You Can Change 13: What desires do you need to turn from?

•January 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

These are my notes and some reflections on Tim Chester’s book: You Can Change

We sin because we worship or desire idols instead of worshipping God:

John Calvin famously called our hearts a “perpetual factory of idols” (p109).  Reflecting on Jeremiah 2:13 – our double sin is that we first reject the truth about God and second we place our affections elsewhere.  “An idol is anything we look to instead of God for living water.” (p109).

Idolatry is not necessarily an overt rejection of God’s existence or character, more subtly it is an over-attachment to lesser things.   Whatever you desire most is the thing that has captured your heart and controls your life.

“Our idols are those things which we count on to give our lives meaning.  They are the things of which we say. ‘I need this to make me happy,’ or ‘If I don’t have this my life is worthless and meaningless.’ ” (Tim Keller)

We often confuse free-will with self-willed: “The truth about our choices is that we always choose what we believe to be our best.  We always choose what we believe will bring us the most delight.” (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

When desires go bad:

Desire itself is not wrong – our problem is “over desire” or inordinate desires. It is not normally not the thing we want, but that we want it more than God that is the sin.  As a result I am dissatisfied with God’s sovereignty over my life.  The good things that God has filled his world with ought to be “bridges to joy in God.” (p114)

Desires deceive us by masquerading as needs (“I need to be loved”).  “We take a good desire (to be loved) and turn it into an idolatrous desires and call it a need.” (p115).

But God is not the key the good life.  He is the good life!  God must be desired for his own sake – because he is altogether glorious not merely as the giver of worldly success.

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Which voice do you listen to?

•January 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

CS Lewis

Quoted in Tim Chester: You Can Change p87

Top Posts in 2010

•January 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

2010 was a bit of a slow year in blogging for me.  And I guess it shows of the top 5 posts of 2010 – only 1 was actually written in 2010.

1. Guinness is a Christian beer!

3. Best non-theological books of 2009

4. Free Tim Keller sermons

5. Key Themes in Galatians

Here are a couple of my favourite posts in no particular order:

1. Good News to Our City: Racial Reconciliation

2. Jonah a Missional Reading

3. Eschatology and mission

4. Racism in SA Universities… and the church?

5. Three mindset shifts towards becoming a missional community

You Can Change 12: Preaching to our hearts

•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

These are my notes and some reflections on Tim Chester’s book: You Can Change

Preaching to our hearts:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” (p86)

When we find ourselves tempted or when our emotions are getting the better of us, we need to speak truth to our hearts, repeatedly, so that it sinks in.  “God is all I need!”

Tim suggests these four truths about God will serve as a powerful diagnostic tool for dealing with sin:

1. God is great so we do not need to be in control:

God’s sovereignty is not merely the stuff of theological debates but a daily practical choice to believe that God is working good for us in every circumstance.  To belive that he is in control and will bring us safely home.

When we do not trust God’s sovereign control we attempt to take control ourselves through manipulation or domination.  The results may include busyness, frustration, worry, preoccupation with money or security.

2. God is glorious so we do not need to fear others:

One of the most common reasons for sinning is that we crave the approval of others or we fear their rejection.  Our culture tries to overcome this by focussing on improving our own self-esteem.   But this actually compounds the problem – we now become dependant on whatever or whoever it is that boosts our self-esteem.

We elevate good (mostly) desires to the level of needs without which we cannot be whole (e.g love, acceptance)

The answer to the fear of man is the fear of God.  Meditate on God’s glory, majesty, beauty, holiness, mercy & power.  We need to remind ourselves of God’s glory so that the fear of man is replaced by trust in Him.

3. God is good so we do not need to look elsewhere:

The life of the Kingdom is not one of “dreary abstinence” but rather a call to find in God that which truly satisfies.  Lasting  joy, satisfaction, fulfilment and identity in knowing God and nowhere else.  “Whatever sin offers, God offers more, for God offers us himself.  God isn’t just good he is better.” (p93-4).

“Every longing in us is a version of our longing for God… every joy we experience is but a shadow of the source of all joy, which is God.” (p94)

If we don’t delight in God for his own sake then we will serve him for whatever we can get in return and in so doing we reveal that our greatest love is our reputation, security, self-preservation, ourselves.

Picking up on GK Chesterton’s thoughts on joy “we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (p97), Tim says:

“We grow so easily bored with life.  We are weary with sin-induced futility.  But God is never bored by life.  He is life.  His joy and life are so gigantic that he never tires of sunrises and daisies; of beauty and life and joy…  We look for joy in sin and we are quickly bored and always moving on in search of more.  We grow weary in our futile pursuit of ever-greater excitement.  But in eternity there will be a ‘rush to life’ running through our veins.  Our ‘life and joy will be gigantic’ so that each moment will bring fresh wonder… Now we are old and tired and cynical.  But then we will be young; for every young;  for ever delighting in God.” (p97-8)

4. God is gracious so we do not need to prove ourselves:

“We can’t justify ourselves, and we don’t have to! God is gracious: he throws his arms around us.” (p101)

Using the example of the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Sons, we see the effects of not believing God is gracious:

  • restless anger
  • joyless duty
  • anxious performance (including parents & Christian leaders!)
  • proud comparisons

Many of us are trusting God for our justification on the last day but fail to trust him as our justification today or tomorrow.  We find ourselves still trying constantly looking to prove or justify ourselves.

Change takes place through faith in our great and good God.  Faith is a daily struggle by which we must nurture our trust in God’s goodness.

When we face temptation we need to say not only “I should not do this” but “I need not do this”  And I need not do this because I have Christ.

You Can Change 11: What truths do you need to turn to?

•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

These are my notes and some reflections on Tim Chester’s book: You Can Change

Behind every sin and negative emotion is a lie:

All sin has its root in some kind of unbelief.  Behind every sin is a lie that we are better off without God, that his rule is oppressive, that we will be free without him and what sin offers.

Most Christians do not think of themselves as unbelievers.  However, while most of us can easily claim congressionally to be believers, often it is at the functional level that we remain unbelievers.  In other words there is a disconnect between what we belive in theory and what we believe in practice. (I first came in contact with the concept of functional unbelief a while ago and the Spirit has been working that truth through my life ever since)

“Sanctification is the progressive gap narrowing of the gap between confessional faith and functional faith.” p83

The truth shall set you free:

If the root of sin is unbelief then the path to freedom is believing the truth of God’s gracious promises that give life.  Trying to change behaviour alone does not work because the lies that created the behaviour are still there.  The truth that sets us free is the gospel.

  • Freedom is found in the truth that we were made to worship, serve and trust God.
  • Freedom is found in acknowledging that we are responsible for the mess we have made of our lives, and that our problems are rooted in our hearts.  That we deserve God judgement and that we desperately need Him
  • Freedom is found in accepting that God is in control of our lives, and that he is both gracious and forgiving to those who come to Him in faith.

It is most often necessary to be specific about the truth that will set us free from the lies that enslave us.

Seeing, knowing, embracing desire:

Knowing the truth is not simply about acquiring information or agreeing with statements, it is “recognizing him as the Altogether Lovely One.  It’s embracing the truth about God and delighting in it.” (p85)  (Too many evangelical churches/lives have become preaching stations/receptacles bereft of a deep and adoring love of God.  Hearing the Word taught is crucial but when the Spirit is at work as the truth is proclaimed – the overflow of hearts must be worship of all forms)

Or in the words of Charles Hodge, true knowledge of Christ “is not the apprehension of what he is, simply by the intellect, but also… involves… the corresponding feeling of adoration, delight, desire and [contentment].” (p85)

Resolutions of character for 2011

•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I spent the morning at Kirstenbosch Gardens reflecting, praying and asking God to reveal the areas of character where I need to grow and be intentional about this year.

The 3 areas that He seemed to be putting his finger on were PRIDE, NEED TO PROVE MYSELF & FEAR.

Or a lack of their gospel opposites HUMILITY, SECURE/JUSTIFIED & PEACE.

These are the 3 character resolutions that I will be asking the Spirit to work in me, guide me in and in which I will  intentionally engage in disciplined faith to facilitate growth in this year.

  • I am JUSTIFIED in the gospel.  (I have nothing to prove)
  • I am HUMBLED by the gospel.  (I come empty-handed)
  • I live out of the PEACE of the gospel (The Father is sovereign, Christ died for me, the Spirit is in me)

Notice that I have attempted to apply the gospel to all of these areas of growth.  The constant weakness of much character development is that it is me-centred.  We must fight – especially given the first of my three resolutions – to keep character development gospel-centred.

You Can Change 10: When do you struggle?

•January 3, 2011 • 1 Comment

These are my notes and some reflections on Tim Chester’s book: You Can Change

This chapter invites us to consider what are the circumstances which cause our sin.  What sets you off?  Is there a pattern?  As you reflect on the circumstances of anger, bitterness etc it will most likely reveal what your heart sin is.

1. God cares about our struggles:

God sees our struggles and hears our cry for help (Exodus 3:7-8, many Psalms)

God has experienced our struggles first-hand – he knows the what it is to be hungry, assaulted, rejected, tired, lonely, tempted, opposed or busy.

God is with us here and now through the Spirit – we have both a divine Counsellor (who reveals God’s good promises to us) and a divine Comforter (who reminds us of the truth).

2. God has done something about our struggles:

God uses our struggles – Romans 8:28.  When we draw the link between suffering and growth then we can begin to understand all the biblical passages that tell us to rejoice in our sufferings.  We rejoice because God is using all these things for our good (becoming like Jesus) and His glory.  Sometimes we see this in our lives and sometimes we can only hold on to this truth by faith.

God has promised to bring them to an end – he has taken them upon himself to bring them to an end.  On the cross Jesus bore all the wrath of God, taking away the curse of sin.  And in his resurrection we see the in-breaking life of God’s new creation.

3. Our struggles reveal our hearts

a) My behaviour comes from my heart:

What we see is behaviour and emotions it is easy to focus on these external problems.  But our sinful behaviour is a reflection of our sinful hearts.  “Every sinful action and negative emotion reveals a problem in our hearts.” p73-74

b) My circumstances trigger my heart:

“Our struggles and circumstances often trigger sin but they never cause it.   The root cause is always the heart and its sinful desires.  We choose how we respond to circumstances and what determines our choices are the thinking and desires of our hearts.” p74

Jerry Bridges says we should not use the language of defeat when we speak about sin – implying an overwhelming by external factors.  Rather use the language of disobedience – it is a more accurate description.

This next illustration has been playing on my mind for a few days now – so I will quote it in full:

“If you saw me in my study at 7.30 in the morning reading my Bible or praying you might think me the most godly of men.  There I am: calm. peaceful, trusting.  But observe me half an hour later as I attempt to marshal my daughters out of the door and you’d see a man who’s far from godly.  I used to think of myself as that calm, gentle person the 7.30 me – and concluded I was pretty godly!  If I’m provoked to sin, then the problem must be whatever provoked me.  But I’ve come to realise that the real me is the 8:00 me – the person revealed when the sinful desires of my heart are exposed by trying circumstances and annoying people.   The real me is revealed when I’m too tired to keep up the pretence.” (p75-6)

c) We sin because we do not trust God and do not worship God:

Sin happens when we belive lies about God instead of God’s Word and when we worship/desire false gods instead of Him.  The answer is faith – trust God instead of believing lies – and repentance – worship/desire God instead of idols.