Category Archives: Know Yourself

Spiritual Failure: The Unlikely Path to Christian Success

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61).”

When is spiritual failure predictable? The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was seriously and deliberately going to get in big trouble and difficulty. The situation was intensely dangerous when Peter felt led of the Lord to say something like: “Master, I know things are getting rough around here, but I want you to know that under no circumstances will I let you down. If every single one of these guys let you down, you can count on me. I won’t.” (I don’t think this made the other disciples happy, and they made sure to record this account in the gospels.) Jesus told Peter that before the crack of dawn Peter would fail him.

Spiritual failure is predictable when we rely on the strength of our own commitment, when we think we stand, when we underestimate Satan’s desire to sift us like wheat, when we lack watchful prayer, and when we presume that we can hide and blend in with nonbelievers without having to admit we love Jesus. All this was true of Peter.

How does spiritual failure happen? Spiritual failure happened to Peter so fast. Surprised by the servant girls’ questions and trying to blend in unnoticed, Peter denied Christ three times. The rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered and wept with the sting of Jesus’ rebuke, the look of compassion, and the promise Jesus made about Peter’s aftermath of failure to strengthen the others. Spiritual failure is predictable and happens fast, but it need never be final.

Peter posted his sign, “Gone fishing.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the others fished all night and caught nothing. “Did you catch anything?” Jesus asked them from the shore. “Nothing,” they replied in admitting their lack of success. Peter knew it was Jesus and struggled towards shore to sit by another fire where Jesus again turned to look at Peter. Three times Jesus asked: “Peter, do you love me with deep intensity?” Jesus asked this three times in order to remedy Peter’s three denials.

On that day Peter became a success because Christ makes spiritual failures into his special instruments and endows them with power from the Holy Spirit for victorious living. Whereas Satan wants us to take the occasions of our failures and make it our identity: “You are a failure,” Jesus defines our identity by his victory. “You are Simon (Pebbles), but you shall be called Peter (a Rock).” Although we all have spiritual failures, Christ refuses to let them define us. All God’s heroes have spiritual failures on their resumes.

Spiritual failure may just be the path to success for the Christian.

What Kind of Person do you Want to become?

You are what you eat? What if we changed it to “you are what you love?” Not, as Descartes put it: “I think therefore I am.” We are not fatheads (1 Cor. 8:1). Discipleship is not a matter of more information; rather it is about transformation. True Christianity is an inside-out way of transformation of the heart because out of the heart flows what we love, either good or ill. This is why to want things or people as ultimate things or people are idols of choice, but to want God as the ultimate good is freedom and blessing. https://www.amazon.com/author/robert_davis_smart

We all live and are drawn to what we want, so we are what we want most (Augustine and Jonathan Edwards). We might say that we become like what we worship (Psalm 8). To discover what we are becoming is to ask ourselves what habits are we practicing in order to get what we want. James K. A. Smith asks the following similar questions:

  1. What are the things you do that do something to you?
  2. What Story is embedded in your cultural practices?
  3. What kind of person do you want to become?
  4. To what kingdom are your habits or rituals aimed?
  5. What do the cultural institutions in your life want you to love?[1]

[1] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazo Press, 2016), p. 55.

Identity in Christ Course at Grace College of New Zealand

These four sessions were given in 2015 during a preaching trip to the South Island’s Family Conference in association with Grace Presbyterian Churches near Christ Church and in the North in Auckland in two churches and a pastor’s gathering.

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May these simple lectures bless you for embracing who you are in Christ, Bob

Session One https://youtu.be/NKFC2bvmbqo

Session Two https://youtu.be/vy-h9__A1xM

Session Three https://youtu.be/zU0ZyJUBQdI

Session Four https://youtu.be/5R05yMQn5L8

 

I’m Going Back to My Roots

So much for this song. I exercised while it was playing and liked the tune. Actually, i haven’t analyzed it 🙂

In Luke Three there is a heap of identity concerning Jesus Christ. John the Baptist points to Him as the Christ, the Father says that He is His Beloved Son in whom He is well-pleased, and this is followed by His genealogy.

Our roots matter. Our genealogy is part of what shapes our identity. Just as knowing that we are made in His image and that we have been given gender, so Providence shapes us in a family with ancestors, ethnicity, and names.

We are not hurled by chance into the world as radical individuals, who have to choose all this. Rather, we are given names that remind us of how in God’s Providence we are part of a larger story in Redemption. God is redeeming our families for generations to come. He is faithful to our offspring; He is covenantal as He has always been; i.e. Abrahamic promise.

We are not radical individuals. We are named by our parents, and these names remind us of who we are and our roots. We are given ethnic identity. In the end every tribe and tongue shall acknowledge God’s redemption together. Do you know what your names mean? Are you secure about your ethnic identity? Can you tell about your great grandparents, grandparents, and parents enough to tell the next generation? Jesus knew what His name meant, who His ancestors were, and embraced His Jewish ethnicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentecostal Outpourings

Have You Found Acceptance? (Five Warning Signs)

The Bible tells us “not to lie to one another” (Col. 3:9), which can be translated, “Don’t be false with one another.” Don’t pretend to be some one you want to be known as, because you simply are not such a person. There is only one person whom God will love, bless, and use mightily for His glory; namely, you.

When people refuse to embrace their true and ordinary selves for fear of rejection and want of affirmation, they foolishly attempt to spin out of their imaginations an ideal self that others will adore and that they must become. 34530007

Some people try to act like some one they admire at the expense of enjoying God and who He made us to be. Unfortunately, the person striving to become an ideal self will inevitably despise his or her real self. Thus, this person is like a clock’s pendulum, oscillating between a fallacious perfection and a manifestation of self-hatred. In time this dual effort, of trying to become the ideal and of hating one’s self, results in deep disappointment for everyone involved. It is a hopeless search for glory. It is like carrying coals to New Castle.

This lack of embracing ourselves with honesty exists on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe, but here are five warning signs:

  1. Inability to own weaknesses and imperfections
  2. Inordinate desire for the approval of others
  3. Overreaction to criticisms
  4. Inability to accept the way one looks in a picture or a mirror
  5. Envy of others advancing in the same career or calling

How to Fetch a True Knowledge of Yourself – John Calvin

“Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” (Institutes, 1.1.1). In other words, we never attain to a true self-knowledge until we have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into ourselves. Calvin’s assumption was that: “As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods” (Institutes 1.1.1). IMG_1710

It is possible to have a false knowledge of yourself, which is overly inflated without a true knowledge of Christ.

Calvin argued that one could not truly know God without knowing oneself and that one couldn’t truly know oneself without knowing God. Calvin acknowledged the obvious dilemma in saying, “which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern” (Institutes, 1.1.1). He resolves his dilemma: “[T]he knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, [but we must] treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.”

Why begin with knowing God? Because when we behold God rightly through His Word, “what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence.” For “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God (Institutes 1.1.1).”

One of Blaise Pascal’s thoughts (Pensees) on this says: “The man who knows God but does not know his own misery, becomes proud. The man who knows his own misery but does not know God, ends in despair. The Incarnation shows humanity the greatness of their misery by the greatness of the remedy they required.”

Once the remedy of the Gospel is applied and poured out on us by the Holy Spirit, we are given a new identity in Christ. As we behold Christ by faith, the Spirit transforms us to higher degrees of glory (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

The surprise result of this, however, is that visions of Christ’s beauty humble a believer without degrading him or her, and they exalt a believer’s identity without inflating his false self (cf. Charles Hodge).