Biblical Eyesight Emerging Forefront
Many people struggle with different things over the Christmas season. Some grapple with keeping the true meaning of Christmas at the front of their minds. I know I struggle with this through all the gifts, the shopping, holiday cooking, putting up the tree, and the traditional holiday drive. Others struggle with having difficult family. For example: I have a son who is currently potty training and has a tendency to miss the miss the target, and a daughter who likes to help by putting everything in the trash can (keys, wallet, cell phone, you name it). While keeping Christ in Christmas and keeping my keys out of the trash tend to be an issue for me, it is not the biggest issue for me during Christmas. The biggest issue for me is gift wrapping. I stink at it. If you have noticed some of the images of the gift wrapping job I did today either you busted out laughing or you felt my pain. The majority of my family bust out laughing at me, and usually I stick to gift bags (you can see why). As I was wrapping these wonderful gifts for everyone I started to think about how we as Christians tend to think and practice spiritual discernment. Sadly, I this is an area where we need to do some serious work. Thinking is important to the Christian life. John Piper wrote:
Thinking is one of the important ways that we put the fuel of knowledge on the fires of worship and service to the world.1
Thinking takes us beyond the surface of our faith causing us to stretch ourselves even closer to God. What I would like to do is look at how gift wrapping and thinking relate by looking at three areas: big simple boxes, odd shaped items, and small objects.
When it comes to gift wrapping I have no trouble tackling the big box. Often in order to make like simpler I take a small item and put it inside a big box. Fox example: I gave my wife a pair of gloves, so in order to make wrapping easy I put it inside a box large enough to fit 36 inch TV set. It is not difficult to a roll of wrapping paper around a large item because they are similar in size. When it comes to thinking about big issues in the church today, often we do not struggle with formulating opinions with making sure others know how we feel. Abortion is one of these issues. I think we all can agree abortion is wrong, and our country needs a serious change of heart on the matter. The problem is we tend to focus on the problem and not the solution. We are comfortable standing outside a clinic yelling at those who go inside, but we are unwilling to pray for a woman is struggle with this painful decision. We have no trouble wrapping our heads around it, but we have a little desire to do anything about it. The problem with big issues is we tend to focus on the evil instead of looking how to do good.
Those who seek to draw clear distinctions between what is good and what is evil can spend undue time and attention on the evil. One of the greatest dangers of discernment is that we will become so interested in what is evil and ungodly that we allow ourselves to become immersed in it and inadvertently oppressed by the evil we encounter.2
Tim Challies hits the nail on the head. We focus on the evil, and we allow the evil to hold us back. Instead of looking at something and speaking out against is; ask yourself what can you do to make it better. There is no better question we can ask during the Christmas season.
I think all of us can say we struggle when it comes to odd shaped items like certain kids toys, Yankee Candles, and lamps out of the box. Often we just put it in a bag or find a box for it. This is what we do when it comes to difficult issues in morality and ethics we encounter believers. We usually do not think about it at all.
Proving that the church is suffering from a lack of discernment would be like proving that the sky is blue – it would be to prove something that is, unfortunately, obvious to anyone who cares to seek evidence of it. 3
This is similar to how we think about big issues, but these are typically a little more complex. The best example of I can think of is alcohol. Over the years the church has taken several different views on the matter. Personally, I have taken several views on the matter. I used to believe it was wrong to even be around the stuff, and believers should strive to stay away from places that sell alcohol. Today, I do not drink, but I do not see the Bible placing strong prohibitions on the stuff. Jesus did make more for a wedding party in John 2. I have done some soul searching, Bible reading, and prayer on this matter. It took me years to come to what I see as a more Biblical view on alcohol. Sadly, most allow their life experiences to determine our views on these types of matters. As believers God has called us to think about these issues, and strive to seek His heart and mind concerning them through His Word. The author of Hebrews had this to say to his readers:
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV
The problem he had with his readers was their refusal to think about larger issues. He wanted them to start chewing on some meat, but they were so lazy they preferred to stick with milk. If you want to grow stronger in your faith, take on some meat, and see yourself grow closer to God.
When wrapping small objects we take little time and paper. When it comes to our own personal lives we tend to take little time to see how we can grow and be more like Christ. We tend to focus on the big issues or dwell on the complicated issues, while ignoring our own spiritual lives as well. Jesus warned us not to do this.
3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 ESV
When it comes to others we are ready to point out their flaws in order to ignore our own. An example of this is sexual immorality. When we hear about someone who has cheated on their spouse we are quick to point out how terrible of person they are, but how many of us would be comfortable allowing someone to look at our web history? We allow the truth to be become relative when it comes to our personal lives.
People don’t embrace relativism because it is philosophically satisfying. They embrace it because it is physically and emotionally gratifying. It provides the cover they need at key moments in their lives to do what they want without intrusion from absolutes. 4
We don’t like it when people point out our flaws, but if we want to see ourselves grow closer to God we need to examine ourselves and think about where we can do better.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 ESV
Thinking is an important aspect to Christian. If we take the time to examine ourselves, unravel the big issues, and dwell on the big problems of our world seeing how we can make our planet better. As Christians we are called to take the next level.
There is no way to awaken faith or strengthen faith that evades thinking.5
If we want to grow in Christ, we have to think.
1) Piper, John; Mark A. Noll (2010-09-15). Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Kindle Location 170). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
2) Challies, Tim; John MacArthur (2008-03-31). The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (p. 144). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
3) Ibid, 38.
4) Piper 1365-1366
5) Ibid 872