Getting Your Life Back
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis
The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John climacus
Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila
The Ascent of Mount Carmel by John of the Cross
Spiritual formation is rooted in the virtues.
Choosing virtue is choosing to submit our will to God and to act like Jesus would act.
Practicing a vice means being ruled by the power of self.
Vice enthrones the self—“I will act however I want to act, making myself in my own image.”
Virtues bring spiritual health, the vices are a spiritual cancer, destroying us from within.
The life Christ wants to grow in you is not founded on a list of do’s and don’t’s and it cannot be accurately measured by our current yardsticks of spiritual performance standards—by how much you do or do not witness, or read your Bible or attend church. And it is most definitely not a life of striving as you compare yourself to someone else. It is the slow dawning of the life and characteristics of Jesus Christ, who lives in you and who wants to grow more evident in you.
God’s preferred method of giving you’re your life back. The virtures are God’s sculpting tools. To experience His life in us is to find our way into the life Jesus promised.
The virtues of Christ won’t get you from earth into heaven, but it will bring the life-giving power of heaven to earth.
The Holy Bridge
The life therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.—Martin Luther
The essence of humility is recognizing my position under the guidance and direction of the Father.
The practice of virtues is a highway to experiencing Jesus.
Cut loose from the authority o Scripture, personal experience becomes God.
Secret pride in their illuminated and “higher” experiences, and as a result they cannot find their place in the common, serving body of Christ.
Without the interior sense that Christ is living His life in me, however, lugging heay bags for strangers would be joyless, religious duty.
It’s not that I want more tally marks of service; I want to know more of Christ, not in head knowledge but in heart knowledge. I have come to want James 1:27: the religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:…”
I’ve begun to see that God makes the blessing of His presence known to those who take this verse literally, and I want that blessing.
Regret is a debilitating spiritual drain—MS of the soul.
Each time I set out, I chose an attitude of acceptance. I accepted the fact that I might get caught by every red light…
Grace is more than pardon. It is also the power God gives us to grow and change. Interacting with grace requires something of us because you and I also can away or resist grace.
A Christian needs to be taught how to cooperate with God’s work as He empowers us to grow and change.
Learning to practice the attitudes or virtues of Christ does not begin with “trying hard to be better.” It begins with a close, clear-eyed look at your true heart attitudes.
We need to see that we begin to rest in God when we cease to keep up fronts and pretenses with Him, as if God cannot see us in our core, as we truly are.
Our rest in God continues when we stand before him in total honesty about our loves and hates, our desires and ambitions.
We begin by saying, “this is exactly who I am, what I want, and what I think right now. Train me how to become like You.”
What we need to learn is how to interact with the grace of God.
The Glorious Pursuit
Grace is opposed to earning, no to effort …Dallas Willard
Many Christians have made their own righteousness the end goal and have found that it makes them morbidly introspective and miserable.
Inwardly we are being renewed day by day 2 Corinthians. 4:16. but a conundrum soon presents itself, as many Christians well know. Read this next verse slowly, as Paul suggests something that at first glance sounds very strange: To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:29) Paul is laboring. But he is struggling with God’ energy, not his own, “which so powerfully works” within him.
We are working. But doing so with a supernatural strength in us. Philippians 2:12-13 “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Does God work, or do we work? Are we already perfect or are we in the process of being made perfect?
It is a process of choosing to cooperate, giving over our relatively minuscule powers of will and muscle, rather than canceling out the working of His grace in us.
Apart from Christ, these qualities are lifeless cardboard replicas---an adaptation of the world’s version of do’s and don’ts.
Our labor is a constant struggle to stay at rest in God’s acceptance and empowerment; and this allows a powerful dynamic to take place---an inner orientation will begin to carry us along
We cherish the spiritual freedom created by each virtue as it begins to blossom; we experience the power of a transformed life, and we’re drawn to want more of godliness in the same way we used to be drawn to plunge deeper into sin.
Dangle a virtue in front of a healthy Christian, and her heart is liberated to walk in that light.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matt. 5:6.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness. 2 pet. 1;5
John Owen: God works in us and with us, not against us or without us.”
The warning imbedded in Peter’s verse is this: You and I can know the way to transformation but actually miss experiencing it on a personal level. We can live this entire life “saved” but relatively unchanged. If we do not “partake” in the divine nature of Christ, we can starve our soul until it is limp and powerless.
Let His nature feed us in order to create new habits of holiness.
If we do not grow in grace and the spirit, we are likely to be lured by legalism
Taking off sin is an important component of Christian growth, but it’s only the first step.
We cannot escape and old habit by focusing on it and trying hard to avoid it.
Any discussion of Christian growth apart from growth in the spiritual virtues is incomplete, maybe even detrimental. The virtues tell us what to put on—the attributes of Jesus.
We must be earnest about growth.
Weak and lifeless wishes scarcely raise us above indifference. God insists that we be fervent in spirit and actively engage our hearts Romans. 12:11.
Hunger for righteousness is also the hunger to become the mature people we wish to be.
Delight in God’s love and His plan to give you your life back.
HUMILITY: Living Where you are.
Saints agree they are sinners; only sinners think they are saints. Peter Kreeft
The more we experience the character of Christ, the more natural reason we’ll have o become prideful. John Climacus warns us to “rebuff the vanity that follows obedience.”
Calvin calls humility the “sovereign virtue”
The truth is: We don’t become humble as much as we learn to practice humility. The virtues aren’t a state of being as much as they are inner disciplines after which we aspire.
Humility is entering into the life of Christ through a radical God-dependence.
Andrew Murray: the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.
Augustine humility is evidenced when a man feels that he has no refuge except in humility.”
Pride is self- reliance and self-dependence. Arrogance seeks to obligate God instead of receive from Him.
Some of us think that after we receive God’s salvation, then everything is up to us. This self-dependence cuts off our “spiritual oxygen>” We’re virtually paralyzed until we learn to breathe the fresh air of God’s empowerment, grace, and assistance.”
Humility toward our neighbor is just as important. Paul tells us to “show true humility toward all men”
At the heart of horizontal ‘social” humility is self-forgetfulness.
The inner discipline of humility acts like a filter, saving us from the tyranny of grossly unrealistic expectations that everyone and everything should bend our way.
The lust to be served , honored, and noticed is the lust to be treated like God.
Humility can never be disappointed.
Humility is thinking less about yourself not thinking less of yourself.
An obsession with your own weakness means you are still the center of your won attention.
Using your gifts to serve rather than to impress is where humility leads us.
c. S. Lewis: God wants the Christian to be s fee from any bias in his won favor that he can rejoice in his won talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.
We appreciate others without feeling diminished because they have skills we don’t.
Rather than lust for more money, more power, or more recognition, we can wait for God.
We no longer destroy the present by looking for a better future or a more celebrated now.
If everything good has been birthed in God, what does it matter whose hands it has passed through? We are simply the mail carriers, not the writers. Would your mail carrier stand outside your door and shout, “I just want you to know, I delivered this Christmas card! You wouldn’t have received it if I hadn’t been faithful to put it in your box”? Yet in Christian circles, too many of us cling tenaciously to each distinguishing mark of God’s grace and favor. We erect dams every ten inches so we can “control” what God has given us.
When we slip form the foundation of a ‘giving life’ to the cavern of a ‘notice-me-life’ we live in a state of high frustration.
We must make the increase of humility our study: Andrew Murray
“Clothe yourselves with humility.” Taking on this character trait of Christ is how we become beautiful to God. And it is how God begins to become a beautiful presence in our lives.
Legal humiliation leads us to a sense of smallness and self-abasement---but evangelical humiliation leads us to become overwhelmed by God’s holy beauty.
The scourge of legalistic humiliation is that it still focuses on the self.
It is obsessed with failure and shortcomings. It is still a self-centered view.
Evangelical humiliation leads us to leave our strengths and weaknesses in the hands of God.
Humility is not a positive or negative view of self as much as it is a forgetfulness of self.
The surest road to humility is a constant remembrance of God. Pride is connected with God-forgetfulness.
When I feel I have to prove myself to God, I have stepped outside of my rest in Him.
What nurtures a humble heart is time and experience with God while adopting a self-emptying spirit.
Come to the Lord as one who has no strength of his own; come to him as one who has no power to cleanse himself.
Adopting a self-emptying spirit means admitting that there is no way, absolutely none, that we can ever display humility unless God takes pity on us and imparts His own Spirit to transform us from within.
Pride is the father of hate and dissension, humility is the mother of love and unity.
Where I’ve failed in humility, I’ve also failed in love.
What is divorce but millions of spouses saying, “you’re not good enough for me”? this lack of humility is destroying our families and lives.
Have you considered that God wanted you in your neighborhood to reach other people rather than to boost your financial equity?
Does obedience obligate to God to bless us, or can obedience call us to sacrifice?
We think obedience should lead to blessing after blessing until ultimately we become healthy, wealthy, and wise.
The measure of true faith is not how easy (or difficult) life becomes; it’s how we maintain a spirit of surrender through the ups and downs of everyday living.
C. S. Lewis’s remark, “ I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and to obey.”
Paul reminds me that I’m sharing in Christ’s sufferings. I’m not suffering alone. I’m not in wealth, ease, sickness, or comfort alone.
The key to surrender is acceptance.
When that moment comes, immediately resign yourself to God. Accept the matter: Jeanne Guyon
Whether you bear it in weakness or in strength, bear it.
If we surrender to God’s shaping, it only stands to reason that we’ll become more like Jesus.
Thinking you can win the war in one tremendous act is not way to avoid the small battles. John Climacus wars, “To be unfaithful in the small things is to be unfaithful in the great, and this is very hard to bring under control.”
Skipping a meal is nothing compared to relinquishing control.
Stop measuring our trials against our comforts, instead measure our trials against their potential to draw us nearer to Gd and to make us more like Christ.
Cleanse your heart from all affections to sin
It is extremely difficult for us to deny ourselves what we truly desire. The great reformed writer john Owen, points out, “He hates not the fruit, who delights in the root.”
Iron will—external discipline that creates physical distance but not spiritual deliverance—will meet with only limited success.
Allowing God to show us how the things we crave never can fill, or cover, the emptiness within, until we long to be clothed in His presence, His will, His purpose, and His character.
You offer up the action, you can’t stop the craving, you need the virtue of detachment. The virtue begins when we turn our eyes from the created to the Creator.
When we love the created over the Creator, we do the same thing: we lower ourselves to the level of what we love.
Love not only equates but even subjects the lover to the loved creature.
When we love something God has created more than we love God Himself, we not only set ourselves up for huge disappointment, but we also set ourselves up to sin against God, over and over.
“Since nothing equals God, those who love and are attached to something other than God, or together with Him, offend Him exceedingly.”
Detachment means that you relinquish every demand you place on things and other created beings—even legitimate ones.
Imprisonment is hell, and your demands are the bars that hold you.
Instead of seeking a passionless existence, we need to more intensely focus our affections.
Practice of mortification---removing the cause of sin even before temptation strikes. It is more productive to empty these desires before they present themselves.
But it would be a gross distortion to define a new life by what was left behind. The truth is, he embraced something even better, and that’s the real key to detachment.
Jesus detached Himself from heaven to become man. He detached himself from His parents to take up the public ministry of the Messiah. He detached Himself from His people’s favor to become their Savior. He detached Himself from life on earth to die for our sins.
“every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Jesus teaches us to be offensive in our faith. Too often, we’re obsessed with not producing bad fruit and avoiding mistakes. It is the perpetually dormant trees that get cut down.
When we try to defend everything, we defend nothing. We need to be offensive-minded, busy concentrating on bearing good fruit.
We need something that will overcome the luxurious allure of the world and the many false gods which compete for our affections. What we need is the virtue known as love.
To love God is to have all the energy of your soul always centered on Him: Guyon.
The first enemy of love is apathy, Dorothy Sayers wrote a generation ago that “sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die”
Another enemy is anger and resentment. Anger destroys the posture of humility and it chafes against surrender---those are the load-bearing walls of our faith.
Fear and lack of trust is the third enemy. If your view of God is a suspicious one, you’ll have a difficult time entering into true intimacy.
Who wouldn’t resist a tyrannical, uncaring or aloof being? If my heart perceives God this way, of course I’m not going to want to draw close to Him.
A fourth enemy of love is over-commitment. Many of us never choose to grow cold toward God, we just get caught up in very thing else. Intellectually astute mind is never sufficient apart from a passionate heart.
If you want to become holy, you must first become passionate.
It is overwhelming to me that I can stir God’s heart just as my daughter stirred mine. In fact, to do so is my place as a faithful son.
What is a hardened heart? It is a heart that has stopped feeling.
A heart that is enlarging in love is a heart that feels new things, and feels them more deeply than it did before.
Confession does wonders for helping me to address my faults more seriously.
Christianity requires a tough fight. A tough, tough fight. We need every weapon that God will give us, and a heart that is passionately engaged with God and His children is a powerful weapon.
Quit shutting off your emotions; in doing so your are needlessly limiting your chance to grow.
Where many Christians go wrong is trying to detach without first attaching.
We become attached and detached by degrees, and we need to be thoughtful to know how the two are playing against each other at any given time.
Spiritual leeches—sins, bad habits, bad attitudes—attach themselves to my soul in seconds, but it can take weeks to work them off
In a Southern California warehouse, VCRs are stacked from floor to ceiling, copying videotapes twenty-four hors a day, five days a week. All this effort goes to produce pornographic films for one of the most successful enterprises of our age, Evil Angel Video (the company’s real name), founded by pornography mogul John Stagliano.Us news & World Report Feb. 10, 1997 p 43
Porn has become so commercially successful and mainstream that it even has its own industry trade publication, Adult Video News. The news claims that the number of x-rated video rentals rose from 75 million in 1985 to 665 million in 1996. in 1996, over $8 billion was teased out of consumers’ hands to purchase time in the presence of sex and nudity.
Add up all that our country spends on Broadway productions, and regional and nonprofit theaters; throw in total revenues for opera, ballet, jazz, and classical music performances—and you have less than the revenues fro strip clubs alone. Ibid 44
If I could wave a wand and wipe out lust, “we would be plunged into the greatest economic depression in history.” Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue 1992 p 165
Lust is no more a stranger to the church than it is to our society. A Promise Keepers survey found that 65 percent of the men at their conferences confessed that lust was their biggest struggle. I’ve heard that a major hotel said its rentals of adult channels reached an all time high during a youth pastors’ convention. As one seminarian confided to me, “I don’t think I’d go out and buy a pornographic magazine, but I wouldn’t want to be left alone in a locked room with one.”
John Climacus writes: The man who struggles against this enemy by sweat and bodily hardships is like someone who has tied his adversary with a reed.”
“If he fights lust with humility, calmness, and thirst for righteousness and God, it is as though he had killed the enemy and buried him is sand.”
The disconnectedness can create an endemic spiritual loneliness. When people feel alienated from each other, the desire for intimacy becomes a gnawing ache. The temptation is to take shortcuts, and lust creates an immediate false feeling of intimacy and connectedness.
Meaningful intimacy requires work. You have to learn how to listen, respect, forgive, encourage, support, tolerate, and give---to bury your selfishness, and put someone else before you.
Lust looks like intimacy…without all the necessary personal growth and responsibility.
chastity, however, makes rich and satisfying relationships possible.
Ancient societies worshiped the stars and moon, we worship washboard abdomens, tight derrieres, and shapely legs.
Appreciation descends into obsession.
Heaven is bliss, escape from the pressures and responsibilities of this life---and lust is a way of escaping into a cheap imitation of the real bliss our heart longs for.
Dan Allender: Destructive lust is fueled by a determination to make life more palatable and perfect than it can possible be in a fallen world.
Fantasies are private magic carpets that serve to deliver the soul from boredom, anxiety, anger, loneliness, and rage to a ‘better’ world.
Waiting for that world rather than demanding and immediate release through a lustful experience is in itself, a meaningful exercise in soul growth.
This the demonic heart of lust revealed: It comes in masquerading as love, while devouring the soul with its spirit of malice.
Tomas Aquinas points out: those who find no joy in spiritual pleasures turn to the pleasures of the body.
It is spiritual emptiness that leads us to lust.
A chaste man is someone who has used heavenly fire to quench the fires of the flesh.
Try and experiment: Compare the 24 hours after making a holy choice with the 24 hours after the last time you gave in to lust.
If you remain strong, you’ll likely find that this simple act of obedience can create a quiet sense of meaning, fulfillment, and warm satisfaction. This is far more enjoyable than the intense rush of illicit pleasure, which is usually followed by a periods of guilt and regret.
We need to grow past self-centered repentance, based on the shame of being caught or admitting our sin, to a higher appreciation of how our sin assaults others. To make real spiritual progress is to understand the harm we done to another person.
Lust is self-centered sin, and it is not overcome by a self-centered repentance.
Ask God to give you a respectful reverence for the people He has made. Ask Him to give you a sense of the holiness of His sons and daughters.
To remain chaste, to create a family, and to assist another throughout life---these are holy and valid reasons to marry.
Screwtape Letters: “they regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something loer than a storm of emotion.”
Generosity is a virtue that’s absolutely essential for a soul that wants to remain free and to grow in spiritual health.
Sin enters our hearts when we desire things out of proportion t their true wort. When our desire for the created eclipses our desire for the Creator, then we have entered blatant idolatry.
When a creature is made into a God, it becomes a devil.
C. S. Lewis: “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.”
The virtue of generosity confronts our deep fears that we will not have enough.
Materialism promises more than it can deliver in the long-run because joy and contentment are inner realities that comeor don’t come to us independent of our external situation.
J. C. Ryle warns young men, “This world is not a world in which we can do well without thinking, and least of all do well in the matter of our souls.”
Vigilance is the attitude that allows the Holy Spirit space and time to show us what’s really going on inside us. The vigilant [Christian] is a fisher of thoughts and in the quiet of the night he can easily observe and catch them.” John Climacus
Vigilance helps us assess the truth about our lives, so we can turn from our weaknesses and find divine help.
We can’t take hit after hit without spending some time regrouping. We need to be re-equipped and re-energized.
The more serious you are about becoming a mature Christian, the more the war will intensify around you. “War against us is proof that we are making war…when a man is just a private citizen, a sailor, a laborer on the land, the enemies of the King do not take up arms against him. But when they see him accept the King’s seal, the shield, the dagger, the sword, the bow, the uniform of a soldier, then they gnash their teeth and do all they can to destroy him. So let us not be caught napping.”
“You may be careless about your soul; but the devil is not. “
Vigilance is not just about self-examination, it involves a plea for divine revelation.
It is not your diligence, it is not your examination of yourself that will enlighten you concerning your sin. Instead, it is God who does all the revealing….if you try to be the one who does the examining, there is a very good chance that you will deceive yourself.” Jeanne Guyon
Every rebuke I have ever received from God actually ends up encouraging me.
Screwtape: it is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out”
Vigilance means ordering our outside world in such a way that we can nurture our inner world. We make spiritual health a significant factor in every decision.
Ryle: “no place, no employment is good for you, which injures your soul. No friend, no companion deserves you confidence, who makes light of your soul’s concerns.”
“Keep in view, morning, noon, and night, the interests of your soul. Rise up each day desiring that it may prosper; lie down each evening inquiring of yourself whether it has really made progress.”
I call this “just checking in.” After a speaking engagement, after a tough confrontation, after a battle of wills with a child, I like to tune in to God and say, “What is your perspective on this?”
Facts remain facts but when brought into the Presence their value, their significance is wholly realigned.”
The attitude of vigilance is a to set us free. It is not meant to make us neurotic, religious messes.
Getting angry is like taking a small dose of some slow-acting poison…every day of your life.
Impatience is an addiction to comfort, ease, and our own will.
Anger is born when we store impatience over time.
The mother isn’t exploding over a single act but over a slow-burning series of events in which she perceives that the family takes her for granted.
My attachment to comfort blinded me to these things, and I let myself become irritated and depressed.
Our natural tendency is to seek quick spiritual fixes. But internally-based change usually lasts much longer. What we nee, ironically enough, is to be patient with ourselves as we learn patience.
The first step in learning to practice patience is accepting discomfort. We are to be patient in affliction. The growth of every virtue begins when we accept with humility what God allows to come our way.
This means we crucify our anger through the virtues of surrender and detachment.
Since patience is born in acceptance and surrender, we have to be ruthless with our complaining.
Christ’s patience is unlimited.
Impatience erupts when we hang on to the past.
The man who blows up when his wife’s problem can’t be solved right away may not want a relationship with a real human being. Maybe he wants a Barbie doll or a mommy who never brings problems to him, only pleasure and help.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Prov. 19:11.
Impatience arises when we begin seeking all the ease of heaven here on earth.
“Learn to suffer all that happens to you---even confusion---but learn to do so our of only one motive: love for God” Madame Guyon
Hell itself is truth known too late. J. C. Ryle
“There is an understanding of divine things which in its nature and character is wholly different from all knowledge that natural men have” Jonathan Edwards
And just as men will do silly things to attract a beautiful woman so we will do radical things to live in obedience to a beautiful God---if, that is, our eyes are opened to His beauty. Grasping the beauty of God is thus key to holiness and discernment.
God’s beauty is the basic component of spiritual understanding and insight.
No heart is pure that is not passionate. Frank Buchman
We remove anything that might challenge or block our love for God.
Do you ever fail to speak the truth to someone because you fear his or her disapproval? Are you prone to flattery?.
When we depend on sin to get through the day, we bend our heart away from God and lose sight of His beauty.
When we don’t revel in God’s glory, acknowledge His superiority, greatness, and beauty, we spurn the standard by which every human action, thought, and deed must be measured.
If we are captivated by God, something that opposes God will begin to repel us, making holiness, quite literally, a matter of taste.
It is so important to focus on building the inner life instead of relying on outer discipline so that our spiritual taste is refined.
Our faith is based on truth, not experience, but our wisdom grows only in experience.
Do we want to present Christ to the world or merely rules?
Grace always attends him that is truly thankful. Thomas A’Kempis
Thankfulness, as an attitude, is like a fuel that powers the Christian life and keeps us moving on the pathway of spiritual growth
The virtue of thankfulness is power to the soul. God offers it to us to drive out the spiritually degenerative illness of bitter, negative thinking. Thankfulness is God’s spiritual air freshener.
Cherish the practice of looking for something to thank God for.
Romans 1: although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
When we’re not thankful, we rob God of His glory, lose sight of His beauty
It is as dangerous for a Christian not to give thanks as it is for driver to leave her seat belt disconnected. When accidents happen---we will be left unprotected.
Begin thanking Him for the difficult things in the past. You’ll soon find you are able to thank God for what He is doing through the difficult circumstances in the present.
Where there is reason for gratitude, there can always be found a reason for bitterness. It is here that we are face with the freedom to make a decision. We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter….” Henri Nouwen
“Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.” Henri Nouwen
God uses the virtues of Christ to give us our life back, and in fact, to give us a higher experience of our human life in a very fallen world.
Some people think God ruthlessly demands perfection and lets us have it whenever we fall short. We believe that anything less than perfection will be met with at least a good, sharp kick, or maybe even a serious disease, such as cancer. The Bible tells us God is offended when we think of Him this way. Consider the parable of the talents.
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.
Isaiah 42:3 (ESV)a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
The God-Man was clothed in gentleness; and this virtue allowed Him to enter into the lives of broken, hurting people.
Philippians 4:5 (NKJV)Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Colossians 3:12 (ESV)Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Some of the most forceful men are often the most insecure.
Peter suggests that gentleness is not a bonus we give to the deserving; it is a debt we owe to all.
Peter urges us to treat with gentleness those who oppose us.
The gospel isn’t about winning an argument; it’s about reconciling people to God and to each other.
Gentleness is much more powerful than the human failings of temper, anger, and hatred.
Gentleness means understanding human frailty.
The true definition of gentleness is the application of unmerited favor.
Gentleness doesn’t call us to ignore people’s failings---God doesn’t ignore mine---but it does call me to respond in a particular way. Gentleness is about how sin and weakness is confronted and handled, not whether it will be handled.
The time will come when you will have a legitimate gripe. You will be right, and they will be wrong. This is the crossroads of gentleness. Which path will you take? Condemnation and censure or the application of unmerited favor?
Gentle living is blessed living. It’s soothing, refreshing, bathing people in the presence of Christ. What else more accurately paints a picture of our Lord? What other virtue so radically gives us our life back from the frivolous judgments and misdirected angers of the world?
Submitting to a tyrant is exactly the opposite of submitting to a lover. The first takes a diminution of spiritual energy, the second takes an excess. Peter Kreeft.
Virtually every time God calls someone to do something in Scripture, He pleads with them, “Do not be afraid.”
Cowardice is one of the great life-thieves of all time.
The first fear is the fear of loss.
Ask yourself: What do I really fear losing?
The second is the fear of losing esteem mixed with fear of failure.
If you are overly timid, easily cowed, and afraid to speak up, you will find it extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to walk in the character of Christ.
Fortitude relies on the provision of God to help both our minds and our hearts to respond in a Christ-like manner.
Fortitude consists of a strength of mind, through grace…it overrules and suppresses evil, unruly passions and affections of the mind.
Chris’s fortitude provides an internal power that gives us the strength to pursue a course that frightens the natural man inside us.
Ungodly fear---from a Christian perspective—comes from forgetting basic spiritual truths.
If you are afraid of loss,, remind yourself of God’s promised provision.
Just as discernment springs from meditating on the beauty of God, so fortitude is born when we meditate on the greatness of God.
Serving God entails risk. There are no guarantees we will not fail---but the unwillingness to risk may be our greatest failure of all.
Few things will build intimacy with God as much as facing your fears with Him.
Obedience gives us our life back by creating desires that Jesus promises can be met: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” This filling is what we truly crave because God created us to crave it.
Now with God’s help I shall become myself. Soren Kierkegaard.
Feeling the pillar of modern religion—continues to be the guide of many Christians: As long as we feel okay, we assume we must be okay.
But in Matthew 25, when Jesus talked about the judgment, he didn’t point to feelings, He pointed to actions.
Jonathan Edwards wrote” Christian practice is much more to be preferred as evidence of salvation than sudden conversion, mystical enlightenment, or the mere experience of emotional comfort>”
Edwards point us to the bare essentials: “the proper test of what man really prefers is to see what he actually cleaves to and practices when given a choice…Godliness consists not merely in having a heart intent on doing the will of God, but having a heart that actually does it…it is absurd then to pretend to have a good heart while living a wicked life.”
We are spiritually hungry people who want to be, in Jesus’ words, filled. Sin provides a temporary break from reality---a momentary hit that removes the pain of separation from God. It ultimately pushes us further from God. Only those who search after righteousness will be filled. We cannot be filled by sin, but we often think we can.
When worship is looked at in terms of my devotion, expenditure of time, energy, talents, and money, then the reality of what’s going on inside my heart becomes much clearer.
We are spiritual beings, and one of the truths resulting from that is that sin gives birth to increased temptation. The more you sin, the harder it becomes to stop sinning. If you stay away form that sin for awhile, it will be easier to avoid it the next time.
One way to o to hell is by go down the steps of little sins---and that way is only too common.
We start by confronting the two primary causes of sin: pain and rebellion. Submit both to God. Take little steps of obedience. Let interior obedience begin building in your heart until it brings you to an external victory.
Obedience is life giving.
At its root, sin is self-obsession. A mother lashing out in anger at her children is thinking about her frustration, not the effect her words will have on them. If you are struggling mightily against a sin, examine your heart’s attitude; isn’t there a selfish demand and focus buried deep within?
How do we confront this obsession with ourselves? By moving beyond merely avoiding evil to focusing on working toward the higher calling God has placed on our lives. –service and mission.
The genuineness of obedience is proven when it gets truly hard—when it makes no sense, but you pursue God nonetheless.
Obedience is our honor because of who were called ot be obedient to.
There’s a world of difference between Jesus in Gethsemane, courageously and obediently agreeing to lay down His life according to God’s will, and a pastor sticking a gun in his mouth according to his despair. Which life will you choose? Obedience, ironic as it seems, will give you back the life you want to live a life of fullness, mission, and purpose.
When we die will find ourselves trying to explain to God why we did not mourn unceasingly. John Climacus
God in hating our sin, is like a surgeon who hates the cancer only because he loves the patient. Peter Kreeft
Repent , for the kingdom of heaven is near. The Christian life doesn’t begin with hope. It doesn’t begin with chastity. It doesn’t even begin with obedience. It begins, with penitence.
Penitence is being willing to exchange my old view of the things that I think will give me inner life for the things from God that really will give life and health. It involves sorrow for going the wrong way and a willingness to turn toward the right way. It’s a change heat accompanied by a change of mind, perfected by a change of direction---all three changes bending toward the will of God.
The people who lack penitence are given the death sentence; the people who mourn are saved. Those who lived in a corrupt culture without any sense of grief and anguish were considered by God as unfit to live.
Sin is a date from hell, and however much hell acts like your friend, hell hates you with a passion that is terrifying in its intensity: O
The smallest sin is a small spark from the one fire that is Hell-fire.
Penitence is not fueled by morbid sorrow for our sins, but by the joy of becoming. God made us to become like Christ as we work to advance His kingdom on this earth. Any other end is a sad misuse of the eight or nine decades God gives us.
No one knows how long a human soul can endure the flames of hell before it dies.
Examine what our sin has cost us and others—including how it offends God.
Do not be afraid to let anguish wash over you. Eventually, it will wash through you and leave you ready to begin again.
True penitence will lead you from expressing your sorrow to God to expressing your sorrow to others.
Unresolved sin is a weight, and unreconciled relationships are a tether.
When we realize we were made to fly, we won’t settle for less.
Someone who is dominated and controlled by anger is a stranger to penitence.
Ancients teach that penitence breaks the ungodly human anger that rules our hearts.
Grief does away with the capacity to rage. Climacus
Penitence draws us into God’s presence, so anger pushes us away.
No greater obstacle to the presence of the Spirit in us than anger. John Climacus
While the object of our anger is often completely oblivious to our seething rage, we’re poisoning our souls, pumping bucketfuls of spiritual bile into our system.
Penitence is the spiritual prelude to true celebration.
The man wearing blessed, God-given mourning like a wedding garment gets to know the spiritual laughter of the soul.
Penitence reminds us that we are God’s children. It is the gateway to the virtue of humility.
Real change is possible. It is not instant.
I shouldn’t expect a “magic moment” in which God zaps me into holiness once and for all.
Virtues are something I practice, not something I become. I’ll never be completely humble, but I can practice humility. I will never corner the market on generosity, but I can practice being generous. Understanding this has removed me from the strain of perfectionism.