Is new better? I guess it can be sometimes. Hopefully you like my new page better. We're still working out a few of the bugs, but so far, so good (at least in my humble opinion).
Feel free to offer any feedback. We're still very flexible here.
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Special thanks to Ryan at Strider for helping a technical dummy like me move over to a new host and new blogging software.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Is new better? I guess it can be sometimes. Hopefully you like my new page better. We're still working out a few of the bugs, but so far, so good (at least in my humble opinion).
The other day Stacey returned home with a special purchase for Susannah. It was a bottle of bright-coloured, foaming hand soap. Susannah has reached an age where we want her to be able to do more things (like washing her hands) on her own.
Susannah took to this task with joy! She stood at the sink (on a stool) like a big girl. She got her hands all soaped up, and then her daddy said, 'Put your hands under the water and rinse them off.' So she put her hands under the water... only to quickly pull them out and yelp, 'Hot!'
I had accidentally left the tap turned a little too far too the left. She wasn't badly hurt at all, but looked at me as if to say, 'I'm not doing that again!'
That got me thinking about pain. I thank God that Susannah is able to feel pain. Not because I like the thought of my daughter hurting, but because I know God's purposes in pain are good.
Medically speaking, it seems that the purposes of pain are generally straightforward: Pain alerts you to the fact that something is wrong in your body and needs attention. Something must be done now to avoid greater consequences later. Pain is a warning.
In James 5, James is alerting his audience--people who are undergoing suffering--that they must be patient to endure hardship and pain. He gives them several reasons. He argues that those who persecute them will be finally judged, and that the Judge stands at the door. He also refers to the prophets, and then to Job.
When he gets to Job, James becomes more specific and says,
you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
The Lord's purpose in Job's suffering was compassionate and merciful. At the end of Job's turmoil, not only did he receive back more than he ever lost, he said these words:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust ashes.
The Lord's purpose in Job's suffering was to reveal more of himself to Job--and then ultimately to us, thousands of years later. God was revealing himself as one who is compassionate and merciful, even in suffering.
There are things which are eternal and there are things which are temporal; things which will matter when the Judge appears, and other things that won't. At least a part of the purpose in our pain in this life is to warn us of a bigger problem: that this world and everything in it is cursed because of sin, and already under condemnation. We suffer pain, things fall apart, tragedy happens, all to warn us of a potentially greater tragedy to come: eternal condemnation and wrath against sinners for sin.
If Susannah didn't feel pain at the little bit of hot water, she might leave her hands there until they were scalded and then permanently damaged. The pain was uncomfortable, but it let her know that if she didn't act, worse would result. The Lord's purpose in pain is--like his purpose in everything else--compassionate and merciful. He desires to show us that there is no ultimate life, no hope, no safety in this world. Those things can and must be found in him alone. He wants to ween us off our selfish joy-seeking in the creation so that we might pursue true joy-seeking in the Creator.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 10:31 AM
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Even though we've moved on to chapter 5 in our study on James at GFC, I'm still marvelling at many of the things my Lord has been teaching me from his word.
Preaching big passages like I've had to do is great for seeing the big picture and covering more of God's word, but it necessarily means that there are lots of stones left unturned in each passage. Particularly, I've been thinking through James's promise in chapter 4: 'Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.'
One thing that amazed me the other night as I sat and thought this through is the similarity between this saying and that declaration of Jesus that the one who is forgiven most loves most. On the surface, they don't seem that connected, but I think there is a profound connection.
Every Christian wants to know how to love God more. The first and greatest commandment we have is this: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.' The reason why we still sin, why we become discouraged, or why we fall back into old patterns of living is because our love for God falls short of our love for ourselves.
The devil is our enemy. His greatest goal is to stop us from achieving our greatest goal, which is love for God, resulting in joy in God. We want to love God, but he'll do anything to stop that. Every Christian wants to love God more; but how do you practically increase your love for God?
James connects resisting the devil's work with drawing near to God. In response to our drawing near to God, God draws near to us. What kind of drawing near does James have in mind? He clarifies for us in the next couple of sentences, where he describes radical repentance, open confession of sin and sinfulness, and proper humility. In other words, draw near to God in humility, repentance, and brokenness, acknowledging the greatness of your sin.
We can begin to connect the dots here a little with Jesus' saying. We will love God more if we acknowledge more readily the reality of what we've been forgiven. But our enemy will have none of that--which is why we need to resist him. How do you resist Satan? By confessing your sins and drawing near to God.
It is the work of Satan to get you to think little of your sins. He desires that you not confess specific sins, that you not be heart-broken over the ways you've denied God. He wants you to just ignore sin in your life and not confess to brothers and sisters. The smaller you think your sin is, the less your love for God will grow, and the happier your enemy will be. 'He who is forgiven little, loves little.'
If your love for God has grown cold, you can probably draw a straight line back to your lack of confession of sin in your own heart, to God, and to others. When you don't realize what you've been forgiven, you don't love.
How do you grow to love more? Draw near to God in repentance. Acknowledge how horrible and ugly your sin is. Confess to him that you deserve death and hell. The more you draw near to him, the worse you'll see your sin is, the more you'll see how much you've been forgiven and the more you'll love--which will overflow into a life of God-glorifying joy in obedience.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 8:56 AM
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Bob Kauflin (lead worshiper at Covenant Life Church) has posted notes on what looks like it was an awesome session from the WorshipGod '08 Conference. He's also got a link to download the mp3 of the sermon.
Check it out: David Powlison on the Imprecatory Psalms
(Isn't it interesting how much Powlison looks like he's imprecating someone? You gotta love a preacher that gets into character.)
Posted by Julian Freeman at 1:35 PM
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It's a funny thing to me how lessons seem to weave themselves into our lives at seemingly 'random' points in time (which, of course, shows me that they're not random at all). Over the past eight weeks or so, as I've been preaching through James, I've been amazed at how clearly he contradicts our contemporary worldview and way of looking at life. In our culture there are no black and white issues, only greys. Members of PETA, who say it's wrong to kill for food, probably still smack mosquitoes. What's wrong in one situation may be okay in another. There are all kinds of greys.
James, however, continually teaches by setting up worldviews as opposed to each other. Either you're steadfast or you waffle, either you are a doer or a hearer only, either you have a pure religion or a worthless religion, your source of speech is either a fresh spring or salt water, your wisdom is either from God or from Satan, and so on. You're one or the other, black or white. There is no middle ground, no fence to sit on.
The funny part about all of this is how I've been growing in my understanding of the many issues where thoughtful, biblical, Jesus-loving Christians disagree about moral issues. Do you drink or not? Do you do home-school, public school, or Christian school? What kind of language is okay and what is not? What type of guidelines should we use when we dress? These things are anything but black and white, and real Christians really disagree.
So what do we do? Do we respond with insisting that there is a 'black and white' answer for every issue? Do we argue incessantly about it until people see it our way? Do we just stress privately because everyone else is wrong?
I think the answer of humility is found in a passage like Romans 14:
Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
In other words, your brother or sister who sees things differently than you isn't your servant, and you're not his or her judge. They do have a master and a judge, but you're not him. To judge them as if they need to give an account to you is to contend for supremacy with God. It's pride.
Not judging is only the beginning, however. More than not judging, we must also be careful to be proactive in love:
Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
To flaunt your freedom is the opposite reaction to judging and condemning, but it's equally unloving. 'If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.'
The admonition comes again: 'Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.' What Paul is saying here is that when we value our freedoms so much that we're not willing to give them up for the sake of loving a brother or sister and 'not grieving' them, then we've valued our own freedom more than we've valued one of God's children.
The humble, Christian response to the 'greys' is to lovingly refuse to judge, and then to lovingly resist the urge to flaunt our freedoms in front of others who don't enjoy the same freedoms.
This calls for love and humility all around. On different issues I've found myself sometimes being the one tempted to judge, and sometimes being the one tempted to stumble. I can say from experience that neither side is easy. But Christian community is a beautiful thing when, by the power of the Spirit, Christians are walking in this kind of self-denying, self-sacrificing love, living out humility. It's been a delight to see it in action at GFC, and I can only pray for more.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 8:09 AM
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Okay, maybe this is only funny if you know us, but here's an excerpt from tonight's dinner conversation.
Julian: 'Having a wife is like living with a post-modern literary critic: the only meaning that matters is the one determined by the hearer.'
Stacey: 'Living with you is like living with a geek.'
I laughed pretty hard.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 7:21 PM
These are some notes taken from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at GFC. I was preaching from James 4:13-17 and the necessity of realizing our absolute dependence on God before we do any planning--even mundane, day-to-day planning. You can listen to the whole sermon here to get the context for the notes that follow.
Under the final point, I suggested the following seven reasons why Christians should be intentional and deliberate to refer to future plans with the caveat, 'God willing' (or 'if the Lord wills,' or some other variant).
- It Will Humble You.
- It Will Give You Opportunities to Witness.
- It Will Give You Opportunities to be Ridiculed / Persecuted.
- It Will Change the Way You Think.
- It Will Reveal Idols.
- It Will Force You to Think in Ethical Categories.
- Silence Can be Sin.
Every time you say 'If the Lord wills, I'll live, and then I'll...' or something like that, you'll be reminded of your own essential contingency. In other words, you're not necessary, and there's no reason to presume that you'll live. You'll be reminded by your own voice that you don't have the power to bring about what you plan any more than you have the power to determine if you'll keep living or not.
People will figure out pretty quickly that you're not normal if you're using this kind of language. Eventually, someone will ask why you're always mentioning God's will. When they do, you'll already be on the topics of the Creatorship and providence of God, and the fact that life is a mist and death is imminent--your life hangs on his will. Here is an open door for the gospel!
Christ himself pronounced blessing on all those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of his name and for the sake of righteousness. Why would we expect the world to look at the future the same way we do, when all through James he has insisted that we have different perspectives and different kinds of wisdom? Being persecuted and reviled, then, becomes another opportunity to grow in the humility of obedience in submitting ourselves to God.
The way we speak is of utmost importance (as James always insists). As Lloyd-Jones has so famously said, we need to spend more time talking to ourselves than listening to ourselves. The way that we speak will effect ourselves more profoundly than anyone else. By being deliberate in the type of language that we use, we're training ourselves to think in biblical categories. When we change our words, it will change our thoughts, which will change our feelings, which changes us over time.
If there is something that you're planning, or something that you desire for the future, and you're not willing to attach the thought, 'God willing' to it, then you're clinging to it too tightly. That fact alone reveals that you are looking to that future possibility to bring life, hope, joy, or peace--things we must find in God alone. Whatever you're not willing to give up for God (to hand over to his control to determine whether it will come to pass or not) that is an idol to you. It is a false god and needs to be put to death.
Sometimes we can think through future plans or situations without any reference to moral / ethical categories. Saying 'God willing' makes us ask, 'Would God be willing?' Once God--the standard of righteousness--is brought into the equation, we're forced to think in standards of righteousness. You can say 'I'm going to go to the party this Saturday night and not think anything of it. But you can't say 'God willing, I'll go to the party' without thinking about whether or not God would be willing for you to go. All of a sudden we're forced to reckon with God's thoughts on drunkenness, revelry, debauchery, etc., and that may inform our plans to go or not go.
James 4.17 is a verse that most of us have heard and know well, but have never applied to its context. James warns that to not take seriously the notion of God's will when considering our future is to sin. Simply saying these words is one way we can flee sin and pursue righteousness by acknowledging God, his providence, his will, his plan. Not saying it can be sin; but saying it can help safeguard our hearts from neglecting to consider God's will before our own.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 10:39 AM
Thursday, August 14, 2008
A good friend of mine, whose opinion I respect greatly, has some different views than me on the issue of a woman's modesty in dress. One of the objections he will bring up in conversations on this issue is that there is no male equivalent; a man's modest or immodest dress doesn't affect women.
What he means in this: If I wear an unbuttoned shirt, the effect will be to gross people out and drive them away, rather than cause them to stare... unless they're staring like people stare at a car wreck on the 401. Either way, I doubt they're sinning (unless they're becoming angry at being forced to look on such a sight). The point, however, is this: If men are speaking about what types of guidelines women should have for dress, it is necessarily hypocritical (at least to some degree) because those are issues and standards that don't apply to us. They are rules that are necessarily other-centred, which just about always will lead to legalism.
I concede his point that my wearing short-shorts won't cause women to lust, but I disagree with the notion that there is no such thing as male modesty. In Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is, Joshua Harris writes:
Have you ever interacted with an immodestly dressed girl and really wished she had a clue about how much her clothing affected you? Well, as a guy you need to realize that certain things you do and say to girls are the equivalent of male cleavage--they just aren't helpful to our sisters. We need to get a clue!
Josh argues that since a woman's desires are generally more rooted in emotional longings, things like flirting and physical touch--anything that can make a woman feel like she is being pursued or singled out for attention--are potential stumbling blocks for them. A guy who wants to love and protect his sisters in Christ will want to watch his 'male cleavage' (an almost disgustingly vivid image, I must say).
Here's a more extended quote that I think is quite good on this issue. It's taken from I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
The Guy's ResponsibilityAmen! Men, let's set our sights here to protect the hearts of our sisters.
Guys, its time we stood up to defend the honor and righteousness of our sisters. We need to stop acting like "hunters" trying to catch girls and begin seeing ourselves as warriors standing guard over them.
How do we do this? First we must realize that girls don't struggle with the same temptations we struggle with. We wrestle more with our sex drives while girls struggle more with their emotions. We can help guard their hearts by being sincere and honest in our communication. We need to swear off flirtatiousness and refuse to play games and lead them on. We have to go out of our way to make sure nothing we say or do stirs up inappropriate feelings or expectations.
I want to weep when I think of the many times I have neglected my responsibility to guard girls' hearts. Instead of playing the role of a warrior, I played the thief, stealing their focus from God for myself. I'm determined to do better. I want to be the kind of friend to whom girls' future husbands could one day say, "Thank you for standing watch over my wife’s heart. Thank you for guarding her purity."
Posted by Julian Freeman at 1:14 PM
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The further along in the book of James we go, the more points there are when I think, '...Huh?'
It's a bizarre experience to look ahead in the book, know that there are only a few weeks left to finish the last chapter and a half, and realize that you don't really understand what they mean. It's humbling and exciting.
I pray that our Lord would use these last few weeks to teach the saints at GFC through me... as he has taught me! Because if he doesn't teach me, I'll be in trouble.
My prayer now is that he'll keep me back from trying to force my assumed interpretations on the text in a panic to say something. I know that 'those who teach will be subject to stricter judgement,' so I pray that he'll show me how to 'rightly divide the word' in the coming works. If you get a chance, please remember to pray for me.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
As I lamented yesterday, preaching through James 4.1-12 quickly made me a little sad because I wasn't able to pursue some rabbit trails that I would've loved to go down. One of those was how this passage should instruct us guys in our husbandry.
In verse four, the people of God are referred to as 'adulteresses.' Why? Because, in the metaphor of the passage, God is the husband of his people, but their affections and longings are for other lovers. They seek their joy, their pleasures, etc., in the things that this world has to offer. They are cheating on their spouse.
How does God respond to this unfaithful, disrespectful, immoral wife? The next verse tells us: He 'yearns jealously' for her. He remains unchanged in his devotion to her, even though she doesn't long for him. He loves her with a steadfast love, even when she refuses to love him and treats him in the most horrible of ways.
That ought to teach us men something about the way we should husband.
- It is Good and Right for a Husband to Long for the Affections of His Wife. Too often the temptation is to slip into apathy. We love the chase while we're dating, but once we're married we presume that we will have her heart. The picture here is of a God who passionately longs to have all of his bride's heart--not just a part. Christian husbands need to consistently pursue the heart of their wife.
- Our Affections Must Not Be Determined by Hers. Having a wife whose heart is not 'wholly' yours would be incredibly disheartening. I have seen friends and Christian brothers lamenting over the fact that their wives seem to love anything and everything else more than their husbands. That would be sad--and painful, to be sure. But the husband is to be the leader, and her lack of affections is no excuse for letting yours slide. It was while we were still sinners and had no affection for Christ (other than hatred) that he died to purchase his bride. Christian husbands need to consistently take the lead in expressing and winning loving affections.
- We Must Not Give Up. James wrote the very first book (chronologically) in the New Testament, and yet, even by the time he wrote this letter, the church had already proven herself to be an 'adulteress' with desires for other lovers. Just as God did not give up on his people in the Old Testament, we learn here that Christ will not give up on his bride in the New. Christian husbands must never give up, even when their wives sin against them horribly and repeatedly; this is the gospel.
- Take Heart, You Are In Good Company. As you seek to faithfully love your wife, with a single-minded devotion to her, and as you seek to win her affections even when she is not loving you in return, you are modelling the heart of God. You are following in the footsteps of Christ who went to the greatest, most extreme length imaginable to win his bride's heart: he died for her. When we die to ourselves and continue to risk being hurt in order to pursue and love our wives, we're in good company: Christ is the one who made the footprints in which we walk. Christian husbands must take heart here when all other outward comforts fail--he who went before us will not abandon us as we follow him.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 11:00 AM
Monday, August 11, 2008
There are benefits and drawbacks to preaching large portions of text. The benefits are too numerous to get into, but one of the drawbacks is that you don't get to stop and to meditate for as long as you'd like on a single thought expressed in your passage, because there are so many other things to get to.
Yesterday I preached on James 4.1-12. As usual, I talked too long and said too little, but the text itself is absolutely amazing. The thought that gripped me the most, personally, as I laboured through the text last week (and even while I preached) was verse 5:
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?That thought absolutely blew me away.
How could this be? The God of the universe not only puts up with me when he should obliterate me, but 'yearns jealously' for my devotion to him? He yearns with a jealousy of a husband for his bride (according to the analogy of the passage).
What an absolute shame that we take so lightly the thought that God loves us. Of all things in Scripture, this should be the thought that amazes us the absolute most.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5.8)And again,
By this we know love, that [Christ] laid down his life for us (1 Jn 3.16).
In our chapter (James 4), James does something amazing: He contrasts our desires (which are at war within us, and bring quarrels and fights) with God's desire for his people (which is singular, faithful, loving, and brings peace). This truth ought to humble us, amaze us, and increase our love for him.
Where the church's desires are many, and illicit, and have grieved our groom, his desires are single, and faithful, and pure, and have brought our joy.
Where his one desire produces peace, our many desires have yielded enmity between God and us, and fights between us all.
And yet, he loves us still. And he 'yearns jealously' for our affections... what an overwhelming love! What an amazing God!
Posted by Julian Freeman at 4:21 PM
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Picturing this conversation had me laughing pretty good.
Check it out at Janis's blog: Progression of a Conversation between a 3.5 year old and a 2 year old.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 1:18 PM
In the life of our church, there is no greater highlight (in my mind) than when we celebrate baptisms. The baptism of a believer is the rite of inauguration into the church of Jesus Christ. When we celebrate baptism, we celebrate that one more soul has been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ, in whom there is true redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1.13-14).
Over the years our Lord has continued to save people at Grace Fellowship Church, and we absolutely glory in that! As I prepare to meet in the near future with some of these individuals who are preparing to be baptised, I have had opportunity to study the doctrine of baptism from Scripture all over again.
What did I find this time? I found that it's even more glorious than I remember. Here are three things that impressed me this morning as I studied baptism.
- The ultimate importance of baptism.
- The intimate connection of baptism with salvation.
- The profound symbolism of baptism.
In the book of Acts, I was amazed to see where baptism is placed, and how careful Luke is to include it wherever the gospel is preached. What I found really amazing this morning is the connection of baptism with the growth of the church.
Most people are familiar with the fact that the book of Acts is recorded as the fulfilment of Acts 1.8, where Jesus says that 'you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.' Acts, then, proceeds to show how the church does in fact spread through all those places.
What I noticed this morning, however, is that wherever the church spreads in accord with this promise, baptism figures prominently. In Acts 2.37-42, Peter preaches to the Jews in Jerusalem and when they ask how to be saved, he says, 'Repent and be baptized!' In Acts 8, when Philip preaches the gospel in Samaria, and many there believe, Luke records that 'when they believed ... they were baptized, both men and women.' Then, finally, in Acts 10 when Peter brings the gospel to the Gentiles (representative for the rest of the non-Jewish world, i.e. 'to the ends of the earth'), he sees that they do believe, and once they are converted he declares, 'Who can withhold water for baptism?' From Jerusalem to Samaria, to the ends of the earth, where the church goes forth, so does baptism of believers. That is seriously important!
Baptism in the New Testament is intimately connected with salvation / regeneration / conversion / belief / the work of the Holy Spirit. This is seen first in the proclamation of Peter in the first New Covenant gospel presentation, where he openly declares that to be saved, the Jews must 'Repent and be baptized.' This does not mean that baptism is a work that must be done to be saved, but rather it shows that in Peter's mind the 'repentance and belief' (the phrase that is used through the rest of the book) is so inextricably tied up with baptism, that he conceives of the two as being inseparable.
We see this not just with Peter's preaching on Pentecost, but also in 1 Peter 3.18-22. Here Peter speaks of 'baptism ... which saves you.' In the context we see that Peter is speaking of the whole process of being delivered from judgement through identification with Christ by faith--but in his mind, baptism, the symbol of this salvation, is so intimately connected with the salvation process that he can speak of this baptism as the deliverance from the 'waters of judgement' (i.e. God's wrath).
To speak of turning to Christ in faith for salvation from the judgement of God is to speak of the salvation process which involves baptism of believers--the two are intimately connected.
In the 1 Peter passage above, there is a profound symbolism associated with baptism (Noah and the ark passing through the waters of God's judgement). Elsewhere in the NT there is other profound symbolism associated with baptism as well. For example, in Romans 6 Paul teaches that our physical descent into the water, submersion under the water, and then rising up from being underneath the water symbolizes Christ's death and resurrection. As we descend under the water, and ascend from out of the water our unification with Christ in his death and resurrection is symbolized. Just like he died to sin and was made alive to God, so are all who have faith in him.
Colossians 2 uses similar imagery. Verse 12 says that we have 'been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.' In other words, in baptism, we are giving public testimony to the reality that we have died and been born again by the powerful working of God. The same power has worked in us as was worked on Christ, when he was raised from the dead, and this we bear witness to when we are baptised. Just as he has been raised, so also we will be raised.
Now that is some profound symbolism.
I can't help but think that in too many churches, the importance of baptism is underrated. If it was this important for the early church and meant this much to the inspired apostles, we should make it our aim to value it no less than they did!
For further study on the doctrine of baptism, feel free to download and use our 'Preparation for Baptism Worksheet.'
Posted by Julian Freeman at 11:08 AM
The 'all-natural' fad is in full-swing. Stephen Altrogge comments:
Here’s your “How To Be On the Cutting Edge of Coolness” tip for the day: get into natural stuff. It seems that if you want to earn any cool points in today’s world you need to be embracing a natural, organic lifestyle. You must buy naturally grown plants, drink shade-grown organic coffee, wear all-natural cotton garments, and maintain a natural diet that includes at least 43 servings of fruits, vegetables, and humus every day. You’re not going to get a lot of takers when you host a ‘processed’ dinner party, with lots of Velveeta cheese, Spam, and Coca-Cola on the menu. ...Read his continued thought here...
Posted by Julian Freeman at 10:57 AM
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Over the last few Sunday evenings at Grace Fellowship Church, my friend Paul McDonald has been opening up Galatians 5.13 for us. The verse reads like this:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Over the flow of the book of Galatians, the apostle has been arguing that we are now free from bondage to the law and from all forms of legalism. This is fantastic news! For Christians of my generation, I often think that we take our Christian liberty for granted. We haven't had to fight the battles for allowing women to wear pants, or for instruments other than piano / organ; we haven't had to deal with the real rabid KJV-only types or the 'don't drink, don't play cards, don't watch movies' mentality of the previous generation.
We have our freedom. We enjoy our freedom. But I often think we take it for granted.
The trouble is that when we take our freedom for granted, it's only a very small step from freedom to licentiousness. Having moved on from legalism, much of our church culture now seems to glory in the fact that there is 'no law over us,' so we can do as we wish.
In Galatians 5.13, Paul seems to be saying, 'Don't give up your freedom (since that's why you were set free), but don't glory in your freedom at the expense of your brothers and sisters.' Just like everywhere else in the NT, the old, written code is replaced by the law of love.
No one in the early church understood and lived this balance better than the apostle Paul. As he would argue in his epistles to the Corinthians, he had every freedom and every right to take a wife, to eat what he wanted, drink what he wanted, accept payment from them for his ministry, etc. He had those freedoms! But, because he knew that he could better serve his brothers and sisters in love if he denied himself those freedoms, he didn't take them.
One really practical area where this works itself out in church life (as Paul McDonald taught), is modesty in women's dress. Just like the apostle Paul, women could rightly declare that they have freedom from outside rules in terms of what they wear. There are no NT regulations on skirt length, sleeve length, how far a blouse should be unbuttoned, etc. But the NT rule that does exist is love and service. Just like the apostle, women who love and seek to serve their brothers (and sisters) in humility, will limit their freedom for the sake of love and wear what is helpful in order to serve.
Of course, once this is understood, this gives opportunity for legalism again, because our flesh hears 'Serve by dressing modestly' and applies that to our hearts as 'Since I (or my wife) dress(es) modestly, we should judge those who don't.' We then create a new set of standards to determine what is 'modest' and what is not, and measure other people against that criteria. And the circle is then completed: we've moved from legalism, to licentiousness, back to legalism again.
So what do we do? Well, first we must work on the log in our own eye. Examining our hearts must take first priority. Do I really believe in Christian freedom? Do I impose standards on people that the Bible doesn't? Am I looking to things like dress to help ensure that I am justified?
Second, we should seek to apply the love of love. Am I grasping and clinging to my freedom at the expense of hurting brothers and sisters? Is my love of my freedom to dress and act how I wanted prohibiting me from serving? Is giving others occasion for sin (Lk 17.1-2)?
Third, we must remain humble and charitable. Just because the Lord is working on my heart and convicting me of sin in a particular area doesn't mean that he has to work on other people in the same way at the same time. We need to remember that we didn't use to know what we're now convinced of, and apart from a work of grace we never would have known it. We must not use our convictions as a throne from which we can cast judgement on other believers.
Fourth, pray for grace to find the balance. I pray that God would give me grace in every area (not just dress) to find the balance between glorying in my freedom and giving up my freedoms for the sake of my church family. I pray that I would never return either to legalism or licentiousness--but that when I do, that God would forgive me again, just like he always has before.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 10:30 AM
Friday, August 01, 2008
While several have made admirable attempts to catalogue all the free online D.A. Carson sermons they could find, this is the first such list I've come across for Dr Thomas R Schreiner.
You can view the list here. Make sure that if you know of any others, you point them out in the comment section.
Posted by Julian Freeman at 2:14 PM