Category Archives: Theology

Are Christians to Feel Guilty All the Time?

From Kevin DeYoung – Excellent Post. Leaders need to understand this dynamic to counsel ourselves and counsel each other. The elders were just talking about this. Chap

I imagine there are plenty of Christians who rarely feel the sting of conscience or the pangs of regret. But I also know many, many Christians (including the one I see in the mirror) who easily feel bad for all the things they are not doing or are doing less than perfectly. In fact, I’m convinced most serious Christians live their lives with an almost constant low-level sense of guilt.

How do we feel guilty? Let me count the ways.

  • We could pray more.
  • We aren’t bold enough in evangelism.
  • We like sports too much.
  • We watch movies and television too often.
  • Our quiet times are too short or too sporadic.
  • We don’t give enough.
  • We bought a new couch.
  • We don’t read to our kids enough.
  • Our kids eat Cheetos and french fries.
  • We don’t recycle enough.
  • We need to lost 20 pounds.
  • We could use our time better.
  • We could live some place harder or in something smaller.

What do we do with all this behind the scenes guilt? We don’t feel stop-dead-in-our-tracks kind of remorse for these things.  But these shortcomings can have a cumulative effect whereby even the mature Christian can feel like he’s rather disappointing to God, maybe just barely Christian.

Here’s the tricky part: we should feel guilty sometimes, because sometimes we are guilty of sin. Moreover, complacency as Christians is a real danger, especially in America.

But yet, I don’t believe God redeemed us through the blood of his Son that we might feel like constant failures. Do Peter and John post-Pentecost seemed racked with self-loathing and introspective fear? Does Paul seem constantly concerned that he could be doing more? Amazingly enough, Paul actually says at one point “I am not aware of anything against myself” (1 Cor. 4:4). He’s quick to add, “I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” But it sure seems like Paul put his head on the pillow at night with a clean conscience. So why do so many Christian feel guilty all the time?

1. We don’t fully embrace the good news of the gospel. We forget that we have been made alive together with Christ. We have been raised with him. We have been saved through faith alone. And this is the gift of God, not a result of works (Eph. 2:4-8). We can be so scared of antinomianism, which is a legitimate danger, that we are afraid to speak too lavishly of God’s grace. But if we’ve never been charged with being antinomian, we probably haven’t presented the gospel in all it’s scandalous glory (Rom. 6:1).

2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace. Instead of urging our fellow believers to be who they are in Christ, we command them to do morefor Christ (see Rom. 6:5-14 for the proper motivation). So we see Christlikeness as something we are royally screwing up, when we should it as something we already possess but need to grow into.

3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of “not doing enough.” Look at the list above. None one of the items are necessarily sinful. They all deal with possible infractions, perceptions, and ways in which we’d like to do more. These are the hardest areas to deal with because no Christian, for example, will ever confess to praying enough. So it is always easy to feel terrible about prayer (or evangelism or giving or any number of disciplines). We must be careful that we don’t insist on a certain standard of practice when the Bible merely insists on a general principle.

Let me give another example. Every Christian must give generously and contribute to the needs of the saints (2 Cor. 9:6-11Rom. 12:13). This we can insist on with absolute certainty. But what this generosity looks like–how much we give, how much we retain–is not bound by any formula, nor can it be exacted by compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). So if we want people to be more generous we would do well to follow Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians and emphasize the blessings of generosity and the gospel rooted motivation for generosity as opposed to shaming those who don’t give us much.

4. When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative we repent and receive God’s mercy. Paul had a clean conscience, not because he never sinned, but, I imagine, because he quickly went to the Lord when he knew he was wrong and rested in the “no condemnation” of the gospel (Rom. 8:1). If we confess our sins, John says, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We aren’t meant to feel borderline miserable all the time. We are meant to live in the joy of our salvation. So when we sin–and we’ll all sin (1 Kings 8:461 John 1:8)–we confess it, get cleansed, and move on.

This underlines one of the great dangers with constant guilt: we learn to ignore our consciences. If we are truly sinning, we need to repent and implore the Lord to help us change. But if we aren’t sinning, if we are perhaps not as mature as we could be, or are not as disciplined as some believers, or we are making different choices that may be acceptable but not extraordinary, then we should not be made to feel guilty. Challenged, stirred, inspired, but not guilty.

As a pastor this means I don’t expect that everyone in my congregation should feel awful about everything I ever preach on. It is ok, after all, for people to actually be obedient to God’s commands. Not perfectly, not without some mixed motives, not as fully as they could be, but still faithfully, God-pleasingly obedient. Faithful preaching does not require that sincere Christians feel miserable all the time. In fact, the best preaching ought to make sincere Christians see more of Christ and experience more of his grace.

Deeper grace will produce better gratitude, which means less guilt. And that’ s a good thing all the way around.

Doctrine Brings Joy – C. S. Lewis

HT: Ray Ortland

“For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await others.  I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”

C. S. Lewis, quoted in R. L. Green and W. Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (New York, 1974), page 115.

Preaching Indicatives from Imperatives!

From BTW: Excellent stuff on preaching and the way of thinking!

The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:

You are not _____;

You should be _________;

Therefore, do or be ________!

Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).

This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).

The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”

This “become what you are” way of speaking is strange for many us us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.

We see this all throughout the NT. Here are a few examples of this gospel logic and language:

“You really are unleavened” (indicative),
therefore “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” (imperative). [1 Cor. 5:7].

“You are not under law but under grace” and you “have been brought from death to life (indicatives),
therefore “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body. . . .
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness,
but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (imperatives). [Rom. 6:12-14]

“Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness (indicatives) . . .
[therefore] now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (imperative). [Rom. 6:18-19]

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (indicative),
therefore, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (imperative). [Gal. 5:1624]

Pastor, are you encouraging your people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus?

Responding to Universalism

Links from the Gospel Coalition Website. In addition, I have a 40 page paper that I have never published. – Chap

Books

Audio

Video

Articles/Q&As

Conference

TGC Confessional Statement

  • Section 13: The Restoration of All Things We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.

Clothed in the Righteousness of Christ as Help for the Downcast

In The Discipline of Grace – Jerry Bridges talks about preaching the gospel to yourself. To preach the gospel to yourself  “means you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in his shed blood and righteous life.”

“It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace, to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ. How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption, and the depravity of the heart, and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further, and remember that we are perfect in Christ Jesus. It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind that Christ is made unto us righteousness, we shall be of good cheer. What though distresses afflict me, though Satan assault me, though there may be many things to be experienced before I get to heaven, those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is nothing wanting in my Lord, Christ hath done it all.” – Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, January 31

The Four States of Mankind

http://www.inlightofthegospel.org/?p=15

Although there is a common misconception that God will return things back to the “pre-fallen” state, the Bible actually teaches that the final state of things (the New Creation) is better than the “pre-fallen” state. In the history of theology, the fourfold state has been described in this way (using categories from Thomas Boston and St. Augustine):

Innocenceposse peccare aut non peccare (possible to sin or not to sin)

In the beginning, when God created Adam, he placed him in a state where it was possible to sin or not to sin. Some call this the state of “Innocence.” In Reformed circles it is also called the “covenant of works” or the “Adamic administration.”

Fallnon posse non peccare (not possible not to sin)

Once Adam chose to sin, he brought the human race into the second state: the fall. In this state, it is not possible not to sin. We are born sinners and we actually sin (cf. Romans 3:10-12). On our own without God’s grace, we cannot not sin. This state begins in Genesis 3 and continues through Revelation (or to be more precise, the second coming of Christ).

Graceposse peccare aut non peccare (possible not to sin)

Alongside the fall, we can enter into a state of grace. God does not leave Adam and the human race in their sin, but promises them redemption in Genesis 3:15 (which continues through Revelation as well). Grace brings us into a state where it is possible not to sin for the first time.

Glorynon posse peccare (not possible to sin)

The last state is one of glory, which begins with the arrival of the New Heavens and New Earth. In this state, it is no longer possible to sin at all. There will be no more sin and no more death there.

Tim Keller on The Shack

At the Gospel Coalition site:

Tim Keller reviews The Shack:

7.2 million copies sold in 2 years. It must be hitting a chord.

The Positive:

At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. The argument Young makes at various parts of the book is this. First, this world’s evil and suffering is the result of our abuse of free will. Second, God has not prevented evil in order to accomplish some glorious, greater good that humans cannot now understand. Third, when we stay bitter at God for a particular tragedy we put ourselves in the seat of the ‘Judge of the world and God’, and we are unqualified for such a job. Fourth, we must get an ‘eternal perspective’ and see all God’s people in joy in his presence forever.

The Negative:

Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship….The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

Good balanced review.