Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Month: June 2011

Stand Alone Post: God Wins: Heaven, Hell and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins

This week I’m taking a break from my series (12 Lessons…) and thought I would share with you a very important and highly relevant blog post from Randy Alcorn (www.epm.org). I have always considered Randy to be one of the best writers in evangelical Christianity today. He has a very sharp theological mind and a strong, robust grasp of Scripture.

Many of you are aware of the recent book authored by Rob Bell, entitled Love Wins. In Bell’s book, he promotes a form of Universalism (Bell’s description is that virtually everyone will get into heaven – no matter what they believed here on earth and that people will have a second chance after they die to turn to Christ if they didn’t do so during their lifetime). There were numerous aspects of Bell’s book that were very troubling.

In response to Love Wins, there are two new books being released in the next few weeks. One is by Mark Galli (senior managing editor for Christianity Today magazine) entitled: God Wins: Heaven, Hell and Why the Good News is Better than Love Wins.

The other book is by Francis Chan and is entitled Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity, and the things we made up.

I highly recommend both Galli’s and Chan’s books.

This subject (eternity, heaven, and hell) is of utmost importance! Satan loves nothing more than to get people distracted away from the seriousness of the question of eternity. As A.W. Tozer wrote…

“The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unheeded.” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

A few days ago, Randy Alcorn posted his thoughts about Mark Galli’s new book, God Wins, on his blog. It was so good that I thought it would be well worth passing along to as many people as possible.

To give you a brief taste of some of what Alcorn writes in this post, here is an excerpt…

“As I read Rob Bell’s book, I kept saying to myself what I’ve said while reading other recent “evangelical” books—that the God revealed in Scripture is not a love-only, single-attribute God. Vital as his love is, the seraphim in his presence do not cry out day and night, “Love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty.”

Love—as moderns narrowly define it, in the sense that everything should turn out well for everyone—certainly does not win in the biblical narrative. Rather, as Galli’s title aptly puts it, God Wins. And not just any God, but the true God. The Father who is both loving and righteous, the Son who is full of both grace and truth, the merciful Spirit who has the word Holy in his very name. God’s attributes aren’t a menu from which we may choose only what we wish. He is all that he is, all the time. The universe exists not for Love’s glory, but for God’s glory.”

Here is Randy’s blog post in its entirety – I believe it’s well worth 2-3 minutes of your time to read.

(If you would like to read more from Randy Alcorn, you can go to his website at www.epm.org, or directly to his blog post at www.epm.org/blog. Randy’s website is filled with hundreds of the best articles and resources available anywhere on the web. You can download virtually all of them for free.)

 

Lesson #7f: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago

Today we come to Part 6 (and the final segment) of “A Humble Life.”

As I wrap up “Lesson 7” in this series on “What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 Years Ago,” I want to add seven more characteristics of “Proud People” vs. “Humble People” to the list I shared with you last week. This list has come primarily from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book entitled, Brokenness: The Heart God Revives.

Before you read this, could I ask you to do one thing? Promise that you will not focus on how this applies to anyone else except your own heart:

Here they are:

Have you noticed that people typically do not like “proud, arrogant people?” Nor do they enjoy being around them. And yet, even though we know this to be true, we find ourselves (at times) somewhere on the left side of the above list. This is part of maturity and growing in Christ. None of us have “arrived” in our sanctification process (nor will we this side of heaven).

The prayer I would encourage all of us to pray on a regular basis is… “O Lord, I need your grace today! You promise grace to the humble. Help me to avoid looking at everyone else’s life to determine who is proud and who is humble. May I only ever examine my own heart, and choose humility each and every day.”

Tom Hovestol, in his book entitled Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees, writes the following:

“The more spiritually alive and mature we are, the more we recognize how far short we fall of the glory of God. The closer we get to a mirror, the more clearly we perceive our imperfections. The mirror for Christians is Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us that those who have known Him best have been most aware of their imperfections and most appreciative of His love and grace.”

Alan Nelson, in his book Embracing Brokenness: How God Refines Us Through Life’s Disappointments, writes the following about “seven tests of true humility.”

TESTS OF TRUE HUMILITY

There are several ways to detect humility in yourself or in others. Here are seven common ways to spot a humble spirit.

  1. Humility does not demand its own way. If you think “It’s my way or the highway,” or if you often feel the need to defend yourself, chances are your humility level is low.
  2. Humility exudes an attitude of service. You are there to help people, not to be helped. Jesus said, “I came to serve, not to be served.” It is not a consumer-oriented atmosphere where you shop around for who or what can give you the best deal.
  3. Humility does not seek attention or credit. It is not concerned with having its name placed in the program, or on the dedicatory plaque, or even spelled correctly. There is almost a feeling of awkwardness that comes over humble people when the spotlight shines in their direction.
  4. Humility forgives when offended, but is hard to offend. Perhaps the best way to avoid being offended by others is to become humble. Humble people do not read into others’ responses. Therefore, they are free to be honest and innocently naïve to the hate generated by others. At the same time, when hate is overt and obvious, they are at liberty to forgive, to release others from a false sense of obligation to love a certain way.
  5. Humility does not criticize others. Finger pointing, opinion giving, and condemnation rarely emanate out of a pure, selfless attitude. Most criticism is personally oriented and seeks to punish another. Yet, humble people are not confined by the fear of speaking up for truth. They can be authoritative without being authoritarian because God is their motivation for making suggestions.
  6. Humility produces a teachable spirit. Good leaders are learners. That is why leaders need to learn humility. Humble people know that they do not know everything, and recognize the multiple nuances that operate when more than one perception is involved in a situation. Humble people practice one of the most important behaviors of learning—they listen a lot. Beware the proud leader claiming to have all the answers. Humble people ask questions more than they give answers.
  7. Humility is gracious and thankful. Perhaps this is a lost quality in our culture. We are all too aware of our rights and demand them even beyond what normal law affords. If you received a coin with humility on one side, thankfulness would be on the other. It is very hard to be truly gracious and proud. Jesus told the parable of the ten lepers, where only one returned to say, “Thanks.” The New Testament reminds us to give thanks, always.

    John MacArthur, in commenting on 2 Corinthians 4:7, writes…

    “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, in order that [a purpose clause in the Greek] the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”

    That is why God puts the priceless treasure in clay pots, so that no one has to ask where the power comes from! In comparison to the glory of the eternal God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, in comparison to the magnificence of the New Covenant expressed all through chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians, in comparison to Christ’s shining glory, the preacher is nothing!…

    A clay pot is a clay pot. It is without value, but it is useful. Clay pots in ancient times were used for a number of things. Sometimes something important was in a clay pot, like the Dead Sea Scrolls…But in the home they…were used for garbage and waste, to carry out what was unmentionable…

    So we can better understand 2 Corinthians where Paul says, “We have this treasure in a garbage can, a waste bucket.”

    We are common containers for the most humble and dirty uses; never, ever fit in ourselves to be brought into public. That’s how it is in the ministry.

    Our only value is as containers. It’s the treasure that we bring that has the value. That’s why the Lord didn’t choose many mighty or noble.

    He has chosen the humble, the base, the common. This is the essence of spiritual service. They accused Paul: “You’re weak; you’re unimpressive; you’re not a good communicator…” His response was this: “I know; I know. I’m just a pot – but do I have a treasure!”

    The New Testament was not written by the elite of Egypt. It was not written by the elite of Greece, or Rome, or even Israel. . . . The most distinguished philosophers were at Athens; the most powerful leaders . . . of men were at Rome; and the religious geniuses were in Israel’s temple – and God never used any of them! He just used clay pots. . . .

    We have peasants and fishermen, smelly guys, and tax collectors, clay pots, who were chosen to hold and to proclaim and to write the priceless treasure of gospel truth.

    God is still doing it that way. He is still passing by the elite… God is finding the humble who will carry the treasure of saving truth…

    If you want to be used mightily by God, get yourself out of it. Learn to see yourself as a garbage pail, or, in the words of Peter, clothe yourself with humility.

    It’s not you; it’s not your personality; it’s the Word of God. He doesn’t need the intellectuals. He doesn’t need great people, fancy people, or famous people. Because the people aren’t the power. The power is the message!

    We ministers are weak, common, plain, fragile, breakable, dishonorable, and disposable clay pots who should be taking the garbage out – but instead we’re bringing the glory of God to our people.

    The amazing thing is that such weakness does not prove fatal to the gospel, because the gospel is not out of us. The great reality is, this is essential to the gospel, because it makes crystal clear where the power really lies.

    We are unworthy servants, but God has given us the treasure of the gospel. What a privilege!

    (John MacArthur, “A Reminder to Shepherds,” in Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, edited by Don Kistler (Soli Deo Gloria, 2002), p. 279-285.)

    I leave you as I close out this “lesson” on humility with the following Scripture verses…

    “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom!” (Proverbs 11:2)

    “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor!” (Proverbs 15:33)

    “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

    “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted!” (Matthew 23:12)

    “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land!” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

    “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word!” (Isaiah 66:2)

    “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

    And finally…

    Augustine once made this statement:

    If you ask me what is the #1, #2, #3 most important quality of a Christian, I will answer by saying: Humility, Humility, Humility!”

     

    Lesson #7e: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago

    The more I study humility

    • the more I realize how far I need to go to be a truly humble person.
    • the more I understand why pride is considered the “chief” of all sins.
    • the more I realize that Jesus is the perfect and complete embodiment of what “true humility” looks like.
    • the more humbled I am at my own pride.

    In a recent article in Christianity Today, Gordon MacDonald wrote about the biography of Samuel Logan Brengle, a commissioner in the Salvation Army. In the article MacDonald writes…

    “If Brengle lived today, I wonder how he would have coped with the celebrity status that often adorns gifted communicators and clever authors who are packaged by marketing, development and publicity strategies. Toward the end of his ministry, Brengle wrote:

    “If I appear great in their eyes, the Lord is most graciously helping me to see how absolutely nothing I am without Him, and helping me to keep little in my own eyes. He does use me. But I am so concerned that He uses me that it is not of me the work is done. The axe cannot boast of the trees it has cut down. It could do nothing but for the woodman. He made it; he sharpened it; and he used it. The moment he throws it aside, it becomes only old iron. O that I may never lose sight of this.”

    And then MacDonald goes on to write: “Brengle’s view of himself (humility comes to mind) as God’s servant might not make it in the celebrity-driven venues today. But I believe that we could use a dose of his humble spirituality in our contemporary Christian world.”

    One of the most helpful tools that I have come across that helps to clearly distinguish between Proud, Unbroken People and Humble, Broken People is a list that Nancy Leigh DeMoss (from her book Brokenness: The Heart God Revives) put together from her study of Scripture and her experience in both life and ministry.

    There are dozens of items on both the “Proud” side and the “Humble” side. Today I want to share with you just six of them. Here they are:

    Have you ever noticed the link between “wisdom” and “humility?” In James 3:13 it says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

    Has it ever occurred to you the way that Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:28-30? It’s the famous passage we love to quote, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden…” But did you ever notice what Jesus says in the next verse? “…for I am gentle and humble in heart. The very Son of God, who flung the stars into space (Colossians 1) and created everything there is, modeled for us what “humble in heart” looks like.

    Max Anders, in his book The Good Life, clarifies some common misconceptions about humility:

    “Humility does not mean you must see yourself as a pitiful excuse, a lowlife, a piece of refuse at the bottom of the human pile.

    “Rather, it means you see yourself as God sees you: you have infinite and inherent value (given by God), but no more value than anyone else. It means being willing to accept God as the authority over your life, rather than insisting on being your own supreme authority. And since you accept God as the supreme authority over your life, and because you are of equal value but no greater value than everyone else, you are willing to order your life in such a way as to be a servant to others.

    “When Christians do this, we meet each other’s needs in a context of harmony and love. When we fail to subordinate ourselves to others and are concerned only with meeting our own needs, we live a life of individualism and isolation — a state in which the Christian cannot be satisfied. We are not created to be loners. We are part of a family!”

    Humility is one of those strange characteristics, in that when you know you have it — you’ve lost it! It is one of those virtues to be highly sought after but never claimed; because once you’ve claimed it — it’s forfeited!

    I leave you this week with these very profound, but very sobering verses on humility:

    The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility…”

    Jesus said in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

    “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth!” (Numbers 12:3)

    “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

    Lesson #7d: What I Wish (as a Pastor) that I had Known, Understood, Believed and Lived 30 years ago

    Subtitle: A Humble Life, Lesson 4

    This week, I wanted to share some “quotable quotes” on humility…

    “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God… as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, 31)

    “Since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, what could be more important than understanding and developing true humility as a lightning rod for grace?… We need less egomania and more humility and servanthood in our churches today.” (Randy Alcorn)

    “A proud Christian is an oxymoron.” (J. Ligon Duncan III)

    “No matter our age or vocation, humility is our greatest friend and pride our greatest enemy.” (C. J. Mahaney)

    “Jim Collins, in his well known book Good to Great, identifies two specific character qualities shared by the CEOs of these good-to-great companies. The first quality was no surprise: These men and women possessed incredible professional will – they were driven, willing to endure anything to make their company a success.

    “But the second trait that these leaders had in common wasn’t something the researchers expected to find: These driven leaders were self-effacing and modest. They consistently pointed to the contribution of others and didn’t like drawing attention to themselves. ‘The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes,’ Collins writes. “They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.’ When Collins interviewed people who worked for these leaders, he says they ‘continually used words like quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings, and so forth’ to describe them.” (C. J. Mahaney)

    “Yes, amazingly, humility sometimes attracts the world’s notice. But here’s something even more astonishing: Humility gets God’s attention. In Isaiah 66:2 we read these words from the Lord:

    ‘This is the one to whom I will look:

    He who is humble and contrite in spirit

    And trembles at my word.’

    “This profound passage points us to an altogether different motivation and purpose for humility than we will ever find in the pages of a secular business manual. Here we find motivation and purpose rooted in this amazing fact: Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God.” (C. J. Mahaney)

    The person who is humble is the one who draws God’s attention, and in this sense, drawing His attention means also attracting His grace – His unmerited kindness.

    Think about that: There’s something you can do to attract more of God’s gracious, undeserved supernatural strength and assistance! … Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not ‘those who help themselves’ whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.” (C. J. Mahaney)

    So what is “humility” according to Scripture?

    “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.

    That’s the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in: God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Without an honest awareness of both these realities, all self-evaluation will be skewed and we’ll fail to either understand or practice true humility. We’ll miss out on experiencing the promise and the pleasures that humility offers.” (C. J. Mahaney)

    “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross.

    When I survey the wondrous cross

    On which the Prince of Glory died,

    My richest gain I count but loss

    And pour contempt on all my pride.

    Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner… that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust… Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.”

    (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

    “Fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin [which includes pride].” (John Owen)

    “Every time we look at the cross, Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.” (John Stott)

    “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” (Carl F. H. Henry)

    “Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness, and we can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit.” (John Stott)

    Pride is more than the first of the seven deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.” (John Stott)

    In Proverbs 6:16-17, God lists those things “that the Lord hates” and “that are an abomination to him.” What’s at the top of that list? “Haughty eyes (i.e. pride).”

    “I hate pride and arrogance.” (Proverbs 8:13 NIV)

    “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5) Think about the above verse: Stronger language for sin simply cannot be found in Scripture.

    “The grand difference between a human being and a supreme being is precisely this: Apart from God, I cannot exist. Apart from me, God does exist. God does not need me in order for Him to be; I do need God in order for me to be. This is the difference between what we call self-existent being and dependent being. We are dependent. We are fragile. We cannot live without air, without water, without food. No human being has the power of being within himself. Life is lived between two hospitals. We need a support system from birth to death to sustain life. We are like flowers that bloom and then wither and then fade. This is how we differ from God. God does not wither, God does not fade, God is not fragile.” (R. C. Sproul)

    Charles Bridges once noted how pride lifts up one’s heart against God and ‘contends for supremacy’ with Him. That’s a keenly insightful and biblical definition of pride’s essence: contending for supremacy with God, and lifting up our hearts against Him.” (C.J. Mahaney)

    Jonathan Edwards called pride ‘the worst viper that is in the heart’ and ‘the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ’; he ranked pride as the most difficult sin to root out, and ‘the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.’

    God intentionally designed salvation so that no man can boast of it. He didn’t merely arrange it so that boasting would be discouraged, or kept to a minimum – He planned it so that boasting would be absolutely excluded!” As it says in Jonah 2:9, “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Mark Webb)

    “The greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am, but God says absolutely … I am that I am.” (Matthew Henry)

    “…God cannot bear with arrogance. He reveals Himself in Scripture as actively opposed to pride. Actively. ‘God opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). ‘Opposes’ in this statement is an active, present-tense verb, showing us that God’s opposition to pride is an immediate and constant activity. The proud will not indefinitely escape discipline.” (C.J. Mahaney)

    “God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can.” (John Calvin)

    (You will probably notice that there were several quotes from C.J. Mahaney. All of these have been taken from his book, Humility: True Greatness. This book was published in 2005 (Multnomah Publishers) and I read it soon after. It would certainly be at the top of my list of books on this grand, but very slippery and hard to apply subject. I would encourage you to pick up a copy and read it if you want to grow more in this area of your life (it’s a small book and a fairly quick read – only 170 [small] pages).

     

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