Saturday, December 29, 2007

you need to read this book
I mentioned here on the blog not too long ago that Kevin received this book for his birthday. Well he's finished it so now its my turn to read it, and I started it night before last.

I'm only into chapter two, but when I was reading something really stood out to me (which happens often when I hear James speak or read his works). Here's the quote:
"The Christian is to seek actively to think in a manner that is pleasing to God. Believers are described as having the mind of Christ (1Corinthians 2:16), not a mind that is conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). So there is a clash between the way the Word would lead us to think - with Christ as the sum and substance of God's wisdom, the centerpiece of all our thought and action (Colossians 2:3-9) - and the constant pressure of the world to place ourselves at the center of all things. The more we expose ourselves to the influence of the Spirit of God through worship, prayer, and study, the more our thinking is conformed to standards of godliness. But many Christians today will admit that the time they spend in such pursuits is miniscule in comparison with the time spent under the influence of the world. The result is not surprising: the influence of the world overpowers the influence of Scripture, and the gospel is transformed into a message that does not challenge or convict but instead affirms." (pg.29-30)
While this book is about coming to a deeper and Biblical understanding about justification, this section in chapter one stood out to me for another reason. We've probably all heard the old saying that someone is so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good. Likewise, we probably all know that what that means is that a person is so consumed with the life to come, that the life being lived here on earth is being neglected. I've known someone like this and he had a very disturbing fatalistic kind of attitude toward sanctification, evangelism, and pretty much anything else you could come up with. Indeed he read his Bible constantly, prayed constantly, spent ample time in church, but somehow the message of being busy about the Lord's business ON EARTH while here, went right over his head. This extreme is just as much in error as the opposite extreme in which a person claims a profession of faith but has no need for being in a local church, doesn't read their Bible, doesn't pray, and doesn't see any need for their own personal growth to desire these things. Clearly the goal should be a balance between the two - to have a deep desire to know the Bible and be a growing Christian, but to also be a willing vessel to be used by God, for God's glory, right in your own home, community, workplace, school or church.

The part of the above quote that really lept off the page for me was this "The result is not surprising: the influence of the world overpowers the influence of Scripture". As someone who stands firm on the sovereignty of God (and so does James White) this is not to say that the pull of the world and all the sinful things in it are stronger and/or can overpower the influence of the written word of God. I believe that what happens when we do this (allow the influence of the world into our thinking) that God simply allows it, and also allows the consequences that follow. In some cases the consequences are quite disturbing and should be enough to teach us a valuable lesson.

I know that for myself personally, I would much rather allow my thoughts to dwell on the things of God than the things of the world. As it pertains to not only the gospel and how man is reconciled to God (and why man needed this reconciliation to begin with), but in every aspect of my life. As a wife, a mother, a lover of music and nature, when I teach, when I mediate arguments between my kids, or when I do our household budget or even such mundane and annoying things as gather mountains of laundry from the far flung corners of the house. In all those things, the world has all kinds of advice for me on how to accomplish success or how to think of them. Most of the ways the world has to offer gives God no glory whatsoever, and tells me to place ME at the center of all that I do and think.

If I were to be completely honest, I would have to say that at times it's a real struggle not to place myself at the center of things, especially when I'm secretly grumbling about how much laundry I have to do. It's at those times that I have to purposely shift my thinking back to such critical verses like "Do all things without murmurings and disputings" (Philippians 2:14). The consequence of neglecting what the Scripture has to say even in everyday things, is to begin to sense this feeling of incredible self-centeredness and "I deserve" this, that or the other. The consequence of neglecting what the Scripture has to say as it pertains to justification, is to miss the boat completely in understanding how truly undone we should all be, before a holy and righteous God.