Ian Stamps – The Discipline of Sacrifice
Dave Jenkins – Jesus Explains His Example (John 13:12-17)
Paul Tripp – Parenting is Gospel Ministry
Before having children, I worked for years as a camp counselor and as a teacher in a large public high school. Both arenas taught me the importance of discipline in a child’s development. Without structure and rules, summer camp would quickly devolve into some version of Lord of the Flies. Without order in the classroom, my students would never have the opportunity to learn.
Through my years of working with kids, five guiding principles helped me as a counselor, teacher, and especially as a mom. While not all methods work for all children, I’ve found these principles work for a variety of children, regardless of their age, sex, or disposition.
1. Teach proactively, rather than reactively.
Children need to be taught what is right just as much as they need to be corrected. Bible stories, daily events, and mistakes provide opportunities in various situations to ask, “What would be the right thing to do?” Allowing your child to communicate the proper course of action helps him to understand more fully than just hearing it from your lips.
When my kids were young, before entering a grocery store I would playfully ask, “Are we going to act like hooligans in this store?” Of course, they’d respond, “No!” Then I’d ask, “What does a hooligan do in a store?” They’d come up with all sorts of suggestions: running around the store, not listening to Mom, standing in the cart, asking for candy, yelling loudly, and a host of other silly ideas.
Proactively reviewing grocery store expectations beforehand greatly helped their obedience. Children need daily reminders on how to be a friend, how act in public, how respond to unkindness, and how to apologize. If we spend all our time saying “Don’t do that” without also saying “Do this,” our kids will grow increasingly frustrated, not knowing the correct choice to make.
A question that’s been nagging me: Would Anthony Weiner still have a political career if he hadn’t owned an iPhone?
Last week Weiner pled guilty to sending sexually explicit messages to a minor through his smartphone. His plea deal comes with probable prison time. Weiner, former Congressman and aspiring New York City mayor, told the court that his “destructive impulses brought great devastation to family and friends, and destroyed my life’s dream of public service.” Weiner’s political ambitions are shattered, almost certainly beyond repair, and his relationship with his children is imperiled. How would his story have been different if Weiner simply didn’t own a phone that could do what he used it to do?
Perhaps our first impulse is to dismiss such a question. We don’t usually think of the physical technology itself as operative in our sin. Wasn’t Weiner just a sexual deviant, and wouldn’t a sexual deviant find a way to satisfy himself regardless? But this response disregards the embodied nature of temptation. In a rush to label our technology as “neutral,” we often ignore the shaping effects it has on us. If our phones, social media, and iPads can condition us toward distraction and insecurity–and there is growing evidence they can–why would we be surprised to discover they can also make us more vulnerable to destructive desires?
There is an important difference between guilt and guilt feelings. The distinction is between that which is objective and that which is subjective. Guilt is objective; it is determined by a real analysis of what a person has done with respect to law. When a person transgresses a law, that person incurs guilt. This is true in the ultimate sense with regard to the law of God. Whenever we break the law of God, we incur objective guilt. We may deny that the guilt is there. We may seek to excuse it or deal with it in other ways. Still, the reality is that we have the guilt.
However, guilt feelings may or may not correspond proportionately to one’s objective guilt. In fact, in most cases, if not all cases, they do not correspond proportionately. As painful as guilt feelings can be—and we’ve all experienced the rigors of unsettling guilt feelings—I don’t think any of us have ever experienced feelings of guilt in direct proportion to the actual guilt that we bear before God. I believe it is one of the mercies of God that He protects us from having to feel the full weight of the guilt that we actually have incurred in His sight.
Just as there are objective and subjective aspects of guilt, so there are objective and subjective aspects of forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness itself is objective. The only cure for real guilt is real forgiveness based on real repentance and real faith. However, we may have real and true forgiveness before God and yet not feel forgiven. Likewise, we may feel forgiven when we are not forgiven. That makes the issue of forgiveness very sticky.
Jonathan Edwards had an intense fear of wasting time. Like, scary intense. Reading his resolutions always sobers me. I mean, what 19-year-old writes, “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump”?
But Edwards grasped something we too often don’t. He grasped that life is short and only meaningful if lived for God’s glory. He understood that wasting time is a symptom of taking our eyes off the gospel.
The problem is that we do take our eyes off the gospel, and that means we do waste time—especially us teenagers. Every day, in fact, we waste time. There are even certain time traps teens (even and especially Christian teens) fall into again and again. Let me show you five.
1. We waste time when we don’t do the things we should do.
As Christians, we’re called to a life of hard work and good deeds, but we’re tempted to neglect responsibility. Every day there are a thousand things we should do. From the mundane to the momentous, we have chores, homework, and jobs, as well as opportunities to read, play with our siblings, treasure a sunset, wash the dishes, pray, write, exercise, pick up milk at the store, and pursue the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).
Consider a person who exercises fastidiously and holds to a strict diet but also abuses alcohol and drugs. That kind of schizophrenic behavior would raise a lot of questions, and rightly so.
The same goes for Christians who carefully guard their spiritual diet but make no effort to avoid or eliminate sinful, spiritual toxins from their lives. Faithfully studying God’s Word is vital to our growth, but it’s not the only factor. We need to recognize sinful attitudes and motivations as carcinogens that can wreak havoc in our spiritual lives.
Right now, these sinful toxins could be poisoning your life, eating away at your usefulness, and causing all sorts of decay and destruction. Peter recognized the threat these sins pose to our spiritual health and commanded his readers to “[put] aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).
The King James translation of 1 Peter 2:1 tells us to “lay aside” all of these negative things. The Greek word used here actually means to “strip off your clothes.” It’s the same thing that is meant in Hebrews 12:1 where we are told to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.” Peter highlights five specific toxins we should strip out of our lives for the sake of our spiritual health: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
DOCTRINE: That to forgive enemies, and beg forgiveness for them, is the true character and property of the Christian spirit. Thus did Christ: “Father, forgive them.” And thus did Stephen, in imitation of Christ, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Act 7:59-60). This suits with the rule of Christ, “But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of God your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:44-45).
Here I shall first open the nature of this duty, and shew you what a forgiving spirit is; and then the excellency of it, how well it becomes all that call themselves Christians.
First, let us enquire what this Christian forgiveness is. And that the nature of it may the better appear, I shall shew you both what it is not, and what it is.
First, it consists not in a Stoical insensibility of wrongs and injuries. God hath not made men as insensible, stupid blocks that have no sense or feeling of what is done to them. Nor hath he made a law inconsistent with their very natures that are to be governed by it: but allows us a tender sense of natural evils, though he will not allow us to revenge them by moral evils. Nay, the more deep and tender our resentments of wrongs and injuries are, the more excellent is our forgiveness of them; so that a forgiving spirit doth not exclude sense of injuries, but the sense of injuries graces the forgiveness of them.
You 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 7:5)
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about hypocrisy. It is something for which I cry foul when it comes to the actions of others, but yet I seem to fail at identifying my own trials with this pernicious approach to life. As such, I was reminded of the words of our Messiah in Matthew 7:5, specifically the exhortation to remove the log in my own eye before trying to pinpoint a speck in another’s eye.
What exactly is hypocrisy? The standard dictionary definition is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.” A biblical definition is rooted in both one who worships God on the outside, yet inwardly has a heart far from God. Additionally, a hypocrite is defined as one who puts on a performance, a show if you will of loving God but doing anything but from the perspective of godly character and inward purity.
Basically, a hypocrite is a fake. A hypocrite is one who is included in the category of the ungodly. God detests this type of behavior. Steven Cole aptly notes that hypocrisy is “one of the most subtle and dangerous of sins.” The subtlety of hypocrisy is such that in the end, as noted by Jesus in Matthew 7:5, the hypocrite ignores the log that has grown in their eye.
Think about that for a second. A metaphorical tree has grown in their eye. This tree was likely not a transplant. It was planted as a seed, was water, and grew up to a size worthy of being labeled as a log. Little by little, this tree arose in the eye of the hypocrite. While large in size (at least compared to the speck being investigated by the hypocrite in the life of another), the hypocrite seemingly is unaware of the log in their eye. What a sad state of affairs.
While sad, I submit many of us to include myself have logs of hypocrisy growing in our lives. We water and care for these seeds of hypocrisy each time we maintain an outward appearance of godliness yet refrain from truly being obedient to the Father’s commands.
This issue of hypocrisy is one I am focusing on of late in my own life. Countless times I have stated I affirm something as true yet abstained or tried to find excuses from being truly obedient in my actions to what God has commanded.
Dealing with hypocrisy is not easy. We become comfortable in our hypocrisy as it is painful to admit this failure and it is hard to remove the log from our own eyes. However difficult, it is a must, not so we can pick out the speck in another’s eye, but so that we can do what we claim we are to be doing, namely being obedient children of God.
Do not merely trim the branches of hypocrisy. Completely uproot it.
 Steven Cole, “Lesson 12: What Hypocrisy Does (Romans 2:17-24),” Bible.org, June 4, 2013, accessed June 19, 2017, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-12-what-hypocrisy-does-romans-217-24.
The cry of our age is “busy.”
How are you? “Busy.”
How’s work? “Busy.”
How are the kids doing? “Their lives are so busy. I feel like I’m just a taxi driver.”
How was the shopping mall today? “Too busy.”
Can you help me? “I’m busy at the moment.”
The fast-paced busyness of life that pushes God to the margins can easily turn into burnout. Lots of us are crying out for ways of handling the busyness before it does.
Yet expectations of keeping up with everything continually escalate, courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, and the rest. We are all susceptible to the expectation that we always are available, aware of everything that is happening, and capable of achieving anything. Unsurprisingly, this demand to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent places pressure on all of us, whatever our level of social media dexterity.
In college, I had an English Literature professor who posited a hypothetical question to get us thinking. “What would God do if the devil in hell repented?” he asked. That question would then extend a bit further out—surely we cannot doubt God’s ability or desire to forgive repenting souls after life. I heard something similar a few years later in the writings of Rob Bell:
And so space is created in this “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” perspective for all kinds of people—fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God’s love. (Bell, Love Wins)
The problem, though, with Bell’s hypothesis and my English professors question is that it misunderstands the reason for folks being in hell in the first place. It creates an imaginary scenario where somebody would have gladly repented on earth if given the proper circumstances. What it inevitably ends up doing is putting the blame at the feet of God.