Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Necessity of Repentance

He was going to die. There was no reason to prolong the inevitable. He had flirted with death long enough, and was running out of time. He had tried every other tactic imaginable–all of them to no avail. There was only one means of deliverance, but could he actually do it? There had to be some other way. But, there wasn’t. He had been struggling for hours–127 to be exact. This was the defining moment. Could he really cut off his own arm?

He did. Could you? Would you… if that’s what it took to save your life?

Last Thursday evening, I watched the dramatized documentary of Aron Ralston who spent 127 hours* trapped in a cold, dark canyon. Ralston was a young “canyoneer” living in Colorado–ambitious and care-free until that life-changing experience in April 2003. Like so many times before, he had gone spelunking without telling anyone where he was going. It was a great get-away from everything and everyone. A heart-throbbing date with solitude and adventure amidst the majesty of creation. However, unlike so many times before, something happened that changed everything. When descending into the crevice of Blue John Canyon, a large boulder dislodged and tumbled down alongside Aron, wedging his right arm between the boulder and the canyon wall. The physical pain was immediate, but the emotional horror set in more gradually.

There was no one around for miles. He was alone. Even worse, he had not told anyone where he would be. The predicament he now faced could not be overcome by the guiles of a seasoned canyoneer. Over the course of 127 hours, it took everything he had to simply stay alive–including drinking his own urine. Yuck! During those hours, he reflected on many things–the people he most loved, the experiences he most enjoyed, and the joys of a future that he may never experience. He thought of people and situations and conversations that he longed to have–and other things that he wished he had never said or done. His whole life flashed before his eyes, but the same conclusion remained… He could die in that canyon or he could self-amputate and experience the hope of another day.

Imagine the thoughts you would think as the conflicting emotions flood your heart and turn over your stomach.

As I’ve reflected on the movie that dramatized Ralston’s life-changing experience, I cannot help but be reminded of words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:27-30 on the topic of lust:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

His words are strong, and their implications difficult. The picture is meant to be disturbing. Jesus was speaking of the nature of sin and the danger that it poses to all who take it lightly. He illustrates the costly nature of true repentance by gripping the senses with a strong dose of hyperbole. He wanted his listeners to understand the relative discomfort of repentance as compared to the terrifying discomfort of hell. In other words, He wanted them to understand faith and repentance as “radical, life-saving amputation.” Embracing the gospel is neither cheap nor comfortable, but it is always good and life-giving. You see, sin has every intention of destroying us. It’s like spiritual gangrene that seeks to consume and poison from the inside out. Yet, there is hope. It is painful and costly, but it is hope, nonetheless. Our only hope for halting the life-destroying gangrene of sin is the gospel. When Christ went to the Cross on our behalf (Heb. 12:1-2), he dealt with our sin completely. He carried every ounce of the curse that we deserved; He bore the full extent of God’s wrath that had been stored up for us. And, in reality, the gospel cure is not nearly as painful and costly to us as it was to the One who has provided salvation of our souls.

In Mark 1:15, Jesus announces that the kingdom of God has arrived, and that through His coming, the day of salvation is at hand. He calls people to “repent and believe,” and in so doing, provides the means by which they might be freed from their eternal predicament–eternal condemnation before a holy God who abhors sin. They have a choice–turn from their sin and experience eternal life, or continue living in sin as they remain blissfully ignorant of their coming demise. The same reality is true of us. Spiritually-speaking, we’re all trapped by the boulder of our sin. We cannot dislodge it. But, we can embrace the only means of deliverance–faith in Jesus Christ. By turning from our sin and turning to Christ, we renounce the things of this world and embrace a lifestyle of living for the pleasure and glory of One.

That which gets us into the kingdom–faith and repentance–keeps us in the kingdom. God has called us to a lifestyle of faith and repentance, as we radically amputate anything that prevents us from a life centered on Jesus Christ. When our tongues cause us to sin, we restrain them. When our television or our computers cause us to sin, we get rid of them. When food and sex cause us to sin, we invite accountability and self-discipline.

Radical amputation is unpleasant. Yet, it’s the life of all who would treasure Christ alone. Some things are easy to amputate. Other things, not so much. By God’s grace, some boulders are easier to dislodge and the repentance seems rather routine. But, sometimes the repentance is all-consuming and requires every ounce of strength to sacrifice that which seems so dear to us. Yet, casting off that very thing might be the only means of truly saving our lives… If we are living for something or someone other than Jesus Christ. Sin and idolatry should have no foothold in our lives, as the Spirit will not tolerate the spiritual decay and ongoing disobedience of our hearts and lives. Rightly understood, imputation (the great exchange of Christ’s righteousness for our sin) leads to amputation (a radical embrace of Christ above all things). In the kingdom of Christ, there can be no competing allegiances–everything must be seen in relation to our beloved King.

What sort of life-saving repentance might God be calling you to radically-embrace as you seek to follow Christ?

May the Lord grow us in grace as we seek to treasure Christ, and may He empower us to self-amputate whenever that is necessary.

______________________

*[Disclaimer: There are various aspects of this movie that should render caution before viewing. It has a bit of colorful language and carnage, as well as two suggestive scenes worth skipping over. Here is the “Plugged In” review.]

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The Picture of A Godly Man

Have you ever been convicted by a “table of contents” page?

The first time that I opened Thomas Watson’s The Godly Man’s Picture, I was challenged about my own heart and life in relation to Christ and reflecting His character. Check out the way that Watson describes the characteristics of a godly man in his chapter headings. They are worth reflecting upon and asking God to instill such gracious traits into our lives.

A Man of Knowledge

A Man moved by Faith

A Man fired with Love

A Man like God

A Man careful about the worship of God

A Man who serves God not Men

A Man who Prizes Christ

A Man who Weeps

A Man who loves the Word

A Man who has the Spirit of God residing in Him

A Man of Humility

A Man of Prayer

A Man of Sincerity

A Heavenly Man

A Zealous Man

A Thankful Man

A Man who loves the Saints

A Man who does not indulge Himself in any Sin

A Man who is good in His Relationships

A Man who does Spiritual Things in a Spiritual Manner

A Man thoroughly trained in Religion [the Things of God]

A Man who walks with God

A Man who strives to be an Instrument for Making Others Godly

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Slaying the Dragon of Self-Pity

The Gospel Frees Us from Self-Pity

In his recent blog series on “The Pastor and Personal Criticism,” C.J. Mahaney unpacks many of the hidden blessings and subtle temptations that come as a result of criticism. While God uses correction to grow us in grace, the exposure of indwelling sin can be difficult to discern and destroy, except that we apply the gospel to the root of our struggles. It would do little good to attack the fruit when the poison remains buried within the root. As we’ll see shortly, the gospel contains the cure for our sinful condition because Christ stood in our place–He suffered the criticism (and punishment) that we rightly deserve and lavished on us the edification and exaltation (the many blessings) that were rightfully His.


(Source)

In his section on temptation, Mahaney refers to a penetrating article by William Farley, entitled “The Poison of Self Pity”.  In the article, Farley describes the subtle dangers of self-pity and how various disappointments lead to displacing Christ as Lord by enthroning ourselves instead. At the root of our struggle is idolatry and pride–an exaltation of self that is evidenced by two things: (1) an inaccurate sense of “who I am and what I deserve,” and (2) a forgetfulness of who Christ is and what Christ has done on my behalf. In other words, our ignorance and spiritual amnesia manifest themselves in an inflated sense of self and personal entitlement coupled with a forgetfulness and ingratitude toward God for His grace. Self-pity forsakes the functional reality of the gospel–that we deserve death and condemnation and that Christ alone deserves worship and blessing. Yet, Christ stood in our place in order to bear the weight of our punishment so that we might be reconciled to God and enjoy the vicarious extension of His reward.

In the simplest form, the cure for “the poison of self-pity” is the antidote of gospel gratitude. A right understanding of self and the saving work of Christ will produce an overwhelming sense of gratitude that will recalibrate our perspective. We will praise God rather than grumble at Him; exhibit joy rather than grow embittered; display humility and grace rather than anger and frustration. We will be God-centered rather than self-centered. We will seek to edify others instead of being consumed by our own frustrations and unfulfilled desires. Instead of seeking to be served by unloading our disappointment, we will seek to serve others by prayerfully ministering to them. In other words, our grateful, faith-filled embrace of the gospel will slay the dragon of self-pity that seeks to devour our lives.

As a man prone toward self-pity and sinful indulgence, I highly recommend both articles for your prayerful consideration. While Christ has redeemed us with His own blood, His work of curing us from self-centeredness has only been commenced; it has not been completed. It will not be fully realized until He returns. As recipients of God’s sanctifying grace, we are called to extend His grace toward others as we joyfully reflect the character of Christ who entrusted Himself to God, even while suffering the fate that should have been ours. While we may suffer hardships and experience unfulfilled desires in this life, we know that our Father is trustworthy and gracious. We know that He has given us the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide, and that all things are being used by Him to sanctify us toward perfection. And, we know that Christ has lived perfectly in our place and died purposefully as our Substitute. The very ways in which we fall short, He did not; and His obedience has been credited to us–freeing us from enslavement to self-pity and uniting us to God in gratitude and grace. THAT is the sweetness of the gospel in the midst of chronic disappointment and pain.

While these realities are not easy to embrace, we have a loving God who enables us to do so whenever we humbly come to the foot of the Cross and forsake ourselves in order that we might have Christ. He is willing and able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:14-21)… We must repeatedly preach these truths to ourselves and to one another, because we are prone toward self-pity, pride, ingratitude, and self-consumption. Let us trust God as He empowers us to die to self and live to Christ!

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Filed under C.J. Mahaney, Counseling, Self-Pity, Tribbett