Difficult times are coming

Does it feel like we’re moving closer to the times Jesus spoke of when, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12, NLT).

When the apostle Paul described the difficulty of the last days, it wasn’t due to economic downturn, but because of the way people will live.

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money … They will scoff at God,… and betray their friends, … they will love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (II Timothy 3:1-5). 

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day” (Matthew 24:37). Those were days of indulgence in pleasure and indifference to God. Are we moving closer to these days? 

Our culture has been strongly influenced by factors that encourage people to feel entitled to a good life or their terms. People are increasingly living for themselves over everything and everyone — even their own families. We no longer see as much honor given to virtues like loyalty, faithfulness and courage. Instead, everyone wants to do what is right in his own eyes and seek the good life in the here and now.  

More and more people even in the Church are viewing God as one who ought to secure the good life for them. They think that God should respond to whatever is asked of him or risk disappointment from them.

But I am encouraged to remember that the Lord “is patient… not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

May our hearts align with what “is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (I Timothy 2:3-6).

A needed word for the times 

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil” (Ephesians 6:10-13, NLT).

Steve Cornell

 

 

Don’t let them drag you down

People who are discontent with their lives tend to spread discontentment to otherwise grateful people. Sometimes they disguise their negativity behind spiritual sounding “concerns,” or they tell you that they’re just trying to be honest about things.

Don’t let them drag you down but call them out of the negativity to a more God-honoring way of seeing life. We don’t want to be in the group identified as “grumblers and faultfinders” (Jude 16). 

 

Reflect and act

  • Philippians 2:14-15 – “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” (NLT)
  • I Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ” Spirit-filled people are “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
 God calls us to be extravagantly grateful! A moderately grateful person is not doing life in the will of God.
  • I Corinthians 13:7 – ” “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (NLT)
  • Titus 3:10-11 – “If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.” (NLT)

See: Grouchy people sharing a gospel of grace?

Steve Cornell

 

Therapeutic vs. True Gospel

 

The word gospel refers to good news about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. But when the gospel is shaped by a therapeutic emphasis, it turns out to be so much less than the true gospel. The therapeutic gospel emphasizes a Jesus who meets my felt needs in a way that keeps me at the center of life? It’s a kind of Jesus who is there to serve you. I wrote about this in my previous post.

 

The true gospel will not reach us until we see the “me at the center” life as our effort to take the place that belongs to God. I must acknowledge how I want the glory that belongs to God when I focus on myself — on my feelings and desires as the most important issues of life. 

Jesus Christ died for my sin and the most vivid expression of my sin is my willful preoccupation with myself. A gospel message that invites me to stay at the center is not the true gospel.

Listen closely to the emphasis when you hear someone invite people to follow Jesus. If the emphasis is on a Jesus who gives you peace and meaning; who gives you better relationships and takes away your feelings of guilt, you’re hearing a distortion of the gospel. Worse yet, you’re hearing a sales pitch rather than the true gospel.

But doesn’t Jesus give peace, meaning and forgiveness? Doesn’t Scripture emphasize God’s love for us? “Yes” to both questions. These however are the benefits of the gospel not the gospel. God’s love is so amazing because it’s demonstrated toward sinners. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for undeserving, self-centered people like you and me.

“The emphasis of scripture is on the godless self-centeredness of sin. Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment,’ not just by failing to love God with all our being, but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a bid for independence. Worse still, we have dared to proclaim our self-dependence, or autonomy, which is to claim the position occupied by God alone. Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him” (John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 90).

If I don’t accept the verdict of Scripture about my sin and the judgment it deserves, I cannot hope to experience benefits of the gospel such as peace, meaning and forgiveness. 

If the bad news is muted or left out, the good news of the gospel is also removed. For the gospel to be good news, I must fully acknowledge the following verdicts:

  1. I stand condemned before God – guilty of sin and deserving God’s judgment (Romans 3:10,23:6:23a; James 2:10)
  2. I cannot by any effort of my own improve my standing before God (Romans 4:5; 5:6;Galatians 2:16, 21; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
  3. Apart from the mercy and grace of God, I remain forever under God’s just condemnation (Titus 3:5-7).
  4. What I cannot do, God did for me when Jesus Christ bore the judgment my sin deserved (Galatians 3:13;Romans 5:8; 8:3-4;II Corinthians 5:17,18,21).
  5. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1, 32-39;John 1:12;3:16-18,36; 10:27-28).

The only grounds for acceptance with God is faith in Christ alone.

Centuries ago, Thomas Aquinas exposed the error behind the therapeutic gospel. 

“We confuse two similar yet different human actions. We see people searching desperately for peace of mind, relief from guilt, meaning, and purpose to their lives, and loving acceptance. We know that ultimately these things can only be found in God. Therefore, we conclude that since people are seeking these things they must be seeking after God. People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while at the same time fleeing from God himself. We are, by nature, fugitives.”

People do not seek God unless His Spirit works in their hearts and Jesus revealed the kind of work the Spirit would accomplish. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, he would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (see: John 16:8).

All of this emphasis fits with the way Jesus repeatedly called people to deny themselves to follow him. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24).

Steve Cornell

Are you a cantankerous Christian?

Mrs grumpy...“They’re hard to please and quick to complain.” This is what I was told about people who attend Bible conference centers. I heard the same report from a waitress about groups of Christians who frequent area restaurants.

The director of a conference ministry informed me that this was a common problem in his line of work. A manager of a similar ministry indicated that her experience in a secular conference center resulted in far less complaints. She said, “Christians were more difficult to please and had more complaints.” Our waitress friend (though herself a Christian), said that Christian groups have the same reputation with the waitresses where she works.

Do these reports bother you as much as they do me?

Perhaps non-Christians hold Christians to an unreasonably high standard. This is probably true in some cases. But those informing me of the problem are Christians. They have no axe to grind and are saddened by what they’ve witnessed. They regularly observe a disturbing reality about the attitudes of their fellow-believers.

While no particular group is solely the problem, at the risk of offense (which is not my intention), another common factor among a large percentage of the disgruntled is old age. I am not sure what to make of this. I know that I don’t ever want to be the proverbial grumpy old man who is not happy with anything. 

Whether old or young, ask yourself if you’re known for being cantankerous and irritable or gracious and grateful.

Complaining is a sin. Yes, you read it correctly — sin. The scripture specifically says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). We are also instructed to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Ungratefulness leads the way when the heart turns away from God (See: Romans 1:21-28).

Christians have experienced such amazing grace from God that we should be overflowing with gratitude and humility. The culture tells us to demand our rights and expect nothing but the best for ourselves. Christ tells us to serve and bless others. We should be distinguished by a gracious disposition, not a grouchy and demanding one.

How will people believe our message of hope when our lives don’t reflect it?

We all have bad days when we’re not the most cheerful persons. And there are proper ways to express disappointment with inadequate service. Yet we need to become more mindful of our witness for Christ if our attitudes are creating a negative reputation.

So if you’re a critical, crabby, and demanding person (young or old), please don’t tell people that you’re a Christian.

Revisit the words of Jesus, “For who is the greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Steve Cornell

Formula E429 could change your life!

One of the best ways to improve our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other.

Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to ugly tones of grumbling, whining; impatience, frustration and defensiveness.

Think of how many times we could defuse a situation by choosing better words and tones. Parents especially need to ask if their words and tones set the right example for their children. 

Use Formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. The formula is based on Ephesians 4:29 – “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).

Then apply a large dose of the first two characteristics of love: “Love is patient, Love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).

This could literally change your life and the lives of those close to you!

WARNING LABEL

This advice comes with a warning about how easily we excuse our attitudes, words and tones by pointing to the difficult people around us. Remember the basic truth that the only person you can change is yourself. But by working on self-correction and experiencing personal change, we can powerfully influence others. So if you feel stuck in a bad place, find ways that you can change your attitudes, words and tones. But start with the words and tones you use because this discipline will make you face and confront your attitudes and emotions.

Recognize how all of this change fits under the work God is doing in your life based on these truths:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV).

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13).

I have work to do. Will you join me?

Steve Cornell 

See also: Spiritual Depression

The glory of ordinary lives

il_340x270.505798718_omb6We need more emphasis on the glory of living ordinary lives for Christ. Perhaps it could become the new radical!

The emphasis we’ve seen on being radical Christians could lead to a feeling that what is ordinary is either boring or some form of compromise. This could then produce a larger chasm between what the Church says and the way most people must live day by day.

It also has the potential of threatening the joy of daily life with the spirit of discontentment that promoted the sin of Eden.

Listen to the way people tell you what they do.

  • “I am just a mom.”
  • “I am just a mechanic.”
  • “I am just a waitress.”
  • “I am just a ….”

On and on it goes. But maybe there is no “just” with God? Or, more likely, God is found in the “just.” Jesus asked, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Needed message 

    • “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT).
    • “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14, NIV).

I fear that we’ve lost touch with the glory and joy of being called to faithfulness and diligence in the ordinary routines and duties of life. What would life look like if we renewed our zeal to “… be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

I think of Jesus’ emphasis on serving God quietly in secret places. “Be careful” He said, “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).

We need renewed zeal for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, employers, employees, — just common followers of Jesus Christ living ordinary lives for an extraordinary glory.

tumblr_mrwo0aVE5W1qcdaeho1_500“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Have we lost touch with the joy of ordinary, non-glamorous devotion to God and others because we’ve lived with an “If only….” spirit of restlessness? Have we overly radicalized wholehearted love for God and our neighbor by separating it from daily faithfulness in mundane but necessary duties?

Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

Jesus required unconcern for status as a kingdom virtue. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).

“Stop being un-amazed by the strange glory of ordinary things” (Clyde Kilby).

Steve Cornell

Get perspective!

It’s easy to lose perspective in a fallen world. Have you ever had a time when processing life became difficult? A time when you found it hard to keep a good and godly perspective?

There are many examples in Scripture of godly people who lost perspective about God and life.

Servants of God like Job (Job 3:10-13,16); Moses (Numbers 11:13-15); Elijah (I Kings 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:1-10), all lost perspective so badly that they wanted to die.

Perspective (or how we choose to see things) can make a big difference in the quality of life.  We can’t always choose our circumstances but we can usually choose our perspective toward them.

Some life-controlling perspectives

1. Discouragement

Maybe you’re discouraged. Life has been hard and you’re having trouble seeing through your difficulties. Discouragement, at a deeper level, is a loss of perspective.

2. Negativity

Do you expect the worse to happen? Do tend to see the dark side of things first? Perhaps through setbacks or disappointments, you’ve even become very negative, cynical and sarcastic. You’re looking at life through the lens of pessimism but you feel like your just being realistic.

3. Anger

Are resentment and anger your primary lens for life? Perhaps you always have a slow burn under an outwardly pleasant veneer. Anger can erupt at any time and rule your life. Is anger an occasional disruption or the way you process most of life?

4. Complacency

Have you become complacent? Perhaps you’ve just stop caring because you feel that caring doesn’t help and often leads to hurt. Maybe you’ve drifted from God and you no longer take spiritual matters very seriously. 

5. Self-absorbed

Are you all about yourself? Is life about how you feel and what you want and you, you, you? Does it always have to be your way and about you?

All of these involve perspectives — ways of seeing things or construing life. What is your general outlook on life? Does you feel like your attitude is caught in a bad flight pattern? If you’re stuck in one of the perspectives above, you might need some counseling to help you move forward (some perspective sessions).

And please remember that your perspective not only affects you. All of those who must relate with you or who are under your influence are affected by your perspective.

How to keep a good and godly perspective

My recommendation for maintaining a good and godly perspective is as simple as it is profound. And it might change the way you approach the Bible and thus change your whole outlook on life in a way that conforms to God’s will.

We simply must recognize that all Scripture was given for perspective formation.

Consider what the Apostle Paul taught about the origin and role of Scripture: 

II Timothy 3:16-17

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to:

  1. teach us what is true and
  2. to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
  3. It corrects us when we are wrong and
  4. teaches us to do what is right.

God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

God’s Method

God’s method for changing you is that you “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Ephesians 4:23 describes it as being “made new in the attitude of your minds.” God is committed to changing your outlook, attitude or perspective! (cf. Philippians 2:3-5).

Romans 14:13 specifically challenges us regarding this:

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about (προνοιαν) how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 

The italicized words in english come from a greek term which means “a pro-visionary way of thinking.” Another translation says, “make no provision for the flesh” (NASB). Another says, “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (NLT)

To overcome sinful attitudes, perspectives and emotions, one must see things differently. One must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” How does an appropriation of Christ to one’s life (clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ) offer a different pro-visionary thinking? How does it provide a gospel-based outlook that counter-veils the wrong way of thinking?

Two Provisions from God

Perspective is often closely associated with personality or temperment. Transformation in this area doesn’t mean that we all become the same personality type or temperament, but that we all yield our personalities and temperaments to the transforming influences of two divine provisions:

  1. The Spirit inspired Word – all Scripture.
  2. The Spirit indwell community - the reinforcement of godly perspective through connection with our local Church.

Notice that the Holy Spirit is the agent of spiritual transformation (see, II Corinthians 3:18) and His two primary instruments are the Word (Scripture) and the Church — the community of believers (see, Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

We believe that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself and His ways of dealing with His creatures. Apart from it, we’re reduced to subjective human opinion and speculation about God, life, suffering, death and eternity. We would have nothing that offers univocal and universal authority transcending human culture and opinion. We would have many human stories but no original story to shape perspective. The Bible provides this for us!

Of course, the Bible was not originally written to us – but it was all written for us. And it presents God’s dealings through different times of history — which means we do not apply all of it the same way. We must “rightly handle it” (II Timothy 2:15).

So when reading the Bible, some things relate specifically to the original recipients (and seem foreign and strange to us) —-but from the text emerges truths that transcend time and culture! (Examples: II Corinthians 1:3-5, 8-9; 4:16-18; 12:7-10; James 1:1-5).

When you enter the Bible, I am encouraging you to see it as a “perspective formation session with God.” Your personal devotions offer a time to get perspective or to maintain godly perspective. 

Again, all scripture is given for perspective formation.

Three unique perspectives 

What the Bible offers is different from positive thinking books or other material in that it confronts us with:

  1. Vertical truths for the horizontal issues of life
  2. Eternal truths for the temporal circumstances of life
  3. God-centered truths for the self-centered default mode of life.

The Bible also answers really important questions about origin, meaning, morality and destiny. 

Remember that behind actions, emotions, and attitudes are ways of thinking (perspectives) that fortify the actions, emotions, and attitudes.

Why do I do this? (you’re struggling with habits and actions). Why do I feel this way? (you’re struggling with emotions). What we need is counter-veiling ways of thinking (perspectives) to confront ways of thinking that hold us in destructive ways of life. This is the role the Bible fulfills.

Loss of perspective must be challenged by daily perspective forming sessions with God.                                        

Don’t try this alone

We cannot do this alone. God designed that we flourish in community not in isolation. We must allow others to speak into our lives to reinforce vertical, eternal, God-centered perspectives. The Church is God’s ordained place for this to happen. 

When we lose perspective, we’re tempted to travel in the company of those who share our outlook. “Misery likes company.” To maintain good and godly perspective, we need to travel with people who reinforce it (see: Hebrews 10:24). 

Steve Cornell

Audio clip: Heart, mind and emotion

Marriage advice worth taking

 

When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love, but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved, but truly valuing each other, then they will find the path to deep and meaningful companionship.

And, as a result, they usually experience the feelings of love that come with the choice to love. But don’t confuse this order or love won’t last very long. 

For more on this subject: 

Steve Cornell

What does it mean to be a new creation in Christ?

Human beings cannot exist in civility without laws and law enforcement. But laws alone cannot address our deepest needs. We need more than external changes to our social and political circumstances. 

Inner change is necessary if we hope to address our deepest needs. 

But we can’t produce this inner change in ourselves or in others. According to Scripture, we need a divine recreation or a new creation by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) — for the restoring of the image of God in us.

We need the God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” to “make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

We need to be reconciled to God to become a “new creation” in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). And it follows that, “all this is from God” (II Corinthians 5:18), because it cannot be from us.

But what does this new creation look like?

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person” (II Corinthians 5:17). Then we learn that, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (II Corithians 5:17b, NLT).

  • What does this involve?
  • What does the “new life” look like?

We know how we become a new creation in Christ. This is explained clearly:

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. … For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:19,21).

  • But what does this change look like in my life?
  • Or, What should it look like?

Perhaps the best way to explain the change is through the previous verse: “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (II Corinthians 5:15). 

This is a radical re-orientation of life because of our deep compulsion to live for ourselves. When Jesus called people to follow him, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23, NLT).

The words rendered “turn form your selfish ways” are very strong. Jesus was not saying that we just need to think of others a little more. These words point to self-renunciation. And this fits with the imagery of daily taking up your cross. This is an abandonment of self; a renouncing of self or death to self. Radical? Yes. But also liberating! 

My greatest challenge in life is me or ME.

Me, myself and mine! This new person in Christ where the old life is gone and a new life has begun is observed when I no longer live for myself but for Christ, who died and was raised for me.

I am tempted to live for myself on three levels. I can find myself alternating between them when I make life about me. 

  1. Self-indulgent
  2. Self-pity
  3. Self-congratulations

The truth is that life lived for self is a prison not freedom. I realize that the message of our culture is the opposite. The message of hopelessness tells us to “Make life all about yourself!” “Live a self-centered or self-absorbed life!” But the new person in Christ is distinguished by the opposite. And in this life of death to self and self-giving we find joy as we return to the image of the One who created us and who humbled himself for us so that we live. 

Mediate on these words:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:3-11)

Lean into these provisions and promises:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (II Corinthians 3:18). “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (II Corinthians 1:21-22).

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires (Galatians 5:16-17, NLT).

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:24-25).

Steve Cornell

(See: Is self-love our greatest need?)

Sin is wrong and dumb – a form of self-abuse

Here is a deeply insightful reflection from one of my favorite authors, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. It’s a bit long but well worth reading and discussing.  

“The shortest and clearest way to state the relation between sin and foolishness is to say that not all foolishness is sin, but all sin is foolishness. Sin is both wrong and dumb. Indeed, wherever foolishness is playing, sin is the main event. Sin is the world’s most impressive example of foolishness.”

“What is it about sin that makes it so foolish? Sin is the wrong recipe for good health; sin is the wrong gasoline to run human life on; sin is the wrong direction and the wrong road to get home. In other words, sin is finally futile.”

“Pride, for example, is futile because self-fascination is so often unrequited. Moreover, pride is subject to the tolerance effect, the law of diminishing returns: the more self-absorbed we are, the less there is to find absorbing.”

“Robert Roberts adds that the pride project in human life – the attempt to become our own first cause – is carried on by people who are riven with the knowledge that though they may be gods, transcendent above the rest of creation, they are also worms and food for worms. We live with the dreadful contradiction lying drugged and groggy in our bosoms: the need to be heroes and the fact of being worms.”

“Whats more, we try to resolve this contradiction by adopting another: we try to exalt ourselves by meeting other peoples standards of acceptability. What would be the point of doing thunderous slam dunks or of performing rock songs if everybody just yawned? Our goodness (being known, admired, envied) depends on the standards and opinions of people just as riven as we are. ‘Stars are really only moons,’ says Roberts, ‘drawing upon and reflecting the light of others.'”

“Pride is the first and most popular form of idolatry. But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly. All idolatry is not only treacherous, but also futile. Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy. If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but undernourished, and that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.”

“Sad to say, this kind of thing happens all the time. People hungry for love, people who want to connect, open up a sequence of shallow, self-seeking relationships with other shallow, self-seeking persons, and find that at the end of the day they are emptier than when they began.”

“The whole project has been as idle and dehumanizing as the conversations on those dating-and-mating TV programs that explore the sump level of lubriciousness.”

“Beneath all their surface liveliness, the sadness of these programs is that they reduce their participants to mere leering silhouettes.
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“Sin is futile and therefore foolish. Georges Bernanos country priest remarks that Satan has involved himself in a hopeless program of swimming against the stream of the universe, of wearing himself out in absurd, terrifying attempts to reconstruct in the opposite direction the whole work of the Creator.”

“Thus, while moral evil is destructive, and sometimes infuriating, it is also in some way ludicrous. ‘Mere Christianity,’ says C. S. Lewis, ‘commits us to believing that the Devil is (in the long run) an ass.
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“Sin is folly. No matter what images they choose, the writers of the Bible say this again and again. Sin is missing the target; sin is choosing the wrong target. Sin is wandering from the path, or rebellion against someone too strong for us, or neglecting a good inheritance. Above all, at its core, sin is offense against God.

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“Why is it not only wrong but also foolish to offend God? God is our final good, our maker and savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest.”

“To rebel against God is to saw off the branch that supports us. As Richard Lovelace remarks, ‘to flee from God to some far country and to search for fulfillment there is to find only black-market substitutes: instead of joy, the buzz in your temples from four or five martinis; instead of self-giving love, sex with strangers; instead of a parents unconditional enthusiasm for you as a person, only the professional support of a fashionable therapist who will indeed pump up your ego whenever it loses pressure, but who also keeps his meter running.’”

“Rebellion against God and flight from God remove us from the sphere of blessing; these moves cut us off from our only invisible means of support.

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“Thus sin dissipates us in futile projects, but also in self-destructive ones. Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse. Promiscuous persons, for example, coarsen themselves. They disqualify themselves for the deepest forms of intimacy, the ones bonded by trust, and condemn themselves to social superficiality, as one of my friends once put it.”

“Something similar is true of liars and cheats. As Christopher Lasch remarks, ‘Whoever cheats his neighbor forfeits his neighbors trust, imprisons himself behind a wall of enmity and suspicion, and thus cuts himself off from his fellows.’”

“Envy – the displeasure at another’s good and the urge to despoil him of it-traps and torments the envier, turning his life into a hell of resentment.”

“Proud persons isolate themselves. Pride aborts the very possibility of real friendship or communion, namely, benevolence toward being in general. More basically, pride amounts to a kind of phantom wisdom. Because of pride, fools are unteachable. They know it all. You can’t tell them anything. They are wise in their own eyes – a sure sign of folly.

“Badly educated ministers who are both vague and dogmatic, off-key singers who insist on contending for solo parts, children of Israel who wander forty years in the wilderness because (already then) the men were unwilling to ask for directions, pinball enthusiasts who devote ten years of their adult lives to becoming the best player in their neighborhood tavern, rejecting every inquiry about the worthwhileness of this project with the remark that the inquirer must be envious – these and other standouts from the ranks of the foolish display one of human life’s most wondrous combinations: the stubborn combination of ignorance and arrogance.”

“The foolish, as the saying goes, are often in error, but never in doubt. Moreover, when their dogmatism is challenged, they increase it. Some of them give you a piece of their mind they can hardly afford to lose. Willfulness of this kind causes the foolish a good deal of misery and also prevents their escape from it. For to escape from a foolish line of thought or a destructive course of action, a person has to stop, admit he is wrong, turn around, head back to safe ground, and then try a new route.”

“As C. S. Lewis once said, ‘When we have gotten a wrong sum at the beginning of a sequence of calculations, we cannot improve matters by simply going on.'” 


“A proud person tries to reinvent reality. He tries to redraw the borders of human behavior to suit himself, displacing God as the Lord and boundary-keeper of life.”

“At bottom, the proud fool is out of touch with reality. For, of course, our wills are not sovereign. We are not really our own centers, anchors, or lawgivers. We have not made ourselves, cannot keep ourselves, cannot ultimately oblige or forgive ourselves. The image of ourselves as center of the world is fantasy – perhaps, in its sheer detachment from reality, even a form of madness.” (adapted from, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, By Cornelius Plantinga).