Curiosity Kills Your Soul

 

By Matthew Wireman

“Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak” (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 33).

I have been reading Sibbes’ work on the mercy of Christ toward us. The book is an extended meditation on Isaiah 42.1-3. I have been reading it in my personal devotions, and I have been reminded by Christ’s persevering patience with me. How often have I been a smoking flax–a reed that does not give off heat nor light–yet the Lord does not view such paltry devotion as condemnable. Rather, he condescends and fans into flame that smoldering wick so that I can enjoy him more. What may seem like an endless cycle of failed attempts, he views the good.

Sibbes, here, challenges us to reflect the same merciful inclination in our dealings with others. How quick am I to write off someone who rubs me the wrong way. How sure I am that this person is weak in faith and in need of rebuke. How dead set on dealing out justice am I that I cannot see God’s mercy on display in my brother.

I am a curious fellow. Yet, Sibbes challenges the assumption that curiosity–the need to know the intricacies of someone’s sin or weaknesses–is not altogether noble. Rather, curiosity bends toward an inclination to judging again the one whom God has pronounced “not guilty” in his tribunal. The need to gather all pertinent information stems from a desire to sit in the dock and pronounce on others what I would not dare they know or pronounce on me.

Our tendency should be towards wanting to see the good in others, not digging up graves that have been long-sealed when this brother put his faith in the Christ.

“What about leaders?” someone may ask. “Aren’t they held to a different standard?” Surely the pastor will be held to a stricter judgment, that’s why he shouldn’t be too quick to assume the office (James 3.1). Yet, the judgment James speaks about is the Final Judgment performed by the Triune God. This is not an earthly tribunal, nor is it an ad hoc court set up in the figment of our own minds. Rather, God pleads with us to exercise judgment with mercy (James 2.13).

Surely, a leader who sins repeatedly must be rebuked. A leader who is unrepentant must be ousted. But the leader who sins, and seeks forgiveness, should be forgiven. We should not exact perfection, nor should we use a canon distinct from our own lives.

I fear that those who so quickly give in to curiosity will find that the proclivity toward mercy will show that they had not received mercy. Those who so quickly write off Scripture’s admonition to cover over sin with love will grope for this kindness and find it wanting toward them.

May we be quick to forgive and slow to condemn. May we entrust right judgment to God. And as we find ourselves in the already-not yet, may we admonish the unrepentant. As we live in the time between the times, may we proactively and persistently give mercy. A mercy that is imperfect, but perpetual. To the degree that we have received mercy, may we give such beautiful and resplendent mercy.

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Three Ways To Live

You might think that the Gospel is primarily the “beginning” of salvation, how we get saved. But, the Gospel is really about all of life. The Gospel is the answer to all of our sin problems.

When most of us think of the fact that God Himself has come to rescue sinners through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we think primarily of the characteristic “sinner,” the person who rebels against God and His ways. We formulate the idea that there are “two ways to live.” There’s even a well-known tract by that very name.

We think of the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Sons, who wants things from the father but through rebellion. But as Tim Keller has helpfull pointed out over and over again, there are actually three ways to live and two ways to rebel against God:

 The older brother in the parable wants “things” from the Father but he does not rebel, he obeys. When the father welcomes back the younger brother, he points out that he has obeyed all along but never received anything from the father.

Both the younger and older brothers want the father only for what they can get from him but they show us that there are actually two ways to run from God: outright rebellion and religion.

But the Gospel cuts right through the middle of these two rebellions. Rebellion will never satisfy us and we can never earn God’s favor.

Thank God that Jesus not only lived the life we couldn’t but paid the penalty we should have, freeing us from slavery to sin, in all its forms.

Who am I?

By Jeremy Oddy

Have you ever asked yourself that question?  I encourage you to ask that question right now.  What answers do you come up with?  Do the answers encourage  or discourage you?  Do your answers promote humility or pride?  Do your answers describe what you do instead of who you are?  If you are a Christian, I would like to provide some answers to that question: “Who am I?”  Thanks to wonderful, proven, godly authors, I will be relying on the wisdom of Jerry Bridges from his newest book that I’m currently reading, Who Am I? Identity in Christ.  Below is a list of answers from his book that describes who a Christian is; therefore, who you are, if you are indeed in Christ.

  • I am a creature, created in the image of God, fully dependent on him and fully accountable to him.
  • By the work of God, I am no longer in Adam: I am in Christ, through a union that is both living and representative.
  • I am justified, I am righteous before God, because God has charged my sin to Christ and credited to me his perfect righteousness.
  • I am an adopted son, or daughter, of God. I’m a child of the King. I have the privilege in this life of an intimate father-child relationship with him, and I look forward with expectant hope to an eternal inheritance that is far more glorious than anything I can imagine.
  • I am a new creation, with a new heart, a new spirit, and a new identity before God. Having been delivered from the dominion of sin and united to Christ, I am always able to resist temptation. When I do sin, I am always welcome at the cross, for all my sins have been forgiven in Jesus.
  • I am a saint: I do not belong to myself, but to God. I have been purchased and declared holy by God, and set apart for God. Thus, God is ever at work to cause me to grow in spiritual maturity, a process in which he calls me to cooperate, in every way, out of gratitude for his mercy.
  • I am a servant of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I serve him by serving others in the particular role or roles to which, in his providential wisdom, he has called me.
  • In this life I am and always will be imperfect, a saved sinner, seeking to grow in holiness and relating to God on the basis of grace that is mine because I am…in Christ!

As you can see, the answers to the question “Who am I?” have nothing to do with our achievements, our failures, or the evaluation of others, but only in Christ alone.  To conclude, let’s hear from Bridges one more time.  He writes, “For every look in your daily experience, take two looks at who you are in Christ.”

Legalistic Repentance vs. Gospel Repentance

By Jeremy Oddy

[Borrowed from Robert Cheong at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Adapted from Timothy Keller, “All of Life Is Repentance.”]

Repentance focuses on relationship.

  • Legalistic repentance focuses on the behavior.
  • Gospel repentance focuses on the offense against God.

Repentance flows from God.

  • Legalistic repentance flows from worldly sorrow that flows from man’s shameful or guilt-ridden will, resulting in despair and death.
  • Gospel repentance flows from godly sorrow according to God’s redemptive will, resulting in hope and life.

Repentance steps out by faith.

  • Legalistic repentance hesitates out of fear of judgment.
  • Gospel repentance steps out by faith believing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Repentance seeks Christ.

  • Legalistic repentance seeks to be made right through ongoing and various means of self-atonement (ex. Self-condemnation, extreme efforts to keep the law, relentless restitution, etc.).
  • Gospel repentance seeks atonement and forgiveness through the finish work of Christ alone while taking responsibility to right the wrongs as much as possible.

Repentance is honest and humble.

  • Legalistic repentance might be honest but proud, or humble but dishonest.
  • Gospel repentance discloses everything without defensiveness and leads the person to submit to whatever the gospel calls for so that one can be made right with God and others.

Repentance focuses on redemption.

  • Legalistic repentance is seen as negative and as something we avoid.
  • Gospel repentance is seen as positive and as something we pursue.
  • Here is a test: Whenever you hear someone’s repentance, do you focus more on the sin and what they need to do to avoid sinning in the future? Then you may emphasize the person’s performance rather than Christ’s perfect and finished “performance” on the cross.

Repentance results in gospel fruit.

  • Legalistic repentance results in little change and little relational intimacy.  Why? Because legalistic repentance leads to increasing legalistic efforts to improve performance with limited help.
  • Gospel repentance results in heart change and intimacy with Christ. Why? Because gospel repentance leads to increasing freedom to trust and draw near to the perfect Redeemer with the unlimited help of the Holy Spirit.

The joy of repenting: forsaking sin and embracing Christ!

I’ve been reading an excellent book by Jonathan Dodson titled, Gospel-Centered Discipleship. I’ve enjoyed the book immensely thus far. In his excellent chapter, “Gospel Motivation: The Center of Discipleship,” Dodson writes about the gift of repentance. Below, I gathered a few notable and worthy quotes that could help us have a renewed and fresh sense of turning from sin and turning to Christ on a daily, if not, moment by moment basis.

Repentance is not a one-time act to get us into heaven, but an entire way of life to maintain Christian joy…True repentance includes faith. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same gospel coin, one movement made possible by grace…We turn from our sinful behaviors and turn, not to good behaviors, but to Christ. We turn from trust in little gods to trust in the one true God. It is turning from belief in a false promise in order to turn in faith to a true, satisfying promise. Repentance is an exchange of joys, the lesser for the greater…Repentance is a gift from God that compels us to turn away from the fleeting promises of sin and turn to the enduring promises of the gospel…Repenting is for rejoicing! The intoxicating joy of the Lord exposes our lesser joys for what they are – false and empty – and leads us to faith in the true and rewarding promises of God. A gospel-centered disciple rejects the pursuit of perfection and embraces the gift of repentance (pp. 83-85).