Well, sorry yet again for such a long wait between posts. It's been tough to force myself to really sit and write some of the things on my mind. Most likely because there really hasn't been much new stuff going on up there lately. As promised though, I think I'll share a few thoughts on the current Jonathan Edwards book I've been reading "Religious Affections."
The book was written during the time when there was great revival going on in New England during the 1700's. It was because if this that Jonathan Edwards found it necessary to write about ways to discern between true and false devotion. The first two thirds of the book mainly focused on reasons why many of the signs of true devotion or spiritual sight may not in fact be real. The third section which I just started is focused on the characteristics of true religion. His main conclusion so far is that there is no situation in which we should presume to judge the eternal state of another persons soul, good or bad. The reasons for these guidelines for understanding true religion are to make our own calling and election sure. None but God can see the motives of someones heart. The only reason to judge another is to keep from falling into sin yourself.
One point that was brought up in the book was very interesting and has been on my mind for a while now. It's really the only point I want to focus on. What does the Bible mean when it says to make your calling and election sure? How does a Calvinist like Edwards understand a verse like that? How does he reconcile that kind of a verse to his belief in perseverance of the saints? Shouldn't a Christian simply rest in his salvation and trust that his sins are covered by the blood of Christ?
This seems like a nice thought, but aren't there a few problems with it? Should we sin freely and expect to be seen as righteous before God no matter what? How is a Christian who sins freely and feels secure in his salvation different from an atheist who sins freely and doesn't believe in the Christian ethic anyway? This is a big issue that Paul tackled in Romans. It was this dilemma that was on my mind and that Edwards addressed in a very interesting way when he proposed something I hadn't thought of. I'll be stating his thoughts in my own words, or at least the train of thought his words caused in my own mind, so to get his real meaning, just read the book yourself!
Isn't it interesting that no matter what your belief on eternal security is, sin always makes you feel like you've lost your salvation? Am I the only one? I struggle with very difficult sins just like everyone else. Wait, am I the only one? Anyone else? Moving on. Isn't it weird that when you go to church after blowing it big time, no matter what the pastor says about how much God loves you, you still feel like a low-life?
Shouldn't we just be able to swallow our guilt and believe the truth of our approval before God? This is what I've heard over and over. Believe that God loves you and you'll stop sinning! But here's an ugly truth, sin is a truth blocker. When you're in sin, you're mind closes itself to what God really thinks about you.
Here's another crazy thought... maybe God was wise enough to let life work that way. Maybe making our calling and election sure really is about "action." Maybe the "sureness" of our election in that verse doesn't have anything to do with how sure that God is about our election but about our own certainty. Maybe we need to use the grace that God has given us to actually do the right thing. If this is true, then how can you know that God loves you? Stop sinning! Does this mean we should be perfect? Does this mean we earn God's approval? Of course not. But maybe it means that the only way to really know God's approval is to live Holy?
Part of me wants to reverse this system of thought. Part of me wants to go back and say, NO! You have to force your brain to believe God loves you and then right action flows from that. Don't try to fix you're behavior until your heart is behind it! Yet, my experience says otherwise.
Does this mean that it's okay to stop believing God loves you? Of course not, but then that is the point isn't it? Sin is the greatest obstacle to embracing that belief. It is the great truth inhibitor. Sin must be overcome before the truth can be clearly seen. Maybe the fear of God's wrath when we are in sin is a legitimate motivation to overcoming our sin. I find that when I reject the fear of God's anger when I fall into sin, it makes room for the sin to continue. Yet, when I trust he's given me what I need to overcome and I do the hard work, fear has nothing inherently wrong with it.
Sin by it's nature is self perpetuating. It is the same way with victory over sin. Perhaps God in his wisdom has allowed sin to make us fear the state of our soul so that we would pick ourselves up and beg for his mercy rather than presume upon it. It is then that we overcome it and we see that God has loved us all along. We then can walk in victory and be sure of our calling and election along with those who are watching our lives.
Am I the only one that finds this provocative? I really haven't heard this kind of thing preached in a while. Maybe it offends people. I just know that it rings true to my own experience.
So what do I want you to take from this?
Well, maybe the answer to your besetting sin is to STOP SINNING! Does that sound harsh? I know it's not something I like to hear as someone who struggles with sin as much as the next man. Do I think God won't love us until we stop sinning? I wouldn't say that, but maybe we'll never really know he loves us until we do stop.
This of course leads to the question, how can we know God's love perfectly if we'll never be perfect in this life? Well, maybe that's true. Maybe we'll never know God's love perfectly in this life. But didn't we believe this already? Doesn't the Bible say we see in a mirror dimly? Also, doesn't that make Heaven an even better place to look forward to? A place with no sin where we will love God and know his love without any obstacles?