What is the Christian’s Highest Good?

Jonathan Edwards was known for a lot of things, but for those who know Him best from his sermons and published works, he is known for his glorious vision of the beauty and excellency of God. The following link to Justin Taylor’s blog contains a short excerpt from one of Edwards’ sermons delivered when he was just 27 years old!

What is the Christian’s Highest Good?

Psalm 119 & the Centrality of the Word of God

I read Psalm 119 this morning as a part of my daily Bible reading. Every time I read this psalm, I’m convicted again about the power of the Word and the central role the Word plays in God’s working in individual lives and in the world.

Last year, I gave the MHA Board commencement speech to the MHA Class of 2015, which included my son Joe. I encouraged and exhorted the seniors to make the Scriptures their constant companion. Here’s the text of that short talk:

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Do they know what/who your hope is?

Another excerpt from, Don’t Waste Your Life. Give some thought to what it would look like to live a life completely and utterly trusting only in the Lord in modern day America. I believe a temptation is to read all the passages in the Scriptures about the rich and think they apply to people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Of course, they do, but they also apply to all of us. Everyone in America is rich, biblically speaking, even the poor. And remember what Jesus said, “it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“In other words, if we look like our lives are devoted to getting and maintaining things, we will look like the world, and that will not make Christ look great. He will look like a religious side-interest that may be useful for escaping hell in the end, but that doesn’t make much difference in what we live and love here. He will not look like an all-satisfying treasure. And that will not make others glad in God … Why don’t people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do … I thought of all the things that high school kids think is cool. I sat on the porch where I was reading and thought, O God, who will get in their face and give them something to live for? They waste their days in a trance of insignificance, trying to look cool or talk cool or walk cool. They don’t have a clue what cool is.”

What or Who is Our Treasure?

I’ve read John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life, with most, if not all, my children when they reached the later high school years. I’m doing it again this Spring and Summer. This time I’ve been convicted that I need to read it once/year. The message is vitally important and timeless although most timely for moderns as the world, more than ever, calls to us to make it our treasure and not Christ. Following is another quote from this book:

“Ordinarily faith would mean trust or confidence you put in someone who has given good evidence of his reliability and willingness and ability to provide what you need. But when Jesus Christ is the object of faith there is a twist. He himself is what we need. If we only trust Christ to give us gifts and not himself as the all-satisfying gift, then we do not trust him in a way that honors him as our treasure. We simply honor the gifts. They are what we really want, not him … The world is not impressed when Christians get rich and say thanks to God. They are impressed when God is so satisfying that we give our riches away for Christ’s sake and count it gain.”

Mastering or Being Mastered by Your Passions

“When Maria Von Trapp, the heroine of the story that became The Sound of Music, was asked why she maintained such strong discipline in her new home in America, she replied that she wanted to set her children free from being mastered by their passions. The only remarkable thing about that statement was that anyone should have found it remarkable.”

Life Under Compulsion, Anthony Esolen

Feeling Good About Ourselves or God?

Following is another quote from John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life:

“Love is doing what is best for someone. But making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. It is, in fact, a lethal distraction. We were made to see and savor God — and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them. To make them feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.”

Self-esteem is the spirit of our age and if we’re not vigilant, we will be sucked in as well. We need to continually point our children away from themselves and to God. They don’t need to hear how great they are, they need to hear how great God is … over and over again … both because they’re sinners and because we will never exhaust the greatness of God, no matter how hard we try.

You Are What You Love

James K. A. Smith has written a new book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, and it looks to be really good. I’ve linked to an interview with him about the book below.

A couple things that stand out to me from the interview:

  • The Augustinian emphasis on the central role of the heart over the mind or the body. Rightly ordered love is vital to the Christian life. This requires a life long practice of confessing sin and seeking to conform your heart to God’s heart, loving what He loves and hating what He hates.
  • That “we have completely underestimated the power of habit and the (de)formative power of cultural practices.” The desire for relevance, absent a strong grounding in the Scriptures resulting in a life formed by the Scriptures, has resulted in the erosion of true Biblical thinking and living. In the end, we have lost holiness. This is a tragedy for the church and the world.
  • The importance of orthodox Christian worship including the rituals and liturgies that are part of that worship. The form of worship matters (a lot) because worship shapes us. We ought to ask ourselves, what kind of shaping is done by the worship services in our churches? Is our worship truly cruciform? From my experience, I would generally answer that question in the negative. His call for historic, Christian worship is right on target.

You Are What You Love

The Treadmill

I quoted from Anthony Esolen’s book, Life Under Compulsion – Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, back in Dec. Here’s another quote from the chapter, Rush to Work – The Treadmill:

“We can trace out a nice chain of compulsions, thus. Mr. and Mrs. Ergonome are moving to a new state. They choose to live in a “good” neighborhood — set apart from the unwashed — for the sake of a “good” school, a well-funded factory that produces “college material,” the half-finished industrial stuff that is then transformed into transistors, gas engines, and Styrofoam packing. To secure this good school, they buy a house beyond their means. To pay the mortgage, Mrs. Ergonome must earn a salary outside the home. To enable Mrs. Ergonome to do that, they must purchase a second car, and day care for the two children. They choose the “best” day care, the one brightest in Plasticine, and with relatively few of the unwashed (although Mr. & Mrs. Ergonome, upholding the dignity of people they flee, would deny any such motive). That, too, is a noose for the budget.

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