Reposted from The Cripplegate.
According to Greek mythology, all evil is the fault of one woman: a young lady named Pandora. When the gods created Pandora, they each bestowed her with a gift. Among her birthday presents was a beautifully crafted treasure chest. But inside this box was a host of all the world’s evils.
When Pandora opened the box, the evils flew out like bats and immediately began plaguing mankind. Slander, greed, jealousy, hate, and every other degeneracy were forever at large.
But as the legend has it, Pandora managed to snap the lid closed just in time to trap one evil inside. Do you know which evil was not allowed to escape?
It was hope.
Hope, you say? How can hope be an evil?
It was believed by the Greeks that hope was the most pernicious of all evils because it prevented people from accepting their fate. As long as hope remained trapped in the box, people would not long for an afterlife and would, therefore, be more useful in this life.
Existential philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, suggested that in an extended time of difficulty, hope may prove worse than hopelessness. For example, prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole tend to adjust better to their situation than prisoners who hope for the day of their release. They accept their fate as hopeless, and thus learn to be content.
The violence in Sutherland Springs Texas on November 5 got many of us thinking twice about whether our churches are safe places. From a purely rational, data-based perspective, they’re just as safe as they were a month ago. From a theological perspective, they are as well.
But when something horrific like that happens, our hearts tell us it might be time to make changes. It’s not just emotional reaction that moves us to look at a real event and think, “Yes, that could have happened at our church any time — but seeing it happen in a church so much like our own now gives us a reason to think about our security now.”
But we want to think biblically about all this. We want to properly frame these issues in well-informed faith, and respond to the dangers in a faith-filled way. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV, 2 Tim. 1:7).
When considering assurance of salvation, sooner or later we come to the question of saving faith. The ultimate issue concerns the nature of my faith, is it genuine or spurious? If I didn’t have some kind of faith, I wouldn’t be concerned with assurance at all. I wouldn’t even consider it.
However, if I have made a profession of faith in Christ, but am troubled about the reality of that profession, what I want to know is whether my faith is true saving faith, or something less. At some point I thought I believed in Christ, but is my faith now genuine or not?
Many refuse to allow questions about the nature of faith, at least in the heat of evangelistic efforts. Just ask Christ to save you, and if you are sincere, you will be saved. Never doubt it. To doubt that God saved you is to call God a liar, or so we are told. Some go so far as to assure people that “if you ever made this decision before, you don’t need to make it again. But if you have never before made this decision, you need to make it today, and if you do, you will be saved, never doubt it.”
In his provocative book Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Matthew W. Bates expresses deep concern that Christians—particularly North American conservative evangelicals—misunderstand what the Bible means when it calls people to faith. Too often, he argues, they reduce faith to cognitive assent, as if believing in Christ simply means agreeing with certain propositions.
Read the series.
I groaned when I read the first sentences of a WORLD magazine article that appeared in the fall of 2014: “My husband lost a week’s pay. It must have fallen out of his pocket at the hardware store.” I’d sure hate to be that guy! I don’t even want to think about what losing a week’s pay would do to my family’s budget.
But how does a Christian respond to this kind of problem? What does responding with biblical faith look like? Hopefully, most of us get quickly to where the article’s author did: “My reaction was to pray immediately.” But how should faith shape the prayer? At least four options are available (or some combination of them):
Read the series so far.
Bitter attitudes hinder worship, strain relationships, and generally drain all the joy out of life. Apart from the initial pain of loss, mistreatment, disappointment or failure, bitterness does us no good.
Fortunately, Scripture and the wisdom of experience show us multiple ways to beat bitterness. Previously, we’ve considered how the attitudes of worship crowd out bitterness and how a quick escape from bitter thinking can keep it from pulling us in for a long ride.
A third approach is to confront the narrow focus and loss of perspective bitterness brings.