Home > Christian Civilization > A More Coherent Coherence?

A More Coherent Coherence?

So I originally meant this as a reply to MWS’s insightful comments but it got long and turned out to express what I’d been trying to express from the beginning, so here’s a kind of part 2 which is hopefully a lot more comprehensible.

Part of my thinking- and if you followed Mrs. Peel’s blog, you’d know this post was planned for awhile- has been due to a desire to address a few issues that sometimes trouble me or seem like serious atheist objections.  Namely, I have trouble envisioning, as I said, a world where we’re free, but not free to go wrong.  You can explain the fall with that line, but then how do you explain salvation/heaven/the New Jerusalem.  Like, ok…why doesn’t he fall again?  What’s gone on in the interim to change the situation?

Along those same lines, I’ve always been slightly piqued by the atheist quip about heaven sounding dull.  Part of the reason the whole “fortunate fall” thing has caught on among atheists, and part of the reason, for instance, so many people see Lucifer as the real hero of Paradise Lost despite Milton’s intentions, is because it’s very, very difficult to imagine a meaningful world without conflict.  Extremely difficult.  I mean, almost impossibly difficult.  I’m reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling now, and he goes on about being “shattered” by the story of Abraham- well I’ve been nearly shattered in the past by the idea of a world without conflict.  It’s not that I can’t imagine it- I can.  I just sort of see the atheist point.   How do we get there…and like it?

And what I came up with, the more I thought about both of these points, was something like coherence.  Really, I thought about a story.  You know, try writing a story with no conflict.  To illustrate this, I actually planned to write one.  I got somewhere, but then couldn’t continue.  Here’s it is.

A man wakes up, alert but with just enough of the pleasant fugue of coming out of a dream.  He kisses his wife, who smells of lavender.  She tussles his hair fondly.  He gets his morning paper, reads about 6 kittens that are saved from a tree by an awshucks boy scout.  Smiles a bit, and sips his coffee which is strong and rich, with an aesthetically pleasing dollop of cream just vanishing beneath the brown liquid, and tumbling tendrils of heat touching his face.  Kisses his wife goodbye, lavender again; maybe he should save that scent- take the bottle- to see him through the day.

His office isn’t far; he’ll walk.  The morning breeze takes the edge off the coffee, and he’s feeling both warm and snug at once by the time he arrives, with a hint of that pleasant stretching strain that sneaks through your muscles after a walk that isn’t necessary.  The boss greets him at the door; he always does, and really he’s not a boss anyway- they’re collaborators.  The man’s been given authority and responsibility, but doesn’t shoulder the ultimate burden.  Like clockwork, when the clock strikes 5, he’ll head home; no overtime or missed holidays and soccer games.  But, now he’s working.  He has to help a young family get a new home, by convincing the bank they’d make good loan prospects.  They’re sitting there in front of him, smiling beatifically- the little girl tries to hand him a picture.  It’s a house, or something like one- an enormous red roof runs through a crooked blue square.  He’s touched.  The phone comes up- “the Melville’s are very deserving.  You would?  Terrific.”

They all three shake his hand- promising to send him a welcome mat as a reminder- and walk out the door.  Just then, the boss- the collaborator- walks in.  He heard about the deal.  “Really fantastic work!…A raise?  Why certainly!  How does 8% sound?”  8% sounded great.  Just enough to get the house fixed up, but not enough that the man would be tempted to buy a bigger place and stretch their finances.

As he leaves for lunch, he hears about a new cafe about a four minutes from his office building.  The co-worker who tells him comes along.  This co-worker is a fine fellow, with an easy laugh, but a fine sense of distance.  They only have lunch together every so often; a friend, but not a smother.  The cafe is just outside a park, where they can see kids- probably on some kind of recess- playing dodgeball with a fierce competitiveness that dissolves into back-slapping at the first sign of real tension.  They get a seat outside, so they can watch that vitality, adding to the nourishment of the food.  And boy is the food good.  The man gets a small order of chicken franchese- they actually have three sizes of everything, to accommodate your level of hunger- a dish his wife never makes.  It’s just buttery enough, and the lemon and wine have mostly dissolved into the rest of the flavors.

Etc.  And so it goes, ad nauseam, everyday, without any conflicts, however small.  But, even that sample doesn’t do it.  Because I have included conflicts- he has a job, and work.  He gets the satisfaction of completing the job, however easy it happened to be.  And there are rewards.  The raise, for one, which actually does something: he fixes up his house.  Which presumably was unfixed before (a conflict).  I’m not even sure I could write a story that included none of that sort of thing.  But, if I could, I don’t think even competent/interesting writing could stop it from being dull.  And so I wondered.  I was trying to reconcile the fact that “the fall” was really a bad thing, with my intuition that not to have fallen seems like a not natural thing and, in some ways, dull, with the idea that when we get to the “big show” we’ll be in a prelapsarian type of situation and it will really be a good thing, and we’ll really stay there this time.  All while keeping freedom intact.   And so, like I said, I thought of coherence, and I thought of a story.  And I thought…huh, isn’t it odd how, really, there are only two times we can accept a lack of conflict in  a story; at the beginning and at the end?  How we actually seem to demand pristiness for bookends?  How stories just don’t seem to work unless we get one or the other, and usually both?

Which also seems to mirror the Christian story in odd ways.  You get the pristiness in the beginning- people are happy, life seems great, but then not so much.  And it seems as if these mini-falls, the beginning of the conflict, are both inevitable and a kind of punishment for some action.  And the only way you can get to pristiness again- your happy ending- is through this whole process.  At which point, you’re able to feel that the happy ending might stick- that they can keep to the path- because there’s this whole context that wasn’t there before.  You see this in life too- children can do things that seem totally tedious to adults.  They can play with the same blocks for hours on end or watch the same movie repeatedly.  They don’t need conflict.  They CAN create it, obviously- they’re impatient, spoiled, monsters at times.  But, they still have a remarkable level of wonder at things that just don’t fit into what we adults would see as interesting.  And when life’s end approaches- there’s a similar level of patience and content with a conflictless life, though a little more refined for the weathering.  All this bundled up with ideas of innocence and redemption was what I was trying to get at, and didn’t have time to, in that first essay.  Maybe I don’t have it exactly right.  Maybe I minimize the fall “as punishment”.  I don’t know.  That’s just sort of how I’ve come to think of it and, to me, it seems awfully coherent, without being especially rational.

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  1. MWS
    October 28, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Matthew,

    Interesting post/reply. A couple thoughts:

    1. Regarding the happy ending “sticking” and man not sinning in heaven, I think the quick answer is that our wills are perfected along with our bodies. In that sense, we’re better off than when we started (in the Garden) thanks to the redemptive power of Christ. Perhaps man was originally destined for such perfection even without the fall (though the point is moot, because God foresaw the Fall even ‘before’ He created time). I think in heaven there is freedom and even expression of the individual will, it just doesn’t manifest itself in sin, as the will has been purified.

    2. Regarding a life without conflict and the “tedium of heaven…..” I think the answer lies in an appreciation of our fallen nature. We have difficulty anticipating joy and satisfaction in things that don’t appeal to our sinful nature. As a race, we enjoy hoarding stuff, the envy of others, illicit stimulation, taking vengeance on enemies, etc….. In short, we sin because we love our sin . Otherwise, what’s the point? But in that (rather obvious) observation, we can understand that what we desire, what we consider desirable- or even acceptable- is somehow twisted, and so we can admit (even without the ability to articulate the alternative) that what we SHOULD take joy and fulfillment in seems somehow unnatural to us, and difficult to envision. For instance, we wonder if it might get boring worshiping God forever, because even on our most holy days, we have to make time for things that are just, well, more interesting to us.

    Again, I think this is a function of us being so far from where we were meant to be, we can’t really envision life as it was meant. We can get glimpses; the most “perfect” moment of my life- a moment of unalloyed joy- was my communion (at age 19). I cried like a baby (and I more or less never cry, and am rarely an emotive person in public). I could “live” with those moments lasting an eternity. I think as we move closer to God, heaven becomes a little more comprehensible (though still beyond our complete understanding here), and more desirable, even without the virgins……..

  2. mac
    October 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Although I’ve had the same thoughts, that heaven could be really boring, I think you and MWS make some excellent points. I especially like your example of the intense interest of children in things we find mundane. My son NEVER tires of digging in sand, playing with play doe, etc. I also love the point that MWS makes about the perfecting of our will.

    The only thing that I’d add is that it’s not about us; I think we sell short and can’t comprehend the glory of God. If God is who He says He is, and created all things, a God that can build order on a foundation of subatomic chaos, then I think we can have every confidence that He can make heaven interesting…way better than sand and play doe.

  3. Doug
    October 28, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Conflict is necessary in stories because conflict is such a fundamental part of who we are.

    We are at war with all the universe and with ourselves.

    A story without conflict isn’t something we can really even understand. We tend to boredom on things that exceed our mildest understanding.

    When final peace comes, conflict will probably seem nauseating and uninteresting.

    Today we’re in an age of smallness, we will one day enter an age of the sublime.

  4. MWS
    October 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Doug,

    “Conflict is necessary in stories because conflict is such a fundamental part of who we are.”

    Excellent point. Conflict is so much a part of who we are (in this fallen world) that we create it for its own sake. Conflict is the heart and soul of sports, reality TV, game shows, board games, computer games, most every children’s game, etc…..

  5. MWS
    October 28, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    mac,

    “The only thing that I’d add is that it’s not about us; I think we sell short and can’t comprehend the glory of God.”

    And that is what makes these discussions so difficult with atheists. They demand to understand God, and to make him predictable. “If God exists, then X must happen.” It’s what I’ve called Alex’s “Pink Poney” argument against the existence of God. The basic gist is that “If God existed, the world must/must not be like thus and so…” Basically, “I don’t believe in God, because I didn’t get a pink poney for my birthday!”

    If, on the other hand, God is omniscient, omnipotent, and stands outside of time- as we believe- how can we possible comprehend God? The most we can hope for- especially in this life- is to see through a glass darkly. But the atheists demand a “little god” that they can study and dissect like a worm. They demand- like Lucifer- to be elevated above God.

  6. MWS
    October 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    BTW, I look forward to the next installment:

    “A More Coherently Coherent Coherence?”

    😀

  7. October 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Oh, just you wait for the coup de grace: A Most Incoherent Coherent Coherence?/!. Like mac, I also really like your idea about the perfecting of the will.

  8. mac
    October 29, 2009 at 1:37 am

    MWS,
    I say this as one brother in Christ to another, when I read your comment about Alex’s pink pony argument against God, it occurred to me that you may have the same issue regarding the doctrine of grace. I think when someone is as smart as you, Matthew, etc., people that are accustomed to achievement, merit, etc., I think your pride makes sola gratia especially difficult to accept.

  9. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 1:51 am

    mac,

    I honestly don’t see the connection. Please explain that one further (and for goodness’ sake, don’t worry about offending…).

    Here is how I see it, very, very briefly.

    1. Grace is ABSOLUTELY essential to salvation. It is the sine non qua . Without grace, there……… is……… no…….. salvation.

    2. The notion of Sola Gratia, on the other hand, leads inevitably to high Calvinism (to my mind at least) where God is creating some for heaven and creating some for hell. If you have a way to reconcile the notions of free will and Sola Gratia, I’d like to hear it. To me, Sola Gratia implies that the individual does absolutely nothing to participate in his salvation. In that case, it would seem God is judging rather arbitrarily.

  10. Doug
    October 29, 2009 at 8:48 am

    MWS,

    Sola Gratia refers only to justification. We are saved by the act of Christ on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit that causes a spiritually dead person (me) to believe in the work of Christ.

    In sanctification there’s obviously a cooperation as the Christian is no longer dead but born again spiritually.

    As far as a logical necessity for Calvinism, Lutherans notice the Bible affirms both predestination (Ephesians 2:8-10) and God’s universal will that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Both doctrines are true in a mysterious and paradoxical sense that we can’t currently understand.

    As far as arbitrary judgment read Romans 9:10-16.

    I think Roman Catholicism sees a measure of sanctification as necessary for justification while Christians of the Reformation ascribe the entire work of justification to Christ on the cross saving sinners dead in their trespasses.

  11. mac
    October 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

    MWS,
    You’ve written in the past that we must cooperate with grace to be saved, we must endure. The problem is, no one (but Christ) endures to the extent of sinlessness and sinlessness is a requirement for salvation. Consequently, we are saved by the blood of Christ alone, by grace alone. Grace plus anything is not grace, but works.

  12. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    mac,

    Grace and works are not an either/or proposition. If we take James seriously, I think we are left to conclude that either works are necessary, or that a “dead faith” can save us. Given Christ’s depiction of the final judgement (the goats and the sheep), I think the true answer is the former. “Works” are but a manigestation of our cooperation with grace. We do not (can not) do it on our own (that is the heresy of Pelagianism), but I think Scripture is clear that we will be judged on what we do.

    And certainly we must endure to the end. We Catholics pray for the grace of “final perserverence.” St. Paul desribes salvation as a race- a process. St. Peter wrote quite bluntly that the person who never believed is better off than the person who believed but fell away. Now how could that be, if we cannot (of our own free will) surrender our share in the salvific work of Christ?

  13. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Doug,

    I pulled this from my favorite online Catholic Encyclopedia. The article on sanctifying grace is quite long (link below) and there is a separate (lengthy) article on justification, but do you think this is a fair assessment of what you are driving at?

    “The Church teaches that justification consists of an actual obliteration of sin and an interior sanctification. Protestantism, on the other hand, makes of the forgiveness of sin merely a concealment of it, so to speak; and of the sanctification a forensic declaration of justification, or an external imputation of the justice of Christ. In the presentation of the process of justification, we will everywhere note this fourfold confessional conflict.”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06701a.htm

    • Doug
      October 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm

      I think it’s a typical Catholic assessment but not an accurate one.

      Lutherans don’t view Christ’s sacrifice as hiding our personal sin but actually satisfying God’s justice for our sins.

      All sins are justified by Christ, not hidden, not obliterated. The penalty for all our sins have been finally and conclusively paid.

      There is nothing left to justify by our own works.

      Lutherans view salvation that requires works as undermining the completeness of Christ’s work on the cross. He defeated sin and didn’t need the help of our works.

      Lutherans believe no one has a complete obliteration of sin in this world. Lutherans believe Romans 3:23 is still true for every person alive.

      Sanctification is a humbler task of gradually conforming to Christ that is only perfected in death when we are transformed.

      • MWS
        October 29, 2009 at 6:41 pm

        Doug,

        Based on what you wrote, I think they are saying the same thing, just in different verbiage.

        In your view, Christ simply pays the debt (or “covering” in the sin, as the Catholic Encyclopedia put it). It is, as the article put it, “a forensic declaration of justification, or an external imputation of the justice of Christ.”

        But in the Catholic view, sin is (as you note) obliterated. We are returned to our orginial state of innocence. Instead of being merely “acquited” of the crime, the crime itself is- in a sense- “undone” (that’s my lame analogy, which may or may not hold up to the scrutiny of the Holy Inquisition).

        But sanctification and justification go hand in hand. Indeed, even our suffering can be part of our redemption, as St. Paul notes, in a rather mysterious passage, our suffering completes what is lacking in the cross. Not that what Christ did was somehow a failure, or came up short, but rather we must participate in the life, death, and suffering of Christ. We do this through our own lives and the sacraments.

  14. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Doug,

    The article I linked goes into a long discussion of the Catholic/Lutheran divide, and explains our side FAR better than I could.

  15. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Interesting sidebar:

    I just came back from my commercial bank, where I was discussing politics (as I often do) with a couple of the bankers. In a discussion of Kennedy, one of them said, “That’s what I can’t stand about the Catholic Church! You can be a rotten S.O.B. your whole life and then ask for forgiveness when you’re dying.”

    When then had a little discussion about grace. 😉

  16. Doug
    October 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    MWS :Doug,
    Based on what you wrote, I think they are saying the same thing, just in different verbiage.
    In your view, Christ simply pays the debt (or “covering” in the sin, as the Catholic Encyclopedia put it). It is, as the article put it, “a forensic declaration of justification, or an external imputation of the justice of Christ.”

    Well it’s a bit more than paying the debt. It also involves releasing us from a measure of the spiritual consequences of sin. Sin no longer scars our soul in the old destructive way. There is freedom from sin in Christ.

    But in the Catholic view, sin is (as you note) obliterated. We are returned to our orginial state of innocence. Instead of being merely “acquited” of the crime, the crime itself is- in a sense- “undone” (that’s my lame analogy, which may or may not hold up to the scrutiny of the Holy Inquisition).

    Well the consequences of the crime still exist in this fallen world. While our nature is gradually changed, we certainly aren’t innocent with full willpower to resist temptation. The full healing of our will and soul wait until death.

    But sanctification and justification go hand in hand. Indeed, even our suffering can be part of our redemption, as St. Paul notes, in a rather mysterious passage, our suffering completes what is lacking in the cross. Not that what Christ did was somehow a failure, or came up short, but rather we must participate in the life, death, and suffering of Christ. We do this through our own lives and the sacraments.

    I don’t recall Paul saying that. Can you quote the verse?

    In the Lutheran sense redemption is larger than justification. Redemption includes sanctification which Christians do cooperate with.

    In that sense Lutherans would say Christians cooperate in their redemption. They don’t however do anything to pay the debt for their sins as that is a finished work of Christ.

  17. mac
    October 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    mws,
    If you can lose your faith then you were never saved, because Christ said He will never lose any that the Father has given Him. Our works are done out of gratitude for Christ’s complete work on the cross. No one, but Christ, has or can perservere until death because no one, but Christ, has ever been fully without sin. Unless you are fully without sin, you cannot be saved. But no one, other than Christ, is without sin. Consequently, we can only be saved by Christ’s finished work on the cross.

  18. mac
    October 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    If you can lose your *salvation*

  19. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Doug,

    “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,”

    -Col. 1:24

    • Doug
      October 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm

      I think you could see how there’s room for a differing understanding of that verse.

      • MWS
        October 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm

        How do you you read it?

  20. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    mac,

    Christ doesn’t lose us. Christ never fails. But man does not surrender his free will when he becomes a Christian. I can point you to numerous passages of the NT that refer to salvation as a process, or exort final perseverence, or caution regarding falling away.

    But I’ll highlight one that is very direct and to the point:

    For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of (our) Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down to them.

    -2 Peter 2:20-21

    Now how can a saved person’s condition ever be worse than an unsaved person’s?

    • Doug
      October 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

      It’s not clear in that passage those who have knowledge of Christ are predestined.

      There’s a clear tension in the Bible between predestination (a solid Biblical doctrine that is actually named in Romans) and free will (also a solid Biblical doctrine).

      I’ve always found that theologies that attempt to reconcile these doctrines by human reason distort one doctrine or the other.

  21. MWS
    October 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    There is certainly a tension there, but what I was referring to is the notion of “once saved, always saved.”

  22. October 29, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Doug officially had the 100th comment ever on this blog. Congrats! (lol). Oh, and you guys are way more versed in theology than I am, so I’ll just leave you to this interesting discussion.

  23. mac
    October 29, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    MWS,
    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but my answer to 2 Peter 2:20-21 is again that many, including Satan himself, have knowledge of Christ. Knowledge of Christ doesn’t save you, trusting in God alone for your salvation, saving knowledge, does.

    Enduring until the end is important, if we are willfully disobedient after we are saved, there are consequences in the present and the eternal. Those who endure, who are obedient, will receive greater reward in heaven.

    A saved persons condition can never be worse than an unsaved person, because a saved person is never lost, Christ said so. Christ said that He will not lose even one saved person, so if you are ever lost then you were never saved. I can provide you with many scriptures to support this view. If you are truly saved you will have no desire to forfeit your salvation, there’s no loss of free will.

  24. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Mac,

    St. Peter isn’t simply talking about those with intellectual knowledge of Christ (like Satan). Let’s break this down:

    “For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of (our) Lord and savior Jesus Christ”

    Has Satan escaped the “defilements of this world”? Has any unrepentant, “unsaved” sinner “escaped the defilements of this world?” No. They can’t, how can anyone “escape the defilements of this world” without sanctifying grace? We are agreed that grace is necessary, and I think we can agree that people cannot escape the defilements of this world without it. So I think we must conclude here that St. Peter is referring to those who once were in a state of grace (as Catholics would put it) or saved (as you would put it).

  25. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 1:50 am

    Doug,

    “They don’t however do anything to pay the debt for their sins as that is a finished work of Christ.”

    So what must I do to be saved?

    • Doug
      October 30, 2009 at 5:58 am

      Acts 16:30-31

      Seems to answer that with ‘believe in Christ Jesus’.

      Further explication from Paul shows that belief is not a work of ourselves but a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

  26. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Matthew,

    I take it from your posts that you are Christian. Is there a particular denomination you belong to, creed you adhere to, etc….?

  27. October 30, 2009 at 2:39 am

    MWS,

    Nope. I’m a generic Protestant at this point and have been, essentially, all my life. But, I was Baptized Catholic and have always thought I’d end up back there. But, I’m not there yet in part because I’ve spent more time trying to understand Christianity, from the outside- to make sense of it for someone who’s not a Christian- then I have trying to firm up my feelings on particular doctrines. Mostly, I just haven’t had an opportunity to think about them seriously. I haven’t found any churches, around here, that spend much time on actual theology; it always seems they only preach feel-good, Luke Protestantism. I went to a church, for almost a year, where we literally didn’t go out of the Gospels once.

    • MWS
      October 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

      “Squishiness” has definitely been a trend in churches for some time. Many of the mainline churches have- in an effort to “affirm” everyone- essentially sent the message that “no matter what you do, you’re okay.” And so, many have taken them at their word, and emptied their pews, preferring other distractions on Sunday morning.

  28. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    MWS,
    The NIV translation of 2 Peter is different than yours, I’ll check the King James later. However, people can attend church their entire lives and never have a saving knowledge of Christ. Judas was a disciple and didn’t have a saving knowledge of Christ. You can lead a less sinful life due to your knowledge of Christ and still not be saved.

    No one fully endures, no one is fully obedient, the apostle Paul spoke of doing what he didn’t want to do, we are never fully without sin in this life. So if one is counting on their level of obedience to save them, they are lost. It is only by the covering of Christ’s shed blood that we are saved.

  29. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    mac,

    “However, people can attend church their entire lives and never have a saving knowledge of Christ.”

    Right. 2 Peter isn’t talking about those people. It is talking about those having escaped the defilements of the world. I don’t see how he can be talking about anyone outside of grace there, for it would be impossible for someone to do such a thing with grace.

    (mac) “the apostle Paul spoke of doing what he didn’t want to do, we are never fully without sin in this life.”

    Which is why we have the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) to restore the repentant sinner to his prior state of grace. Christ breathed on the apostles (just as God breathed life into Adam) and told them that whose sins they forgive, are forgiven in heaven, and whose sins they retain, are retained. (John 20:21-23)

  30. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    mws,
    What degree of endurance/obedience qualifies or disqualifies us from salvation?

  31. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    mac,

    Well, since only God knows the heart of man, only He can know with absolute certainty how is saved or not, unless He has chosen to reveal this to someone. That is why St. Paul wrote of his “hope” of salvation. Now this “hope” is not the same as “wish” rather a well-founded expectation that still falls short of certainty. While St. Paul also wrote, “so that you may know you are saved,” I think we need to take care not to exagerate what he meant by that, in light of what he wrote elsewhere. For instance, he worries in one passage (can’t recall exactly where) that he will stumble and fall short at the end.

    Now, we do have principles that we can apply, which the well formed conscience can use to discern his own heart as much as possible. The Church teaches that any “grave” sin, committed with full knowledge and full consent of the will, kills sanctifying grace in the person, and must be forgiven, typically in the Sacrament of Confession. What constitutes a “grave” sin is itself a lengthy discussion, but if you are interested, you can start here:
    http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect1chpt1art8.shtml

    On the more positive side, a good guidline as to what we should be doing (in addition to prayer and receiving the sacraments) are the works of mercy. The Church identifies 7 “corporal” works of mercy: feed the hunger, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And then there are the 7 spiritual works of mercy: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the sorrowful, and pray for the living and the dead. It’s not exhaustive of good works, of course, but it’s a great guide.

  32. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    correction:

    “only He can know with absolute certainty ***WHO*** is saved or not,

  33. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    “7 spiritual works of mercy: instruct the ignorant”

    Are you trying to score points with God by continueing this discussion with me? ;0)

    It turns out that we have a lot of company in debating the passage in 2 tim:

    “b. It would have been better for them not have known the way of righteousness: Peter described a picture that certainly has the appearance of people losing their salvation.

    · He speaks of those who have escaped the pollutions of the world.

    · He speaks of those who did this through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    · He speaks of those who had known the way of righteousness.

    i. Christians warmly debate the issue of whether or not it is possible for a true Christian to ever lose their status as a true Christian and fall away to damnation. Perhaps the best way of understanding the issue is to say that it is certainly true that those who appear saved – those who fit the description of Peter here – can end up in a place where it would have been better for them not have known the way of righteousness.

    ii. Regarding these, those with a Reformed perspective will say that they were actually never saved; those with an Arminian perspective will say that they were actually saved and lost their salvation. To divide along the lines of this debate – which focuses on things that are unknowable to outside observation – seems to fall into the category of being obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, as in 1 Timothy 6:4).”

    http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/6102.htm

    I’m coming at this from the reformed perspective.

  34. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    “Which is why we have the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) to restore the repentant sinner to his prior state of grace. Christ breathed on the apostles (just as God breathed life into Adam) and told them that whose sins they forgive, are forgiven in heaven, and whose sins they retain, are retained. (John 20:21-23)”

    The Holy Spirit prompts us to continually pray prayers of confession, but we are covered under the Christ’s work on the cross once and for all. The hope that Paul spoke of was an expectation, not a wish. The race that he’s running is one toward Christlikeness, conforming the will, not for salvation.

  35. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    mac,

    “Perhaps the best way of understanding the issue is to say that it is certainly true that those who appear saved – those who fit the description of Peter here – can end up in a place where it would have been better for them not have known the way of righteousness.”

    Two problems:
    1. St. Peter did not use the word “appear.” He did not write who appear to have escaped the pollutions of the world. He wrotes of those who have. Period.

    2. This simply punts the problem. Because now you have vacated the notion that we can be certain of our salvation. Can those who “appear” to have escaped know? Apparently not. So I am left to wonder, have I escaped the defilements of this world, or do I only APPEAR to have escaped the defilements of this world?

  36. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    mac,

    “The hope that Paul spoke of was an expectation, not a wish. The race that he’s running is one toward Christlikeness, conforming the will, not for salvation.”

    Yes, I described it as an expectation as well. As to your second point, being Christlike IS salvation. In our Gospel reading last Sunday (or maybe the Sunday before), James and John asked for positions of prominence in the Kingdom of God. After swatting aside their selfish request, Christ said that “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;” (Mark 10:39), which I take to mean as participating in (not just getting covered by) Christ’s sacrifice. We must “walk” where he “walked.” Suffer as he suffered. To be saved is to be Christlike, and vice versa.

  37. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    MWS,
    You’re hanging your hat on 2 Tim, a chapter that addresses false teachers.

    I’ll hang my hat on the words of Christ Jesus (with a big hat tip to my mentor Dr. Hank Lindstrom and his Eternal Security teaching).

    John 6:37

    “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me, I will no wise cast out.”

    Your claim is that Christ won’t cast you out, but that you can cast yourself out. That’s impossible given

    John 6:39

    “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that all which He hath given, I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.”

    “If any one saved person were ever lost, then Jesus Christ would be a liar because, He said in John 6:39 that He would not lose one. If just one person in all of history were lost, then Jesus Christ would be a liar.” Dr. Hank quote

    John 6:47

    “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath (possesses now) eternal life.”

    Eph 2:8-9
    John 3:16
    John 3:18
    John 3:36
    John 5:24
    John 10:28
    Hebrews 1:3
    Hebrews 9:15
    Hebrews 10:10
    Hebrews 10:14
    1 Peter 1:4-5
    Romans 3:27-28
    Romans 4:1-8
    Romans 6:23
    Romans 3:24-28
    Romans 4;5
    Romans 8:38-39
    Romans 11:6
    Galatians 5:2-4
    1 Cor 3:11-15

    The divine order is first salvation then works
    Eph 2:8-10
    Titus 3:5-8

    As believers (those who have been saved) God will punish us and or take us home prematurely
    Hebrews 12:6-8
    1 Cor 11:30-32

    1 John 5:13
    “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may KNOW you have eternal life.”

  38. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    mac,

    You’ve got a lot of versus to get through there. I’ll try to give a worthy response later tonight.

  39. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    If just one *saved* person in all of history were lost, then Jesus Christ would be a liar

  40. MWS
    October 30, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    mac,

    In the mean time (of me going through the whole New Testament) I would like to ask:

    Setting aside the meaning of the NT (which is what is in dispute here), Are you aware of anyone between the time of the Apostles and the Reformation that believed in the proposition of once saved, always saved, or Sola Gratia?

    Anyone who knew the Apostles, or knew the people who knew the Apostles, or knew the people who knew the people who knew the Apostles, or knew the people who knew…….. oh you get the idea…….

    • Doug
      October 31, 2009 at 1:05 am

      Augustine seems to have accepted Sola Gratia.

      In large part Luther accepted Augustine’s view of eternal predestination in its entirety without adjustment.

      • MWS
        October 31, 2009 at 1:37 am

        No, not in the sense of Sola Gratia. St. Augustine did not shy away from the notion of predestination for sure, but he did not obliterate free will like Calvin did, or neuter it like Luther did.

    • Doug
      October 31, 2009 at 3:32 am

      MWS :
      No, not in the sense of Sola Gratia. St. Augustine did not shy away from the notion of predestination for sure, but he did not obliterate free will like Calvin did, or neuter it like Luther did.

      I don’t think the evidence supports this. Augustine was poles apart from Pelagius.

      There are a long line of priests/monks that taught sola fide or sola gratia and were killed for it.

      Luther was hardly the first Priest/Monk to preach sola fide or sola gratia. He was just the first to preach it without being burnt at the stake.

  41. mac
    October 30, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    MWS,
    In a word, no. But that doesn’t shake me a bit because the enemies of Christ were/are quick to run in and blind people to the simple truth of the Gospel: it’s a free gift.

    So simple even a child can understand it, in fact, it helps to be a child.

    • MWS
      October 31, 2009 at 1:36 am

      Does that give you the slightest pause? Do you think that the Church- which Christ promised the gates of hell would not prevail against- so completely and miserably failed for 1500 years? Did God abandon mankind to mere human effort until the Reformation?

  42. MWS
    October 31, 2009 at 1:44 am

    mac,

    I don’t think I’ll get through all of your citations tonight, but let me address the main idea:

    “If any one saved person were ever lost, then Jesus Christ would be a liar because, He said in John 6:39 that He would not lose one.”

    Again, Christ did/does his role to perfection. He does not lose anyone. Nor does he obliterate free will. To my mind, this verse does not contradict the clear meaning in 2 Peter. The specific and precise verse should be guidance in understand the more vague and general verse.

    Incidentally, the verse you quote is from Jesus’s Bread of Life discourse. Do you believe that you must eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man to have eternal life?

  43. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 1:49 am

    The body of Christ did not fail, I believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work since Christ’s ascension, speaking to the contrite in heart who heard His voice, repented and were saved.

  44. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I receive communion at my church, Fishhawk Fellowship, where it’s taken very seriously but open to anyone who claims Christ as Savior and is in right relationship with Him. The bread and drink are symbolic of Christ’s flesh and blood.

    Here are Dr. Lindstrom’s “BELIEFS THAT MATTER.” I agree with him on everything:

    THE BIBLE:

    The Bible in its original documents is the inspired Word of God, the written record of His supernatural revelation of Himself to man, absolute in its authority, complete in its revelation, final in its content, and without any errors in its statements. (II Timothy 3:16; John 10:35; Psalms 89:34; Hebrews 6:18; II Peter 3:16)

    GOD:

    There is one God, eternally existent, creator of the heaven and earth. He is manifested in three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 9:6; John 14:9; I Timothy 3:16; I John 5:7; Genesis 1:2)

    JESUS CHRIST:

    The Lord Jesus Christ is fully God who took on flesh and dwelt on earth. He was sinlessly perfect and gave Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice by shedding His blood and dying on the cross. He then came back from the dead. This was to pay for all sins (past, present, future) for all who believe. (II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:9; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:10-14; Hebrews 9:12-28; Acts 13:38-41; I Peter 2:24; I John 3:5)

    THE HOLY SPIRIT:

    Being God, the Holy Spirit was and is present in all of the plan and work of God. He restrains evil; convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; regenerates all who believe in Christ; indwells, anoints, and seals the saved; and baptizes all the believers into the body of Christ. He controls the obedient Christians and empowers them for service, and He is the Divine Author of the Bible. (II Thessalonians 2:7; John 16:7-11; Titus 3:5; Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 12:13; John 16:13; I John 2:20-27; Ephesians 5:18; Acts 1:8; II Peter 1:21)

    MAN:

    Each member of the human race is fallen, sinful and lost, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for the salvation of man. The moment a person receives Christ as his Savior, immediately, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer who is sealed until the day of redemption. (Romans 3:23; John 3:7; I Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13-14; Luke 24:49; Titus 3:5)

    THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD AND THE FREE WILL OF MAN:

    God is absolutely sovereign and in His sovereignty He gave man a free will to accept or reject the salvation that He has provided. It is God’s will that all would be saved and that none should perish. God foreknows, but does not predetermine any man to be condemned. God permits man’s destiny to depend upon man’s choice. (I Timothy 2:4; II Timothy 2:13; I Peter 1:2; John 6:64-65; Acts 10:34; I Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:5-14; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9:30-32)

    REPENTANCE:

    Repentance in salvation means a change of mind from any idea of religion that man may have to accept God’s way of salvation. Repentance is definitely necessary for salvation and the following is a quote from the Old Scofield Edition of the Bible, Footnote No.2, and page 174. “Repentance is the translation of a Greek word (metanoia/metanoeo) meaning, ‘to have another mind’, ‘to change the mind’, and is used in the New Testament to indicate a change of mind in respect of sin, of God, and of self. This change of mind may, especially in the case of Christians who have fallen into sin, be preceded by sorrow (II Corinthians 7:8-11), but sorrow for sin, though it may ‘work’ repentance, is not repentance. The son in Matthew 21:28,29 illustrates true repentance. Saving faith (Hebrews 11:39, note) includes and implies that change of mind which is called repentance.” (Acts 20:21; Corinthians 7:8-10; Matthew 21:32)

    SALVATION:

    Man is saved by undeserved mercy through faith and nothing of man enters into his salvation; it is a free gift. Man’s efforts, regardless of how good or well intended, before or after salvation, have nothing to do with it. Salvation is by the finished work of Christ and nothing can be added to it. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 2:16; Romans 11:6; Col. 2:13)

    SECURITY AND CHASTENING:

    Every true child of God possesses eternal life, being justified by faith, sanctified by God, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and is safe and secure for all eternity. He cannot lose his salvation. However, a Christian can, through sin, lose his fellowship, joy, power, testimony, and reward, and incur the Father’s chastisement. Relationship is eternal, being established by the new birth; fellowship, however, is dependent upon obedience. (I Corinthians 3:11-17; Hebrews 12:5-11; I Corinthians 11:32-39)

    THE TWO BIRTHS:

    A true child of God has two births; one of the flesh, the other of the Spirit, giving man a flesh nature and a Spirit nature. The flesh nature is neither good nor righteous. The Spiritual Man does not commit any sin. This results in warfare between the Spirit and the flesh, which continues until physical death, or the return of the Lord. The flesh nature of the man does not change in any way with the new birth, but can be controlled and kept subdued by the new man. (John 3:3-7; Romans 7:15-25; Romans 8:8; Gal. 5:17; I John 3:9; I Peter 1:23; I John 5:18, I John 1:8)

    THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND RESPONSIBILITY:

    The true Christian is an ambassador of Christ, and is commanded by Him to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. As a child of God, the believer’s main responsibility in the life is to faithfully proclaim the gospel. As we are saved by faith in Christ, through God’s grace, so we live the Christian life by an obedient faith in God’s Word, being disciplined by His grace. (II Corinthians 5:14-20; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16; I John 15:8,16; Mark 16:15; I Thessalonians 2:4; Acts 1:8; I Corinthians 9:14-31; Colossians 2:6-7; Romans 6:16; Titus 2:11-12; James 1:22; Hebrews 10:38)

    THE TRUE CHURCH:

    The Church began with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and is composed of all true believers. The Holy Spirit baptizes all of us into the one body of Christ. Water baptism is not essential for salvation but is a testimony to the world. (Acts 1:8; I Corinthians 6:19-20; Acts 2:1-4; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:5; Acts 10:47)

    THE LOCAL CHURCH:

    The local church should be comprised of those who trust Christ as Savior. This assembly, therefore, is under the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit. The local church’s purpose is for worship, praise, prayer, fellowship, encouragement, and evangelizing the lost. The pastor/teacher is a man called of God. (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 14:21-23; Hebrews 10:22-25; II Timothy 2:1-2; Ephesians 4:7, 11-15)

    SATAN:

    Satan is a person, the author of sin, and he and his angels shall be eternally punished. (Ezekiel 28:15-17; Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelations 20:10; Matthew 25:41)

    THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST:

    We believe in the personal, pre-tribulational and pre-millennial return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (I Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9-11; II Thessalonians 2:1-8; Revelation 3:10; 4:4; Luke 21:36; Titus 2:13; Isaiah 26:17-21; 27:1)

    THE RAPTURE:

    The rapture is the next event on God’s calendar. Jesus Christ will descend part way from heaven with a shout. All living believers will be bodily caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The believer’s body will be transformed into his new resurrection body on the way up. The believer from this point on will be forever with the Lord. On the earth there will follow seven years of tribulation such as the world has never experienced. {I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I Corinthians 15:51-54; Matthew 24:15-22.}

    http://www.biblelineministries.org/aboutbtm.html

  45. MWS
    October 31, 2009 at 2:35 am

    mac,

    “The body of Christ did not fail”

    The Church is the body of Christ. That’s what the Bible says. If the Church botched the message of salvation, it failed.

  46. MWS
    October 31, 2009 at 2:39 am

    mac,

    “The bread and drink are symbolic of Christ’s flesh and blood.”

    That’s not what Christ said. You can search high and low in the Scriptures for ANY hint that the bread and wine mere symbols. In John 6, Christ refers to eating his body and drinking his blood about FIVE times. In every account of the Last Supper, he refers to “My body” and “My blood.” St. Paul said that whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup without DISCERNING THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST eats and drinks condemnation on himself. He further says that receiving unworthily is to sin against the BODY and BLOOD of Christ. The Church Fathers were unanimous in their understanding of the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood.

  47. MWS
    October 31, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Matthew,

    You might be on your way to your first 100 comment post!

  48. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Yes, the body of Christ and the church are one and the same, that’s what the Bible says and no, the church has not failed.

  49. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Three main Christian views regarding the bread and the wine during the practice of Communion:

    A) The bread and the wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. The Catholic term for this is Transubstantiation.
    B) The bread and the wine are unchanged elements, but Christ’s presence by faith is made spiritually real in and through them.
    C) The bread and the wine are unchanged elements, used as symbols, representing Christ’s body and blood, in remembrance of his enduring sacrifice.

    My experience resonates with B

    http://christianity.about.com/od/faqhelpdesk/f/whatiscommunion.htm

  50. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 2:56 am

    This is a good discussion that I’d like to continue, it’s always good to reexamine and think more about what one believes. I’m going to bed soon, still tracking Race412, dang Matthew is still so hard on Huck! I can’t believe the mess people are making out of that NY23 race.

  51. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 3:02 am

    MWS,
    BTW, I hope you take the time to read all the verses, I’d bet that you read at twice the speed that I do and I knocked them all out in about 20-30 minutes. And it is all of Romans 4 and 5.

  52. Doug
    October 31, 2009 at 3:37 am

    I don’t know why anyone tries to turn Jesus’s words into philosophy or symbol.

    The bread is his body, the wine is his blood. We have received our salvation from Christ’s death. Why should the reality of the Eucharist bother us?

  53. MWS
    October 31, 2009 at 3:39 am

    mac,

    Christ picked A) among your options. Scripture and the Church fathers will support no other position.

    If the Church didn’t fail, then how can you claim (indirectly) that they botched the plan of salvation so badly? The Church never preached once saved, always saved before the Reformation.

    I will read your verses Sat. I promise.

    You need to comment again on Race.

    • Doug
      October 31, 2009 at 4:09 am

      If by “once saved, always saved” you mean the perseverance of God’s elect saints than that certainly was taught before the Reformation.

      Once saved, always saved as a doctrine separate from predestination would seem to be very rare even during the Reformation. That particular concept didn’t rise in prominence until the late 17th century.

  54. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 11:41 am

    MWS,
    Christ spoke metaphorically in many cases throughout His teaching, I think He clearly did so again regarding the Lord’s supper. I believe the Holy Spirit spoke once saved always saved and that His sheep heard His voice.

    Also, given that our “righteousness is as filthy rags” Isa 64:6 and there are “none righteous” Romans 3:9-26, what can we add to salvation through Christ Jesus, how can we participate in our salvation.

  55. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 11:45 am

    how can we participate in our salvation?

    Good morning, BTW!

  56. mac
    October 31, 2009 at 11:53 am

    We ‘persevere’ because the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray asking God to forgive us, it is not of ourselves.

  57. MWS
    November 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    mac,

    Regarding the verses above:

    In Romans and Galatians, when St. Paul is writing derisively of “works” he is clearly talking about works of the law. The context of each of those verses is either addressing the transition from the old covenant to the new, or addressing gentiles in telling them they are not, and cannot be placed under the old law.

    The verses that discuss the necessity of grace, I see no contention in. We are agreed on the necessity of grace, I think.

    The verses in John, where it ties salvation to belief, must be taken within the context of the entire NT. What is meant by “belief?” You must admit, it is a rather ambiguous term without context. St. John cannot mean mere mental assent. Jesus said that not everyone who cries, “Lord, Lord” will be saved. St. James tells us the faith without works is dead. Can a dead faith save us? So I think you are reading too much of your own understanding of what constitutes belief into those passages, given the entire context of the NT.

    I want to especially highlight your citation of 1 Peter, because farther down the chapter, St. Peter says this:

    “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,
    so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (verses 6 and 7)

    “as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls.” (verse 9)

    “Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,” (verse 17- emphasis added)

  58. mac
    November 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    MWS,
    By all means, yes to works, but we can’t strive our way into heaven that work was finished by Christ on the cross. We can and should work our way to greater reward in heaven, but our eternal fate doesn’t rest on our works, or we’d all be lost.

  59. mac
    November 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I’m always encouraged when I take the time to read my devotions from Truth for life, so I’m going to post a couple that I think are relevant to this discussion.

    How Weak Are You?
    2 Corinthians 12
    A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches out to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I will overcome-my own ability and my self-confidence will be enough for victory,” defeat is staring him in the face.
    God will not enable the man who marches in his own strength. He who reckons on victory by such means has reckoned wrongly, for “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”1
    Those who go out to fight, boasting of their ability, will return with their banners trailing in the dust and their armor stained wi th disgrace. Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way and in His strength, or He will never accept their service.
    Whatever a man does, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casts away; He will only reap corn the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love.
    God will empty out all that you have before He will put His own into you; He will first clean out your granaries before He will fill them with the finest of wheat.
    The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength that He Himself imparts.
    Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and you are being humbled to prepare you for being lifted up.
    When I am weak then am I strong,
    Grace is my shield and Christ my song.
    1Zechariah 4:6

  60. mac
    November 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Renew a right spirit within me.
    — Psalm 51:10
    A backslider, if there is a spark of life left in him, will groan for restoration. In this renewal the same exercise of grace is required as at our conversion. We needed repentance then; we certainly need it now. We required faith that we might come to Christ at first; only the same grace can bring us to Jesus now. We needed a word from the Most High, a word from the lip of the loving One, to end our fears then; we shall soon discover, when under a sense of present sin, that we need it now. No man can be renewed without as real and true a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s energy as he felt at first, because the work is as great, and flesh and blood are as much in the way now as they ever were.
    Let your personal weakness, Christian, be an argument to make you pray sincerely to your God for help. Remember, David when he felt himself to be powerless did not fold his arms or close his lips, but he hurried to the mercy-seat crying, “renew a right spirit within me.” Do not allow the doctrine that you, unaided, can do nothing make you sleep; but let it be a goad in your side to drive you with an awful earnestness to Israel’s strong Helper. O that you may have grace to plead with God, as though you pleaded for your very life-“renew a right spirit within me.” He who sincerely prays to God to do this will prove his honesty by using the means through which God works.
    Be much in prayer; live constantly on the Word of God; kill the lusts that have driven your Lord from you; be careful to watch over the future uprisings of sin. The Lord has His own appointed ways; sit by the wayside, and you will be ready when He passes by. Continue in all those blessed ordinances that will foster and nourish your dying graces; and knowing that all the power must proceed from Him, do not cease to cry, “Renew a right spirit within me.”

  61. MWS
    November 6, 2009 at 12:35 am

    mac,

    Thanks for sharing those two devotions. I whole hearted endorse both. They actually read like they were written by some Catholic saint of days gone by. The second reads like a reflection on the sacrament of Confession, and could be read as one makes an examination of conscience before receiving the sacrament.

  62. mac
    November 6, 2009 at 1:17 am

    MWS,
    Glad you liked them, you can sign up for the devotions, too.

    http://www.truthforlife.org/

  63. mac
    November 6, 2009 at 1:31 am

    MWS,
    BTW, you did your usual, masterful, job at defending marriage over at race yesterday.

  64. MWS
    November 6, 2009 at 3:04 am

    mac,

    Thanks. That was a fun thread. Honestly, I was a little surprised at how easily Alex caved. He stopped addressing me well before the thread died.

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