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Showing posts with label Nouthethetic Counseling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nouthethetic Counseling. Show all posts

Friday, December 16, 2022

Braving the Storm – Adapting to Life with God - Purity 916

 


Braving the Storm – Adapting to Life with God -  Purity 916

Purity 916 12/16/2022   Purity 916 Podcast

Purity 916 on YouTube: 



Good morning,

Today’s photo of a December Sunrise over Inlet Community Church comes to us today from a friend who shared this photo on social media yesterday with the caption: “Red sky at morn, sailors be warned”. While our friend was taking delight in the gorgeous morning before her, she also was  anticipating a change in the weather as a winter storm warning is in effect until Saturday, advising that

 Heavy wet snow expected. Storm total snowfall amounts of 8 to 16 inches for the southern Adirondacks, eastern Catskills, Mohawk and Schoharie Valley and Helderbergs with locally around
two feet possible especially in the high peaks of the eastern Catskills and southern Adirondacks. Total snow accumulation of 6 to 12 inches expected for the Lake George Saratoga Region and 4

to 8 inches in northwestern parts of the Capital Region. Winds gusting as high as 35 mph, especially in higher terrain. Some downed tree limbs and power outages may occur due to the heavy
wet snow.

Well, It is Friday and as I write this, and from what I can tell from trying to peer into the pitch black darkness from my countryside “office” we don’t have any snow yet but no matter how much or how little snow or when we will get it between today and tomorrow, the good news is that I actually had a personal day left at work and decided to use it rather than running the risk of having to travel to my countryside home in the midst of a storm.   

And while, the possibility of a power outage does not appeal to me, I don’t have much anxiety about the coming snow storm. 

“As long as the power doesn’t go out, I will be okay.”  May be a mantra that many will repeat today but the truth is that EVEN IF the power goes out, we will be okay.  

All of history that came before us testifies to the fact that human beings can survive without electricity! I know it shocks and disgusts me too.  In fact one of the wonderful amenities at my place “down by the River” is a fully automated Generac generator system.  I jokingly and seriously told my wife last night that I TRULY must love her because I have ventured into the “Great White North” of Easton with a storm coming just to be with her, when I could be secure from the possibility of a power outage at River House.  And I do love her dearly, so much so that I would be willing to suffer in the dark and cold with her, than to be at a place with electricity As long as the power outage doesn’t last too long! Monday comes quick and I may have to abandon ship for my other place  if the going gets too tough, doh.  

And that’s my right, and that’s smart.   

While there are many negative situations that can be fall us in life, we are not powerless in terms of the choices we make and the solutions to problems we can develop and rather than being consigned to suffering because “it is what it is”, we can rage against the storm or the “machine” of this world system to be prepared for contingences and ready to respond if things “go south”.    

My place “down by The River” in Stuyvesant is subject to semi-regular power outages due to the large trees that line State Route 9J so rather than just sit in the dark at odd times throughout the year the previous owner of my place installed a generator switch, So if the power went out they could roll out the portable generator they had and have electricity.  Unfortunately, when they moved out the generator switch remained but they took the portable generator with them.    

So when I moved into River House, I highly suspected that we could expect power outages and within the first few months of living there in the summer of 2020, the power went out on three or four separate occasions.  

While I contemplated getting a portable generator like the previous owners, I imagined myself dragging out a portable generator during a raging blizzard, by myself, and decided that I wanted to pay the cost to enact a solution that wouldn’t requite me to do anything. So I ordered the Generac generator to be installed and although it was delayed because of Covid-19, it was installed and fully operational as my children and I enjoyed our first winter at our new home in 2020.   

So if the going gets too tough, I might just get going! But this is obviously something I had to plan and pay for ahead of time, and I got the “full house” option so it cost me much more than some portable generator would have, but I determined that it was worth it! And it is. 

However there will be situations in life that we cannot prepare for, because we don’t resources to enact a plan like this, or we will face things that we could not anticipate and we will just have to “muddle through somehow”.  

But even if we face negative circumstance we can still find the strength to endure and actually can maintain or peace and joy, regardless of the circumstances, when we are walking and talking with God.  

Whether it is snowy or not, whether I am at our Countryside home or “down by the River”, or whether I am with my wife or not,  I am never alone and always prepared to trust in God to see me through. 

In recent days, I have been increasingly reminded that our walk of faith on the path of Christian discipleship is a continuous journey of adaptation.  We don’t know what we are going to walk through in this life but when we are grounded in our identity of who we are in Christ, know what the word of God says, and maintain a robust relationship and continuous conversation with the Lord, we will have everything we need for “life and godliness” and every storm that blows are way.   

Now don’t get me wrong, I have not “arrived” yet. I am not perfect and can still be surprised by how feelings of anger, anxiety, and threats of depression can blow into my life and take me off my feet. Things can still happen where I recognize that I am entering into old reactive patterns that are similar to my “pre-Christ” days, but the good news is that as I have been following the Lord and have learned through my walk and education what the answers are for every situation.  

No, I am not claiming that I know it all, and when I tell you the “answer key” for life you will either say “Of course!”, because you know it too, or you will either think I am insane – “This guy’s nuts! Walking and talking with God? CUCKOO!” or will thinking I am full of it because you don’t believe in God, not for real life things, not for life beyond the four walls of a church building.

The answer of course is to “Trust in the LORD”. We do this by applying His word to our lives, by obeying His commands and believing everything it HE says about us.  . 

That’s all. 

“Do you actually do that?!? I doubt it!” may be a worldly response to this.  

While I have already admitted I am far from perfect and still am surprised to see old patterns attempt to run their course,  my whole walk with God has been the ongoing saga of trying to be “real” in my faith walk, to believe and do what the word of God says and this is the path that I encourage every Christian to walk because it is the path less traveled but it is also the path that leads to peace and can continually be taken to lead you back to joy.  

The book “Building Bounce” by Marcus Warner and Stefanie Hinman speaks of developing strategies to “return us back to joy”.  They offer practical methods of changing our perspective and taking control of our thoughts to develop emotional resilience and they also offer the advice from a Christian worldview.  

True “Biblical” Christian counselors know that good mental health comes from “doing what is right”, knowing who we are in Christ, and how to apply God’s word to our lives.  

But you actually have to do it in order for it to work.  We must believe and do what the word of God says. We must practice what we preach in all the aspects of our lives and we surrender our will and lives for the better plan that God has for our lives.   

So batten down the hatches if you are in the storms path or enjoy the nice weather if you are not, but let me encourage you to follow the Lord so you can be prepared for any contingency that this life brings and that you can continually find the peace and the joy that God wants you to live in every day.

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Psalm 34:5 (NLT2)
5  Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

Today’s verse just so happens to line up perfectly with what I was trying to express! That’s what some would call “coincidence” but after I have been following the Lord and seen His presence in my life in all kinds of ways, I prefer to say that’s “tracking with the Spirit!”

IF we look to God for help, by putting our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we will be radiant with joy! Why?  Because we will live! Forever! And we are forgiven! In Christ we receive the forgiveness of sins and are promised an eternal place in His kingdom. HELLO! That’s something that should be a continual source of joy! So don’t lose that “joy of salvation”.  

However, the second part of this verse from Psalm 34:5, may depend on how you choose to live your life. 

While faith in Christ, forgives you of your sins, your life choices could continually bring the darkness of the shadow of shame to your face if you decide to persist in your sins.  

While we will not be sinless, we can sin less. And let’s face it, while even one sin would be enough to make us guilty of breaking the whole law,  some sins are darker than others.  However, all of them need to be repented of. 

And I suggest, that you deal with the darker sins first: your adultery, you fornication – your sexual immorality, your lies, your drunkenness, your theft, your cursing, and your hate of your fellow man – are all pretty dark areas that you can take on first.  

But even if somehow these works of the flesh aren’t a part of your story, there is still work to do, because if there is something that you are doing or aren’t doing that brings you shame, God will reveal it to you if you decide to follow Him.  

So as today’s verse go to God for help and ask Him what you need to know and what you need to do.  

While I can’t tell you specifics for your individual life and purpose, I can tell you that God’s word, the Bible, has plenty in it to help you to learn what God wants you to know.  

God wants you never to feel ashamed again and He can help you to experience that life of joy and peace when you decide to keep on walking and talking with Him.

 

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship

 

Chapter Eleven

The Visible Church-Community, continues

 

The slave Onesimus had run away from his Christian master, Philemon, inflicting much harm on him. Now, after Onesimus has been baptized, Philemon is asked to “receive him back forever” (Philemon 15), “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother … both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 16). In specifically calling Onesimus a brother “according to the flesh,” Paul issues a warning against the dangerous misunderstanding of those “privileged”[37] Christians who think having community with Christians of lesser status and legal standing is acceptable in worship, but not to be practiced outside that context. Instead, Paul calls Onesimus Philemon’s “brother according to the flesh”! And he instructs Philemon to receive his slave back like a brother, even as if he were Paul himself (v. 17), and in brotherly love to ignore the harm Onesimus inflicted on him (v. 18). Paul asks Philemon to do all this voluntarily, although, if need be, he would also not hesitate to issue it as a command (vv. 8–14). Besides, Paul is confident that Philemon will go beyond what is requested of him (v. 21). Onesimus is Philemon’s “brother according to the flesh” because he is baptized. Even though Onesimus might remain a slave of his master Philemon, everything in their relationship with each other has radically changed. And the basis for that change? The free master and the slave have become members of the body of Christ. Their community with each other now embodies, like a small cell, the very life of the body of Christ, that is, the church-community. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed your-slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27f.; Col. 3:11). Within the church-community, one no longer sees others as free or slave, as man or woman, but only as members of Christ’s body. To be sure, this does not mean that a slave would no longer be a slave or a man cease to be a man. But this is a far cry from continuing to address everyone within the church-community with a view to their status as Jew or Greek, free or slave. This is precisely what should no longer happen. We see each other exclusively as members of the body of Christ, that is, as all being one in him. Jew and Greek, free and slave, man and woman now have community with each other because they are all part of the church-community of the body of Christ. They are in Christ wherever they live, speak, or interact with one another, and there the church-community is a reality. This fact determines and transforms their community with each other in a decisive way. The wife obeys her husband “in the Lord,” slaves really serve God in serving their masters, and masters know that they too have a Lord in heaven (Col. 3:18–4:1). But they are now all brothers and sisters, “both in the flesh and in the Lord.”[39]

The church-community has, therefore, a very real impact on the life of the world. It gains space for Christ. For whatever is “in Christ” is no longer under the dominion of the world, of sin, or of the law. Within this newly created community, all the laws of this world have lost their binding force. This sphere in which brothers and sisters are loved with Christian love is subject to Christ; it is no longer subject to the world. The church-community can never consent to any restrictions of its service of love and compassion toward other human beings. For wherever there is a brother or sister, there Christ’s own body is present; and wherever Christ’s body is present, his church-community is also always present, which means I must also be present there.

All who belong to the body of Christ have been freed from and called out of the world. They must become visible to the world not only through the communal bond evident in the church-community’s order and worship, but also through the new communal life among brothers and sisters in Christ.

Where the world despises other members of the Christian family, Christians will love and serve them. If the world does violence to them, Christians will help them and provide them relief. Where the world subjects them to dishonor and insult, Christians will sacrifice their own honor in exchange for their disgrace. Where the world seeks gain, Christians will renounce it; where it exploits, they will let go; where it oppresses, they will stoop down and lift up the oppressed. Where the world denies justice, Christians will practice compassion; where it hides behind lies, they will speak out for those who cannot speak, and testify for the truth. For the sake of brothers or sisters—be they Jew or Greek, slave or free,[42] strong or weak, of noble or of common birth—Christians will renounce all community with the world, for they serve the community of the body of Jesus Christ. Being a part of this community, Christians cannot remain hidden from the world. They have been called out of the world and follow Christ.

However, “Let each of you remain in the condition [Beruf] in which you were called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever” (i.e., by remaining a slave!). “For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God” (1 Cor. 7:20–24). Does all this not sound very different from that first time Jesus called the disciples to follow him? Then the disciples had to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Now we are told: let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called! How are we to reconcile the contradiction? Only by recognizing that the sole point both in the call of Jesus and in the exhortation of the apostles is to bring those that are called into the community of the body of Jesus Christ. The first disciples had to come with Jesus in order to stay in bodily community with him. But now, through word and sacrament, the body of Christ is no longer confined to a single geographical location. The risen and exalted Christ has closed in on the world, in fact the body of Christ—in the form of the church-community—has broken into the very midst of the world itself. Those who are baptized are baptized into the body of Christ. Christ has come to them, taken their life into his own, and thus robbed the world of its possession. Those who are baptized as slaves still remain slaves. But they are now already part of the community of the body of Jesus Christ. As slaves they have already been rescued from the world and become freed persons of Christ. Thus slaves may remain slaves! As members of Christ’s community they have gained the kind of freedom which no rebellion or revolution could have brought them or could ever bring them. Paul’s exhortation to the slaves to remain slaves is most certainly not intended to tie them closer to the world, to fasten their life to this world even further by adding a “religious anchor,” or to make them better and more loyal citizens of this world! His statements are certainly not a justification or a Christian apology for a shadowy social order.[47] The exhortation is valid not because vocations in the world are so excellently ordered and divinely instituted that this order must not be overturned. Rather, it is valid because of the fact that Jesus Christ already has brought about an upheaval of the whole world by liberating both slave and free. Would a revolution which simply overturned the existing order of society not obscure the awareness of God’s new ordering of all things through Jesus Christ, and the establishment of his church-community? Moreover, would every such attempt not actually hinder and delay the abolition of the entire world order and the dawning of God’s realm? The exhortation is also most certainly not based on the idea that the fulfillment of our secular vocation as such would already be identical with living the Christian life. Rather, by renouncing rebellion against the forms of order of this world, Christians express most convincingly that they expect nothing from the world but everything from Christ and his coming realm. That is why slaves are to remain slaves! Because this world is not in need of reform, but ripe to be demolished—that is why slaves are to remain slaves! They have God’s promise of something far better! Is it not both judgment enough on the world and comfort enough for slaves to know that the Son of God took “the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:5) when he came to this earth? And Christians who were called as slaves—do they not, in their very existence as slaves in the world, already have enough distance from the world to naturally prevent them from loving, desiring, or even worrying about it? Therefore, slaves ought to suffer not as a consequence of being rebellious but as members of the church-community and the body of Christ! That is how the world is getting ripe for its demise.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

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Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 235–239.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Oasis in the Desert – Good Counsel in the Fellowship of the Saints – Purity 716

Oasis in the Desert – Good Counsel in the Fellowship of the Saints – Purity 716

Purity 716 04/27/2022    Purity 716 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a colorful collection of desert fauna in front of an outcropping of rock underneath a clear blue sky comes to us from a friends recent visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona back on April 7th.  

Hey what, can I say my friend took more than one photo at the botanical garden that have been “share worthy”  and when I saw this colorful display in front of that “desert hump” of rock, I knew I had a good photo to represent the midpoint of the work week. So happy “hump day”.  

But I also thought this desert display of vibrant life in the most hostile of environments also was a good choice to represent “the church”, that gathering of believers where we can celebrate our lives in Christ and encourage one another in the dry, dusty, and hostile environment of our post Christian society.  

They say there is protection in numbers and there is joy in the house of the Lord and this morning I am rejoicing in the wake of revisiting my previous home church last night where I attended a class on biblical counseling.    Rock Solid Church in Hudson NY hosts a satellite campus of Vision Christian Bible College and Seminary and last night they began a four week introductory course on Nouthetic Counseling and I was thrilled to be a part of the class as I got to meet some new people and got to see some old friends as we came together to learn and encourage each other in our efforts to provide others with good counsel that was based on the word of God.  

Nouthetic Counseling, aka Biblical Counseling, is different from the secular world’s view of psychological counseling in not only it’s standard for truth but also in its focus and methods of implementation.  

Where psychoanalysis and other forms of secular counseling are atheistic in their world view, Nouthetic Counseling uses the word of God, the Bible, as its absolute standard for truth. Where as secular counseling has no absolutes and can be a quagmire of confusion born out of its penchant for relativism, Nouthetic Counseling is clear because the Bible is clear on what is right and wrong and it is according to that standard of Biblical morality from which and to which we would counsel people to go.  

Whereas a secular counselor may counsel a client who is having an extramarital affair to consider how they feel about their girlfriend and their wife and to consider whether they can manage both relationships or who they should be with based on their feelings, a biblical counselor would stand on the truth of word of God and confront their client with their sin and encourage them to repent of it.  Where a secular counselor would be concerned with helping the client to feel good about themselves regardless of their behavior, a biblical counselor would direct their client to change their thoughts and behaviors to align with the truth of scripture.   Whereas a secular counselor would sit idly by to allow a counselee to decide what “feels good” or “what works for them”, a biblical counselor would direct their clients to do what was right according to the word of God.  

Not only does this biblical standard, from which Nouthetic Counselors work from, set a standard or morality to which one can work toward, it also establishes a different protocol for treatment.  

Where as traditional psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy tend to seek root causes of behaviors and allow their clients to endless vent their frustrations with no expectation of resolution to their problems,  biblical counseling puts the responsibility on the client to accept the things of the past that may have led them to be where they are but also directs them to work to overcome their problems by changing their thoughts and behaviors to align with the wisdom of God’s word.   Whereas secular counseling tends to help clients cope with what happened to them and to accept who they are, the biblical counselor would encourage their clients to forgive those who have harmed them and to endeavor to change by growing into the person God intended for them to be, a person whose life is filled with the fruit of the Spirit rather than the sins of the flesh.  

Obviously, as a unlicensed Christian Counselor, I was positively elated that Rock Solid Church hosted this class because often the “hospital for sinners” motif is emphasized in our churches to the exclusion of the victory that we have  in Christ. Unfortunately, the church can be a place where people come to vent and complain about their besetting sins and receive prayer for healing, but then don’t have the faith enough to apply their faith to their problems.  In some circles our Christianity is treated as a form of magic as people vehemently pray for deliverance from their problems but are not obedient to the call to be disciples. Disciples are to learn the word of God, believe what it says, and to apply to their lives. Instead of accepting defeat to a besetting sin or negative mind state, as Christian we are to repent of our sins, turn from them – stop doing them- and check our emotions and negative mind states with the truth of what the word says about who we are in Christ.  

To say that the instructor, Dr. Kimberly Keys, was “preaching to the choir” in me last night would be an understatement.  I seated beside my good friend and mentor Bob Costello and more than once I looked his way with eyebrows raised as Dr. Keyes described the necessity of personal responsibility of the believer and the difficulties of counseling people who refused to heed the wisdom ad be obedient to the word of God.   

I was greatly encouraged by the gathering of saints last night and pray that this class will lead the participants to be encouraged to apply its wisdom to their own lives and to give good biblical counsel to others.  The truth of God’s word and it’s application is the focus of Nouthetic counseling and I know when we understand that we play a part in our own sanctification it can be a game changer.  When Christians realize that their obedience to the word of God can significantly change their lives and the lives of others, we can know the truth of Philippians 4::13 here on earth.

Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

That’s why we do what we do. We have learned that when we follow the Lord, He is good and faithful to lead us out of the darkness.    

So keep walking and talking with God. Examine your experience and what you were taught by the world by the standards and principles set forth in God’s word.  When we challenge the lies of the world, the flesh, the devil, and our past experiences, we discover that we were deceived and that we were living a lie because we were living according to false information.   When we start living according to the truth of God’s word, we discover that we are no longer alone. If God is for us who can be against us?  And we also discover that we more than conquerors, as those of us who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, have received the power of the Holy Spirit and that we can utilize it by agreeing with what the Bible says about who we are in Christ and by doing what the word tells us to do.  

This world can seem like a desert where we are all alone but when we walk with the Lord, we can find others that others that our following Him too and when we agree with His word and decide to live by it, the living waters of the Holy Spirit can produce an oasis of healing, strength, and love in even the most hostile places. 

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Matthew 18:4 (NLT2)
4  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Today’s Bible verse reminds us that God’s economy is different from that of the world and that humbleness is considered to be greatness in God’s eyes.  

The secular world is concerned with self-esteem. We are to esteem ourselves as “Good enough, smart enough and, doggone it”, someone that people like!  This “Stuart Smalley” daily affirmation may seem harmless but actually is the root of idolatry and can easily lead to depression because it sets ourselves as someone special, according to ourselves, and is based on measures of performance that we can’t control and will almost definitely be contradicted by reality.   

If you are anything like me, you will repeatedly discover that in some areas you are “not smart enough”, “not good enough”, and gee whiz some how people don’t like me!  

Self-esteem is subjective and idolatrous. Esteem means to respect and admire.  So self esteem means that we respect and admire ourselves and it is not contingent on our being someone we should respect and admire. 

We can respect and admire the way a car thief can be “Gone and 60 seconds” by hotwiring a car but it doesn’t make it right!

Likewise, we can admire and respect the way we “did it our way” and golly gee I like me “just the way I am” warts and all, but God wants you to be worthy of respect and admiration by living a good and righteous life.  

As Creator God assigns worth to His creation, not us.  He also determines the standards by which we are to be judged. 

He demonstrates our worth to us, by sending Christ to die for us. If we accept our “redemption”, we were bought for a high price.  In Christ, we are worth a “priceless” amount as God loved us enough to pay for us with the life of His only begotten and beloved Son.  In Christ, we are worthy. 

However, the life we have, if it is not redeemed, is a waste! If we don’t realize our worth in Christ, our lives will be lost, we will be punished for our sins, and we will be separated from God for all eternity. 

One of the most painful things we experience in life is seeing someone needlessly suffering. Someone who could be helped but refuses it.  When we see that we think: What a waste! And when we don’t have peace with God though faith in Christ, that’s what our lives become: a waste.  

Our worth is realized in Christ. It isn’t something we establish.   So as today’s verse indicates, we should be humble as a little child because no matter how we esteem ourselves, our worth is only realized in Christ.   When we are humble, we make Jesus our Lord and Savior and that is how the humble can become one of the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”    

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

Today we continue sharing from John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”.  

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase John Pipers’ books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $5.00.

 4 -Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death 

Living to magnify Christ is costly. This is not surprising. He was crucified. He was treated like a devil. And he calls us to follow him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). He says it will probably not go better for us than for him. “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).

But suffering with Jesus on the Calvary road of love is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means. He is made supreme when we are so satisfied in him that we can “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also” and suffer for the sake of love. His beauty shines most brightly when treasured above health and wealth and life itself. Jesus knew this. He knew that suffering (whether small discomforts or dreadful torture) would be the path in this age for making him most visibly supreme. That is why he calls us to this. He loves us. And love does not mean making much of us or making life easy. It means making us able to enjoy making much of him forever—no matter what it costs.

We Boast Best in the Cross When We Bear It

And it costs us dearly. The normal Christian life is one that boasts only in the cross—the blazing center of God’s glory—and does it while bearing the cross. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Bearing the cross is the means by which we are increasingly liberated to boast in the cross. Suffering is God’s design in this sin-soaked world (Romans 8:20). It portrays sin’s horror for the world to see. It punishes sin’s guilt for those who do not believe in Christ. It breaks sin’s power for those who take up their cross and follow Jesus. And because sin is the belittling of the all-satisfying glory of God, the suffering that breaks its power is a severe mercy.

Whatever makes us more and more able to enjoy making much of God is a mercy. For there is no greater joy than joy in the greatness of God. And if we must suffer to see this and savor it most deeply, then suffering is a mercy. And Christ’s call to take up our cross and join him on the Calvary road is love.

Bonhoeffer’s Radical Book for My Generation

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a gift to my generation of students. I pray that his costly message will be rediscovered in each generation. Even though he died at the age of thirty-nine, his life was not wasted. His life and death continue to speak with power. He was hanged in the concentration camp at Flossenb├╝rg, Germany, on April 9, 1945. He had been a pastor and teacher and leader of a small training school for the confessing church and had participated in the Protestant resistance movement against the Nazis.

The book that set fire to the faith of thousands in my generation was called The Cost of Discipleship. I read it on Christmas break during my senior year in college. Probably the most famous and life-shaping sentence in the book was, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Fleeing from death is the shortest path to a wasted life.

Bonhoeffer’s book was a massive indictment of the “cheap grace” that he saw in the Christian Church on both sides of the Atlantic. He believed in justification by grace through faith. But he did not believe that the faith that justifies could ever leave people unchanged by the radical Christ they claim to believe. That was a cheap response to the Gospel. “The only man,” he said, “who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 61–63.