A STRATEGY FOR LOVING LIFE AND SEEING GOOD DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

Blaise_Pascal_2

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French philosopher warned:

Let it not be imagined that the life of a good Christian must be a life of melancholy and gloominess; for he only resigns some pleasures to enjoy others infinitely better.

The apostle Peter, writing to believers suffering severe persecution, would concur with that sentiment. Consider his words in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Verse 10 holds out hope that Pascal knew what he was talking about. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days.”

Know anybody who does not want that? Nobody in his right mind wants to hate life and see bad days. We all want the best life has to offer.

Few things can threaten a Christian’s sense of happiness and well-being like their church imploding with conflict.

The summer our church melted down I recall for many among us at OGC as some of our worst days. Loving life fell far short of how any of us would describe our experience.

If King Solomon got it right in Prov. 17:14 (and of course he did)–“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”–then heeding Peter’s advice here makes a lot of sense.

The best church fight we will ever have is the one we never experience. We all have to get equipped with this kind of strategy particularly as it pertains to countering evil when it rears its ugly head in our relationships.

I will warn you up front. The strategy prescribed here flies in the face of the world’s approach. This is a distinctly counter-culture way to fight for the good life.

But Peter has been arguing ever since 1 Peter 2:9-10 that, based upon who we are as God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and treasured possession–based upon these extraordinary appointments of grace–we must make certain radical commitments.

We must determine to conduct ourselves in strategic ways with God’s help in all kinds of places–from the state, to the home, and now, wrapping this section up with Finally in v. 8–the church.

Here’s the main idea I think he is saying: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church.

There are three. They are showing grace (8), refusing revenge (9a), and giving blessing (9b-12). Future posts will unpack each in the interest of loving life and seeing good days.

Birthday Reflections

How did September 15 come around so fast again? I turned 58 today.

Ever since my battle with cancer in 2005, I have marked each birthday with a little phrase or ditty to commemorate God’s mercy to me in giving length of days.

  • 53 and cancer free
  • 54 and ready for more
  • 55 and staying alive (with apologies to the US government)
  • 56 and up to the same ole tricks
  • 57 and not ready for heaven

And now, drum roll please, though my wife already gave it away on Facebook . . .

  • 58 and feeling great!

Oh the mercy of God after even odds in ’05 of survival of head and neck cancer that I would turn 58 and feel better than I can ever remember in my adult life. I am extremely grateful.

This morning I met as always on alternate Wednesdays with three young men that I treasure and seek to invest in for their spiritual well-being. We are reading through J. C. Ryle’s classic, Holiness.

Our chapter discussion closed this way – Ryle’s summary applications from his treatment of Revelation 2 & 3and the letters to the churches. It reflects my aspirations for another year and however long the Lord allows me to live and serve Him:

Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at eminent holiness Let us endeavor to be like Smyrna and Philadelphia. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labor to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character, that we are men of science, or men of literary attainments, or men of the world, or men of pleasure, or men of business, but ‘men of God’. Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives, to follow Christ our grand object in time present, to be with Christ our grand desire in time to come. Let us live in this way, and we shall be happy. Let us live in this way, and we shall do good to the world. Let us live in this way, and we shall leave good evidence behind us when we are buried. Let us live in this way, and the Spirit’s word to the churches will not have been spoken to us in vain.

O to leave good evidence behind when I am buried.

To live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).

The Best Possible Gift You Can Give Your Parents

My Father’s Day sermon is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I ran out of time before I could cover these items of application following a brief summary.

So these are some thoughts this Father’s Day for the best possible gift to give your parents – their joy in your heart’s desire to go the way of the wise all your days. Do all you can to get and keep their wisdom. Always treat them with respect. Take care with whom you associate. Let me finish with some thoughts for application.

First, become an expert in the state of your heart. Don’t neglect it. Be rightly suspicious of it and ask others you trust to tell you what they see in your heart and listen carefully.

Second, beware pride and the all-too-easy tendency to be wise in your own eyes, particularly when it comes to dismissing your parents’ judgment and wisdom in a situation. Understand that humility and submission are prize virtues in the way of the wise.

Third, regularly appreciate and praise your parents with genuine affirmation not insincere flattery. Write them a tribute at some point. Get Dennis Rainey’s book. You won’t regret it.

Fourth, heed the sober warnings of the Scripture about dishonoring and despising your parents. If you have done so, go humble yourself and ask forgiveness.

Fifth, if you are hanging out with the wrong crowd on the path to destruction realize what that says about your own heart and determine to get yourself out of there as fast as possible and start hanging out with the wise. Remember the blessedness promised in Psalm 1:1 -2. If you need help getting untangled from bad associations ask for it.

May we be a cause of great gladness to our parents and certainly no “life sentence.”

Not Your Average State of Happiness

No question about it. The way James describes blessedness doesn’t fit the average American definition. Consider James 1:2-12.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James promotes a living faith – a faith that works (see James 2:26). Genuine faith manifests itself in a lifestyle of wise speaking and acting in all of life’s facets. These verses in chapter one address how faith works to persevere under trial. He gives four principles to guide the believer.

First, reckon your joy (2-4). Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds. We are to calculate the immense value of trials such that we delight, not in their pain, but in the profit they yield. What profit? For you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. We are to let steadfastness have its full effect that we might become spiritually mature. That’s worth delighting in. God uses trials to grow us in the likeness of Jesus.

Second, request your wisdom (5-8). If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. Who doesn’t lack wisdom? We all do, particularly when it comes to how to navigate a trial so that we make the most of the opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness. So pray. Remember two things when you do. God loves to give wisdom (5b) and don’t doubt that fact for a second (6-8).

Third, release your wealth (9-11). Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation. One great source of trials in life comes in the form of money, either too little or too much of it. James levels the playing field for both ends of the spectrum by urging right thinking about wealth. If you are poor, exalt in your spiritual riches. If you are rich, remember it will all pass away. The focus needs to be on the spiritual, not the material. How important is that in these difficult economic times in which we live?

Fourth, relish your perseverance (12). That brings us back to his beatitude, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. There is a present benefit to steadfastness in trial as we saw in vv. 2-4. But there is a future, eschatological one as well. Those who persevere receive a crown of life in heaven! It goes to those who love God. And those who love Him keep His commandments even when it proves costly. They never abandon their faith.

Oswald Chambers gave this counsel:

Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us.

And it is trust that often imagines how greatly He will reward us.

Take care that your pursuit of happiness is not conformed to the world but rather transformed by the renewing of your mind in passages like James 1:2-12.

Freeloader Friday

Today is this pastor’s high holy day off. I used to do Mondays. But I got into too much trouble brooding over the Sunday before. Fridays work out a whole lot better for me and my bride.

I still want to post however, but not have to work at it.

So I think I will start a Friday tradition of freeloading off of others’ work and commend it to you instead of composing my own stuff.

Pastor Kevin DeYoung has a provocative post on the Gospel Coalition Blog entitled Be Careful How You Pray.

In it he quotes Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs. Here is a sample from the post, one of two comments from Burroughs:

There are many things which you desire as your lives, and think that you would be happy if you had them, yet when they come you do not find such happiness in then, but they prove to be the greatest crosses and afflictions that you ever had, and on this ground, because your hearts were immoderately set upon them before you had them.

You can read the rest of the post here. It’s not long and definitely worth your time.