We Are Not Neutral

Chapter 1 of Jeff Johnson’s upcoming book.  Having read several of Jeff’s books (The Fatal Flaw & The Kingdom of God), I’m looking forward to this one when it comes out.

“Let’s buy it, dad!” These were the words that darted out of my mouth as soon as I saw the cool yellow truck with its custom rims and ground effects. Immediately I could proudly see myself driving it to school. Not only was it cool, I couldn’t believe it was in my price range. This could be mine, so I thought.

My father responded with the dreaded but predictable words, “We need to test drive it first.” Though this sounds only reasonable, you must realize that I was young and poor. My parents promised to help me buy my first vehicle by doubling all the money I earned over the summer. I worked hard, but only saved $900.00. And even back in the early nineties, you could not expect much for $1,800.00. The last thing I wanted was some grandma wagon.

So when I saw this customized truck, I was ready to pull the trigger without any investigation. In fact, I didn’t want to test drive it, for deep down I knew it was too good to be true. If we happen to discover its mechanical problems, I knew my father would stand in the way of me being cool. You see, I thought if we bought it before we learned that it needed repairs, though more money would be needed to get the thing running, the most important thing would be accomplished – I would have a respectable looking ride to show off to all my friends. The truth is, I didn’t want to know the truth, for I assumed that the truth would stand in the way of my happiness.

As you can imagine, when we opened the hood, it was missing half of its engine. Yep, too good to be true. I ended up with my dad’s old, brown, farm truck – dependable but no ground effects.

I realize now that I was willing to overlook all the blaring red flags and knowingly do something foolish because of my foolish pride. My emotions, my pride, and my inverted values hindered my judgment. I was not objective or rational because I did not want to be objective or rational.

Foolishness is living in opposition to what we know to be true. I am afraid this irrational condition and manner of thinking is universally prevalent in all of us. We are not merely irrational every now and then. Without God, we live in a state of irrationality.

Only irrational fools would consistently and practically deny that 2 + 2 = 4. Not only is the answer to this equation a part of common sense, it is easily demonstrable and highly useful. If a postmodern thinker practically rejects the absolute and universal principles of mathematics, he may applaud himself for being consistent with his relativistic worldview, but in the process his checkbook will be a total mess. Regardless of what we claim we believe about the laws of math, we cannot live consistently without practically submitting ourselves to them. For this and many other reasons it is intellectually difficult to deny the absolute and universal nature of mathematics.

The same is true concerning the truth of Scripture. Scripture does not merely provide a few isolated, unrelated, and discounted truths; it gives us the only complete and cohesive worldview that provides meaning and rationale to the universe. In other words, without the Bible, nothing makes sense in the grand scheme of things. As the Psalmist says, “In your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9).

Yet, if the Bible provides us with the only cohesive system of thought, why is it so hated and rejected by so many? If it is impossible to disprove the truth claims of the Bible, why is it so despised and ridiculed by some of the brightest and smartest minds? Do you want to know the truth? The truth is that if people loved the truth, they wouldn’t reject the truth. The problem is not that the truth is irrational, but that fallen man is not without his personal biases and foolish pride. As we shall see in this chapter, people are selfish by nature, and their selfishness is the controlling influence in how they feel, think, and behave.

Man is Not Neutral

The Bible describes this as depravity. Depravity is an inner heart condition that prevents us from loving any truth that is in opposition to our internal desire to be independent, free, and self-governing. Because we are born depraved, with a fallen nature, we hate the God of the Bible. We may love a god of our own imagination – a god that we can control. This is because we naturally want to be in control of our own destiny. If we want to go to heaven, then we can work our way there. If we want to go to Hell and hang out with our drinking buddies, then that is what we will do. But to lovingly submit every detail of our lives, thoughts, and beliefs to the absolute, sovereign God is not enticing in the least.

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The Work Of Union With Christ

Here is a profound and thought provoking quote from the forthcoming book Christ Our Life by Michael Reeves:

When Christians define themselves by something other than Christ, they poison the air all round. When they crave power and popularity and they get it, they become pompous, patronizing, or simply bullies. And when they don’t get it they become bitter, apathetic or prickly. Whether flushed by success or burnt by lack of it, both have cared too much for the wrong thing. Defining themselves by something other than Christ, they become like something other than Christ. Ugly.

Our union with Christ thus has deep plough-work to do in our hearts. It automatically and immediately gives us a new status, but for that status and identity to be felt to be the deepest truth about ourselves is radical, ongoing business. That is the primary identity of the believer, though, and the only foundation for truly Christian living. For our health, our joy and fellowship, then, we must take up arms against the insidious idea that we have any identity — background, ability or status — more basic than that of sharing the Son’s own life together before the Father.

Iain Murray and the Evangelical Discontentment

Iain Murray writes:  “An invariable characteristic of true preaching has been the assurance that the proclamation of the gospel is the divinely ordained means for the conviction and conversion of sinners.  ‘It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe’ (1 Corinthians 1:21), and in accordance with this persuasion evangelicals have never been content to preach the Word without seeing any change wrought in their hearers” (The Invitation System, pg 1).

As I read this earlier this morning, I was struck by the stark nature and realization that the evangelical church today is absolutely focused and dedicated to seeing results.  Many pastors of today’s mega-churches seem to insinuate that if your church is not growing and experiencing phenomenal “spontaneous” baptisms, well, then you are part of a dead, failing church.   But, what is worse is that pastors who are faithful to the Word of God, faithful to their congregation, faithful in their walk before the Lord, find themselves dealing with all the negativity and thoughts of failure that are projected on them by the evangelical, results oriented, culture we live in.

I find it fascinating that the writer of Hebrews, in the 11th chapter talks about Noah.  If the Bible were being written today (and in many ways it is being rewritten, and not for the better), Noah would not get any mention at all.  Yet the writer of Hebrews states that Noah “condemned the world” by his faithful obedience to his reverent fear of what God had revealed to him.  Peter even calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5).  Yet, only 6 people besides Noah entered the ark before “the Lord shut [them] in” (Gen 7:16).  By today’s pragmatic standards, Noah would be a colossal failure since he only “reached” 6 people in 120 years.

I write this as an encouragement to all of you pastors out there who don’t preach to 15000 people every Sunday, don’t have a staff of 50, don’t deal with a budget of millions; but constantly struggle with the bills every month, wonder if 20 people will show up to hear your sermon, and haven’t seen a baptism in a year.  Stay faithful!  The work is the Lords.  He is the one that is faithful to bring about His will, for His glory.  As I read His Word, I seem to find that God doesn’t “need” our help, matter of fact, if God needs anything, then He isn’t God at all.  The amazing thing is that He uses us as a means of bringing His good and perfect will to pass.