The actions of Adam and Eve in the garden after they had sinned tells us much about mankind. When they heard God walking in the garden they hid themselves. Man has been running from God ever since. Like an ostrich buries its head in the sand to hide from the lion so man attempts to ignore God. This strategy does not work out very well for the ostrich and it does not workout very well for mankind.
Man was created to know God. Man was created by God for God. So human life never works as it was meant to work apart from a relationship with God. And sin is to blame for this brokenness. Sin has caused a breach in man’s relationship with God. This ought not be.
The 1689 Confession explains, “To [God] is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator (2.2). The second question of the Baptist Catechism says, “Ought everyone to believe there is a God?” The answer, “Everyone ought to believe their is a God and it is their great sin and folly who do not.” James, the brother of Jesus, made the same point. He taught the simple truth that man ought to acknowledge God in all his affairs when he told man, “You ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).
The Way of Man
Man has a way of simply going about his business without reference to God. He says things like, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such a such a town and spend a year there and trade to make a profit” (James 4:13)
Man pays no regard to God in his daily life. He certainly takes account of many things that he might get to a 24 hour day. He considers the laws that he must obey. He stops the traffic lights and abides by the policies and the company handbook. He takes account of the power he will need to get through the day. He ensures there is fuel for his car, a charger for his phone, and food for his stomach. He pays attention to his friends. He hugs his wife and family, waves to his neighbor, and speaks with his coworkers. But where is his acknowledgement of God? Where is his obedience to God’s law? Where is his dependence upon God power? Where is his enjoyment of God’s friendship?
We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives.
The impulse is not hard to understand. Our lives are consolidated on our phones: our calendars, our cameras, our pictures, our work, our workouts, our reading, our writing, our credit cards, our maps, our news, our weather, our email, our shopping — all of it can be managed with state-of-the-art apps in powerful little devices we carry everywhere. Even the GPS app on my phone, which guided me to a new coffee shop today, possesses thirty thousand times the processing speed of the seventy-pound onboard navigational computer that guided Apollo 11 to the surface of the moon.
It’s no wonder we habitually grab our phones first thing in the morning, not only to turn off our alarms, but also to check email and social media in a half-conscious state of sleep inertia before our groggy eyes can fully open. If the ever-expanding universe is humankind’s final horizon outward, our phones take us on a limitless voyage inward, and we restart the journey early every morning.
I am no stranger to this instinctive phone grab, but I wanted to see if others shared this pattern, so I surveyed eight thousand Christians about social media routines. More than half of the respondents (54 percent) admitted to checking a smartphone within minutes of waking. When asked whether they were more likely to check email and social media before or after spiritual disciplines on a typical morning, 73 percent said before. This reality is especially concerning if the morning is when we prepare our hearts spiritually for the day.
Perhaps now, more than ever, Christians need wisdom to process the multitude of temptations to sexual sin with which they are confronted. While it is true that sexual sin has always been a problem in the church, there should be little doubt that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are a seemingly ubiquitous danger for Christians today.
The Puritans were well-known for their diagnosis of sin. In fact, it might be one of their lasting legacies. Some modern theologians (e.g. see this and this) have continued that pattern of examining the Christian life by seeking to uncover the root issues which lie behind our external sins. Of course, Scripture itself is the main source for uncovering both surface and root issues. Below are several biblical principles by which we may guard ourselves from sexual sin.
1. Sexual sin is idolatry: The Apostle Paul tells us this plainly in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry.” That is to say, sexual immorality–whether on a screen or in person–is a replacement god. Nothing should be more appalling and grevious for the sincere Christian, than to turn his or her back on Christ and bow down to another god. That is precisely what we do, however, in idolatry. We de-throne Almighty God and replace him with pornography; or fantasy; or adultery.
2. Sexual sin occurs when we fail to “keep our heart.” Proverbs 4:23-27 provides us with a powerful warning and encouragement to help us keep our hearts pure. “Keep the heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). The next verses tell us what that looks like: v 24 watch what you and others say; v 25 watch what you look at; v 26 watch what you think about and vs 27 watch where you go. That is to say, if we are not always keeping guard over our senses, we allow ourselves to become subject to wickedness. We strangle the ministry of the Spirit in our lives (c.f. Prov 4:23 & John 7:37), giving ourselves to impurity, through which the Spirit will never work.
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
The apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, exhorts the Gentile converts, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Although he had confidence in the Corinthians, that they were in general sincere in their belief, and members of the true church of Christ, yet he felt that it was possible that they might be destitute of the faith of the gospel — that they might have been imposing upon themselves, and were the objects of divine displeasure instead of their “life being hid with Christ in God.”
It is a serious thing for the professor of Christianity to reflect on this possibility, but it is on this account the duty of self-examination is urged on him by the highest sanctions.
In endeavoring to explain and enforce this duty, I shall
I. Make some general observations on the subject.
II. Consider the end which we ought to have inview in self-examination.
III. Suggest some topics to which our inquiries should be directed in attending to this divine precept.
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:23-24
Consider: self-seeking is self-destroying, and self-denial is the only way to our safety. We were well when we were in the hands of God [in the Garden of Eden before the Fall] and had no need to care for ourselves. But we were lost as soon as we left Him and turned to ourselves. If God cares for you, [then] Infinite Wisdom cares for you — Whom no enemy is able to overwit or circumvent; Who can foresee all your dangers, and is acquainted with all the ways of your enemies and with all that is necessary to your preservation. But if you be at your own care, you are at the care of fools and short-witted people — [who] are not acquainted with the depths of Satan, the subtleties of men, nor the way of your escape, but may easily be overreached to your undoing! If you are in your own hands, you are in the hands of bad men who, though they have self-love, yet are so blinded by impiety that they will live like self-haters!
And this experience fully manifests in that all sinners are self-destroyers; no enemy could do so much against us as the best of us does against himself. If a man hates himself as bad as the devil hates him, he could show it by no worse a way than sin; nor do himself a greater mischief than by neglecting God and the life to come, and undoing his own soul as the ungodly do. Should you sit down of purpose to study how to do all the hurt to yourselves that you can, and to play the part of your deadliest enemies, I know not what you could do more than is ordinary with ungodly men to do, except to go a little further in the same way.
When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words.
Expiation and Propitiation
Let’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.
My smartphone is my untiring personal assistant, my irreplaceable travel companion, and my lightning-fast connection to friends and family. VR screen. Gaming device. Ballast for daily life. My intelligent friend, my alert wingman, and my ever-ready collaborator.
2. Your smartphone is not all good.
Study after study has shown that too much time on our phones has profound effects on our physical health, including (but not limited to) inactivity and obesity, stress and anxiety, sleeplessness and restlessness, bad posture and sore necks, eye strain and headaches, and hypertension and stress-induced shallow breathing patterns.
The physical consequences of our unwise smartphone habits often go unnoticed, because in the matrix of the digital world, we simply lose a sense of our bodies, our posture, our breathing, and our heart rates.
3. Your smartphone amplifies your addiction to distractions.
We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives. While our relationships with our phones may not be lifelong covenant relationships (though carrier contracts can feel like it), I would not be the first to suggest that owning a smartphone is similar to dating a high-maintenance, attention-starved partner.
We all know that the world has become pornified, that the internet has made available to all of us an entire universe of pornographic content. Yet many of the statistics we rely on and commonly quote have become outdated. As technology changes and as new generations grow up, the pornographic landscape inevitably changes. I went looking for updated numbers and want to present some of them to you today. All of these are based on credible studies carried out in 2016 or 2017.
In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website (the biggest porn site in the world). That’s 524,000 years of porn or, if you will, around 17,000 complete lifetimes. In that same time people watched 92 billion videos (or an average of 12.5 for every person on earth). Significance: So many people are using so much porn today that it is really impossible to tabulate. But understanding how much is consumed at just one site can at least help us see that this problem is nothing less than epidemic.
At age 11, the average child has already been exposed to explicit pornographic content through the internet. 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet-based pornography during their adolescent years and 22% of the vast quantities of porn consumed by people aged under 18 is consumed by those aged less than 10. Significance: Parents are nothing short of negligent if they take no steps to protect their children from being exposed to pornography.
In North America, we have been trained to assume that if a process does not come easily to us, there must be something wrong. From the way we use technology, to the way we make shopping decisions, and even the way we learn and work, we often assume that struggle is bad. Everything should be intuitive and simple, with clear and easy steps toward achieving your goals or receiving whatever it is you want.
When we apply this mindset to Christianity, we start to assume that if the Christian life ever seems hard, there must be a problem. This, in spite of the many words of Jesus and the apostles that indicate we will face difficulty and obstacles in living according to the gospel.
Christianity and the Runner’s High
It is true that, while sins and struggles may hinder us, they do not define us. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: Let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1, CSB). I love the emphasis here on casting off weights, putting struggles and obstacles behind us, untangling ourselves from the sins that would cause us to slip up.
Christians still slip and fall, but we should be best known for running. We are saints who sometimes sin, or racers who sometimes stumble. But sins and struggles no longer define us. The Christian is not defined by the sins of the past, nor the struggle of the present, but by the vision of the future. You see the finish line, and you run to win the prize.
1. What is understood under the ordo salutis, the “order of salvation”?
The series of acts and steps in which the salvation obtained by Christ is subjectively appropriated by the elect. In Scripture σωτηρία, salus, has a double meaning, one more subjective and one more objective, according to whether it includes the act of saving or of being saved. In the first sense it naturally extends much farther than in the subjective appropriation of salvation. Christ is called σωτηρία not merely because He applies His merits but because He has likewise obtained them. His satisfaction was the principal act of salvation. In the second sense it is narrower in scope and in fact covers what one understands under the designation “soteriology.”
2. What is further contained in the term ordo salutis, “order of salvation”?
That the subjective application of the salvation obtained by Christ does not occur at once or arbitrarily. In the abstract, it would be possible for God to take hold of and relocate each one of the elect into the heaven of glory at a single point in time. He has His good reasons that He did not do this. There are a multiplicity of relationships and conditions to which all the operations of grace have a certain connection. If the change came about all at once, then not a single one of these would enter into the consciousness of the believer, but everything would be thrown together in a chaotic revolution. None of the acts or steps would throw light on the others; the base could not be distinguished from the top or the top from the base. The fullness of God’s works of grace and the rich variety of His acts of salvation would not be prized and appreciated.