The Simple Secret to Change

The Master's Seminary Blog

The Simple Secret to Change

by Jerod Gilcher | May 05, 2020

Every generation has blind spots. The church is no exception. The church has always had rough edges and areas in need of reform. That being said, every generation of Christian has also had their strengths, and those strengths often serve as correctives to the blind spots of other generations.

One of the major blind spots of the twenty-first-century American church is its view of theology. For many in the church, theology is little more than fuel for controversy or a complicated, wet blanket for Christian sincerity and zeal. We live in an age when pastors are expected to be all things to all men—that is, except theologians.

Many churches and Christians today have filed for theological divorce—making clear distinctions between the rigors of the mind and the affections of the soul. Many sigh in exasperation: give me what my soul needs, not complicated doctrines! The reality is, however, theology was never intended for such abuse. This is our generation’s tragic blind spot.

But another generation has answers and cures for our doctrinal deficiencies—the generation of the Puritans. For these sixteenth and seventeeth-century Protestants, theology was not intellectual rough-housing, but the very soul of the Christian life. The Puritan Thomas Watson writes that doctrine “directs the whole course of Christianity, as the eye directs the body…. [It] is to the soul as the anchor to the ship, that holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution.”1


The Puritans understood that reflection about God should produce affection for God


 

They knew that the head is meant to serve the heart. They were gripped by the reality that theology enjoyed in the soul would kindle worship and prayer. The Puritans were bent on making theology transformative for the soul.

And so, I wish to offer an example of a Puritan doing theology to answer a pressing question: how do I actually change and grow?

How does a Christian gain a practical, genuine holiness is the question of every age—a love-your-spouse and think-less-of-yourself kind of holiness. A holiness very much available to (and expected of) us in the here-and-now. Newly regenerated believers enter into the Christian life outmatched, overwhelmed, and often still somewhat enamored by sin. The war has begun. And thus there is an earnestness to the question: how do I practically increase in holiness?

This increasing in holiness is what the NT authors refer to as sanctification.

What is sanctification but the painful, slow carving of our lives into the image of Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:29)? It is the slow, at times minute-by-minute, putting to death of sin by the power of Christ through the instrument of the word.

And yet, the question remains: How does one do this? In other words, what are the means God has given by which one may grow in holiness and victory over sin and temptation?


The grace of God works through very practical means,
which is why we refer to them as means of grace.


 

This is precisely where the Puritans can help us. I am going to let Henry Scougal (1650-1678) step in. In his soul-nourishing little book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Scougal reveals what is perhaps the deepest secret to sanctification and holiness. And what is that secret?

Love.

Follow Scougal’s logic. He writes:

Love is that powerful and prevalent passion by which all the faculties and inclinations of the soul are determined and on which both its perfection and happiness depend.

In other words, what you love the most determines the direction and happiness of your life.

He goes on:

The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love: he who loveth mean2 and sordid things doth thereby become base and vile; but a noble and well-placed affection doth advance and improve the spirit unto a conformity with the perfections with its loves.

Here now is the crux of his argument:


What you love most, you grow to resemble


 

If you love someone, you will likely begin to absorb some of their interests and passions into yourself. If you develop a passion for gambling, you should not be surprised to find in your life sprouts of greed and recklessness. You slowly, yet assuredly, resemble what you love. This means, then, if we love God most, we will begin to resemble His beauty and holiness.

So if we find deficiencies in our practical holiness, we have to ask ourself, What am I loving? Because I am growing to resemble something that is not God. Therefore, we are to love God more. So then the next question presents itself: how do I increase my affections for God? This is nearing the heart of what it really means to change. Answer: you must expose yourself to Him and His beauty. How? In the pages of Scripture. You must gaze upon the beauty of His perfections and character in the pages of Scripture.

Scougal put it this way:

The true way to improve and ennoble our souls is, by fixing our love on the divine perfections, that we may have them always before us, and derive an impression of them on ourselves…. He who, with a generous and holy ambition, hath raised his eyes toward that uncreated beauty and goodness, and fixed his affection there, is quite of another spirit, of a more excellent and heroic temper than the rest of the world, and cannot but infinitely disdain all mean and unworthy things; will not entertain any low or base thoughts which might disparage his high and noble pretentions.

Far too often, we think of theology as useless quibbles that will all sort themselves out in the end. But a theologian is one who thinks rigorous thoughts about God. We are all theologians. Some of us, as theologians, have just come to the conclusion (unconsciously) that my understanding of the character of God has little to do with my arguments with my wife. That could not be more wrong. Scougal teaches us that the secret to our day-in-day-out holiness is not to avoid thinking deeply about God, but to push ourselves deeper into who God is.


The more of God’s glory you see, the more you will love Him


 

And the more you love Him, the more you will begin to resemble your Father, or—to state it negatively—the more liberation you will experience from the sins that entangle you.

Conclusion

Scougal demonstrates that precise, robust theology is anything but a wet blanket to Christian zeal. Instead, all of the life-change that we long to see in ourselves and in others is produced through careful meditation and theological reflection. Here is but one small example of why we should not only read the Puritans, but emulate their enjoyment of theology. The church would be healthier for it.

Editor’s Note: For more on the intersection of theology and everyday life, see our free resource: Reformed Practical Theology

 

[1] Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1983), 4.

[2] That is, low in dignity, worth, or value.

 

John 9:3 – The Works of God

We have all read the story here, John 9:1-7, of Jesus healing the blind man. This verse is often overlooked in the conversation for it’s theological implications. 

Note what Jesus is saying:

  • That the sin is not the most important thing; he does not say do not deal with sin nor that sin nature is not the overall cause for this man’s condition just not a specific sin. Even today there are those who try and claim that all our ailments are caused by some sin we have done against God which for the most part is total garbage.
  • The Most important thing is God’s Glory; it is the preeminent thing to be seen in it all
  • It is “God First Always

Logos.com

Respondió Jesús: No es que pecó éste, ni sus padres, sino para que las obras de Dios se manifiesten en él. (RVR 1960)

 

Humble Pie

I finished off the last piece of Pecan Pie from Thanksgiving last night, but every once in a while a need a little slice of humble pie to remind me that God is the one deserving all the glory. – Mike 

Logos.com

Daily Devotional – God’s Choices

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. (KJV)

 sino que lo necio del mundo escogió Dios, para avergonzar a los sabios; y lo débil del mundo escogió Dios, para avergonzar a lo fuerte; 28 y lo vil del mundo y lo menospreciado escogió Dios, y lo que no es, para deshacer lo que es, 29 a fin de que nadie se jacte en su presencia. (RVR 1960)

I could have titled this devotion “What Kind of Fool Are You” or “What King of Weakling are You” or even “What Kind of Lowly and Despised (base) person are You“? All of them would aptly fit today’s text. I think however the fact that God chooses such people over the more “elite”  of the world makes all the difference to Christianity. So let us break it down: 

CONTEXT: In this first epistle to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins v.1-17 with an appeal for unity. Corinth’s location made it a very important and busy trading port so many different Gentiles were coming into the church there. This was causing some issues. Beginning in v.18-25 Paul declares to them the Wisdom of God and how man fails to recognize this. Then He prepares or sets them up with v.26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: Paul basically insults them (modern millennial’s would need therapy) saying ‘I see that none of y’all are all that bright’. In reality He is not insulting them He is pointing out God’s method and implying they should be rejoicing. He goes on to explain it in our text so let’s break it down: 

But God hath chosen: In His infinite wisdom makes the choice in all things for His purpose. God is sovereign and neither asks for nor requires your input in the choices He makes.

the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: If we are honest with ourselves, everyone before Christ (and many times since) fit this category of being a fool. God chose us to confound that is to  make known the stupid ignorance of those thinking themselves wise. Also note Paul here writes like in Proverbs comparing two things against each other foolish vs. wise. The Hebrew word for “proverb” (mashal) means a “comparison.”

and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty: When I went through boot camp (Army basic training) we had a guy (Bell) that could do 100 push ups with a fully loaded (maybe 100 lbs) duffel bag on his back. I thought he was the strongest guy I ever met especially since I could barely knock out the 42 needed to pass the physical training test. Then about week 8 of our 12 week training Bell broke his wrist real bad and cried like a baby he was re-classified and had to repeat boot camp and I managed to graduate. God will use the weak to show those thinking the are powerful and mighty just how frail they really are. 

And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen: Base, lowly or insignificant things; things that are despised and treated with contempt God chooses.

As you may know part of this ministry is ministering to inmates. The US prisons are booming, overcrowded and big business. Unfortunately while most county, state and federal facilities have at least volunteer chaplains the product they are peddling leaves much to be desired. A watered down gospel of Jesus loves you has no lasting effect upon inmates and less that 15% who attend services inside remain faithful after release. Some states ( like Massachusetts) even have policies which prohibit volunteers and Chaplains from associating with or contacting (following up) with ex-mates. 

In many cases depending upon what they were locked up for these men and women find further prejudice upon entering the doors of the local church. Instead of welcoming them as Sinners saved by Grace (like you are not) they are all but treated with contempt in the house of God. 

yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: God will build up the lowly things of this world in order to reduce to nothing the things the world has built up. 

That no flesh should glory in his presence: Not that anyone will be able to anyway (my opinion) once the Glory of God hits them, but all of this is done so no man can boast of his doings in the presence of He who is on control of all things. We will only boast of God and Christ Jesus. 

In closing we must remember that the day is coming when God’s plan will be fulfilled and man will be without excuse standing before the King of Kings Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NKJV)

 

Worldliness vs. Righteousness

It amazes me why so many congregations today want to bring so many worldly activities into  their churches. We should never cloak righteousness in anything but God’s Glory.

Laboring For God

October 26

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shall eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.

Psalm 128:1-2

Jack sat down to supper with his family. Even after twenty years, there was something special about a meal that came from their own farm. Jack could imagine thousands of families sitting down to similar meals of produce from his farm. It made him feel like there was purpose to his life. The work was hard, there were worries about the future, but it was all worth it. The farm was Jack’s life. It would never be said that Jack was not fulfilled in his work. He couldn’t be happier.

Many people find no satisfaction in the work they do. Their lives lack purpose and meaning. Christians have an alternative source of meaning in their lives. If a Christian does a job, no matter how large or small, to God’s glory, then that person will find satisfaction. God doesn’t much care what we do, but He is always interested in how we do our jobs. If we do our work without grumbling and with a joyful heart, then we are witnessing to His power in our lives and we are pleasing to Him.

Prayer: Let me be not so concerned with the prestige of my job, or the salary it pays, or what other people think of it. Instead, assist me to always do the best that I can, to Your glory, Father. Amen.

From: http://www.crosswalk.co,/devotionals

Quite a number of years ago before we went into the mission field, on maybe my second trip to Lakeshore, MS, I was given the privileged of doing the morning devotional. My theme was Colossians 3:22-23 (AMP) Servants, in everything obey those who are your masters on earth, not only with external service, as those who merely please people, but with sincerity of heart because of your fear of the Lord. 23 Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.”  You see some of the jobs back then {remember all volunteers} were not so glorious, like dumping and cleaning out the toilet paper buckets each day or kitchen police detail. Yet doing those jobs in a manner not to please man or self but to please God sure seemed to make things go a whole lot easier.  It is a lesson I have tried (and at times failed) to remember daily. – Mike