I yelled at my daughter the other day. Truth be told, it wasn’t the first time. Though I want to become a more peaceful mom, I often find my own sin getting in the way. Like me, you may have sinful habits and patterns that get in the way of enjoying the peace God promises. Some of these may plunge you into prolonged periods of guilt. How can you remain confident of God’s fatherly love, despite your own frequent failings? John Piper has an interesting take on this problem.
To the fallen saint who knows the darkness is self-inflicted and feels the futility of looking for hope from a frowning judge, the Bible gives a shocking example of gutsy guilt. It pictures God’s failed prophet beneath a righteous frown, bearing his chastisement with brokenhearted boldness:
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light. Micah 7:8-9, ESV
This is courageous contrition. Gutsy guilt. The saint has fallen. The darkness of God’s indignation is on him. He does not blow it off, but waits. And he throws in the face of his accuser the confidence that his indignant judge will plead his cause and execute justice for (not against) him. This is the application of justification to the fallen saint. Brokenhearted, gutsy guilt.1
Join me in admitting that you’re not a perfect person—that you have sins and failings too. As you do that, make a promise to yourself and to God that the next time you stumble, you will not wallow in guilt. Let’s accept God’s discipline, realizing that he is acting as a good father should. Instead of giving in to the enemy’s lies, let’s throw them back in his face, trusting in God’s unfailing love.
(1) John Piper, quoted in Josh Etter, “Learn the Secret of Gutsy Guilt,” Desiring God (blog), accessed May 13, 2011, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/learn-the-secret-of-gutsy-guilt.
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What are you afraid of? Your children getting kidnapped? A stock market crash? Public speaking? Spiders? Snakes? Bedbugs? The dentist? Heights? Failure? Flying? Rejection? Crowds? Darkness? Job loss? Illness? Affliction? Old age? Death? Whether our fears are triggered by creepy crawly creatures, being shut up in small spaces, or things that go bump in the night, all of us are afraid of something.
We know, of course, that some fears can be useful. For instance, if you are approaching a precipice, fear will cause you to stay clear of the edge, preventing a headlong fall. Fear of becoming incapacitated in old age may encourage you to adopt a healthy diet and a more active lifestyle. Fear of failing might motivate you to work harder.
Fear is not a problem unless it begins to control us. Being controlled by anything or anyone but God is a miserable, life-destroying experience. It keeps us locked up in our heads, unable to live the life we were meant to live or use the gifts we’ve been given.
Fortunately, we are not left to battle our fears alone. Pastor Rick Warren points out that there are 365 “Fear nots” in God’s Word—one for every day of the year. It seems obvious, he says, that “God is serious about you trusting Him.” The next time you feel assaulted by fear or anxiety, don’t try to battle it by yourself. Get out your Bible and find one of these verses. Remember that Paul calls God’s Word “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Take hold of that sword today, and with God’s mighty power, stand strong against the fears that threaten your peace.
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Most of us live in a world populated by people who don’t think like us. Either they don’t believe in Jesus at all or they don’t believe in Jesus the way we do. How can we live at peace with others even when our values and aspirations are worlds apart?
I like what John Piper has to say about the importance of daily being “stunned by grace in our lives.” As he told the staff at his church one day, “If we aren’t amazed by grace towards us, we will be a finger-pointing church mainly.” According to Piper, the key is to be more amazed that you are saved than that others are lost.(1)
Though I don’t care for finger pointing in general, I think Piper’s focus offers a healthy antidote to the notion that to get along with others in our multicultural, multi-theological world, you have to throw out your brains and your beliefs in order to pretend that all religions are equally valid.
Because some in the church have been harsh and condemning in their treatment of people who don’t think like they do, it is tempting to conclude that disagreeing is always wrong. Better to keep peace by skirting the issues, pretending they don’t exist. But that would be foolish. Instead of buying into an ideal of political correctness, we need to learn how to contend for the faith in a way that persuades, not merely through the power of our words, but also through the power of the love we put into those words.
Our goal as Christians is not to win arguments but to spread the gospel so that others might join us on the side of marveling at the stunning grace of God.
(1) John Piper, “How Do You Remain Humble?,” The Christian Post, May 6, 2011, accessed May 13, 2011, http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-do-you-remain-humble-50129.
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Okay, it’s time to learn a little Hebrew. Mitzvah is a Hebrew word that is translated “commandment.” But unlike the word commandment, which may sound onerous to many of us, mitzvah has a positive connotation. Rather than being a dreary burden, doing a mitzvah is more like an opportunity, a chance to bless God and participate in his work by blessing someone else.
Let’s take a look at another Hebrew word: tzedakah. It’s a specific type of mitzvah. The word tzedakah is sometimes translated “charity,” but this is somewhat misleading since tzedakah is considered an obligation—something that justice requires—rather than something people do out of the kindness of their hearts. As with many other ethical matters, Jewish rabbis have had countless discussions regarding the importance of tzedakah, identifying eight degrees of giving. The lowest degree is to give grudgingly. The next degree is to give less than you should but cheerfully. The eighth and highest degree is to give in a way that enables others to support themselves.
Many Jewish people have tzedakah boxes in their houses, where they can set money aside to be given to those in need. The rabbis say it’s not just giving that’s important but how you contribute. Give away your time and money with a smile and an attitude of respect, and you will have done a mitzvah. Give it with disdain, and you will have lost your mitzvah.
As Christians, we are called by God to participate in his work by giving to those in need. It’s a way of spreading his peace, extending it to others. Perhaps you can remind yourself of this opportunity by obtaining your own tzedakah box, depositing money every week that you intend to give to those in need.
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