What does postmodern mean?

A helpful review for understanding cultural changes in our times.

Wisdomforlife

We live in a postmodern world. Or, so we’re told. What does this mean? Postmodern is a word used to describe changes in way people think — especially the way they view truth and reality.

Understanding post-modernity requires a review of modernity and the pre-modern world. What are the main differences in these eras?

Pre-modern, modern, post-modern

The pre-modern era was one in which religion was the primary source for truth and reality. God’s existence and revelation from God were widely accepted in the pre-modern world.

In the modern era, science became the predominate source of truth and reality. Religion (and the morality based on it) were arbitrarily demoted to a subjective realm.

In the postmodern era, there is no specific defining source for truth and reality beyond individual preference.

Post-modern

In postmodernity, relativism and individualism are radicalized and applied to all spheres of knowledge — even science. Truth…

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14 Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual discipline is essential for spiritual maturity. We don’t reach maturity in our own strength (it is the work of the Holy Spirit), yet we are not passive recipients of God’s work in us. Spiritual maturity is the by-product of a spiritually disciplined life that is lived in constant dependence on God.

Challenge yourself in these disciplines and you will develop a deeper love for God.

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Seven Disciplines of Abstinence — Letting go — (I Peter 2:11- putting off)

  1. Solitude – Spending time alone with God. In our incredibly busy times, we need to prioritize alone time in the audience of One. This is indispensable to spiritual growth. Perhaps we must let go of some of our busyness.
  2. Fasting – Abstaining from food to express our dependence on God. Fasting is meant to be an act of humbling oneself before God to seek His help and deliverance. It is often associated with repentance (Deuteronomy 8:3-5; Matthew 4:2;6:16-18).
  3. Denial – Intentionally denying yourself certain legitimate pleasures to find your sufficiency in God and/or a higher fulfillment in God (Matthew 16:24-26).
  4. Sacrifice  Giving of ourselves and our resources beyond what seems reasonable to express our dependency on God (time/service/money). C.S. Lewis has written: “… if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to…

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Are you a social cannibal?

The analogy with cannibals works because these are the kind of people who feed on weaknesses in others to feel good about themselves.

Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of another person, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous being in their company because you might end up in their pot.

Wisdomforlife

Some people enjoy bad news about others. They enjoy bits of gossip and slander. You might want to keep your distance from people like this. 

These are people who give you a feeling that they wouldn’t mind hearing a little bad news about you. They are social cannibals

The analogy with cannibals works because they’re the kind of people who feed on weaknesses in others to feel good about themselves.

Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of other person, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous being in their company because you might end up in their pot.

This tendency starts early in life as siblings tattle on each other and find pleasure in seeing a brother or sister get in trouble. But don’t think that the behavior is left with childhood. Many adults are just as guilty — albeit in more refined…

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True followers of Christ

life-change_wide_t.jpgJesus pronounced a series of eight blessings on a certain kind of person (Matthew 5:1-12).

These eight blessings (which we call beatitudes) present in logical, interrelated sequence the character qualities of normal Christianity.

They offer a description of true followers of Jesus.  If this seems like a tall order to place on the beatitudes, I ask who it is that Jesus described?

If you meet someone who claims to be a Christian but shows little evidence of these qualities (of this fruit of the gospel), either he or she has accepted mediocrity in their commitment to Christ or the absence of these qualities indicates that the tree is bad because there is no fruit.

Such a person is not to be understood as a true believer but more likely belongs to the group of people who profess Christ but do not bear fruit expected with their profession. This is the large group of self-deceived people (Jesus described in Matthew 7:21-23) who (at judgment) will be shocked when the Lord rejects their professed association with Him.

It’s a plain fact that Jesus outlines in these beatitudes essential character qualities of true Christians. This is normal Christianity. These are the people identified as salt and light (see: Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus said, “you are the salt…” and “you are the light…” and we must not lift these two identity markers from their context. Those described in the beatitudes are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Character proceeds influence.

Look more closely at true followers of Christ through the lens of the beatitudes

It all starts here

The journey with Christ begins with poverty of spirit (Matthew 5:3). It’s a recognition of emptiness that comes from the humbling truth that I have nothing to commend myself to God. The Christian life begins where this beatitude. There is no salvation encounter with God apart from poverty of spirit. We know that God “resist the proud and gives grace to the humble” ( I Peter 5:6).

The one who is poor in spirit has become aware of his spiritual emptiness and complete dependence on the grace of God. He stands empty handed and without pretense before God. He is like the tax-collector who beats his chest and pleads for mercy as a self-confessed sinner (see: Luke18:10-14). Coming to such an awareness is a sources of sadness. It leads to mourning and sorrow over sin. This experience of brokenness has led to a spirit of meekness, a different outlook toward others.

  • “I am amazed that God and man can think of me and treat me as well as they do” (Lloyd-Jones).

There is a gentleness that now shapes all my relationships. Recognition of my poverty of spirit over which I have morned has left a vacuum in my soul. So I find that I have a hunger and thirst for what God says is right. It is an unquenchable passion to be right with God and live right for God.

Yet I feel a strong inward pull in two directions. The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh (cf. Galatians 5). This inner turmoil often causes me to groan within myself as I eagerly await the redemption of my body (cf. Romans 8). Sometimes I give in to the flesh but I cannot totally yield the members of my body as instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6). They are now instruments of righteousness.“God is at work in me to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

I cannot ignore this hunger and thirst. It is not just a desire to “do a little better next time.” God’s Spirit now compels me and works in me this hunger and thirst to be made into Christ’s image (cf. II Corinthians 3:18). The prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is the driving force and focus of my life.

I cannot fill myself with what I long for. I must be filled. So I turn to God and to His word which he has inspired and is profitable for training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16). This is “the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13) that reveals the will of God for which I hunger.

I turn to God and I am satisfied but I am compelled to turn again and again. If there is a period of my life where I fail to seek him through prayer and his Word, I feel a dryness, and emptiness – a longing to return to His righteousness in all I say and do.

Perhaps you have noticed how in the first four beatitudes how I have stood in need before God and reached certain conclusions about myself. The consciousness of what I have recognized about myself before God has caused me to hunger and thirst for His righteousness.

I now lift my eyes out across the horizon of humanity and see people entirely different. I see people with an eye of mercy. I see them now with these same spiritual needs before God. I see the multitudes as my savior did when “…he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Being a follower of Christ leaves no part of life unaffected. Recognition of my spiritual poverty has led to mercy for others; mourning over sin has led to purity of heart; meekness provides a disposition for peacemaking; my hunger and thirst for righteousness is so compelling that I am persecuted for that righteousness.

  • The final blessing on those who are persecuted, “seems to be rather different from all the others in that it is not so much a positive description of the Christian as an account of what is likely to result because of what has gone before and because the Christian is what we have seen him to be. Yet ultimately it is not different because it is still a description of the Christian. He is persecuted because he is a certain type of person and because he behaves in a certain manner. The best way of putting it, therefore, would be to say that, whereas all the others have been a direct description, this one is indirect. ‘This is what is going to happen to you because you are a Christian’, says Christ” (M. Lloyd-Jones).

Persecution comes precisely because the other character qualities are present. And Just as we would not say, “Only some Christians are poor in spirit,” or, “only some Christians are meek,” or, “only some Christians are merciful and peacemakers,” so we would not say, “only some Christians are persecuted.”

Conclusion

So here we find a logical sequence of interrelated character qualities of normal Christians. If what is portrayed here is normal Christian experience and character, and your experience and character lacks this description, some soul searching before God would be wise.

Steve Cornell

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Blessed are the persecuted?


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  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Would you refer to one suffering persecution as a blessed individual? It seems quite odd to most of us. So in coming to the eighth and final beatitude of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, we arrive at a most unexpected pronouncement from our Lord. ““Blessed are those who are persecuted”?

  • Here are people declared by our Lord to be “blessed” when they are insulted, persecuted and falsely maligned with all kinds of evil against them. How unusual for them to be commanded to, “Rejoice and be glad!”

Unexpected truth

We certainly would not expect the eighth beatitude to follow the seventh. How could those described as “peacemakers” become persecuted? For that matter, do we expect the poor in spirit, meek and merciful to be so fiercely opposed? How could their lives be so provokingly different that others want to persecute them, insult them, and falsely say all kinds of evil against?

These words are so unexpected because we have a natural tendency to shield ourselves from persecution and insulate our lives from hardship. We prefer to avoid opposition. We pursue paths of least resistance. We want to minimize the pressures and burdens of life. And we consider ourselves blessed when we don’t have hardships.

We say: “I was blessed with good health.” When things go well and we are trouble free, we say: “God’s blessing was with us.” We simply do not consider it a blessing to face opposition and hostility.

We find the words of James 1:12 a bit unexpected – “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial…” It would seem more likely for us to say, “Blessed is the person who has no trials.”

Don’t forget to teach this

We must not underestimate the importance of what our Lord is saying. Like so much of His teaching, he startles us with the unexpected. And if we leave this part of his teaching out, we might encourage people to turn to God to be free from all the troubles of this life.

Some people turn to Christ partially motivated by this desire to be released (not so much from the burden of sin and condemnation) but from the trying circumstances of life.

Have you ever heard the recklessly irresponsible invitation, “Come to God and your troubles will be over!”? It is true that the weight of guilt and despair associated with our sin is lifted at salvation. The horrible burden of a condemning conscience is removed when we are forgiven by our Lord.

Blessing that leads to trials

With exclamatory worship, the Psalmist declared, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity…” (Psalm 32:1-2). This is a real experience for those whom the Lord forgives. Yet it should never be thought to insure the removal of the troubles of this life.

When Jesus described various responses to the gospel, he spoke of people who “hear the word and at once receives it with joy.” Yet something was lacking because our Lord said, “they last only a short time.” What happened to these joyful recipients of the gospel? Jesus said, “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (see: Matthew 13:20-21).

Jesus anticipated superficial reception of the gospel on the part of some. But he also anticipated the possibility of trouble or persecution associated with receiving the gospel. When it becomes too costly the self-seeking followers fall away.

Those who have worked in evangelism and discipleship are all too aware of this response.

Jesus wants it to be clear that hose who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (verse 6); those who live by the prayer “thy will be done on earth as it in heaven” (6:10); those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (6:33), will be persecuted “because of righteousness” (for living by God’s standard of what is right) (5:10).

When Jesus says “blessed” he is not referring to their temporal emotional condition but to divine approval of their lives. He is also declaring them to be “highly honored and privileged.” They are to anticipate a great reward in heaven!

Unlike the first seven beatitudes, Jesus expanded on the eight one. He did this in verses 11-12, by personalizing it. He moved from the more general third person address used throughout the beatitudes to the second person form of address. He said: “blessed are you…”

These blessed followers of Christ are targets of three forms of abuse – ridicule (cast insults at you), persecution, and slander: (they say all manner of evil against you falsely). The reason for being treated this way is not only “because of righteousness” (living by God’s standard of what is right), but with very personal words, Jesus said, “because of me” (in direct relation to your commitment to Jesus) (cf. Matthew 10:40-42; Acts 9:1-5; Matthew 25:34-40).

Jesus later warned His followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. … Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also… They will treat you this way because of my name…” (John 15:18-21; cf. Colossians 1:24; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 1:29).

You cannot live a life of serious commitment to Jesus in a world under the rule of Satan without sooner or later engaging in conflict and experiencing persecution. It’s not just possible; it’s inevitable.

After the apostle Paul listed negative characteristics in the lives of unregenerate people in the last days, he wrote, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

And this reception by the world of unbelievers for the followers of Jesus is as inevitable as His reception. And the faithful steward of the gospel will not leave out this message when they call men and women to Christ, it is the message of the cross (cf. Matt.16:24).

Suffering for Christ is an unavoidable reality of discipleship to Jesus. The apostle Paul told the new disciples of Antioch “to continue in the faith” understanding that “through many hardships we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. I Thessalonians 3:3-4).

While it is true that the church of Jesus Christ throughout her history has known periods of rest and tranquility where she enjoyed the favor of God and men, persecution has been more common. The persecution doesn’t calm the zeal of Jesus’ true disciples. It doesn’t break their loyalty or dissuade their faithfulness. It ignites the zeal!

This is what happened because of a great persecution described in Acts 8. Most of the disciples were scattered from the safety of the home Church in Jerusalem. But those who were scattered “preached the word wherever they went.” This was the time when “Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison” (see: Acts 8:1-4).

A reality of salvation

The reality of persecution this is linked deeply to what takes place in our lives at salvation. The scripture tells us that: “God called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). says: “You were once in darkness, now you are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8). Jesus said, “He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The basic orientation of the unbeliever is to live in the darkness of sin and unbelief. It is the self-centered, self-indulgent life. We have much more than an external behavior problem or inner psychological challenge. The Bible tells us that the problem of humanity goes to our very nature and will. Before we receive God’s gracious gift of salvation, “we are by nature children destined for wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

We are people with a God-resisting nature. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5), but the verdict over our lives is “light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil and, apart from God’s intervention, we will not come into the light for fear that our deeds will be exposed (see: John 3:19-20).

Light of the world

It is not coincidental, that our Lord moved from the subject of persecution to a focus of the disciples’ influence as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16).

When Jesus said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house,” He addressed a temptation that has always challenged Christians. It’s the temptation to self-protectively Christianize our lives to insure minimal contact with unbelievers. It’s a temptation to bushel the light, to monasticize the church. We feel this temptation because those who are “the light of the world” are a source of conviction that “exposes the deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).

The apostle John wrote: “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you”(I John 3:13). The apostle Peter challenged a group of persecuted believers to, “Remain zealous for good.” (I Peter 3:13). He saying, “Don’t retreat. Don’t hide. Don’t bushel the light. Take the light to the darkness and let it shine! Live lives like well-lit cities on a hill that can’t be missed! let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:14-16). But living this way means that we should expect opposition.

We must realize that persecution comes in various degrees and forms. It could be mild ridicule or social separation (Luke 6:22 – “they ostracize you”). Or, we might be the objects of hatred, slander, and false accusations. Sometimes when your testimony for Christ is known, unbelievers will put you under intense scrutiny and constant criticisms. Persecution can even come for simply living out biblical standards of hard work, honestly, reliability and going the extra mile.

Many experience the daily tension of either living or working with people who have an ungodly value system and morality.

  • D.A. Carson wrote, “…even the Christian who come from a secure and understanding home will face flak somewhere. Perhaps at work, he will discover that some of his colleagues are saying of him, “Well, you know, he’s a Christian; but he carries it a bit too far. He won’t even cheat on his income tax. The other day when I offered to slip him a company binder that I knew he needed for his private papers at home, he turned it down. When I pressed him, he said that taking it would be stealing! And have you ever seen his face cloud over when I tell one of my jokes? What a prig!”

Some people live in the same house with unbelievers and this can be especially difficult. Sometimes the unbeliever doesn’t want to see the Bible around or will ask you not to bring up religion when people visit. They might also bring unsaved friends over and create an ungodly atmosphere in the home. There are untold numbers of ways a believer could experience persecution.

How should we respond?

Rejoice and be glad (cf. Acts 5:17-42)! Your present suffering has significant future and past connections. There is a great reward in the future! The apostle Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18; cf. II Corinthians 4:16-18; I Peter1:6-9).

Then there is a noble link to the past, Jesus said, “for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Consider these prophets. There is Elijah, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah…” Your sufferings are not new. Perhaps this is who the writer to the book of Hebrews has in mind when in he wrote of others who…

  • “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:36-38; cf. Matthew 23:34; Luke 11:47-51; Jamaes 5:10).

Considering our great and noble heritage, we are compelled with Isaac Watts to say: “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas? Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood? Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?”

Christian living involves both an historic and eternal perspective. Jesus said to keep one eye on the future and one on the past. “Great is your reward in heaven for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you, rejoice and be glad.”

Steve Cornell

Posted in Blessed by God, blessing, Christian worldview, Christianity, D. A. Carson, Disciple-making, Evil in the world, False accusation, Persecuted, Sermon on the Mount, Suffering, Teaching of Jesus, Trials, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

10 truths about God

People need a wider frame of reference about God. Like the idols of Athens, much in our culture obstructs the knowledge and glory of God. We have a calling to make God known…

Wisdomforlife

  • The answer will not help the man who has lost the question. 

For many people, God seems to be increasingly irrelevant to the pressing concerns of this life. Life on the horizontal level so often distracts people from vertical realities of God and eternity.

Perhaps part of our missional challenge is helping people understand connections between God and the horizontal issues of daily life in this world.

A starting point relates to God as our Maker. God created us and therefore knows what it best for us. We were created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). We were made to live in a dependent relationship under God’s loving rule. Man is not meant to live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

People need a wider frame of reference about God. Like the idols of…

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Amazing Grace

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