Deeper Theology

Are we staying in the shallow end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has been looking into Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy lately. This was really an area I never wanted to get involved in, but now I am. I want to know what claims she’s hearing and if I think they’re accurate or not. As it stands, I still remain a convinced Protestant, but I am noticing something.

While I think we Protestants have excelled at Bible Study, we’ve often neglected theology. We don’t really know much about what to do with our doctrine of God. We seem to treat the Trinity as this nice little doctrine that we keep around and we get out when we need to address Jehovah’s Witnesses.

My blog has been called Deeper Waters from the beginning because I think we have too often gone shallow. This has largely been due to a lack of discipleship on our part. We place a big emphasis on conversions. I really don’t like that term at all.

Imagine if we said we wanted to see more marriages. We worked to get people to the altar and to say their “I do” statements and then did nothing with them. Hypothetically, those people went back to live with their parents and never interacted at all.

We often do the same kind of thing with conversion. The goal is to get someone to walk down the aisle and say a prayer and make Jesus their savior. There is no investing in them. There is no training in them. There is no discipleship.

This isn’t an across the board condemnation. Of course, there are some churches that do this. There are far too many who do not. This is especially needed in an age where Christianity is being questioned left and right and most people don’t know how to make a basic defense of what they believe let alone know the basics of what they believe.

We often go to churches and sing songs about how Jesus is so important to us. Apparently, He’s so important that we don’t study anything about Him, learn about Him, read the Scripture that tells about Him, or think about Him much at all, except, you know, those times when we need something. Our Christianity is all about what Jesus does in our lives instead of what we do in His.

This is so even with our salvation. Many times, the goal of Christianity has been to get people to go to Heaven. While there, you will live forever and get to see your loved ones again. Oh yeah. God is there too, if that interests you and all. There is nothing about building up the Kingdom of God here. There is nothing about the difference salvation makes in this life. Paul said that if it is only for this life we have hope, we are above all men to be pitied. Paul knew we have hope for this life. Today could it be that Paul would write “If it is only for the next life we have hope….”?

What’s the solution?

It’s a really easy one. Return to deeper theology and study. This isn’t the area of only other traditions. Protestants in the past have done this. I suspect most of it is that here in the West, we have grown more individualistic and all about us. We spend so much time “listening for the voice of God” that we don’t really consider who it is we’re “listening” to.

At the Orthodox church, the priest told me to borrow if I wanted to learn from the library a book called The Orthodox Way. I have been going through it and wondering “Aside from a few secondary details, what about this is specifically Orthodox? I have no problem believing this about God as a Protestant.” I wonder how many people see this and don’t realize that other traditions can have the same views of God as well.

Our Christianity is supposed to be the central defining feature of our lives. Let’s make it that way. Let’s not drop our intellectual weapons. We can better know the God we say we love and serve by studying Him. A good spouse seeks to understand the other spouse so they can better love them. Should we not treat God even better?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What You Believe About God Matters

Does it matter what you believe about God? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Everyone has a worldview. Many of us are not aware of it. A worldview is your answer to the biggest questions in life. When you receive information, it is filtered through your worldview. It is possible to change the answers to the big questions, but depending on how central they are to your worldview, it will take that much more to change them.

The late Christian philosopher Ron Nash gave a list of five questions for a worldview. These are all excellent questions I think to summarize what we believe.

God is first. Does He exist? How many gods are there if they exist? Is God reality or something else? What is the nature of this God or gods that are believed in?

What is the nature of the cosmos? Is it eternal? Is it something made by a greater power? Is it real?

What is the nature of morality? Are there true objective statements of morality? Is morality up to the individual? How is morality known?

What is the nature of man? Does man have a soul? Is he an accident? Is he in the image of God? Is he God?

What is the nature of the afterlife? What happens when we die? We cease to exist? We become gods or angels? Heaven or Hell? Nirvana? Reincarnation?

These are all good questions and volumes have been written on each. I’d like to dabble a little bit at the first question. What does it matter what you believe about God?

Let’s start with the simple question of existence. Do you believe that something exists, something a group like AA would call a higher power? If so, how important is this power to you? How do you know? Picture that you are presented with undeniable proof that this higher power does not exist. How much does that change your worldview? The degree to which it changes shows how much place is given to your higher power.

For instance, if you just lose emotional comfort and personal help, well that’s all God is to you. He’s an emotional comfort and personal helper. If you lose a ground of all being and an explanation for all that is, then God is that much central to you. This is a good time to ask yourself this question. “What do I really believe about God and how central is He to what I believe?”

Something amazing about our time is that we don’t really think about God. We know so much about our favorite sports team, a video game, a TV show, a movie, but how much do we think about God? Does God not merit more attention than our favorite hobbies?

Much of Christian suffering today I think can come from bad thinking about God. One pictures God as a tyrant perhaps demanding perfection and being willing to strike us down for our sins. One pictures God as an emotional band-aid which is helpful when you’re hurting, but what happens when He doesn’t come through one time? Does God suddenly not care?

Does it matter that in much of Christian thinking God doesn’t change? You bet it does. If God loves us and is love, then He eternally loves us. We can rest assured in Him.

Speaking of love, what do we mean if we say that God is love? Is God warm sentiment? Is this love romantic love like one has for a spouse or other significant other? Does He love us for who He is or for who we are?

What about classical attributes of God? Is He omnipotent or omniscient or omnipresent or omnibenevolent? Are those terms you’re not used to? What do they mean? Is it not worth considering?

If you were to marry someone, you would want to know something about who they are first. After all, this is the person you’re going to be hopping into bed with. You are going to be sharing your own body with them and your very life with them. Should you not know who they are?

I encourage Christians to really think about God and do so with more than just your experience. Inform yourself with Scripture, but also with those who have gone before and great minds today. J.I. Packer’s Knowing God is an excellent place to go to for instance.

Good theology is extremely important for Christians to have. God is a person (Or rather tri-personal) and needs to be known for who He is. A deficit in our knowledge of God can only hurt us and we will replace truths of God with falsehoods that our own minds come up with. Naturally, we all believe some wrong things about God, but it is important that we try to eliminate those beliefs that are false.

Naturally, Christians have one other area. How has God revealed Himself? Our best answer is that the greatest revelation is in Jesus Christ. What does Jesus tell us about God? What does it mean that Jesus is fully God and fully man? What does it matter that He died and rose again bodily? Is it just a free trip to Heaven or a proof that Christianity is true?

I really encourage Christians to think about these questions. I have not attempted to really answer them here. It’s more important at this point to know that they’re there and they need to be taken seriously. If you have time to learn about your favorite hobbies but not about God, you really need to get your priorities straight.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Turn Or Burn?

What kind of choice is that? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my last post, I wrote about the claim that God is petty. I was told I did not say much about the turn and burn aspect often given. I thought I had, but just to make sure, let’s address that. We’re often told that God is often saying to His creation “Love me or burn!” Few of us would call that love.

I don’t think I need to say much on how few conservative scholars today think that passages about Hell being a fire and brimstone place need to be interpreted in a literalistic way. Hence, if I see someone speaking in this kind of language, I know I’m talking to someone who has not read the best material on the topic. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s all a cakewalk in Hell.

Also, most don’t think that all suffering in Hell is equal nor is all joy in Heaven equal. Everyone will ultimately get a treatment that is fair. No one will be able to legitimately say that they were wronged on the day of judgment.

The problem with this choice is it’s not really accurate. The person assumes in the argument that they have done nothing that deserves any sort of punishment whatsoever. Yet if God is real, then something has been done.

I happen to think Romans 1 is accurate and it tells us that there’s enough evidence in creation alone for us to know that God is real. This doesn’t mean that there’s evidence in creation alone that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who rose from the dead. You need history for that.

Also, the more one knows about this God, the greater the culpability one has, but there is the question of how do we respond to this evidence. Do we turn and seek the one the evidence is pointing to or do we just ignore it and take light explanations and do what we want? The people in Romans 1 chose to deny that the creator was supreme and treated things that were created like they were the supreme.

For we Christians, we should fear the judgment the most because we claim to know the most about God and have the greatest revelation of God making our sin all the worst. I have often compiled a list of attributes of God we deny when we sin. Let’s go through it again.

We deny His omnipotence when we deny He has the power to bring about judgment.
We deny His omniscience when we say we know better than He does.
We deny his love when we say He’s holding out on what is good for us.
We deny His omnipresence when we say He does not see what we do.
We deny His authority when we say we have the right to rule over our lives.

In essence, we are committing divine treason every time. This is a serious charge. Even if we don’t have the revelation of Christ, everyone knows that we do not live the way we ought. We all have ways we need to improve. Interestingly, it’s often the further we get on the path of virtue that we realize how far off we are on the path.

If this is true, then the offer is not turn or burn. At least, it’s not in the way presented. It’s not, if you do not want to be with me, then you will burn. It’s more just an offer to be come and be a part of the family of God.

In the Old Testament, there’s a story about Mephibosheth, who was the grandson of Saul and the son of Jonathan. In the ninth chapter of 2 Samuel we read about him. David wanted to show kindness to someone in Saul’s family. He was not required to. It’s not as if he was up for reelection and he wanted a good gesture to be done to win the favor of the people that the media would like. He did it just to show kindness.

Something interesting in this passage is three times you find a reference to eating at the King’s table. This is a message of grace entirely. Mephibosheth did nothing to earn this. It was all a gift.

The offer is really great. Not only does God forgive us, when we have done nothing to deserve that forgiveness, but He makes us a part of His royal family and allows us to eat at His table and we’re given all the rights of a son. It is a horrible misrepresentation from atheism and the exact opposite of the real scenario.

The problem presented is a false one. Of course, there are other issues and those could be dealt with. For now, turn or burn just doesn’t work. Present instead the real offer of grace.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: In Search Of Ancient Roots

What do I think of Kenneth Stewart’s book published by IVP Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Historically, many times different denominations have not gotten along. Today, there is much more communication and with the internet here, many people are coming across other belief systems they would have no access to before. Many an orthodox Protestant can be wondering about their belief system. Where did it come from?

Stewart’s book is written to help those searching Protestants. While not for any one particular denomination, he does work to show that many of the beliefs and such that we have today go back to our ancestors. Not only that, there was great theological development even on core doctrines. One quick example is the Trinity. It’s not that Jesus rose from the dead and immediately the apostles got together and wrote the Nicene Creed. The outworking of that event took at least three centuries to get to Nicea and today we can look back and see the development of the doctrine.

One great theme of this book is that the Fathers matter. I remember asking someone well over a decade ago in talking about apologetics if they could name an early church father. The only name that came to mind was John Wesley. That’s why we have to do a better job educating. So many people know so little about these great people that many times gave their lives for the Christian faith. We not only don’t know our doctrines, but we don’t know the history behind those doctrines.

Stewart definitely wants us to return to the Fathers. He tells us that early Protestants were known for doing this. Today we think of other traditions scouring the Fathers, but he says in the past the Protestants were the ones doing this the most. There’s no reason Protestants today can’t be doing in-depth research on the Fathers.

He also speaks about examples of debates that we have today. The two he chooses are the frequency of the Lord’s Supper and if we should participate in infant baptism. Both of these chapters bring up points that will be of interest to anyone in these debates.

There’s also a chapter on the history of Newman with the look at the claim that to study church history is to cease to be Protestant. Stewart contends that there are two different Newmans. One is the one presented in many popular writings. The other is one the Catholic Church itself was unsure about.

Towards the end, he starts looking at the harder issues. Many of these chapters I thought would actually work better at the beginning of the book. These include the claim that the Roman Church does have the highest authority due to the seat of Peter being occupied. Stewart argues that the data for this is not as strong as would be like and the claim is not helped by the fact that many times there were rival popes and each pope was busy excommunicating the other.

There’s also a chapter on the history of justification by faith. I find the fact that so many have written on this to show that the early Fathers taught this as fascinating, but there was one blind spot here. I did not see any quotations from the Fathers. I would have liked to have seen some of those at least. One could not get an encyclopedic look of course, but something would be nice.

Finally, it ends with why people abandon Protestantism and go the other way. Again, the message is that we need to really study our history and our doctrine. We have had a sort of anti-intellectualism come over the church and too many have the idea that everything just fell down from heaven and the history is irrelevant. We need to know not only where we are and where we are going, but how we got here.

Those interested in church history will benefit from reading this. It would be good for those on all sides of any such debate. I hope we can return to some serious look at our history. In an age of greater skepticism, we need it more and more not just because of the constant changing of churches, but because of outside attacks on all churches.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Maybe It’s Not The Devil

Do we give too much power to the devil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I was at my small group when someone asked me about Preterism. What about Revelation 20? I told them I’m of the opinion that the devil is bound right now. I got asked about all the evil that is still in the world today.

I pointed out that Jesus in the middle of His ministry said the Kingdom of God was among the people and yet He was having to cast out demons. I could have added that Psalm 110:1 says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. 1 Cor. 15 goes on to say the last enemy is death. John 12 has the prince of this world being cast out.

This got us to talking about temptation which is something I notice regularly happening with Christians. So many Christians I know think that whenever they are tempted, that means the devil has to be working on them. I mean, yeah, that has to be it. It can’t be that you yourself are a fallen and sinful human being. Obviously, if that devil would just leave you alone, you’d be walking around living like a saint entirely as you would never be tempted.

Scripture regularly tells us that our hearts are the problem. The devil can hypothetically tempt us of course, but as the old saying goes, “Don’t lead me into temptation. I can find it by myself.” We don’t really need much encouragement to do evil. We’re pretty good at finding it ourselves.

If we keep blaming the devil, we never get to the real problem. There’s something inside of ourselves that needs fixing. If we look at an external problem as the great cause of our being tempted, we can’t do the self-examination that we should be doing.

It also leads us to some form of pride. This is just how important I am. The devil is going after me to stop me from doing what I should be doing. The problem isn’t us. It’s the devil.

We could also ask what difference does it make? A man sits down at his computer and is tempted to look up internet pornography. Doesn’t he have to pray to stand strong and resist the temptations of the flesh regardless? Why not just work on that to begin with?

When we do this kind of thing, it can lead us to a sort of Christian dualism where we think the devil and God are equal and opposite partners. They’re not. If my eschatology is correct, the devil is bound now and while there is still some demonic activity going on, it is much lower than it was.

I honestly think too many of us in the church are spending way too much time focusing on the devil instead of Jesus. I also, since we’ve said something about eschatology, think we spend more time trying to figure out who the antichrist is than figuring out who the Christ is. Scripture calls us to be sober-minded. There’s no need to be paranoid about the devil every step of the way. Work out the evil in your own heart with the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Finding The Will Of God, A Pagan Notion?

What do I think of Bruce Waltke’s book published by Eerdmans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve long been questionable of the idea we have today of finding the will of God. I largely consider it part of the me-centered idea of Christianity. In seminary, I remember my roommate and I hearing some missionaries talk about going overseas and having people ask them questions after their lessons along the lines of “How can I hear the voice of God?” No one ever seems to question if this is a normative practice or not.

I was curious to see what Bruce Waltke would have to say about these ideas and especially any ways the pagans tried to do such things. While Waltke does have some good points in his book, it sometimes looked like the idea of a pagan notion was an add-on to get readers. There is a little book about the things pagans did to find the will of the gods, but most of the material is how Christians should make wise decisions.

There is nothing wrong with this, but I would like to have seen more. Still, Waltke does go to the right places. He takes us to Scripture and points out that we need to apply wisdom to our decisions. I find it amazing that so many people think God would give us a timeless book such as Proverbs to encourage us to make wise decisions, but then He would turn around and say, “But hey, forget all of that in the new covenant. I am going to make your decisions for you.”

Waltke is also right that too many Christians have a notion of God hiding something from them and they have to work to discover it. The very premise behind this is that God has an individual will for the life of each and every Christian. Then after that is that this will is something that we are supposed to find out. Then after that comes that if we use certain techniques we will find out what that will is. All of this is highly questionable.

I would have liked to have seen something more also on our emphasis on feelings today as determining the will of God. I recall several church services that had pastors telling me to give as a I felt led when the offering plate went around. Nothing from 2 Corinthians 8-9 is ever said about how God loves a cheerful giver. If anything, many times when the plate is passed around, many of us don’t feel like giving anything. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t and think that they can in the end justify their bad decision by doing what I call “Punting to the Holy Spirit.”

If you’ve never read something like this, Waltke’s book is good, but I think honestly a far greater treatment can be found in a work such as Decision Making and the Will of God. I do still think that this is an area Christians need to really discuss. The modern paradigm seriously needs to be called into question.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Lessons From Shiro

What can we learn from the little guy in our lives? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night we went to our church small group which meets at the house of a pair of vets. Allie sat in a chair with a footstool and one of their cats was just lying on it next to Allie’s Bible. From time to time, some jokes would be made about that, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Growing up, our family pretty much always had a cat. Dogs are okay to me, but I’m the rare guy that’s more in favor of cats. I suppose it’s because cats are less forward and just mind their own business. Allie is more of a dog person who has never been into cats.

Until we found one while looking for a new apartment that wormed its way into her heart. This cat had been abandoned by his previous owners and was just living off of whatever he could find. The tenants were starting to complain and when we came one day, we realized they were going to take him to the pound. We told them we’d take him and we did. He has been ours ever since.

Allie chose the name Shiro for him. Shiro is the Japanese word for white. (It’s a real mystery why she thinks that’s a fitting name isn’t it?) Shiro is a great addition to our family. We can often get a little bit of joy just seeing him throughout the day and everything he does is either silly or pathetic to us, but it doesn’t change our love for him.

Recently we even spoke to a doctor who had recommended a dog for Allie. Allie said we couldn’t because we have a cat who doesn’t like other animals. The doctor said to just get rid of the cat then to which both of us immediately shouted back, “NO!”

Yep. That suggestion was never made again.

I have also told Allie many times before that Shiro can teach us a lot about theology. Of course, there are differences in the relationship between owners and their pets and between God and man, but there are similarities. Let’s look at this.

Of course, cats can do some things for their owners. Growing up, we got our first cat because we lived in a mobile home and we had a problem with mice. Every other cat after that has been good with getting mice, but that hasn’t been the reason. For Allie and I, when we lived in Tennessee, Shiro did manage to take care of a couple of mice for us. We remember one morning waking up at around 5:30 to a “ROWR!” sound. I somehow knew immediately Shiro had killed a mouse and one could picture the gaming voice just saying “Fatality!”

There is also the comfort factor. Many times Allie can especially get a burst of cheer out of seeing Shiro and when she’s depressed, he can help her out greatly. None of that is being denied.

Yet still, we don’t normally get a pet out of need. More often, it’s just because we like them and want to show some affection to them. In the same way, we do not exist because God needs us in any way. We could say that maybe sometimes we bring Him joy, but there is no reason to think that we bring more joy than the Trinity already has in the divine fellowship.

As I sit here also, it’s almost 9 A.M. with my writing. Shiro has a food machine that goes off and feeds him every 12 hours and the first time is at 9. Shiro is sitting in here whining, which he often does relentlessly, begging to be fed. Allie and I always get amazed. We do not leave him to starve. He always gets his food. Still, every morning and evening, it is as if he forgets and thinks he has to remind us, to which he has never had any success. The lesson is never learned.

In the same way, how many times has God provided for us? Romans says He won’t hold back since He already gave us His own Son. You would think we would learn, but no. Just as soon as we have another bit of suffering come in our lives, we’re whining again as if God has never done anything in the past.

The sad thing for us is, we have the rationality to know better.

Maybe we’re the pathetic ones.

There’s also the point that some cats like to be cuddled. Shiro is not one of them. When we pick him up, he whines. It doesn’t stop us, but he’s not a big fan of it. We often say if only he realized we’re not a threat and we just want to show our love for Him.

We often think the love of God is something comfortable. It’s not always. Sometimes it’s painful. Love doesn’t always mean something that feels good. Sometimes love can seem intrusive to us. Sometimes love can stretch us in ways e don’t want. Anyone who thinks having a loving God is all sunshine and roses doesn’t have a clue. God will not always take us where we want to go.

So why do we have Shiro? Love. That’s all it is. We wanted someone in our household who would bring an extra little bit of joy to us. Shiro isn’t a theologian, but he sure has taught a lot about theology. Those who are parents of biological or adopted children I think can understand this even more.

We’re thankful for this little guy in our lives. If you would like to know more about him, we care about him so much we actually made a Facebook page for him. We’re thankful for the special kitty in our lives and we hope you will be thankful for the special ones in your life, pets or not.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Addiction

How do we deal with addictions? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife goes to Celebrate Recovery and seeing as she can’t drive, I’m her ride. The meetings are held at our church and they are a blessing to go to. I am finding it easier and easier to communicate with the men that I’m in group with. Everyone who come to the group has a major struggle. I generally talk for me about wanting to be a better husband. Each meeting has early on an account of someone giving their story and there is one running theme.

Addiction.

I am sure I have my own addictions, but I honestly can’t place them. As I thought about this, I’m sure we all do, because it could easily be the case that all sin is something like this. It has been said that for the devil, the sin he did was that he saw all the glory of YHWH in Heaven and thought of nothing but his own prestige. Note something if that is accurate. There is nothing wrong with your own well-being, but there is a problem with putting that first.

Something you need to know about addictions is that everyone who is addicted is addicted to a good thing. Some of you might balk at that. Surely it is not good. In some cases, the actions are not good, but the person really wants not the actions, but the good that comes with the actions.

Consider if we talk about sexual addictions. Sex is a good thing, yet if you meet a man who struggles with sexual addiction, he does not want the sex for the sake of sex. No. He wants sex because of certain things sex gives him. He delights in seeing a woman naked. He enjoys the feeling of sexual release. He desires to be wanted and wants to be passionate with a woman. It could be any of those things. It could be all of them.

None of those are bad things. A man should enjoy seeing a woman naked. He should enjoy sexual release. He should want to be wanted and want to be passionate with a woman. These are not bad things.

The sin is not the desire itself. The sin is putting that desire over something else. In this case, the man is using the woman’s body often as an object and caring nothing about the woman herself and is not willing to make a commitment to her. If he is married and his wife doesn’t give, well okay. That’s rough, but just hop on the computer and look at some porn. If the wife can’t be used, use another woman.

How about cutting? If you see my wife’s Facebook, you know she has struggled with this and is about to go four months without. Why does someone want to cut? It’s not because they really enjoy the act itself. It’s because of what results from the act. It makes them feel better about emotional pain. Nothing wrong with that part. All of us want to diminish emotional pain. It’s just how we do it that’s wrong.

Many times with addiction, a strange place seems to be reached. It is the position of saying that we cannot be happy without X, whatever it is. Not only that, we are willing to risk what anyone else could tell us would be greater goods in order to get this lesser good.

C.S. Lewis years ago compared us to children who are offered a day at the beach but instead keep wanting to make mudpies in a sandbox. We are offered so much and we settle for so little. Lewis said our desires are not too strong, but they are too weak. We settle. We are far too easily pleased.

When we get like this, two words come to mind to describe this. Both of them start with an S. I’m going to be blunt so be prepared.

The first word is stupid.

If you were offered a day at the beach and yet insisted on mudpies in a sandbox, unless there is some factor about the beach we don’t know about, that’s just stupid. It is. It is not the result of sound thinking.

The other word is the one we don’t like to use, but it needs to be used. In fact, I think until we come to realize that unless this word is seen as the real culprit, the problem will never be dealt with.

That word is sin.

You see, the problem isn’t that we love some little thing too much. It’s that we love some greater thing too little. A man with a porn addiction hopefully loves his wife, but sadly, in that moment, he is loving his addiction more.

Lewis had something to say about this as well. He said that when we want forgiveness of sins, we usually want excusing of sin. “Yes, Lord. I did look at pornography, but my wife was really frigid today and I had such a raging desire and I figured it was better to deal with it than to live in stress and anxiety over it.”

Excusing is just stupid. For one thing, God knows all the excuses we could give. He knows the mitigating factors that lead to a sin. He takes them into account and judges us fairly. Yet no matter what it is, in every single action, there is still something that was done wrong. That is the sin. It cannot be excused. There is no excusing sin. It must be confessed and forgiven.

For addiction, repentance doesn’t need to become a one-time deal. It must be a lifetime. It must be our constant repenting. What is that repenting? For the time being, we put something else on the throne of God. We put something else as essential to our happiness save God Himself.

1 Tim. 6:17 does say God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment. He gave us food, sex, money, fame, and all of these properly understood are good things. What is the problem is that we make these good things the main gods of our lives when addiction comes up.

I think also some of this could be that well, our churches aren’t doing a good job. Most churches give us just simple platitudes. Christianity is not about submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord. It’s about learning how to be a good person. There’s nothing wrong with being a good person, but the church has to give us something unique. Jesus can’t be just a way to be a good person. He has to be a way to God. Jesus did not come to just give us morality. He came to give us God.

We also have an emphasis on heaven in our churches, and yet there is no excitement about heaven. People will say they want to go to heaven when they die, but they don’t think about it. I have to say I’m guilty of that as well, and if we went by the description of heaven in most churches, who could blame anyone for not being excited? Heaven is often depicted as a neverending church service, yet how many of us can be looking at our watches wondering if the preacher will be quiet soon after ten minutes and yet we’re supposed to enjoy an eternity of this?

I really think we need to get in some good look at Heaven. Consider a book like Peter Kreeft’s Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing. To go back to Lewis, Lewis spoke of how we can not picture happiness sometimes because we’re so fixated on one thing. For a little boy, chocolate can be the greatest good. His older brother says lovemaking is far greater. The little boy wonders if the couple has chocolate in it. (To be fair, they can, but it’s not essential.) The little boy does not realize that the couple has something going on that is far better so much so that chocolate pales in comparison. Picture if what we have in lovemaking that is so good cannot compare to what awaits us in eternity.

One reason we also don’t get excited about Heaven is that we’re not excited about God, and again, why should we be? God is often depicted in these static terms. He forgives us and He loves us and that’s about it. Nothing is said about His glory and majesty. Nothing is said to excite us to His nature. We worship Him, but do we really know why we do? Many of us worship God I think out of familiarity and because you go to church on Sunday and that’s just what you do.

Picture it. We’re really saying there is a being out there who is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, loves us all, will give us all that is essential to our happiness, has acted in the world through great events like the Exodus and the sending of His Son Jesus, still does miracles today, will give us all everlasting joy in Heaven, but at the same time prior will be our judge and we will give an account of everything we do to Him.

Oh. That’s nice. What’s on TV tonight?

It really is how we approach the topic.

It’s also shown that we do that because we don’t take sin seriously. Much of our psychology and such is about dealing with our feelings. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s rarely about dealing with our behaviors. We want to feel good. We just don’t often want to be good.

Have you ever considered that every act of sin, no matter how small, is an act of divine treason? In some way, you are denying one or more of God’s attributes.

You are denying that God has the power to judge you when you sin. He says He will, but you don’t fear that. You will do it anyway.

You are denying that He knows what is best for you. He says He will provide your joy and happiness if you trust Him. Nope. You have to find your own way.

You are denying His omnipresence. God won’t see it. He isn’t there. He won’t notice it.

You are denying His love. God is holding out on you. If God really wanted your happiness, He would provide immediately this thing that you want for your happiness.

We could go on, but the point is you are denying God. You are then trying to take His throne. Every sin is setting ourselves up as the real god of the universe.

So let’s look. We don’t take sin seriously. We don’t take God seriously. We don’t take Heaven seriously.

About the only thing we seem to take seriously is ourselves.

Yet as I say that last part, a caveat comes up. Many times, it can be a popular saying to say “I am my problem.” You’re not. The problem is not you. Why? Because sin is not your identity. You are not an addiction. You have an addiction. The problem is your sin. Get rid of your sin and everything about you is wonderful at that point. Really. Not a joke. Everything about you will be wonderful if you get rid of sin. The same for me.

We must realize our enemy is not ourselves. It is our sin, and we have to have zero-tolerance for it. Paul would write in places like Romans about how we were set free from sin. How can we let it be master over us again? If we submit to sin, we are not submitting to King Jesus. If we are not submitting to Him, we are saying something else is master besides Him.

Now some good news. God forgives us even in our sin. God is willing to work with us. He knows that we are dust. He knows our struggles. We do need to turn to Him and I think we need to turn to Him in an informed way. We really need to think about God.

You see, the reality is that we will pursue what it is that we really desire. We have to ask ourselves if we desire the object of our addiction more of if we desire God more. Every time we give in, we know which one we really desire more at that moment. It’s also again, pretty stupid and sinful. What we desire here is often momentary and doesn’t last long.

Consider a man who has a good marriage and great kids. What happens? He gets tempted by a girl at the office and before too long, he’s meeting her in a hotel and is throwing away years of a good marriage and being a good example to his kids just so he can have a tryst with another woman that won’t last that long. The act of sex is not an all-day thing in itself. (You can spend all day preparing for it, but you won’t spend all day doing it.)

Most of us would realize that’s stupid indeed, but the man when he’s caught in the action does not see that. All he sees is the sex that he wants. That’s it. That’s why we need to listen to others. Is what we really want, a moment of pleasure, worth sin against a holy God? Is it really worth putting ourselves and our loved ones through pain? Is it?

Again, I’m saying this as someone writing more on the outside and seeing the pain of addiction, which for me is when my wife chooses it in some way. One of the great sadnesses is realizing all the good that is being missed out on when the lesser good is desired. It’s quite amazing isn’t it? One can follow the path knowing the lesser good will end in pain every single time, and yet each time that time is thought to be the exception. This time when we follow the addiction, we will get the happiness that we want!

Our ultimate happiness is only found in God. He has given us several other things to make us happy here in this world and we should enjoy them, but we must never make idols out of them. Use them for the glory of God, but don’t think they are the glory of God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Pop Christianity

Is there a danger in how we portray Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I was browsing Facebook and saw a post from someone on how they were angry with God because they listened to Him and that led them to having their lives in chaos. They mentioned things like what God had been telling them, leading them to do, following parents and using courtship for dating, etc. All of this sounds like what we have in much of modern Christianity, and all of it leads to ideas like this. Many times, it fails to deliver. Whether this person will become an internet atheist or not, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised it starts there for many since I see many atheists online critiquing this kind of Christianity.

Good.

This kind needs to be because as far as I’m concerned, it’s completely foreign to the Bible. Many of us think that it isn’t. We think we’re supposed to be able to hear the voice of God. We think that there is a personal plan for each of our lives and we have to find that plan. We look at modern prophecies and dreams and take them more seriously than Scripture.

We take it so seriously that really, why should we even consider Scripture anymore? If you were hearing the voice of God on a regular basis, wouldn’t He just tell you what you need to know? This is also along the lines of people saying that Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s terminology I also don’t use. It’s not found in Scripture and the relationship one has with Christ is not like the relationship one has with anyone else and if you make it that way, you won’t raise up the other relationships, you’ll lower the position of Christ.

What we have produced with this mindset is a culture of Christians that are examining every feeling they have to see which one is from God and which one isn’t. How do they know? That’s a good question. Interestingly enough, it seems like the ones that are from God always match with what it is that the person already wants to do. It’s not a shock that many if they don’t get disappointed with things going wrong and become atheists, instead wind up with divine authority given to everything and they become New Agers.

A number of you, like me, are Protestants, which means this is even more ironic. We often say we don’t trust the Pope speaking ex cathedra, but we think we are the Popes in our own lives. We can truly recognize the voice of God. We can thus speak with divine authority.

Keep in mind that in all of this, I’m not saying this can’t happen. I’m not saying God is incapable of speaking today. He’s God. If He wants to, He can. What I am contending is that this is not meant to be normative in our lives today.

“It’s not?! Well, what about Moses and Joshua and Peter and Paul and all these others?”

Yeah. Let me point out a simple fact.

You’re
Not
Them.

It’s part of our modern arrogance that we all think that the life of Moses is meant to be our life. It’s not. You’re much more likely to have your life be like the life of Joe Israelite wandering through the wilderness. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn from Moses’s life. You should. It means that Moses’s life is not your life. Moses was exceptional in his time. He is still exceptional today.

You also aren’t Paul. You are to imitate Paul, sure, but your life won’t be like his. If you think it will, then go touch your handkerchiefs and deliver them to sick children in the hospitals so they can be healed. Perhaps even more, if you think you are supposed to live like Paul, then go out and do the missionary work in hostile territory until your list of sufferings can compare to his in 2 Cor. 11.

Of course, when we say our lives are to be like theirs, we often mean in all that good stuff we like. We don’t mean in the suffering. That would be a bit too inconvenient.

So what is God’s will for your life then? That is a surprisingly easy question to answer. God’s will is in Romans 8. It’s to conform you to the likeness of Christ. That’s it.

But who am I supposed to marry? What am I supposed to do with college? What am I here to do?

You have great freedom in those decisions. Consider marriage. A more important question to start with is “Should I marry?” That depends on your desires. If you’re like many of us and would be inwardly burning without marriage, then you should marry. Yes. The desire to have sex is one of the reasons to marry. We look at that as shameful in the church today, but it’s just what Paul said in 1 Cor. 7.

From there, you have some criteria. The person must be a Christian and they must be of the opposite sex. It should be someone it is possible for you to marry. They must be single as well. From there, you have great freedom.

And after you marry, what is God concerned about? It is not about what kind of person you married at that point. It is what kind of spouse are you going to be. It’s easy to think about what your spouse should do for you. It’s harder to think about what you should do for them. After all, that requires change and risk on your part.

What about college and career paths? What do you want to do? What can you do? What do you have the ability to do? Is what you want to do moral? If so, go for it. It doesn’t also have to be ministry. You can do ministry without having an explicit career in ministry. I also see no reason to think that if you really like architecture and want to be an architect, that you can pursue that path and get before God one day and He’ll say, “You sinned in your life! I wanted you to be a dentist!”

At this point then, it’s not about what kind of field you go into. It’s about what kind of worker are you. How will you serve? The advice to slaves applies to us. Serve your masters as if you were serving Christ. Naturally, you don’t do anything immoral, but you do try to be the best that you can.

If someone comes to you with the “God told me” message about you, be very suspicious. Of course, it can be a real message. There are times true messages like this have been given, but unless someone says something explicitly that they could know no other way, be cautious about it. Go back to Scripture. It’s the source you can trust.

Doing so will also help you to take yourself a little bit less seriously. Not everything that happens in your life is a personal divine message about you. Sometimes, things just happen. The universe does not revolve around you. The focus of your life is what you’re doing for Jesus. It is not so much what God is doing in your life. It is what you are doing in His.

In Christ,
Nick Peters