From the archives…
There are basically two ways to ride a roller coaster. The first is to resist the ride. You can press your feet against the floorboard and arch your back. You can grip the handle bar so hard your knuckles turn white. You can tense your jaw, tighten your abdominal muscles, and scream bloody murder as you descend the precipitous drops and are flung around the death-defying turns.
Somewhere in my rather limited experience of roller coasters, I discovered a second approach. You can actually relax on a roller coaster. Really! You can loosen your grip on the bar, relax your jaw, legs and abdominal muscles. In fact, you can take a roller coaster ride in the same physical condition and mental state of a couch potato.
Obviously, your physical state will have no influence on the roller coaster. No matter how tense or relaxed you may be, the roller coaster will not alter its route one inch or adjust its speed one iota. Either way, you will be delivered to the platform on time and in one piece. You cannot control the ride, you can only control the rider.
Reposted from The Cripplegate.
One of my favorite Christian stories is Pilgrim’s Progress. First published in 1678, the full title of John Bunyan’s classic is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come.
The well-known allegory follows a man, who comes to be called Christian, as he flees from the City of Destruction and enters through the narrow gate, finding eternal life at the cross, and feeling the heavy burden of his sin fall off and roll away.
As he journeys along the King’s Highway toward the Celestial City, he encounters many dangers and temptations along the way—from Vanity Fair to Doubting Castle until he finally crosses the River of Death and reaches his destination.
One of my favorite scenes takes place when Christian and his traveling companion, Hopeful, make there way to the Delectable (Delightful) Mountains. There they meet a group of shepherds who seek to encourage them as they continue on their journey.
These shepherds take Christian and Hopeful to what Bunyan describes as, “a high hill, called Clear.”
There Christian and Hopeful are given what Bunyan describes as a “perspective glass” (what we might call a telescope), and as they look through the lens from the top of this mountain peak, they get a glimpse of the gates of the Celestial City in the distance.
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.