Dluxe's World

Friday, December 29

Whitefield for the Weekend [11]

Holy and frequent meditation is another blessed means of keeping up a believer's walk with God. 'Prayer, reading, temptation, and meditation', says Luther, 'make a minister.' And they also make and perfect a Christian. Meditation to the soul, is the same as digestion to the body. For meditation is a kind of silent prayer, whereby the soul is frequently as it were carried out of itself to God, and in a degree made like unto those blessed spirits, who by a kind of immediate intuition always behold the face of our heavenly Father. None but those happy souls that have been accustomed to this divine employ, can tell what a blessed promoter of the divine life, meditation is.

'Whilst I was musing', says David, 'the fire kindled.' And whilst the believer is musing on the works and word of God, especially that work of works, that wonder of wonders, that mystery of godliness, 'God manifest in the flesh', the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world, he frequently feels the fire of divine love kindle, so that he is obliged to speak with his tongue, and tell of the loving-kindness of the Lord to his soul. Be frequent therefore in meditation, all ye that desire to keep up and maintain a close and uniform walk with the most high God.

George Whitefield, Walking with God


Wednesday, December 27

Is it WWWednesday Already?

I'm still home for the holiday! So, surfing for WWWednesday links has been low on the list of priorities. The result is a thin week this time 'round. We'll make up for it later.

1) Everyone's a blogger nowadays... Including my 5 year-old son. No doubt, he'll have 10 times the traffic I've built up within a week.

2) This is neat... The guy in this video has come up with a neat solution to a long-standing puzzle: How did people move huge stone blocks to make Stonehenge?

3) Breaking completely with the holiday theme... Check out this strange, Indian adaptation of Michael Jackson's Thriller.


Sunday, December 24

Being's Source Begins to Be...

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Friday, December 22

Whitefield for the Weekend [10]

I find it fitting that our 10th Whitefield post should lead right up to Christmas...

Man did eat [that which was forbidden in the Garden]; and herein acting as our representative, thereby involved both himself and us in that curse, which God, the righteous judge, had said should be the consequence of his disobedience. But here begins that mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh... Man is permitted to fall, and become subject to death; but Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of light, very God of very God, offers to die to make an atonement for his transgression, and to fulfill all righteousness in his stead.

And because it was impossible for him to do this as he was God, and yet since man had offended, it was necessary it should be done in the person of man; rather than we should perish, this everlasting God, this Prince of Peace, this Ancient of Days, in the fullness of time, had a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost, and became an infant. In this body he performed a complete obedience to the law of God; whereby he, in our stead, fulfilled the covenant of works, and at last became subject to death, even death upon the cross; that as God he might satisfy, as man he might obey and suffer; and being God and man in one person, might once more procure a union between God and our souls.

And now, What think you of this love of Christ? Do not you think it was wondrous great? Especially when you consider, that we were Christ's bitter enemies, and that he would have been infinitely happy in himself, notwithstanding we had perished forever... Why, why O ye sinners, will you not think of this love of Christ? Surely it must melt down the most hardened heart. Whilst I am speaking, the thought of this infinite and condescending love fires and warms my soul. I could dwell on it for ever.

George Whitefield, What Think Ye of Christ?


Thursday, December 21

10 Years, and counting...

10 years ago today, Eva made a puzzling decision... She decided to marry me. Even stranger: She stuck around even after this obvious lapse of reason passed.

Thank you for being my best friend, my love, and my bride... I've loved you since the moment I first met you. With you in my life, God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve.

Happy Anniversary!


Wednesday, December 20

Let it W, Let it W, Let it WWWednesday...

... and let it snow while you're at it. Away we go!

1) The holidays are often a time when people eat too much and bemoan their expanding waistlines. If I recall correctly, the #1 New Year's Resolution is to lose weight. Well, forget all about that and bloat to your heart's (dis)content... In the first dash of over-realized-tolerance to really impact me, Fat Pride and Fat Studies are on the rise at colleges. Yes, I'm serious. You might wanna get the Fat Studies Reader before the holiday supplies disappear like the pre-class buffet.

2) Also something only higher-ed could produce: Baba Brinkman, the literary rapper. Using the Canterbury Tales for fodder, Brinkman spits hot fire like a homie straight outta Hollis Hall. Don't step to him, cuz I heard he packs a CMS wherever he goes.

3) There are few things cooler than military hardware. And it seems no one understands the concept of "Bigger=Better" that the U.S. Department of Defense. Check out the specs on the new CVN-21 'Super [Aircraft] Carrier':
The French Charles De Gaulle Class nuclear carriers displace about 43,000t. India's new Vikramaditya/ Admiral Gorshkov Class will have a similar displacement. The future British CVF Queen Elizabeth Class and related French PA2 Project are expected to displace about 65,000t (British) - 74,000t (French), while the British Invincible Class carriers that participated in the Falklands War weigh in at around 22,000t. Invincible actually compares well to Italy's new Cavour Class (27,000t), and Spain's Principe de Asturias Class (17,000t). The USA's Nimitz Class and CVN-21 Gerald R. Ford Class, in contrast, fall in the 90,000t-105,000t range. Hence the unofficial designation "super-carriers". Just one of these ships packs a more potent air force than many nations.


4) Time Magazine finally got it right and named me their person of the year. Oh, and you too. Yes, even you.

5) In this week's sign of the Apocalypse, Angelina Jolie is now dispensing her opinion on better parenting. Her premise? Adopted parents, who usually go through some background checks, are better suited to be parents... I'd challenge the reader to consider Ms. Jolie's history and the fact that she has two adopted kids before getting behind her theory.

6) This past weekend, SNL was actually funny (or so claims the rampant video posting on teh intarweb)... Reflecting on my personal, all-time favorite SNL moments:
  • Far and away, Woodrow is max funnest. It's a shame that I can't scrounge this completely nonsensical video up anywhere on the net. "Up and down the sidewalk, Take a doo-doo pie... I love you."
  • Ross Perot's joy ride with then VP candidate James Stockdale is an all-timer as well. I imagine some of the humor is lost if you weren't around to hear about the original debate.
  • As far as favorite musical moments, there is nothing better than Elvis Costello thumbing his nose at the establishment. This performance of 'Radio' is the only EC thing I've ever liked. I wish I could've seen it live (but I was only two).
7) Following up on the video theme... Here's a strange one. Tupac and Ice-T 'singing' together. How touching.

8) How did you get here? Well....
  • Dluxe's World is da bomb if you're looking for more mindless authors. True, so very true.
  • It's frightening to think that some people are looking for Jo Frost in diapers... In diapers???
  • And in a lesson on the effects my crazy blogs I have, three people have come here looking for modest or respectable women's clothing.
  • We do the prosperity gospel for kid's thing, too: God, I declare my need for a bicycle!
  • Lastly, you would not believe how many people can't spell 'weasel'. I continue to see at least 1 hit a day looking for weesel/weisel/wiesel/weseel/wiesal stomping day. However, in an effort to serve those folks, here's a link to what you're looking for...


Tuesday, December 19

The Letter of the Law [2]

This is a rough post, written with little (umm, 'no') editing. So be warned. This all goes back to a previous post: Is being worried about speeding being legalistic?

The dictionary defines the term legalism as "strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code"... That definition is clear as a bell, isn't it? What a great summary of what legalism is. I see two different 'flavors' at work here:
  • Legalism could be seen as some sort of obsessive/compulsive bent towards adhering to the law. If LegalistBrian was walking down the street eating a melting popsicle, I'd be forced to stop and clean up and drips or dribbles that made it to the street. After all, I don't want to be guilty of littering...
  • Likewise, LegalistBrian could be focused at the microscopic level. For example, I could feel justified for letting my cat run free and poop all over the park because leash & pooping ordinances all mention dogs specifically.
No matter the specific bent of someone's legalism, I immediately wonder something: Why would someone choose to behave that way?

Setting aside psychological illness for a moment, I think the "Why?" question is critical for understanding legalism in a Biblical context. So, I want to propose a slightly modified definition for this discussion: Legalism is a reliance on strict adherence to the law for the purpose of obtaining or assuring our right standing with God or the approval of man.

Legalism, at its core, has a huge component of pride. Consider how Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew 23:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Matthew 23:1-7)

The Pharisees attempted to keep the law rigorously for all the wrong reasons. Rather than seeking to glorify God, their underlying aim was their own self-exaltation before man. They loved it that other people looked at them with awe and respect. They craved the adulation of their peers and sought to gain benefit from the status that they had achieved.

But note that the common listener here is told to 'practice and observe whatever they tell [you]'. So, while pride has tainted the Pharisee's conduct, obedience to the commands/teachings is still part of other people's duty. John Calvin explains it this way:
The design of Christ was, that the people might not, in consequence of being offended at the vices of the scribes, throw away reverence for the Law. For we know how prone the minds of men are to entertain dislike of the Law; and more especially when the life of their pastors is dissolute, and does not correspond to their words, almost all grow wanton through their example, as if they had received permission to sin with impunity...

Our Lord gives a general exhortation to believers to beware of conforming their life to the wicked conduct of the scribes, but, on the contrary, to regulate it by the rule of the Law which they hear from the mouth of the scribes; for it was necessary ... that he should reprove many abuses in them that the whole people might not be infected. [Christ] enjoins believers to attend to their words, and not to their actions; as if he had said, that there is no reason why the bad examples of pastors should hinder the children of God from holiness of life.

As believers, we should desire to live holy lives as a means of worship. We know that our best behavior, our greatest righteousness, isn't going to measure up to the standard that God would demand of us on our own. The great grace we have been shown in Christ should serve as to catapult us towards lives that are obedient to God. We will fail, over and over... But our imperfection should highlight the magnitude of the Gospel that has rescued us.

That isn't to excuse our failures... But when we fall, it should cause us to get us, dust ourselves off, thank God for grace that is greater than our sin, and ask for strength to live a life pleasing to our Savior.

A legalist says, "Try harder to gain acceptance". I think the cry of redeemed Christians should be "Embrace your acceptance and, therefore, try harder". As Keller noted in yesterday's quote, the difference between those two ideologies is a radical one.

So, by saying that we need to be mindful of something like speeding I'm really not being legalistic. Your speeding or driving only 15mph wherever you go isn't really the issue here. The issue is whether you are submitting your heart, pride, and personal agenda to the One who purchased us with His blood... What is pleasing to our Savior?

One last clarification: I am not saying that speeding is, in and of itself, sinful. If you look down at your speedometer and find yourself thoughtlessly going 10 over the limit, I don't think you need to repent. However, if you willfully violate a statute you know to be in operation over you then I think you have some heart issues that need to be checked. It isn't your foot, it's your attitude...

Again... sorry that this is incoherent. No time for editing today (and I want to wrap this up). Besides, all of you are already used to my thoughtless ramblings...


Monday, December 18

The Letter of the Law [1]

Consider this a preface to, and effective summary of, what I hope to offer in a long-promised post on legalism tomorrow.

Quoting Tim Keller:
Tertullian said, "Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification [by faith alone] is ever crucified between two opposite errors." These errors continue to "steal" the gospel from us. They are "legalism" and "liberalism". On the one hand, "legalists" have a truth without grace, for they say or imply that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, "liberals" have a grace without truth, for they say or imply that we are all accepted by God regardless of what we decide is true for us. But those with truth without grace, do not really have the truth, and those with grace without truth, do not really have grace. In Jesus we behold the glory of the one "full of grace and truth".

De-emphasize or lose one or the other of these truths, you fall somewhat into legalism or somewhat into license and you eliminate the joy and the "release" of the gospel. Without a knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the gospel seems trivial and does not electrify or transform. But without a knowledge of Christ's completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us or move us to deny and repress it. Take away either the knowledge of sin or the knowledge of grace and people's lives not changed. They will be crushed by the moral law or run from it screaming and angry.

As Luther put it, the Christian is simul justus et peccator (simultaneously accepted, yet a sinner). We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, but through Christ we are more accepted than we ever dared hope. When the gospel dawns on the soul, it becomes a transforming power (Romans 1:17). Instead of seeing the law of God as an abstract moral code, Christians see it as a way to know, serve, and resemble their Master. Instead of obeying to make God indebted to them, they obey because they are indebted to him. Instead of being driven by an anxious sense of being unacceptable, they are empowered by grateful joy. The difference between these two ways of morality could not be greater. Their spirits, goals, motivations, and results are entirely different.


Friday, December 15

Whitefield for the Weekend [9]

Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by secret prayer... [Prayer] is the very breath of the new creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire, kindled in the soul by God, is not only kept in, but raised into a flame. A neglect of secret prayer has been frequently an inlet to many spiritual diseases, and has been attended with fatal consequences...

'Watch and pray', says our Lord, 'that ye enter not into temptation.' And he spake a parable, that his disciples should pray, and not faint. Not that our Lord would have us always upon our knees, or in our closets, to the neglect of our other relative duties. But he means, that our souls should be kept in a praying frame, so that we might be able to say, as a good man in Scotland once said to his friends on his death-bed, 'Could these curtains, or could these walls speak, they would tell you what sweet communion I have had with my God here'.

O prayer! Prayer! It brings and keeps God and man together. It raises man up to God, and brings God down to man. If you would there, O believers, keep up your walk with God; pray, pray without ceasing. Be much in secret, set prayer. And when you are about the common business of life, be much in [spontaneous] prayer, and send, from time to time, short letters post to heaven upon the wings of faith. They will reach the very heart of God, and return to you again loaded with spiritual blessings.


Thursday, December 14

A War Within: Romans 7 [3]

Checkity Checka Part One and Part Two before diving in here...

In the the last couple posts, I've attempted to show that Paul's description of indwelling sin in Romans 7:14-25 is intended to describe the struggles of believers. Having defended that view, we're left with the obvious question: In the words of Lon Solomon, "So What?" How should this passage's rather shocking description of sin's continuing influence in us effect how we live day-to-day?

Though there are clearly many points that could be made, allow me to lay out three:

1) Recognize the power of the Gospel and the greatness of our salvation. If you've read any of my Bible posts, you know that I'm a stickler of big chunks of Scripture read in context. This time is no different. Consider our 'problem passage' and the read Paul's continuation in Romans 8.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:25-8:4, ESV)

Now, that is good news. Paul joyfully proclaims the mystery of the Gospel: Though our flesh is weak and sin is ever-present with us, we have been freed from condemnation through the shedding of our Savior's blood. Our justification, our legal right-standing, before a holy God is secured because of the Cross.

But I think it's interesting to look at the text of verses 3-4 (the 2nd bolded verse above) and hang a little bit of meaning on word 'in'. Isn't it interesting that Paul doesn't say, "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled for us"? I mean, that's a true statement. Christ did fulfill the law for us...

But I think Paul is driving at something else here - namely our walking (acting) in accordance with the law through the power of the Spirit. Look at the continuation of the passage:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (verses 5-11)

The Gospel goes beyond our justification and into our sanctification. We are called to 'set our minds on the Spirit', who 'will also give life to [our] mortal bodies'. The law of sin and death at work in us (see 7:22-23) is no longer all-powerful for those who are in Christ - those who have the Spirit of Christ. We have been given salvation from sin through the cross and spiritual strength to resist sin ('life in our mortal bodies') for Christ's glory!

So, the foundational principle for wrestling with sin day-to-day must be an affirmation of the Gospel and our dependence on the Spirit of God which empowers us. I guess that's two points... But who's counting?

So, how do we build in our self and increasing reliance on the Spirit's work? What can we do to condition our hearts with the Gospel?

2) Saturate ourselves with Scripture. The foundation of our spiritual 'training' must be time spent in prayerful study of God's word. Consider these verses...
My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!

When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes!
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame! (Psalm 119:25-31)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Among many, many others (including basically the whole of Psalm 119)... Our increasing capacity to live in Spirit is honed through the Spirit's application of Scripture to our lives. If we fail to feed the 'new man' in us with Truth, we are effectively telling the Holy Spirit to build a house in us while denying Him the wood and nails. When we hide God's law in our hearts, we increase our capacity to resist sin.

Think of it this way: We have an easy time resisting overt sins while we're at church. We're singing, meditating, and studying from God's Word together. What is it that keeps us resisting sin when we walk out of the church? Who is preaching to us in those moments when sin is right there in front of us? If we have planted our roots in God's Word, we can preach to ourselves in those moments and drink living water, rather than suck up sips from the mud-puddle before us.

And that, folks, is as close to poetic as I get.

3) Through reliance on the Spirit, develop Holy habits. There are tons of great books that explore this topic (and varying facets of it) in depth... So I don't want to dwell here for long. Besides, at least 60% of my readers just worked through one such book in our ABF. So, let me simply ground this principle in Scripture:
[Christ's] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence... For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3,5-8)

When we recognize the glory of the Gospel and what has been given to us, one outcome should be that, in our joy, we seek to shape our behaviors to glorify Christ. This is not 'pure discipline' in our flesh, or we'd fail. Rather, having saturated ourselves with the Word, we lean on the Spirit and struggle to bring our flesh into concert with God's purpose for us.

Let me bring this to a close with a quote from J.C. Ryle's landmark book, Holiness:
[One] mark of growth in grace is increased holiness of life and conversation. The man whose soul is growing gets more dominion over sin, the world and the devil every year. He becomes more careful about his temper, his words and his actions. He is more watchful over his conduct in every relation of life. He strives more to be conformed to the image of Christ in all things and to follow Him as his example, as well as to trust in Him as his Savior. He is not content with old attainments and former grace. He forgets the things that are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are before, making "Higher!" "Upward!" "Forward!" "Onward!" his continual motto (Phil. 3:13). On earth he thirsts and longs to have a will more entirely in unison with God’s will. In heaven the chief thing that he looks for, next to the presence of Christ, is complete separation from all sin. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increased holiness.

May we grow in the lavish grace we've been shown, and glorify God with our lives!

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Wednesday, December 13


Happy WWWednesday, peeps!

1) Everyone's heard a joke, or 500, about 'government intelligence'. Well, according to this article there may be more truth in that humor than ever before. To quote:
Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In an interview with CNN, Stein said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.

It's nice to see that the Democrats have gotten right to work bringing change to Washington. And it even looks like they've even learned a thing or two from Bush's ign... er, I mean 'leadership'.

2) Consider this a PSA for the week: Don't mess with centuri0n's wife. She, or her avatar, can swat you like a fly.

3) Also on the PSA-esque front: Running across college campuses dressed like a ninja can be dangerous. Be careful of ATF agents and Samurai!

4) Oh Gizmo! is giving away a chance for free gear in exchange for shilling for their site. Consider me, officially, their biggest fan ever. There is not enough time before the heat-death of the universe for me to adequately extol the virtues of Oh Gizmo!, any wholly-owned subsidiary companies, and their strategic business partners. [Note to any other vendors who surf here: I will shill for gear!]

5) Here's irony... According to this story, the son of Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman has stolen a little music online. His dad, ever patient, has appropriately scolded his son. I guess I'm wondering if a good old fashioned grounding would be sufficient punishment for any of the 400-or-so kids currently being sued by the RIAA? I think Mr. Bronfman has modelled something good!

6) Watch this video... Especially wait for the bass player. Wait patiently, it's worth it. Though his name is lost to history, his legend will live on!

7) Now this is a novel idea for a business... If you're going to miss the Rapture, might as well turn a coin doing it. Check out the Post-Rapture Post. Of course, something tells me that (given my own take on dispensational eschatology) that the last thing they'll be thinking during the Great Tribulation will be to deliver all that mail.

8) I bet that you've thought of lots of things that hinder the swerve of mating rhinos. But did you ever consider that your town fair's ferris wheel might be a major culprit... No? Well, these folks have and you should thank them for helping out.

9) Whatever you do, don't press the Big Red Dot. (Thanks to the people at Kahsoon!)

10) Well, here's how you might've ended up here by mistake... I'm sure you weren't looking for this, after all.
  • Ms. Dewey's Hidden Easter Eggs are actually catalogued elsewhere... But thanks for stopping in.
  • I've had two people stop in looking for Ravi Zacharias view of Catholocism. I find this very interesting.
  • Sometimes, I control the circumstances... Other times, I don't.
  • And, in what is one of the strangest blendings I've seen: Overcoming Dead Deer Temptation.


Tuesday, December 12

A War Within: Romans 7 [2]

In yesterday's post on Romans 7, I tried to lay out a case for a particular reading of what is a troubling Biblical text. Paul's description of ongoing struggle with sin has lead many scholars to propose that Paul is speaking of either the struggle of the unbeliever or someone experiencing the first tastes of conviction from the Holy Spirit. I believe that the passage is actually best understood as Paul describing his experience as a Christian battling indwelling sin. I think those reasons are compelling... And would mention that several other notable Bible students would agree.

The major objection to this view rises out of Romans 7:14, so I'd like to spend this post showing how this verse is actually not antithetical to my preferred reading of the passage. To start, here's 7:14 as rendered in several popular Bible translations.
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin." (NIV/TNIV)

"The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master." (NLT)

"For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin." (NASB)

So, the question is rightly asked: Wait a minute! Paul just spent the better part of chapter 6 telling us that, through faith in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin. How then could you take this passage (which clearly indicates that the speaker is still enslaved) to be referring to a believer?

If this objection cannot be answered cogently from Scripture, then my entire first post is simply wrong. The questioner is absolutely right that the image Paul has set up a clear metaphor through the early part of Romans stating that we, as believers, are no longer alive/enslaved to sin.
"How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (6:2b)

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin." (6:6-7)

"For sin will have no dominion over you..." (6:14a)

"... having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness." (6:18b)

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God..." (6:22a, all verses ESV)

So, I have a big problem if I can't harmonize all these verses... But, I believe I can (otherwise I wouldn't be posting)! I want to suggest two reasons I think that this perceived problem is, in reality, not a problem at all.

1) The reality is that Paul never mentions the word 'slave' in verse 14. Here, for once, even the NASB translation infers a little too much into the text. Paul's statement in 7:14 is perhaps best (most literally) rendered in the ESV: "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin."

Now I only know enough Greek to be dangerous, but anyone can follow the text of the verse in Greek here. Hover your mouse over the words, and you'll see that the words for slave/enslaved don't actually appear (though they do appear in chapter 6).

Ok, this might all sound like nitpicking... I mean, what difference is there really between "sold as a slave to sin" and [my preferred reading] "sold under sin"? I'd suggest that there is an important difference.

If I might be so bold, thinking of the verse like this might be helpful: "I am of the flesh, sold out to sin." In our slang, someone who is 'a sell-out' takes one course of action against what they know to be true/just/right. They prefer to take the easy or popular road even though there's a nagging voice in their head that it's wrong. To 'sell out' is rooted, at some level, in our self-interest and desires... To be fair, we use the term positively as well - saying someone's "Sold out for Jesus!", for example - to describe a single-minded, unwavering devotion to something.

Consider how the Hard-Core Southern Baptist Bible (actually, the Holman-Christian Standard Bible) lays out verse 14: For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin's power.

So, if I'm right, Paul is saying that we compromise what we know to be righteous and give ourselves over to sin. Sin is no longer ruling over us - unlike our state before being saved where we had no will for righteousness - but we willingly or carelessly subjugate ourselves to sin again and again. Which dovetails nicely into my next point...

2) There is clear distinction between our flesh and our spirit. Paul makes this key statement in Galatians:
[W]alk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:16-24, ESV)

There really is a 'dual-nature' to who we are... I think the highlighted portion of text is really interesting. The two influences - flesh and the Spirit - are opposed to one another and always are battling to keep us from doing what we want to do. At those times when we are living in the Spirit, our flesh is fighting to keeps us from doing the good that we want... In contrast, when we are operating in our flesh, the Spirit works to keep us from responding to our worldly desires.

In a commentary on Romans, James Boice points out that the "flesh is that part of us that is not yet redeemed". Our 'hearts' and/or Spirit have been freed from sins slavery, but our body is still full of the same fleshly faults, impulses, habits, and desires that it had before. And, it will continue to cling to some of these until we shed it in death or when Christ returns. Thinking in terms of my own life: Intellectually and spiritually I know the right things to do, but I find impulses (largely for 'pleasure') that steer me away from my good intentions. The Spirit is the 'still small voice', while my fleshly passions are screaming, demanding attention like a toothache.

Taking all this evidence into account, I again submit there should be little doubt that Paul is describing a believer's ongoing struggle with sin Romans 7:14-25. Certainly, some of us struggle with sin more painfully and frequently with others... But, the truth is that sin is still present in believers and torments/tempts us even though we are no longer under its bondage.

All of which begs the question, "Now what?" which we'll try to cover in the next (and final) post on Thursday.

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Monday, December 11

A War Within: Romans 7 [1]

Though Romans may be "The Greatest Letter Ever Written", there are certainly portions of text that are hotly debated. We've previously touched on all that predestination/election stuff in chapters 8 and 9... But I was never aware of exactly how controversial the latter half of Romans 7 is for many people. Paul says:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25, ESV)

The question is, who is Paul referring to or illustrating here? And each option leads to some very different implications for this text on our life. Traditionally, people have offered three possible interpretations:
  • This is a description of the non-Christian condition. Perhaps Paul is expounding to us the severity of the situation our friends and neighbors are living in. Within each of them is a moral law that they constantly find themselves struggling to meet or to simply suppress. Theirs is a struggle to relieve their conscience, either by better moral behavior - which never seems to satisfy - or by numbing themselves to the war inside their own being.
  • This is a description of the pre-Christian condition. A significant nuance of the previous point: Maybe Paul is reminding us of the feelings we had when the Holy Spirit began the work of regeneration in our lives. Where we were in darkness, suddenly there was light and we were convicted of our sinfulness, the great schism that creates between God/us, as well as our need for salvation (John 16:8-15).
  • Or, this could be a description of Paul's current experience as a Christian. In other words, perhaps Paul is communicating a vivid, albeit unpleasant, picture of his day-to-day struggles with sin even though he has been justified by through faith and experiences the Holy Spirit working within him.
While it is possible to construct arguments for any of these positions, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that Paul is describing his current reality. Paul's vivid, troubling description of an almost dualistic struggle with sin is best understood as something he is experiencing as he writes to the Romans (though he is an Apostle) and as something he expects the Roman believers to identify within their own faith. I'd like to spend the rest of this post defending that view...

To me, there are three main data points that demand we read Romans 7 as describing the Christian experience.

1) The plain reading of the text clearly supports this view. Considering just verses 14-25, what is the writer of the text saying?

First off, everything is in the present tense: We know [now]... but I am [now] ... I see [now] ... making me captive [now]. Every sentence rings with the notion that the writer is describing something that is present reality for him. If Paul intended to describe something that had happened to him, or that he had experienced, it would've been easy enough to craft the message that way with a simple change of tenses. But Paul doesn't do that... He writes, as a redeemed Christian, about sin currently indwelling in him.

There is also nothing in the surrounding text that would cause us to read this passage as 'reflective' or rhetorical. Paul has just completed a careful argument in chapter 6 that, though we are no longer under the law, we should not use the grace we've received as a license to continue sinning (transgressing the law). The text of chapter 7 flows as part of the same argument, acknowledging that sin should not reign over us but is still something with which we need to contend.

Lastly, Paul was writing to address "those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (1:7). The letter's intent was to unpack the doctrine of justification - by grace through faith alone - and enrich the understanding of those believers who would hear it. While there is little doubt that non-believers benefit from reading Romans, it is reasonable to assume Paul has his stated target-audience (namely the Church) in view unless he says otherwise.

2) Other texts support the plain reading of Romans 7. This is not the only place where Paul (or another Biblical author) speaks of the very real presence of sin in the life of a believer. Consider the struggle Peter had seeking approval from the Judiazers (Galatians 2:11-14) or Paul's exhortation of the Colossians to pursue their sanctification "being renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] creator" (Colossians 3:1-17). And let's not even talk about the temptations that regularly overcame the Corinthians...

Who among us hasn't been pricked by James' admonitions regarding the ever-ablaze tongue (James 3:1-10)? Or Peter's call to make our calling and election sure through supplementing faith with virtue (2 Peter 1:3-11)? Etc etc. The exhortations towards 'increased Godliness' that ring through the New Testament show that we still battle with sin. The character of that battle has changed completely, thanks to the Gospel... But, borrowing an illustration from Jerry Bridges, there is still a memory of sin's reign and an ingrained set of sinful habits rooted in our flesh that we must contend with.

3) If we're honest, our personal reality validates that sin is a present-tense struggle for us. Perhaps I should say that I read what Paul is saying and can empathize completely with his struggle. Paul's illustration is very real and, frankly, a little too personally relevant for my liking.

I do not understand my own actions. I can be reading the Bible one minute and in the next breath find my thoughts wandering into all kinds of wickedness. I want to do the right things, and I even know what those things are... But I find myself, almost in spite of my wants, wading out of the muck and mire - wondering how I managed to land back there again. Worse, there are plenty of times that I feel the war between holiness and flesh raging inside and find myself willfully tipping the scales towards the thing I know is sinful - just because I want it more at that moment.

So, I do find it true that every time I desire to do right I can be sure that sinful desires are whispering sweet nothings in my ear (verse 21)... and I imagine that you do too.

Please Note: I started supporting my reading of Romans 7:14-25 by appealing to the text itself (literally and contextually) and by drawing on corresponding passages in Scripture. The Scriptural case is compelling and sufficient, I think, in and of itself. My personal 'reality' is really not really important for interpretation here. However, I do mean to point out that, if we're honest with ourselves, we'd admit that the Holy Spirit gave Paul a pretty accurate description of our daily life. With that in mind, ignoring the plain reading of the text strikes me as a little silly.

Let's call it a wrap for today. Tomorrow, I'll try and harmonize verse 14b - which is the real crux of the problem with interpreting Romans 7 like I'm suggesting. How are we "sold under sin" as Christians if Paul has just spent significant amounts of time explaining in chapters 5 and 6 that we're no longer under sin's reign?

A good question, and one we'll try to unpack tomorrow!

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Friday, December 8

Whitefield for the Weekend [8]

Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by reading of his holy word. 'Search the scriptures', says our blessed Lord, 'for these are they that testify of me'. And the royal Psalmist tells us 'that God's word was a light unto his feet, and a lantern unto his paths'... For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning. And the word of God is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, and every way sufficient to make every true child of God thoroughly furnished unto every good work.

If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though he had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by, and fought the devil with, 'It is written'... The scriptures are called the lively oracles of God: not only because they are generally made use of to beget in us a new life, but also to keep up and increase it in the soul... 'We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts': that is, till we shake off these bodies, and see Jesus face to face.

Till then we must see and converse with him through the glass of his word. We must make his testimonies our counselors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus' feet, by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find, that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls.
George Whitefield, Walking with God


Wednesday, December 6

Very Geeky WWWednesday

Greetings from Vermont, where it seems we're finally getting some wintery weather... Not nearly enough to make the ski resorts happy, mind you. But at least it's starting to feel like it's Christmastime. This week's WWWednesday has a decidedly 'nerdy' bent to it. Hope you like!

1) Perhaps you should buy your kids some PowerRangers gear this year... Just for safety's sake. Meet Stevie Long who, according to this article, "scared the bad guys away" who were attempting to rob his house. You go, Stevie!

2) The IRS is getting wise to the untapped wealth to be found in MMORPG gaming. Ebay's filled with players who, having gained massive experience in the game, are selling 'electronic assets' to other folks. But not so fast, soon the IRS might be taking a chunk of your profits on your "+2 Broadsword of Teh Hawtness and Girls". Another reason to vote Libertarian, I guess?

3) On a related note, this video is absolutely hysterical. Not suitable for kids (this means our kids, Eva)!

4) I'll admit to having become a marginal Harry Potter fan. The movies are cotton-candy, I'll grant you, but entertaining. Nonetheless, I can't believe that people my age are planning a Harry Potter convention. Ok, I can believe that. There's money to be made. What really floors me is that they're coming up with a non-flying-broom version of Quidditch for the conference. Peep this article.

5) Moving to a much more interesting game: Buzkashi. Yes, that ancient, Afghani sport in which two teams essentially play polo with a headless goat carcass. What might surprise you is that one of the sport's leading stars is, in fact, a white guy from Scotland.
[T]he sport runs in his blood. Mr Clayton is a military man whose ancestors fought in Afghanistan in the 1840s and were known to be partial to a game of buzkashi after a fortifying gin and tonic.

I bet.

6) Internet memes are funny things... They just come out of nowhere. Take for example this one: Tuscan Whole Milk. After being listed on Amazon, everyone and their cousin 'reviewed' the creamy goodness. Says one reviewer:
Only three times in my life have I had better milk than this, and twice I'm fairly certain it was laced with flavor enhancing enzymes. The third was a milk so pure, it was actually hand delivered by the dairy farmer, who pumped it from the milk well right there in the middle of his ranch and drove it out to you in his old model T Ford pickup. Regardless, that was some expensive service, but the milk was like unto gold in a bronze world.

So, if you're looking for a last minute gift idea, perhaps you can still get your hands on some mega-milk. If you're lucky, that is. I'm 'Adding to Cart' as we speak!

7) Major geek addiction alert!! Check out the Ms. Dewey search engine. The buzz on the net seems to be that this is Microsoft's first stab at an interactive search engine. While the 'tude and innuendo are little over the top (search: gangsta bling), the creators went to great lengths to hide Easter Eggs in the system. Just try some of these [individually]: Lord of the Rings; Nintendo is best; Ms. Dewey; Janina Gavankar (the 'actress' who plays Ms. Dewey); Windows Millenium Edition; "What is the acceleration of gravity?"; "Wake up Neo"; iPod; Academy Awards...

I could spend (ahem, waste) a lot of time trying to find 'em all. Leave a comment if you find any amusing ones!

8) You might wind up here if you wanted to know about:
  • Should I believe the children? No. They lie.
  • I have been googled for dead duck deer, as well as dead deer duck. If I get "duck duck dead" or something similar, the odd trifecta will be complete!
  • There is an important, though subtle, difference between Miracle Whip and Miracle Whips.
Sorry that the pics are a little large... Blogger's photo posting is acting wonky.


Tuesday, December 5

Thinking Suburban-ly

This past weekend, a conversation with a friend shifted the mental focus of my 'Two Year Plan (R)(c)' away from thinking of urban area church planting to our own backyard. Needless to say, this got me thinking...

While there are tons of writings out there on approaching urban centers as mission fields, there's not as much material on reaching rural or suburban America. Or, perhaps more correctly stated, such material is not nearly as prominent. I did come across this set of articles [Part One, Two, and Three] by Hamo at Backyard Missionary. I thought they might spur some conversation... What are the unique challenges of ministering to people in a suburban context, and how do we rise to meet them?

I think one overarching challenge, that's been discussed here before, is the need for us to have a deeper, more 'native' understanding of the Gospel than was needed in the past. To reach a postmodern, fragmented culture, I think that each of us needs to deepen our understanding (theologically-speaking) of the Gospel. Everyone is a closet philospher nowadays, and we need to be able to respond to the questions of the person we're trying to reach. I don't mean we need to know all the answers, but we need to have a framework for our faith in which we can process questions and find answers.

In addition, I think it's key that we be able to show how the Gospel is relevant to our day-to-day, existential struggle. Not only must we be armed with a more robust rational defense of faith, we have to be able to show how that makes a difference for the better (eternally and now). Our culture is extremely anti-hypocrisy and can smell empty words a mile away. If what we preach really doesn't impact our lives, we'll be tuned out quickly. Likewise, if we can't tell/show people how "the narrative lines of their life will only find resolution" (Keller) in Christ why should they shed the things they know?

Please understand, I'm not trying to imply that God is not mighty to save in spite of any of these obstacles. God's spirit can regenerate someone whether or not my 'presentation' is good. What I am saying is that we should honor our Savior by preaching to His people effectively.

While these challenges are not unique to suburbia, I think that decentralization is. Sense of community in any context seems to be fragmenting in our day, and this seems especially true of suburban communities. We live here, but work, shop, or play elsewhere. There's no convocations or centralizing activities (or at least fewer of them) that work to glue us together. We follow national/state politics, but not town meetings... We go to the town festival, but talk to the same people we've always talked to. Very isolationist.

So, I think Hamo is right in that just being there is the first step and that must be supplemented by seeking a way to forge vital personal relationships...

Ok, this has turned into a rant, for sure... Thoughts anyone?


Saturday, December 2

The End-of-Year Push

Well, it's the beginning of December and the end of 2006 is almost upon us. As I look back over the last couple months, I realize that the depth of my posts has fallen off...

Ok, admittedly they weren't terribly deep or substantive in the first place. Still, I want to try to get back into the groove a bit. Lord willing, before the end of the year, here's what I plan to offer up:
  • Springboarding off of Thursday's post re: obeying the speed limit, I'd like to explore the definition of legalism. Where is the line between smug legalism and personal holiness? I'm thinking that Matthew 23 serves as a good launching point...
  • A number of questions came up in our Sunday School regarding how to rightly understand Paul's attitude expressed in Romans 7. Is Paul 'a man divided', a just man undergoing spiritual warfare, or what? So, I want to work up a series of posts picking through both Romans 6 and 7.
  • I've also mentioned that I've been reading a ton of books this year as part of a quasi-pastoral training curriculum. Though I haven't updated my reading list in a long while, I want to keep up the practice of posting reviews. So, look for 7 book reviews... In truth, part of this glut of book posts will be to help me re-collect my thoughts on the various titles prior to the dreaded Final Exam.
  • And, of course, we'll continue the WWWednesday and Whitefield posts. To be honest, prepping the Whitefield posts has been a highlight in my week since I started... What a blessing to dwell on rich words!
So, that's the roadmap. If you're along for the ride, I hope and pray something here will be edifying to you. As always, I welcome your comments or criticisms (and covet your prayers)!

In case you're just passing through, Merry Christmas! May you and yours be richly blessed as we celebrate our Savior's birth...

Friday, December 1

Whitefield for the Weekend [7]

Walking with God not only implies, that the prevailing power of the enmity of a man's heart be taken away, but also that a person is actually reconciled to God the Father, in and through the all-sufficient righteousness and atonement of his dear Son... Jesus is our peace as well as our peace-maker. When we are justified by faith in Christ, then, but not till then, we have peace with God; and consequently cannot be said till then to walk with him, walking with a person being a sign and token that we are friends to that person, or at least, though we have been at variance, yet that now we are reconciled and become friends again.

This is the great errand that gospel ministers are sent out upon. To us is committed the ministry of reconciliation; as ambassadors for God, we are to beseech sinners, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God, and when they comply with the gracious invitation, and are actually by faith brought into a state of reconciliation with God, then, and not till then, may they be said so much as to begin to walk with God.

When a soul is born of God, to all intents and purposes he is a child of God; and though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would then be only a child of God after all. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Hence it is, that we find the people of God charged with backslidings and losing their first love... For the new creature increases in spiritual stature; and though a person can but be a new creature, yet there are some that are more conformed to the divine image than others, and will after death be admitted to a greater degree of blessedness.

George Whitefield, Walking with God