Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Month: February 2019

Escaping Moralism

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As I worked on refreshing my teaching notes for a homiletics course (how to preach and teach God’s Word) in Ethiopia next month, I re-read Tim Keller’s excellent book on preaching.

In chapter 2, Keller addresses the dangers of moralism. In it, he writes about:

1) how the whole Bible points ultimately to Jesus (Luke 24:27), and
2) why we must make Christ and the Good News of the Gospel central to all we teach and preach.

Here are a few excellent quotes from this chapter…

“Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.

“Ed Clowney points out that if we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the Bible story (about Christ), we actually change its meaning for us.

“It becomes a moralistic exhortation to ‘try harder’ rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Christ.

“There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do or basically about what he has done?” 

(Page 60, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“The moralistic way of living feels like being on the end of a yo-yo. If I feel I am reaching my goals and meeting my standards, I become self-righteous, entitled, less patient and gracious with others.

“If I am failing in any way, I fall into self-loathing, because my very identity is based on my image of myself as a better person than others.”

(Page 61, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ – so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right – can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.” 

(Page 62, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

Sorrow and Joy

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“… as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

Recently I was re-reading the book Hot Tub Religion: Thoughts on Christian Living in the Material World by J.I. Packer. I read it back in the late 80’s (when it first came out) and it had several excellent chapters on various aspects of Christian living.

Chapter six, in particular, stood out. In it, Packer deals with the subject of “Joy: A Neglected Discipline.”

Here are a few great quotes from this chapter:

“Christians are not victims and prisoners of either the past or the present. The powers of forgiveness and new creation are at work in their lives. Before them lies a sure and certain hope of deliverance, transformation, and glory. Joy will someday be theirs in fullest measure, and they should not give way to the black feeling that life will never be better for them than it is now.

Christians have, so to speak, larger souls than other people; for grief and joy, like desolation and hope, or pain and peace, can coexist in their lives in a way that non-Christians know nothing about. Grief, desolation, and pain are feelings triggered by present situations, but faith produces joy, hope, and peace at all times.

This does not mean that grief, desolation, and pain cease to be felt (that idea is inhuman); it means that something else is experienced along with the hurt. It becomes possible for Christians today, like Paul long ago, to be ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Cor. 6:10).”

 

“Joy is not an accident of temperament or an unpredictable providence; joy is a matter of choice. Paul is directing his readers to choose to rejoice (Phil. 4:4), because it is in and through the activity of rejoicing that joy becomes a personal reality.”

 

“Paul can choose to rejoice in one aspect of a situation of which other aspects are calculated to depress: he rejoices that Christ is being preached and refuses to brood on the bad motives of the preachers or to indulge in self-pity because he is not able to do what they are doing (Phil. 1:15-18).

This, more than anything else, makes it clear that joy is a choice; one chooses to focus one’s mind on facts that call forth joy. Such is the secret of ‘rejoicing in the Lord always,’ namely, to choose what you think about. It is as simple – and as difficult! – as that.

Controlling and directing one’s thoughts is a habit, and the more one practices it the better one becomes at it.”

 

“The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking… Joy – that is, rejoicing in the Lord – is thus a basic discipline of the Christian life, essential to spiritual health and vitality.”

February Quotes to Note

Rina Kroes, www.challies.com

“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me.” (J.I. Packer)

“The cross declares for all time and eternity that we are bankrupt and have no currency to buy the favor of heaven.” (John Stott)

“If you were a hundred times worse than you are, your sins would be no match for his mercy.” (Tim Keller)

“The more spiritually alive and mature we are, the more we recognize how far short we fallof 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.”  (from Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees– by Tom Hovestol)

“Even doubting thoughts and feelings that border on sin are better laid out before the gracious eyes of the Lord than nursed in our hearts. God will not be shocked! He knows our inmost thoughts anyway!” (Iain Duguid)

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. ‘He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep’ (Psalm 121:4). But we will. For we are not God. Once a day, God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable.
To cure us of this disease, God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.
Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: ‘Man is not sovereign… Man is not sovereign… Man is not sovereign.’
Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the Great Worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.” (John Piper)

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” (Martin Luther)

Three Quotes from Dawson Trotman

Dawson Trotman, Founder of the Navigators

(1906 – 1956)

A few weeks ago, I was thumbing through a biography (“The Navigator”)that I had read back in the early 1980’s.

It was about Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators Ministry.

God used that book (and Dawson’s life) to inspire and challenge me as a young 20-something in profound ways.

Here are three quotes (of the dozens I had highlighted) almost 40 years ago.

“Do you know why I often ask Christians, ‘What’s the biggest thing you’ve asked God for this week?’ I remind them that they are going to God, the Father, the Maker of the Universe. The One who holds the world in His hands. What did you ask for? Did you ask for peanuts, toys, trinkets, or did you ask for continents?

“I want to tell you, young people, it’s tragic! The little itsy-bitsy things we ask of our Almighty God. Sure, nothing is too small – but also nothing is too big. Let’s learn to ask for our big God some of those big things He talks about in Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”  

(Dawson Trotman– page 26 from The Navigator)


“I don’t think time has much to do with whether God hears me or not. But I do believe that time has everything to do with whether my faith is built up as I pray and as I stretch out in asking. I don’t believe that God will ever give those great and mighty things of Jeremiah 33:3 to those who just have their little conscience-easers or some quick prayers before jumping into bed for the night.

“I don’t think God has anything big for you if you can’t take 1/48th of your day to be alone with your Almighty God and Father. I rather doubt whether He is going to do very much for you.”

(Dawson Trotman– while speaking at Mount Herman Christian Conference Center in Santa Cruz, CA – page 30 from The Navigator)


“We [the early Navigators Ministry]started out on the battleships of the United States Navy, getting men to spend time in the Bible. By the time the war was over, we had fellows on a thousand ships and on scores of bases throughout the world, faithfully serving and witnessing for the Lord.

“I suppose there was no greater secret than that these men were in the Book and the Book was in them. The Word of God is the mighty force within, that enable men to do whatever it says. I am absolutely convinced that the Bible completely changes the lives of men and women… It has completely changed my life. I’ll never be the same again since I was introduced to God’s Holy Word, the Bible.”

(Dawson Trotman– page 78 from The Navigator)

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