We confess, Jesus is Lord, and no man can serve two masters.
“I can only handle one friend at a time.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that. Not all friendships are equal, not all require the same amount of attention or effort or time, but the nature of friendship does not limit anyone to only mono-friendship any more than the nature of a flower limits how many can make a bouquet.
My point is not about friendship, but about reading, and fiction especially. In the podcast I mentioned yesterday, the Admiral said he tries to only be reading two books at a time. I frequently hear people say that they can only handle reading one book at a time. It may be true for the moment, but also not necessary.
It is possible to increase your capacity to hold on to multiple story lines. I read two to four pages of The Pilgrim’s Progress to my kids during breakfast on Sunday mornings. I read one to two hours of The Fellowship of the Ring to Mo and the kids on Sunday afternoons (often with a Mariner’s game playing on the TV on mute). I was reading The Last of the Lost Boys some evenings for the kids (until we finished that a week ago). And I was plodding through Moby Dick on my own for 10 minutes a day while running on my treadmill.
I never confused Ishmael for Sam, or Sam (Miracle) for Sam (Gamgee) for that matter. I did not forget that Hopeful and Christian were not on a ship, or that Ahab’s journey was aimed away from the Celestial City.
Do you need to read more than one book at a time? No. Does each book require the same amount of attention and effort? Of course not. Can you hold on to a plethora of plots and characters at the same time? Maybe not as easily at first, but you definitely can increase your capacity if you want to and get to work.
4 of 5 stars to 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
This book contains a lot of pointed, profitable counsel for people to take responsibility for themselves, especially since, not in spite of the fact that, we live in a world of suffering. It also references a lot of teaching from the Bible and biblical stories, though Peterson talks about it as if it could be a helpful framework but not as if it were actually true, and that all men must believe in God through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. I’m still thankful for the provocation to see, regardless of how ugly it might be, so that we might actually envision how to make (some) things better.