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If you love a person, you will not act indifferently toward dangerous or destructive beliefs or behaviors simply to avoid offending him or her. Yet the new tolerance demands just that sort of indifference.
Tolerance says, “You must agree with me.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth because I am convinced that the ‘truth will set you free.'”
Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me.'”
Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk.”
Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance is indifferent; love is active. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything.
Once again, Jesus is the supreme example of true Christian love, which is sometimes the antithesis of tolerance. His love drove Him to a cruel death on the cross. Far from being indifferent to the “lifestyle choices” of others, He paid the price of those choices with His own life, and lovingly paved the way for everyone to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11 KJV)
-Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The New Tolerance (Wheaton, Il: Tyndale House, 1998), 95.
Worship is what is evoked by the presence of God. It is a response, not a self-initiated, creative activity on our part. Worship is the only activity that can involve the totality of our personality without any residue. All other relationships are partial. Worship is always extravagant; Elders throw down their crowns, Mary pours out precious ointment, people prostrate themselves. We don’t worship for what we can “get out of it”
Worship is the submission of all our nature to God:
- The quickening of the conscience by His holiness
- The nourishment of mind with His truth
- The purifying of imagination by His beauty
- The opening of the heart to His love
- The surrender of the will to His purpose.
All this is gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.
-Edmund Clowney. “unpublished sermon,” in Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 156.
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.
-John G. Paton, John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, an Autobiography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 56.
That was John G. Paton’s response to an objection that he would be eaten by Cannibals if he went to share Christ with indigenous people in the South Sea Islands.
I want the perspective Paton had. Serving and honoring Christ is vastly more valuable than the comfort of this short, temporal life. No matter how nice the life, one’s body rots in the ground when all is said and done. Thus, what is ease and comfort if it takes away from honoring Christ? It is empty! The true life is one sacrificing with eternity in view. And with Christ in view! What will it be like to come to the Great Day with comfort and ease in one’s hands? It will be embarrassing if not condemning! But what glory and joy for the one who is willing to lose everything to posses the incalculable riches of Christ in their life now and to come! I want glorifying Christ, not comfort, to be my guiding perspective.
I remember looking at the situation before me. I was working for a few dollars above minimum wage while wanting to go to seminary. It seemed like I was walking common path of others who had gone before me. The path weaved up the sloop of getting a basic level job where you make enough to get through. This did not appeal to me for the simple reason that I didn’t want to count pennies to make sure I made my budget. I guess I am not that hard core.
Yes, we are not to worry about what we need. The flowers are cared for well and I believe I am of a bit more importance to the Lord than them. God wants us to look at the flowers and be taught. But as we notice the flowers He also wants us to notice the ant crawling down the stem. “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Pro. 6:7-8). Wisdom fears the Lord, thus trusting in His provision, and then gets to work. So trusting the Lord’s provision I explored the best way to be like the ant.
While exploring another option came open to me. I could take extra time to get a trade skill which I could use to get a good paying job. The benefits of taking this appraoch looked very appealing
- I could have breathing room in my budget. And even more that that I could, gasp(!), actually be saving money while going to seminary.
- This would mean that I would have flexibility with my finances that I could do things which I wanted to do. Like getting married and having babies without shuttering while I looked at my inflow and outflow.
- FREEDOOOOOM!!! (in ministry decisions at least). If I had a trade I could pack-up and move wherever I wanted since I did not have to be dependent on the finances of others. If I wanted to go with a team to church plant I didn’t have to rely on others to give funding. If I wanted to work in a particular church I did not have to wait for them to open a position. I could just show up!
- I would not have to go in debt. Going in debt has the benefit of providing the cash when it is needed. But the cost is long term for the quick infusion of cash. Debts can be wise when the pay off of the loan is going to out weight the long term cost. But for seminary the cost of a loan is heavy. That is because working in a church does not pay a lot of money. This means a loan is going to be a heavier financial burden. With a good paying job, however, a loan would not be a necessity. I could pay my way through and come out the other side debt free.
These points won me over. Looking long term, 5-10 years, getting a trade had a lot of pay off. Even if it ended right after seminary it would have the benefit of giving me stable finances through the program.
Now, I had already spent my four years of college at Boyce Bible College. I don’t regret that decision. I gained a lot through Boyce. But doing that meant that I could not use those four years to get the trade. So I took a break in between my time at Boyce and Southern to pursue a trade.
I can happily report that after a year of schooling I have learned a new trade and working in a job which has me set to fulfill all three points listed above! As the little picture on the side of this blog testifies I went to through a community college here in Louisville. I spent a year pursuing Medical Coding. Now I am working at a hospital doing just that.
If you are thinking of seminary I would advise that you think about this. The points I listed above are great reasons to consider the option. If you already have a trade then use it. But if you don’t I would say consider getting one. Here is how I went about getting mine.
I determined what I needed. I thought about the kind of job I needed which would fit with what I was planning on doing. Some jobs do not fit with school and ministry. So here are the basic points which the job I searched for had to meet:
- It would give me the money I needed. Provision was what I was after. If it would not provide then there was no reason to pursue it.
- It would fit with future ministry. There are great jobs out there but which can demand 50 or 60 hour work weeks. Such a job will not work with either school or bi-vocational ministry. I needed a job which could ride nicely with what else I wanted to do.
- I could see myself doing it for a long time. Basically, I didn’t need a war in my inner man every morning to push myself out the door towards work. I needed something that could be my trade for the next 10 years or longer. I needed a basic enjoyment of the job so that I could do it well.
- Now, one should not take this to the place where people in the world take it. Your job does not need to be your identity. I am not seeking fulfillment in the depth of my soul in what job I do. I simply asked the question, “can I do the job day in and day out with a basic level of enjoyment.”
- It would not take a long time to get. I did not want to take another 4 years to get a job. It needed to be shorter. I was prepared to take up to two years to get an associates in something if I had to.
So with all the pillars set in place I moved forward. I stared out by Googling, “10 top paying jobs with an associate degree.” I took about three different lists which came up and look through each one. I ran each one through the grid above. If it failed one I dropped in and move on. If It seemed to fit I explored it more throughly. That is where I started.
To lend a helping hand let me give you some other places to start your search.
Certifications are a good places to look. Certifications for jobs take less time and less money. If you are looking for something quick but maybe not as much pay (depending upon what you get) you might want to look into it. Here is a list of different jobs in the medical world which want certifications.
There are schools around which offer intense programs for medical jobs. These programs can range from 6 months to little over a year. But you come out the other side with a trade and ready for a job. Here is one in Louisville for medical jobs called ATA.
Also, for those interested in business there are trade schools which focus on apprenticeships.
This one is a two year program in New York, NY called Enstitute :
Another one is called Praxis:
I have not looked into these programs a whole lot. But I wanted to bring them to your attention if you wanted to explore them.
You can also look into your local technical college and see what programs they offer which interests you. As, I said before, I found my local college gave a program in Medical Coding.
Hopefully this helps you start out on the right foot. I don’t know everything it every field so I can’t direct you to exactly what you are looking for. Hopefully this links, if they don’t directly help you, will give you a guide in your search.
Going back to the flower and the ant an important thing I experienced was God’s provision around and through my choice to pursue this job. Now, this is not “God helps those who helps themselves” kind of idea. But God does call us to take responsible actions. To take wise risks and move forward with the aim to glorify Him. And while we do He proves Himself faithful. Not because we earned it. But because He has promised to lead and shepherd us.
If anyone has any question please send them my way.
May Richard Sibbes words give you renewed strength to run as it did for me,
So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have such a gracious Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.
…Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavours. But when, with faithful endeavour, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, as we said before, with endeavour of growth, is our perfection.
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 51-52.
As Christianity became the government’s preferred relgion during [Constantine I]’s thirty-one years in power and then increasingly the only religious option during the reigns of his Christian successors, many were tempted to join the church simply because it provided a way to get ahead in society. In other words, during the fourth and fifth centuries nominal believers entered the church in significantly large numbers to bring about an identity crisis within the church. In essence that crisis can be boiled down to this question: What does it mean to be a Christian in a “Christian” society?…The answer to this crisis of ecclesial identity was the renewal movement that we call monasticism.
Michael A. Haykin, Rediscovering The Church Fathers: Who They Were And How They Shaped The Church (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011), 108.
This struck me as I thought about Christianity in our context. Today, and forward on, in America the line of what it means to be a Christian is becoming ever more distinct. But, depending on where you live in America, nominal Christianity is very real. And back when our parents and grandparents lived it was very real. The same question that faced the believers in the 4th and 5th century faced them and it can still face us.
When we get into an identity crisis of what a Christian really is we can revert to making hyper-biblical rules to try and bring clarity. It is not that a believer is wise in what he or she watches. But it is that a believer should not have a TV at all!
This is sort of what Paul had to combat in the church at Colossae when he writes,
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Col. 2:16-19)
The first monks? Probably not. However, the sun never has anything new to shine on. The problem is building an identity on something besides the Head–Jesus Christ.
When the focus slides from Christ we start to go beyond the bible to try and find an identity. Thus, these teachers would say to believers, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (v. 22). This is getting to the monasticism we know.
I wonder how much of the hyper-biblical rules we run into are actually coming from an identity crisis? For a while I have alway traced it to pure legalism. When I, however, meet Christians who seem to be drawing lines in strange places with how they live I wonder if it actually them miss placing their identity?
I see this coming from two groups of people
1. Those who want to be separate from the world and only see keeping hyper-biblical rules as the way to do it.
2. Those who make themselves separate out of pride. They not only want to be separate from the world but they seek to make themselves distinct from “weaker” believers as well.
As believers how do we guard against this? Even though Paul’s exact aim is not against monasticism I think the things he brings out apply. Right after these remarks comes chapter 3 where Paul lays out a succinct view of Christian living. I will refer you to Sinclair Ferguson’s exposition to save space here.
I can summairze in the same manner as Paul, “holding fast to the Head.” Christ is both the arthur and perfecter of faith. Trusting in His gracious work and promise of salvation. And seeking to respond to that grace with correct living in His strength. There is no reason to resort to hyper-biblical rules if one’s identity is firm in Christ.
Now, this does not answer all questions on this topic. Though, I think it is helpful to notice this from history. If we are holding fast to Christ then we do not have to construct a false identity to assure us of our salvation. Even in a nominal Christian context. Christ is are assurance! Neither does this excuse nominalism and lawlessness from being great evils of those who profess Christ. It is a real problem that has to be preached against. Hopefully, though, by learning from monasticism we can be cautious of the error they made. They us hold fast to the Head and find our identity in Him.
We confuse growth in knowledge and insight with genuine life change. But insight is not change and knowledge should not be confused with practical, active, biblical wisdom. In fourteen years of seminary teaching, I have met many brilliant, theologically astute students who were incredibly immature in their everyday life. There was often a huge gap between their confessional and functional theology. Students who could articulate the sovereignty of God could be overcome by worry. Students who could expound on the glory of God would dominate classroom discussions for the sake of their own egos. I have counseled students who could explain the biblical doctrine of holiness while nurturing secret worlds of lust and sexual sin. I have seen many men who were months away from ministry who had not yet learned how to love people. Students who could explain the biblical teaching of God’s grace were harsh judgmental legalists.
Paul David Tripp, Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 242.
Since the radical powers of the soul are thus enfeebled and disordered, it is not to be wondered at that the best of men, and under their highest attainments, have found cause to make the acknowledgment of the Apostle, “When I should do good, evil is present with me.”
But, blessed be God, though we must feel hourly cause for shame and humiliation for what we are in ourselves, we have cause to rejoice continually in Christ Jesus, who, as he is revealed unto us under the various names, characters, relations, and offices, which he bears in the Scripture, holds out to our faith a balm for every wound, a cordial for every discouragement, and a sufficient answer to every objection which sin or Satan can suggest against our peace.
- If we are guilty, he is our Righteousness;
- if we are sick; he is our infallible Physician;
- if we are weak, helpless, and defenceless, he is the compassionate and faithful Shepherd who has taken charge of us, and will not suffer any thing to disappoint our hopes, or to separate us from his love.
He knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust, and has engaged to guide us by his counsel, support us by his power, and at length to receive us to his glory, that we may be with him for ever.
-John Newton, The Utterances of the Heart, in the Course of a Real Correspondence.
HT: Justin Taylor
There has been some buzz due to an article written by Anthony Bradley on the subject of “Radical Christianity.” I don’t want to do a full on critic on what he says. But, instead, I want to communicate my views on “Radical” vs. “1 Thess. 4” as to help, hopefully, bring balance.
To be a Christian is to be radical. I will say that I am not in favor of using special classifying terms for believers. We do have a way of throwing terms of “extraness” upon being a Christian (Passionate Christian, Radical Christian, etc). Because of the nominalism around us I understand why such terms come into be. But we need to step back and remember that those terms are already embedded within the term Christian. To be a Christian is to inherently be those things.
There are times when certain characteristics of being a Christian do come to the forefront. The term at this time is one of being radical, or the idea of holding nothing back and sacrificing all for the sake of Christ. These characteristics are, without a doubt, biblical. But how do we live them out?
If being radical is limited to a particular ministry in a particular place we do not have the radical part of Christianity. We have discontentment (if we are not at that particular place) and pride (if we are at that particular place).
This is where Jesus’s statement about a particular widow gives us a biblical frame work. Being radical is not how much you give but how much it costs you. It is not setting a particular amount to give and making that the standard of radical. It is about the individual cost.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44)
The fact is, God does not need anything you give Him. You could have all the intellectual and political ability to do tremendous deeds, but you still are not necessary to God. He would get the job done better than you ever could. He did not need the widows money.
What God wants is trust and devotion to Him shown through the diversity of weak people He chooses to save. Radicalness can come in the form of Paul braving the dangerous seas so he could bring the gospel to distant lands and it can come in the form of an overlooked widow dropping a penny as a offering.
Christ gave-up the glories of heaven so He might take the indignities of our sin. It is, thus, fitting that those who died with Him now walk as living sacrifices. Always growing in allowing the One who Bought them to take more of their lives. How do we live out this aspect of being radical?
1. Being radical with what you have been given and where you have been placed. Discontentment and pride can take very spiritual forms. Being radical is not sitting at home wishing you were not a widow and thinking if you had more to give you would be of better use. It is moving where you have to move and using what you have to use. It is the cost which God sees as signs of trust. So don’t look towards the future but look at what you are holding back right now. Is it pride? Is it fear? Is it not preferring others over yourself? Right there, in front of you, you will find where you need to be radical.
2. Being radical is seeking to give all wherever the Lord is pointing out. I know for me I know I need to give up more in the realm of selfishness and fear. Putting myself smack-dab in the middle of relationships is where I need to be. Or it is taking leadership in pursuit of a sister and facing the fears and the uncertainty as I learn to trust more in Him who is ever certain. Right there, where I am weakest, is where I am to be radical! It would be much easier to dream about serving in a orphanage in Africa. But I know this is where I need to be radical.
3. Being radical can look very ordinary. Putting pennies in offering, nothing to report there. And ask yourselves, what is love? Is it great faith to walk on water? Is it great sacrifice for the name of Christ? Is it having all knowledge to reject heresy? No. It is patient, kind, not envious, nor boastful. Easily past by in the search for more “radical” things! Yes, pure and undefiled religion is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction (Jam. 1:27) But worthy religion is also bridling your tongue (Jam. 1:26).
As a follower of the crucified Christ you are to carry your cross of crucifixion (Matt 16:24) while aspiring “to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands,” (1 Thess. 4:11).For some the cross will take you to unreached people groups to live out ordinary Christianity before them in speech and life. And to another it will mean spending 40+ hours a week to provide for your wife and children while living and speaking the gospel before them in radical ways. Each has their place and each has their cost.
The way to be radical is to always be asking, “how can I give Him more?” How can I witness more to my coworkers? How can I get my children excited about missions? How can I reach out to the overlooked people in my church more? What can I do so that those who do not have a bible in their own language have one? How can I be praying more? There is radical Christianity!
We gave nothing and now posses everything through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have no debts to pay! All we owe only points to the amount of mercy we have received. And because of this we can press on in giving Him every section of out lives. From one degree to the next as the Spirit sanctifies us. Pressing ever on in radical call of Christ!
He chooses for his people better than they could choose for themselves. If they are in heaviness, there is a need-be for it, and he withholds nothing from them but what, upon the whole, it is better they should be without.
-John Newton, Works, vol. 1, p. 249 (Letter XVI, “On the Inefficacy of Our Knowledge)
HT: Justin Taylor