Tag archives: Bible

Your Heart Was Made For Love

by Mikayla Simpson

October 19, 2021

Deep down, we all want to love people well. We can’t help it. We are made to worship and made to love, but sometimes the way we choose to prioritize our loves isn’t how it was meant to be. Without realizing it, our well-intentioned affection for people or things can turn into idolatry. Idolatry is dangerous because as we worship and love someone or something that cannot fill the wholeness in our hearts, we are left unsatisfied. We feel this emptiness because we are made for more.

Since the Fall of Man, Things Are Not as They Should Be

G. K. Chesterton once said, “When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything.” Because we have a sinful nature, we do not worship God as we should. Instead, we seek after the things of the world, expecting them to satisfy us. We open our arms to broken things, expecting them to fill us. As we draw out of these broken wells that “can hold no water,” our thirst remains unquenched (Jer. 2:13). Sometimes, we choose to worship the creature we can touch rather than the Creator who is above. In doing so, we abandon our greatest love (Rom. 1:22-24, Rev. 2:4) and craft gods out of good gifts. At face value, these gifts are not necessarily bad things to love, but our affections become distorted and disordered when God is not our first love.

In Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols, Brad Bigney defines an idol as “anything or anyone that captures our hearts, minds, and affections more than God.” Loving isn’t wrong; in fact, God created us with a great capacity to love, but loving anything more than God is idolatrous. This disloyalty flies blatantly in the face of God, saddens Him, and is sin. For He has said, “have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2). Idols are poor gods that too often take and use us. They don’t treat us well, and they promise pleasure that they can’t deliver on, leaving us guilty, alone, and always wanting more. Bigney puts it well when he says that “sin is what we do when we’re not satisfied in God.” When we become impatient or discontent, we turn to sin, worshiping idols mistakenly believing that they are more reliable than God.

Identifying Personal Idols

Idols are the hidden matters of the heart. To identify these matters of the heart, Bigney offers a few questions to help us identify our idols:

  1. Am I willing to sin to get this?
  2. Am I willing to sin if I think I’m going to lose this?
  3. Do I turn to this as a refuge and comfort instead of going to God?
  4. What are your goals, expectations, and intentions?
  5. What would make you happy?
  6. What do you see as your rights?
  7. What do you fear?
  8. When you are pressured or tense, where do you turn?

It can be tempting to rely on our own understanding because there is a way that seems right to us but is actually very wrong (Prov. 14:12). That’s why we need the Lord—who searches out the heart and tests the mind (Jer. 17:10)—to weigh our hearts and direct our steps (Prov. 16:9, 21:2).

Ask the Lord to show you your sin, then let His Word reveal the hidden matters of your heart. Inviting Him into this gutting process will expose and dethrone the idols in your life. Let this intimate surgery carve out the festering loves that keep you from drawing closer to God. Press His words into the hollow places that these idols leave behind. Let the words pierce you. Let them fill you. Allow God’s Word to dwell in you richly. He is the One who gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezk. 11:19). Bigney encourages his readers engaging in this soulful surgery to remember to “glance at your heart but gaze at Christ.” We should examine the chasms and crevices of our hearts but ultimately set our eyes on Christ to renew our hearts.

We Only Fulfill Our Purpose When We Worship God

Apart from God, we will never be satisfied. The fourth-century theologian Augustine correctly observed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in you.” As God exposes our heart, His Spirit renews and transforms our heart by realigning our desires with His will so that we do not live by our natural desires but instead can walk in the newness of life. When we walk in step with the Spirit, we are transformed.

God wants the good life for His children, and apart from Him, we have no good thing (Ps. 16:2, 63:3-4). We were formed for God that we would praise Him and bring Him glory (Is. 43:21). In fact, we cannot do better than God’s best for us because His very presence quenches our soul with a fullness of joy and pleasure that never comes to an end (Ps. 16:11).

But in order to know that fullness of joy, we must come. We must seek. And we must worship Him. James says, “Draw near to the Lord and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The extent of our surrender to God is the extent of our satisfaction. He is the greatest pleasure and highest treasure. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must search out our hearts to determine what we must surrender, then actively remove the idols that hinder us from worshiping Christ as our highest treasure.

No one else in all the earth is like God. As Isaiah notes, He “stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to dwell in” (Is. 40:22). The One who created the galaxies and stars and calls them by name knows our names and came to earth to die and redeem us so He could bring us closer to Himself. He is the One our hearts long to worship. But if He is not our first love, we will always be empty. So, love Him. Worship Him. Your heart was made for this.

Mikayla Simpson interned with the Center for Biblical Worldview.

What To Believe About Issues Jesus Didn’t Discuss

by Joseph Backholm

October 15, 2021

A favorite argument of those trying to push the boundaries of Christian ethics is an argument from silence. It usually goes something like this: “Jesus never talked about [insert issue], so that means He doesn’t care.” 

However, arguments from silence are a type of logical fallacy. The lack of evidence for something does not mean the gaps in our knowledge should be filled with assumptions. Furthermore, every parent who has heard their child say, “You didn’t see me do it,” understands that those who depend most heavily on a lack of proof might not be prioritizing the truth.

When it comes to the Christian life, arguments from silence are more than just sloppy thinking. They might also be evidence of a heart that is more interested in getting its own way than trying to live God’s way.

Fundamental to the gospel is the idea of submission. Paul expressed this attitude when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20, ESV).

When we justify our morally questionable decisions with an argument from silence, we put the cart before the horse. Our goal should not be to do whatever we want until someone says, “No,” but to affirmatively look for ways to honor God with our lives. 

Instead of asking, “Is it okay if I do this?” we should be asking, “Does God want me to do this?”

The first instinct of a life surrendered to God is to find out what He wants, not to see if we can justify doing what we want. As Christians, everything we do should be viewed through the lens of honoring God. As Paul said, “[W]hatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

The instinct to see what we can get away with is evidence that we don’t always want God to be in charge. We want Him to supervise and provide help when needed, but mostly we want Him to help us have fun. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis described that view of God in this way:  

We want, in fact, not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

The God of the Bible demands daily submission for His glory and our pleasure because He loves us and understands that our sinful desires promise joy and satisfaction but deliver neither. 

Even Jesus, who is fully God and an equal member of the Trinity, was primarily focused on what God the Father wanted Him to do. As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).

It is folly to build our moral view of the world around what Jesus did not talk explicitly about. After all, Jesus didn’t say anything specifically about sexual assault or flying planes into skyscrapers, yet we can still know what God thinks about them. As Christians, our desire should be to think biblically about everything. Even though the Bible doesn’t provide explicit instructions on every issue or question we may encounter in life, the answers are not difficult to find if we actually want to find them.  

When considering what Jesus said and thinks, our attitude makes all the difference. Any time we find ourselves saying, “Jesus didn’t say you can’t…” is a good time to take inventory of our motives and make sure that we are really wanting what God wants and not merely trying to justify doing what we want.

Image: Carl Heinrich Bloch, “Sermon on the Mount” (1877)

What is the “Gospel”? A Deeper Look at the Historical and Literary Context Behind the Good News

by Jaelyn Morgan

September 24, 2021

When Jesus began His ministry, He proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). As Christians, our goal is to follow Christ completely. To obey Him, we must understand what He meant by the “gospel” and how it relates to the kingdom of God.

The Gospel Is Good News

The English word “gospel” comes from an Old English word godspel (god meaning “good” and spel meaning “story” or “message”). This was an English translation of the Latin bona annuntiatio, which in turn was a translation of the Greek word euangelion (“good tidings”). In ancient times, an euangelion was a royal proclamation of military victory or ascension to a throne. If a kingdom had military victory over their enemies in battle, a messenger would run back to the capital and proclaim the euangelion to the people waiting inside in the city’s walls. Essentially, the word “gospel” means “good news” and has historical connotations of a royal, victorious proclamation of one kingdom overtaking another.

The Gospel Announces God’s Kingdom

Having learned what euangelion meant in Jesus’ historical context, we must now consider the biblical, or literary, context of “good news.” In Isaiah 52:7 and 10 (emphasis mine), we read:

How beautiful upon the mountains

    are the feet of him who brings good news,

who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

    who publishes salvation,

    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

…The Lord has bared his holy arm

    before the eyes of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth shall see

    the salvation of our God.

This prophetic passage foretold that the good news—or the gospel—would be a proclamation of happiness announcing the reign of Zion’s God and an international salvation that would reach “all the ends of the earth.” As Jesus later explained, His kingdom, the kingdom of God, “is not of this world” (John 18:36). By calling Himself the “Son of Man,” He connected His Kingdom to Daniel’s prophecy about the Son of Man’s kingdom, which would neither pass away nor be destroyed (Dan. 7:14). This new kingdom would be unlike any kingdom people have seen before. Not only would it be multiethnic, multi-national, multilingual, and everlasting (Isa. 56:8, Dan. 7:13, Rev. 7:9); it would transform the whole world under a King who would reign for eternity (Rev. 11:15).

Every kingdom needs a king. The Bible declares that the king whom God has appointed over His kingdom is Jesus. Because of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning death, God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…And he put all things under his feet…” (Eph. 1:20-22). When Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” He was heralding the incoming of God’s long-awaited kingdom as its King!

The Gospel Invites Us to Join God’s Kingdom

The proclamation of God’s kingdom and its king, Jesus, is good news for everyone because all are invited to partake in its glory. Just as every kingdom has a king, every kingdom has citizens. Citizens of God’s kingdom need to receive eternal life because God’s kingdom is everlasting (Ps. 145:13, Dan. 7:14). God has given us everything we need to become part of His kingdom. In fact, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son [Jesus]” (1 John 5:11). When we believe in Jesus, we receive eternal life and our citizenship is in heaven (John 3:36, Phil. 3:20). Jesus proclaimed, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) to tell us that, by these actions, we can become citizens of the kingdom of God!

So, what does the Bible mean by “repent”? The original Greek word translated as “repent” is metanoeo, meaning “to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent.” The immediate context of Mark’s gospel reveals that repentance is changing one’s mind about something in order to act in faith (Mark 1:4, 15; 6:12). Hence, it is a new mindset that results in new action. The rest of Scripture affirms this understanding of repentance. Thus, in Jesus’s call to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), “to repent” means more than just changing one’s mind; it means accepting the gospel message, turning away from sin, and turning toward King Jesus for a new way of life.

Shortly after Jesus was resurrected and returned to heaven, the apostle Peter addressed a crowd in Jerusalem, proclaiming the euangelion and the need to repent:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when [the crowd] heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:36-42).

The Gospel Freely Justifies Us

The gospel is not only good news about the victorious kingdom of God but also the personal good news that sinful men and women can become members of God’s kingdom and be reconciled to a holy God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ! Each of us is personally invited to become citizens of God’s kingdom. We can become part of God’s kingdom when we accept Jesus as the king that He already is and trust in Him for a right standing before God. Jesus purifies anyone who believes in Him so they can have a right standing before God and be part of God’s people (1 John 3:3, Titus 2:14).

Justification (i.e., right standing before God) is given to us by God through Jesus Christ for free. As the apostle Paul explains in Romans 3:21-26, justification from God is a gift:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested…through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

As sinners, we did not have a hope in the world. But then God sent Jesus, who willingly died on the cross, for our sins, in our place. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). This is amazing news! When there was no way, God made a way. When our sin prevented us from having a right relationship with Him, God sent Jesus. Because of God’s graciousness toward us, we are invited to “repent and believe in the gospel” and become part of God’s eternal kingdom, His people, and His family.

The Gospel Gives Us an Urgent Choice

The biblical gospel gives us an ultimatum. We can continue in our sinful state, trying (and failing) to get into heaven by our own merit, or we can accept the good news. If we repent of our old ways and place our faith in Jesus Christ as our new Savior and King, we are saved from God’s wrath against sin and saved into God’s eternal kingdom!

By sending Jesus to us, God showed that He loved us. Jesus, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10), can be our friend, savior, and king. What will you decide? As 2 Corinthians 6:2 reminds us, do not waste another day, for “now is the favorable time” and “behold, now is the day of salvation”!

NEXT STEPS

  1. How Can I Be Saved?
  2. I Am a Christian, Now What?
  3. What Is the Christian Life?
  4. Why Should I Go to Church?

Jaelyn Morgan interned for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

A Closer Look at Virtue: Chastity

by Molly Carman

August 31, 2021

According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). In this seven-part series, we will familiarize ourselves with each of the seven virtues, with the goal of developing new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.

This is part seven of seven. The previous installments dealt with kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, and temperance.

Properly defined, chastity is intentionally choosing to refrain from immoral sexual activity. Immoral sexual activity can be defined as physical acts with or entertaining sexual thoughts about people who are not one’s spouse. This virtue applies to married couples and singles alike.

It is important to note that virginity is not synonymous with being chaste. It is possible to be a chaste, sexually active married person; it is also possible to be an unchaste virgin. That’s because chastity is primarily concerned with respecting others and cherishing and honoring the sanctity of marriage. Chastity has less to do with whether or not someone is sexually active and more to do with their behavior in and outside of marriage.

From the first marriage of Adam and Eve in the garden, God created sexual desire to motivate men and women to enter the sacred covenant relationship of marriage, which is reserved for one man and one woman and is intended to be for life. Marriage is a good gift from God; it should be delighted in and protected. Scripture tells us, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). It is good, natural, and beautiful for a husband and wife to be intimately united together as one flesh (Gen. 2:24). As Paul explains, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Cor. 7:3).

Chastity requires refraining from entertaining sexual thoughts and engaging in sexual acts while not married, and when married, remaining faithful to one’s spouse (Job 31:1). Habits of chastity can include dressing modestly, being self-controlled in dating relationships, looking to Jesus for our ultimate satisfaction, and not using others for our physical or sexual pleasure. For those who are married, chastity includes the giving of oneself to a spouse and honoring them and God with one’s body, heart, and mind.

Chastity’s opposite is the vice of lust, and it plagues both men and women. In the final chapter of her book Glittering Vices, Rebecca DeYoung describes lust and how it distorts us, noting:

Lust makes sexual pleasure all about me. It is a self-gratification project…In lust, sexual pleasure is divorced from love and mutual self-giving. And when we lust we certainly want nothing to do with giving life and the future commitments that might bring…I want my pleasure, says the lustful one, and I want it now.

Lust wants all of the pleasures but none of the responsibility that accompanies sexual desire. Lust is unable to give of itself; it only takes. It takes away from the beauty of the unity between a man and a woman, the gift of new life, and the commitment of a covenant union before God.

The vice of lust has plagued humanity throughout history. But today, in our auditory and visually stimulated and pornography-saturated society that prizes anonymity, there are more temptations than ever to succumb to the temptations of lust. Moreover, television commercials, shows, movies, billboards, social media advertisements, and sexually suggestive songs reinforce the notion that modesty and chastity are concepts from an old-fashioned, bygone era. But for Christians who take their cues from Scripture rather than the culture, it is important to remember that God’s standard hasn’t changed. In fact, the standard of purity outlined in God’s Word is still binding on followers of Jesus (Mat. 5:28).

Unlike our secular culture, which either mocks chastity or declares it impossible, Scripture places a tremendous value on the virtue of chastity. For example, Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter” (1 Thess. 4:3-6a). Lust does not honor the image of God in others or who God has called us to be as ambassadors for Christ.

Rather than indulge in the passions of the flesh, Christians are exhorted to “walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:13-14). Lust says “yes” to the old self and the desires of sinful flesh, but chastity says “yes” to the new self which is in Christ Jesus. Like all virtues, chastity requires courage to walk away, to close one’s eyes, and renew one’s mind (Rom. 12:1) for the glory of God and the honor of others.

Throughout this series on virtue and vice, we have considered what it means for a Christian to put on the new self. As we seek to become more like Christ, we must courageously resolve to fight against the vices in our lives, which represent the old self, and put on kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity, which befit the new self. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

A Closer Look at Virtue: Temperance

by Molly Carman

August 26, 2021

According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). In this seven-part series, we will familiarize ourselves with each of the seven virtues, with the goal of developing new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.

This is part six of seven. The previous installments dealt with kindness, humility, diligence, charity, and patience.

Virtue can be defined as moral excellence. Someone is seen as virtuous if they exhibit morally good traits and qualities. Unfortunately, in a fallen world, virtue does not come naturally. But as we’ve seen in this series on virtue, through common and special grace, Christians can foster and grow in virtue. The next virtue we will consider is temperance (also known as self-control). Temperance is the practice of self-restraint and moderation; it teaches us to master our appetites—food and otherwise—and order them in a manner pleasing to God.

Food is necessary for life. But in His kindness, God also made eating pleasurable. People often gather around food for times of fellowship and to celebrate special occasions. Food also plays a significant role in the Christian life, as believers we are commanded to take communion together in remembrance of Christ’s work on the cross (Luke 22:19-20, 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

But although gathering for meals is often a source of great joy, the good gift of food comes with its own set of temptations, particularly the temptation to overindulge. Proverbs 26:16 warns, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” Temperance, which teaches us proper moderation, helps us resist the temptations of a disordered appetite.

Temperance is simultaneously a physical and spiritual discipline. When we practice temperance, we glorify God with our bodies. As Paul reminded the Corinthian church:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

Spiritual formation should affect all areas of life, including our physical habits. Learning to be temperate in our eating and delight in it as a good gift from God is a hard practice but a necessary one, and it begins by considering what kind of food and how much of it is good for the body.

Fasting is a habit used for cultivating the virtue of temperance. Many church denominations and traditions incorporate fasting into their liturgical calendars, Lent being the best-known example. Fasting does not necessarily have to be from food. We can fast from any number of things, including social media, entertainment, or shopping. However, these activities are not essential to life; we could live without them and be perfectly fine. But fasting from food is unique in that it increases the physical ache that reminds us that “man does not live by bread alone” (Deut. 8:3, Mat. 4:4). This exercise increases our knowledge of dependency on God for life and satisfaction. It is He alone who sustains us (Ps. 54:4).

The temptation to overindulge is often manifested in the vice of gluttony, which misleads us into seeking food or other material things for comfort. Philippians 3:19 demonstrates this folly, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Rebecca DeYoung echoes this scriptural warning in her book Glittering Vices when she explains, “The glutton eats for himself, and his mission is to gratify his own appetites. His mission is ‘pleasure first,’ and he orders the rest of his life around that goal. His god is his belly, and he serves it faithfully.”

It needs to be noted that food deprivation isn’t necessarily virtuous. In fact, a disordered relationship with food can lead us to overeat or undereat. Currently, over a third of the American population is considered to be clinically obese. Meanwhile, many intentionally starve themselves. There are a variety of causes for these conditions, a spiritually disordered relationship with food among them. When we overeat or undereat specifically out of a desire for comfort or control, we neglect to acknowledge God’s goodness, sufficiency, and authority.

Gluttony tempts us to rely on physical food and objects for happiness and satisfaction. It pleads “just one more” but is never satisfied. On the other hand, temperance says “enough” and encourages us to rely more on spiritual food and the gifts of God for satisfaction and fulfillment. Gluttony will tempt us to believe food is not a good gift from God. It will disorder our relationship with food to the point of deprivation and a desire for control. Temperance reminds us that God is in control and teaches us to delight in God’s blessings.

A Closer Look at Virtue: Patience

by Molly Carman

August 24, 2021

According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). In this seven-part series, we will familiarize ourselves with each of the seven virtues, with the goal of developing new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.

This is part five of seven. The previous installments dealt with kindness, humility, diligence, and charity.

Patience is the capacity to accept delay, suffering, or interruptions in a reasonable and prudent manner. This virtue encourages measured and appropriate responses to comments, critiques, challenges, or criticisms. It encourages us to wait, take a step back if necessary, and consider the full implications of a decision before proceeding. In the Bible, Jesus fully embodied this virtue. He overlooked arrogance from religious leaders, did not criticize or condemn the skeptical, listened to the desperate, and endured much suffering. Patience is selfless; it prioritizes relationships over immediate personal wants and desires.

Patience is ultimately an expression of love. In On the Morals of the Catholic Church, XV.25, Thomas Aquinas wrote, “I hold that virtue is nothing other than perfect love of God.” In 1 Corinthians 13, the well-known passage about love, Paul begins by saying, “Love is patient.” It is noteworthy that Paul says love is patient before he says love is anything else. Cultivating the virtue of patience is part of learning how to truly love God and other people.

The first habit of patience is learning to be patient with ourselves as Christ sanctifies us to become more like him. The second habit of patience is learning to be patient towards others and extend loving kindness towards them. And finally, the third habit of patience is rejoicing in the truth of God’s love and patience towards us as we persevere in the faith.

Anger, the opposing vice of patience, is often referred to as wrath. But these are not entirely the same, because anger can be an appropriate response in certain circumstances—but only when it is a measured response and not brash. Wrathfulness, on the other hand, is a disproportionate and immature response to a situation. In Glittering Vices, Rebecca DeYoung says that the primary concern with this vice “is that anger so disturbs reason that it twists any real concern about sin or injustice into service of self—protecting our own ego, demanding something from the world we would not reasonably expect from anyone else, feeding our own reputations for righteousness instead of admitting our complicity. True selflessness would eliminate anger.” DeYoung agrees with Aquinas, who believed that wrath inhibits the virtue of patience. When we are wrathful, we get angry too easily or quickly, are disproportionately angry, or stay angry for longer than is appropriate. In contrast, patience waits to respond, discerns a reasonable response, and is quick to forgive.

Many Scripture passages commend the virtue of patience. A few examples:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19)

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. (Prov. 15:18)

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Prov. 19:11)

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (Ps. 37:8)

Notably, the Bible refers to God’s wrath in several places. For example, the prophet Nahum wrote:

A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; the Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. (Nahum 1:2)

However, it is important to remember that whenever Scripture refers to God being angry or displaying His wrath, it is always a proportionate response to human sin and wickedness. Moreover, the Bible is quick to affirm that although God displays His wrath against sin, He is also “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh.9:31; Ps. 86:5, 15; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). God is angered by sin, but He never sins in His anger.

As Christians, we must learn to be imitators of God in regard to how we manage our anger (Eph. 5:1, 4:26). We must practice not being easily angered (Ecc. 7:9) or unreasonable in our response towards situations and/or individuals (Col. 4:6).

Patience means setting aside our pride and humbling ourselves to be teachable and gracious. If we want to become patient, we should practice it in our lives, paying special attention to the opportunities we are given to practice patience every day. We should also pray specifically for patience. When we pray for patience, we should pray for courage to enter every conversation and situation with kindness, humility, diligence, and charity. The virtuous life is interwoven; we must practice all the virtues, and all the virtues encourage the practice of each other.

Made To Live

by Mikayla Simpson

August 20, 2021

For many people, 2020 brought change and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic turned normal, as we know it, on its head, causing our society to collectively contemplate death in a deeper way.

Death Is Not Natural

Most people would agree that things in this world are not as they should be, especially when it comes to death. If you have ever watched someone on the doorstep of death, every gasping breath is a fight to live. This is because death is not natural for us; we were made to live.

The Bible explains that in the beginning God breathed into man the breath of life so that he could dwell together with Him. But tragically, humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God’s good, life-sustaining command (Gen. 2:16-17, 3:1-6) and were cast out of Eden. God cursed them, saying, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19b). Since that day, out of consequence for humanity’s disobedience, our bodies have continued to decay and will one day bring forth death (Rom. 6:23).

Death is not natural; we were not made for this. God created humanity in His image and after His likeness to live and walk in perfect fellowship with Him (Gen. 1:27). Sadly, death is the unnatural consequence of humanity’s sin.

What the Bible Says About Death

Although we live in a fallen world, Christians should not despair or grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who died so we could live—forever (John 3:16). In his book A Reason For God, Timothy Keller notes that Jesus became the man of sorrows (Is. 53:3) by taking “our suffering so seriously that he took it on himself.” Jesus Himself tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:1, 6).

One of Jesus’ most encouraging promises is that He is coming back for those who put their trust in Him to bring them to live forever with Him (John 14:2-3, Rev. 21:3-4). According to Scripture, nothing in creation can separate those who have trusted in Jesus from the love of God, not even death (Rom. 8:23).

As believers walk through the shadow of death, there is ultimately nothing to fear because Jesus is there beside us. He is our comfort (Ps. 23). We can grieve what suffering does to us and what death takes from us, but we should always remember where our hope lies. Our hope is anchored in the Lord who shares in our suffering and is acquainted with great grief (Is. 53:3). We can find joy in our suffering by keeping our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He is always with us and He will strengthen our faith. These trials will produce steadfastness and endurance in the long run (James 1:2-4).

When we suffer, it is important to remember that Christ is with us. When we go through something difficult, it might seem that God has abandoned or forgotten us. But even on the darkest nights, we must remember that God hears and sees us and will not leave or forsake us.

Christians have hope despite death because of the promise of the resurrection. The Bible teaches that being human means we are embodied souls/ensouled bodies. Upon physical death, we will be disembodied, meaning our body will be separated from our spirit but our spirit will return to God (Ecc. 12:7). Scripture says that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corin. 5:8). In other words, death will separate us from God, but believers will always be with the Lord in the present Heaven free from sin and suffering in the fullness of joy, awaiting the bodily resurrection and permanent home in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rom. 8:38-9, Rev. 21:1).

On the cross, Jesus tasted death to give us eternal life. Those who believe in Him “shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus declares, “‘I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live’” (John 11:25), thereby extending the invitation of eternal life to everyone. 

For believers, what waits on the other side of death is what we love, namely, the presence of the Lord. When we grieve the loss of someone we love or are weighed down by suffering, His peace and His presence revives our soul. We may be overwhelmed or sad, but this present pain is not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed and the perfect restoration that even creation groans for (Rom 8:18-20). Although we may come face to face with our darkest hour, God fills us with all joy and peace so that through His Holy Spirit, we can have a steadfast hope (Rom. 15:13).

We Were Made To Live

We were made to live. Scripture tells us God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecc. 3:11) and is “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). Life is a gift of God, but physical death is an effect of the fall. From the beginning, humanity has fought against physical death, establishing hospitals to ease suffering and its decaying effects because we long to live. 

We do not have to fear death. We can live abundantly in Christ, walking in step with the Spirit, knowing death is coming but making the most of every hour. This is because we know that death is not the end of us. Rather, it is a small interruption before we step into eternal life with our Lord. 

We all know someone who is suffering, maybe even facing death. When we are invited into someone’s pain, we have the opportunity to share the burden of their suffering, to be still with them, and speak words of life. Our words can impart the aroma of Christ and give the peace and hope that people hunger for. Without Christ, we will die physically and spiritually. With Christ, though we die, we have eternal life. It is only when we lose our fear of death that we can truly live.

Mikayla Simpson was a summer intern with the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

Most Americans Think They Have a Biblical Worldview. But Do They?

by George Barna

August 18, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

A recent nationwide survey conducted by Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview asked respondents to determine what the term “biblical worldview” meant to them and whether they fit the definition they embraced. The survey revealed that 51 percent of American adults believe they have a biblical worldview.

To make sense of that statistic, context comes from the annual American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. That national assessment, which is based on more than 50 questions used to track the worldview of American adults, reveals that only 6 percent actually have a biblical worldview, regardless of whether or not they think they have such a foundation.

So, should we be pleased that most Americans think they have a biblical worldview when they clearly do not?

My viewpoint is that the 51 percent figure is more problematic than encouraging. Here’s why.

At the simplest level, the fact that most people think they have a biblical worldview indicates that a large share of those adults probably do not know what the biblical worldview is.

Experience—and common sense—suggests that if someone believes they already have a biblical worldview, they are unlikely to examine and seek to improve their worldview. After all, the widely embraced axiom instructs us: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Between the half of all adults who believe they have a biblical worldview and the minority who either don’t care or don’t want one, a large majority of Americans argue that they do not have a worldview problem to solve.

Roughly 70 percent of U.S. adults claim to be Christian. Of those, 84 percent claim to have a biblical worldview. However, the American Worldview Inventory reports that only 9 percent of self-professed Christians actually hold a biblical worldview. That is a remarkable level of self-deception and represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development—i.e., Christian churches, schools, and families.

We may narrow our scope of concern to those who are more deeply committed to the Christian faith. Based on beliefs about sin, repentance, and salvation (rather than mere self-identification), we can determine that approximately 30 percent of adults are likely born-again Christians. Once again relying upon data from the two independent studies, the Center for Biblical Worldview research shows that 47 percent of born-again adults claim to have a biblical worldview. Yet, the American Worldview Inventory reveals that just 19 percent of born-again Christians actually do. That’s a substantially smaller self-deception gap than among all self-identified Christians, but it is perhaps even more significant in its implications for the church and the spiritual trajectory of the nation.

Given our research revealing that few adults ever meaningfully alter their worldview, increasing a biblical worldview in our society is a daunting challenge for those who will attempt to change the existing conditions. The current situation suggests that biblical worldview facilitators are relying upon ineffective approaches and thus must re-strategize.

In subsequent posts, I will write more about the substance and process of developing the biblical worldview. In the meantime, consider these two challenges.

First, write down some of the critical elements of your worldview. You could describe your perceptions about:

  • the existence, nature, character, and purposes of God;
  • the nature, character, and purpose of human beings;
  • the existence, source, and application of absolute moral truth;
  • the reliability, relevance, and validity of the Bible;
  • whether or not people need to be saved from their sins, and if so, how that process works;
  • the existence of life after death, and the dynamics of that experience;
  • any existing spiritual or supernatural authorities, and define their powers and domains of influence; and
  • the definition of success for your life on earth.

Although worldview is more comprehensive than the sum of your responses to these questions, specifying your beliefs on these matters will provide a useful initial profile of your worldview. Our team will address many of these matters in forthcoming posts and has, in fact, already addressed some of these matters in articles currently on the Center for Biblical Worldview site.  We hope these resources will enable you to compare your worldview to biblical teachings and principles.

Second, identify the dominant worldview of those around you. How do their worldviews differ from yours? How do their specific beliefs and behaviors reflect or reject biblical perspectives? If nothing else, this thought exercise might help you identify useful conversations to have with others.

A biblical worldview enables you to think like Jesus so that you can live like Jesus. Because your worldview is the filter through which you make all of your decisions, developing a biblical worldview is one of the foundations of a truly Christian life.

George Barna is Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

A Closer Look at Virtue: Charity

by Molly Carman

August 17, 2021

According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). In this seven-part series, we will familiarize ourselves with each of the seven virtues, with the goal of developing new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.

This is part four of seven. The previous installments dealt with kindness, humility, and diligence.

The first three virtues outlined in this series—humility, kindness, and diligence—promote and encourage a right relationship with God and with others. Kindness teaches us to see others rightly, humility teaches us to see ourselves rightly, and diligence teaches us to respond rightly to God’s free gift of love. The final four virtues—charity, patience, temperance, and chastity—teach us how to practice a virtuous life in relation to the world and our bodies.

Charity is the voluntary and cheerful giving of one’s money or possessions to someone in need. It is characterized by a lack of stinginess or hoarding. A charitable person lives life openhandedly, receiving and relinquishing the gifts that have been given to them—possessions, means, and blessings—with a content heart.

It is important to note that charity is not practiced out of guilt or obligation. Charitableness is joyful generosity. As the apostle Paul explained, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:17). In addition, charity is not practiced out of a desire to look good in front of other people or draw attention to one’s wealth. Jesus encouraged us to give in secret so our reward for our generosity would be from God, not man (Mat. 6:1-4).

The amount a person gives isn’t what determines how charitable they are. Instead, a person’s charitableness hinges on their attitude when they give and how generous they are in relation to their means (e.g., the widow’s mite: Mark 12:41–44, Luke 21:1–4). Furthermore, charity is more about a desire to share the blessings of God with others rather than check-off the completion of a command. Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” The virtue of charity requires sacrifice, which encourages Christlikeness. Charity glorifies God because we give what He first gave us, makes us more like Christ, who gave everything, and blesses the world who is in need.  

Charity is not just about how we give, however, but also how we receive. We are often ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help when we are in need because we do not want others to feel obligated or pity us. But just as we must learn to give cheerfully, we must also practice the habit of receiving cheerfully with gratitude in our hearts to God. Charity reminds us that we are stewards of blessing and servants to one another and our neighbors, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed” (Prov. 19:17). But we cannot always know who is in need until we confess that we need one another and give fellow believers an opportunity to practice this virtue.

When practicing charity, we must be on guard against the vice of avarice, or what we commonly call greed. Avarice is an obsession with money and the things that it can buy. In her book, Glittering Vices, Rebecca DeYoung says two habits lead to avarice. First, we feel entitled to receive and keep the wages we have worked for because we earned them. Second, we are afraid of having nothing, so we give nothing. In other words, avarice teaches us to view what we have as “mine” instead of blessings from God and puts us in a perpetual state of fear of losing everything. Living our lives feeling entitled and fearful of losing what we have, hinders us from giving to others.

Avarice has harsh and deadly consequences. As Paul warns Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10). Even the exceedingly wealthy King Solomon warned against this vice, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecc. 5:10). Although the Lord blessed Solomon with great wealth, he counted all his gold and riches as vanity in comparison to the glory and gifts of God.

John Chrysostom (347-407), an early church theologian, said, “When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.” His words of wisdom echo Proverbs 21:13, which says, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Unfortunately, in our culture today, avarice is always pulling for our attention and making us feel justified as we hoard the blessings of the Lord. This vice taunts our soul’s desire for satisfaction, but material goods will never satiate our longings.

In his book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Whitmel Earley notes that when we are satisfied in the love of Christ, we will turn to the world with love. Alternatively, if we are blinded by avarice, we will turn to the world for love, believing that acquisition will save us. To keep ourselves from being led astray by avarice, let us encourage one another to, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).

Charity reminds us that everything we have is from God (James 1:17). One way to start cultivating this gift is by not owning anything that you would not share, give away, or could live without. We must remember that it is by God’s grace that we have everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and we need not be anxious for anything (Mat. 6:25). Christians have been given the greatest gift of salvation and because of the grace and charity that has been given to us, much is required of us. The cultivation of charity reminds us of how we have been blessed to be a blessing to the world.

A Closer Look at Virtue: Diligence

by Molly Carman

August 12, 2021

According to tradition, the seven virtues of the Christian life are kindness, humility, diligence, charity, patience, temperance, and chastity. These character qualities embody the new self that Christians are called to put on in Christ (Eph. 4:17-24). In this seven-part series, we will familiarize ourselves with each of the seven virtues, with the goal of developing new habits befitting our new selves in Christ.

This is part three of seven. The two previous installments dealt with kindness and humility.

The third virtue Christians should strive to cultivate is diligence. Properly defined, diligence is careful and persistent effort. Like kindness, diligence does not work for the sake of recognition but finds delight and satisfaction in good work for its own sake. Diligence does not despise work or overindulge in rest and play. Instead, it embraces work as an expression of love and care.

Paul encouraged the early church to be diligent in everything, to the glory of God:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:23-24)

In the book of Proverbs, we are told that the diligent person will come to a good end:

The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. (Prov. 12:24)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes to poverty. (Prov. 21:5)  

When life presents challenges and trials, diligence helps us to press on no matter what. In The Works of the Reverend and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ, the 16th century Puritan pastor Richard Greenham said diligence “makes the rough places plain, the difficult easy, and the unsavory tasty.” In other words, diligence fosters a teachable spirit and the disposition to rest in the truth that God knows best when we find ourselves in the rough places of life (Prov. 16:9). Diligence would not be necessary if life were easy and always smooth sailing. But since life isn’t easy, we must practice diligence to persevere through discipline and trial (Heb. 12:7).

Sometimes, God calls us to do work we would have never chosen for ourselves. But diligence teaches us to learn contentment, being grateful for the work that lies before us, no matter how hard it is (Phil. 4:12). We respond with diligence, not because of our own abilities, but because we trust in God to complete every good work that He has already begun in our lives (Phil. 1:6). This promise applies to our daily lives as we physically work and to our spiritual lives as we allow God to work in and through us, sanctifying us into the image of Christ—the new self of the virtuous life.

When diligence is neglected, we can become slothful. When most people hear the word “sloth,” they think of laziness. The slothful person is indeed lazy. However, slothfulness is not an exact synonym of laziness; rather, it denotes a certain type of laziness. Historically, the vice of slothfulness has also been called acedia—spiritual or mental apathy.

In Glittering Vices, Rebecca DeYoung says, “Sloth has more to do with our laziness about love than laziness about our work.” Sloth is resistant to the demands of love, and therefore apathetic towards the sanctifying work of love. Love is not easy; it requires work and commitment. In other words, the sluggard and the ambitious workaholic can both suffer from slothfulness.

The love of Christ is not something that we earn; it is a gift. But Christ’s free gift of love is meant to elicit an active response from us. Once we have received the gift, we must engage in the hard work of loving and being known. This work is uncomfortable and wonderful all at the same time. Among other things, it means accountability and a willingness to change.

The sluggard wants all the benefits of love without any of the investment or commitment. Meanwhile, the workaholic believes that Christ’s love is conditional on their performance; they work hard because they do not fully trust that Christ’s love will remain when they fail.  

To the sluggard, Proverbs 6:6-8 says:

Go to the ant … consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

The ant considers what needs to be done and diligently goes about the task instead of waiting for another to complete the work. However, the benefits of cultivating diligence in one’s life transcend developing a good work ethic. Diligence fosters a right relationship with our work, affecting how we complete it and for Whom we ultimately do it. The tragedy for the slothful is that, in the end, they resist their greatest desire—love—because of what it requires of them. As Solomon explained, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Prov. 13:4). On the other hand, the workaholic must learn to work within their limitations for the glory of God and not themselves (1 Thess. 4:11-12). If we are tempted to overwork as a means of “earning” the love of God or others, we must learn to grow our reliance on God, knowing that it is not out of our own strength that we do anything (John 15:4-5).

Diligence is an active response to Christ’s free gift of love. It encourages us to be who we are called to be in Christ (the new self) and not settle with who we were (the old self). Our culture tempts us towards both extremes of sloth. We consume ourselves in work or avidly avoid it, forgetting the purpose of the work itself—to change and transform us into the image of Christ. Changing habits and cultivating virtue requires work. In other words, it demands the virtue of diligence.

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