Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Christian Life (page 2 of 11)

So Much More Than Manners

Say ‘Thank You!’

As a bratty little boy I had to be constantly reminded to say ‘Thank you’ for things. I was unthankful and presumptuous. My elders were working for my good when they laboured to teach me my manners, and I am very thankful for it.

give thanks

Sadly, my hardness of heart through my youth set some persistent patterns in my life and behaviour. My unwillingness to be thankful as a matter of courtesy continued into adulthood. It’s really only over the past few years that I’ve begun to realize just how connected thanklessness / thankfulness is to my heart’s whole disposition.

Recently, I thought it would be good for me to go back and do a little study on thankfulness in the New Testament. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Not only was the study huge, it was hugely convicting.

I was expecting the apostle Paul to command us to be thankful. I wasn’t expecting the New Testament to model and expect so much about thankfulness. And I wasn’t expecting to see just how clearly thankfulness is so much more than manners; it is bound up with godliness and worship in every area of our lives.

Some Findings

I want to provide you with my compilation of New Testament texts and teaching on thankfulness. I think the best way to use it is to download the PDF, print it, go through the texts one-by-one and make notes on them.

That being said, I know that many of you (a) won’t do that, or, (b) won’t do that without convincing, so I’m going to offer a few highlights here.

Jesus Himself Modelled Thankfulness

And note the things he thanks his Father for. These are things I would complain and be bitter about, but he gives thanks.

ESV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

ESV Luke 22:17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. …  19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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When Divorce Is Good and Holy… Christians Are Confused

Someone recently forwarded me an article called ‘When Divorce is Good and Holy‘ and asked for my thoughts. I don’t typically respond to other people’s posts publicly but when I read this one, I felt a strong sense of urgency within my own heart to reply. When it comes to issues like marriage, which are so close to the heart of God, we need to think very carefully.

The premise of the article is simple: If Jesus upholds divorce as a legitimate option then we ought to view it as good and holy, when carried out according to his teaching. Therefore, we ought to stop criticizing those who want a divorce (for legitimate reasons like pornography use, etc.), and we must stop compelling them to stay in the marriage as if it is the only thing that would please God. In fact, the author goes one step further: He even asserts that when divorce is upheld as the good and holy option that it is, divorce rates and pornography use will decline.

I take several issues with that line of thinking. A few of them are outlined below.

1. The Law Never, Never, Never Empowers Righteousness

Hard temporal consequences for our sin can slow and stop our pursuits of sin. Perhaps evangelical divorce rates would actually decline.

This teaching is essentially functioning according to a law & sanction system. If you break the law, you will suffer the consequences. The thought is that potential enforcement of the law will bring change.

Now, the law teaches righteousness inasmuch as it shows us God’s hatred for sin and love for what is just. But the law is powerless to bring about holiness. In fact, the power of sin is the law (1 Cor 15.56) and it brings death.

Does the law have an effect in slowing the progress of sin? Yes, it certainly can (though it can have the opposite effect too, cf. Rom 7.7-11). But are we only looking for changed behaviour or changed hearts? If we are seeking changed hearts, is law sufficient?

What good did the threat of law-enforcement do Israel? Certainly, she didn’t immediately become like the nations around her. But eventually, she did. The progress of sin was slowed, but the hearts of the people were unchanged. And that’s simply not good enough.

It is only through free grace, welcome, reconciliation, and forgiveness, that hearts are won and changed. Grace gives life; the law kills. If the end goal is the changed heart of the sinning spouse, rather than simply behaviour change, shouldn’t we aim for grace?

If bad spouses are going to become good spouses we don’t need the law hung over our heads so much grace held in front of our eyes.

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What Has Christ Cost You?

The Big Question

It’s a personal question, but it’s one that must be asked: What has it cost you to follow Jesus?

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching Luke 6.12-26. There Jesus considers those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and rejected as ‘blessed.’ They are to be happy. He even commands them to rejoice!

Why would that be blessed? Doesn’t all of human history testify to our striving as a race to get away from poverty, hunger, weeping, and rejection? Why should these people be happy?

Jesus answers: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Their future reward is greater in eternity which will never end. They will be comforted, they will laugh, they will be accepted. You see, it’s not the mere notion of poverty that Jesus prizes, but rather the reason for the poverty:

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

These people are not blessed because they have nothing; they’re blessed because following Jesus has cost them everything. See the difference? They valued Jesus so much and this world so little that they gave up this world and its passing comforts for the next world and its unfading riches.
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Four Little Words

What is the likelihood you’ll be at church on Sunday? 50%? 75%?

Recently, I heard an experienced urban minister reflecting on the reality that in most urban contexts, among most young Christians — even reformed evangelicals — church attendance peaks at around 2-3 Sundays per month.

Before you judge, honestly evaluate your own attendance over the past little while. I say that because for most of these young people, if you were to ask them, they would indicate that they are very committed. In their own perception, they are more likely to be there than not, whether or not the facts bear that out. Many think they are more faithful than they are.

jesus

That’s been on my mind today because I’ve been studying about Jesus. Here’s what I read:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and he entered the synagogue as was his custom on the Sabbath day and he rose to read… (Luke 4.16)

Four little words stuck out to me. Did you catch them? ‘As was his custom.

If there are things we tend to not like as younger people, particularly younger evangelicals, it is commandments and customs. We don’t like to be told something is necessary. But if something is good, shouldn’t it be customary? If Jesus made it his custom to go and hear the reading and explanation of the law for the first 30 years of his life before beginning his ministry, shouldn’t that inform some of our customs?

I was further rebuked by this statement from Josephus:

‘He [Moses] appointed the Law to be the most excellent and necessary form of instruction, ordaining, not that it should be heard once for all or twice or on several occasions, but that every week men should desert their other occupations and assemble to listen to the Law and to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of it, a practice which all other legislators seem to have neglected’ (Ag. Ap. 2.17 §175).

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Let’s Not Knock Beauty

The longer I live, the more I see that balance is hard to achieve. That’s one of the (many) reasons why I need to keep coming back to Scripture again and again, repeatedly challenging my own worldview. I need to be constantly challenged to prove that what I believe about something (whether conscious or sub-conscious) is being corrected and informed by the mind of God.

One example of how I’ve been challenged lately is by thinking about beauty. As a father of three daughters, I’m responsible for thinking hard about beauty and trying to help my girls learn to value what God values.

Pendulum to the Left

In our culture, beauty, body image, being physically attractive — this is everything! Girls grow up in our day learning the fine art of taking photos of themselves constantly, always trying to make themselves look attractive.

Joe Carter posted some interesting facts on ‘female body image‘ back in April that indicate some very serious concerns about the emphasis our culture places on physical beauty:

3. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.

4. The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction. The median ages for onset of an eating disorder in adolescents is 12- to 13-years-old. In the United States, 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

5. Only four percent of women globally consider themselves beautiful.

Clearly, our culture swings the pendulum toward a view of external beauty that places far too much of a burden on girls and women in particular. Young women are being led to live and die — literally — for beauty.

Pendulum to the Right

Conservative Christians, like me, are able to discern the disproportionate value being placed on externals. We see that it doesn’t line up with God’s heart (1 Sam 16.7), so we call on each other to esteem hearts over clothes. We hear the words of the New Testament that call us to modesty of dress (1 Tim 2.9-10; 1 Pet 3.3-6; 1 Cor 12.22-24), so we call on each other to prioritize good works and good character over fashion.

And that’s all right and good.

But, there’s a tension present in Scripture that needs to pull us in from both the right and the left of the pendulum, back towards the centre.
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A Simple Way to Please Your Father

There are few things that grieve the heart of a parent more than watching the children they love quarrel with each other. When your children are fighting, it doesn’t even really matter (in one sense) who is right and who is wrong. Just the fact that they are quarelling is enough to make the whole situation seem like a loss.

By way of contrast, there is very little that pleases the heart of a parent more than when their children agree with one another and even help one another. Honestly, even if our girls are just nice to each other, it thrills me.

And I know the same is true of God the Father’s heart:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore. (Psalm 133.1-3)

The heart of our Father longs for his children to get along. And our hearts, like the hearts of little children, long to please our Father. So if we put these things together, we come up with a very simple, practical way for you to please your Father’s heart today.

Are you ready for it?

Be nice to other Christians.

Simple, right? Just be nice. Think nice thoughts about them. Speak nicely to them (including blog posts and comments). Do something nice for one of them. It will bless them, it will give you joy, and you know what? It will even please the heart of your Father who loves you both.

Don’t You Know What They’re Saying About You?

Gossip is bad. If you disagree, it’s probably because you’ve never been on the receiving end of it. It stings, wounds, and separates close friends.

Scripture testifies to the reality of our experience:

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Proverbs 11.13)

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16.28)

So gossip is bad. What can make it go away?

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26.20)

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When there’s no whisperer, there is no wood for the fire. The trouble, of course, is that there’s more than just wood necessary for a fire. You need oxygen and a spark. And with gossip, you need not just a whisperer, but someone to whisper to. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

We all know that we should not participate in gossip (speaking or listening). But it’s hard to stop when it starts! We can talk about godly gossip and various other methods of extinguishing the flame of gossip, but when it comes down to it, in the moment, gossip can be very appealing to our fleshly appetites.
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