Week 8 in the year of our Lord 2021

Some thoughts on talk v. action

12 minutes to read

Chapter 5 of the book we are writing is an explanation of this principle, and why the modern church rejects it:

A man can be masculine without being virtuous, but he cannot be virtuous without being masculine.

A defining trait of masculinity is activity. Men are active; not passive. Think of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 16: “be watchful, stand firm in the faith—act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

This passage is full of verbs. To be watchful and stand firm is to be manly; i.e., to be strong. It must be done in love—this is where virtue comes in—but more fundamentally it must be done.

This is hard for Western Christian men to get their heads around. We are so conditioned by the neo-Gnosticism and antinomianism and passivity of modern evangelicalism that we think virtue and wisdom, being spiritual, are therefore “internal”—not something we do but something we think or believe.

Not so in Scripture. Consider James’ view of wisdom:

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (James 3:13)

Matthew Henry reflects: “True wisdom does not lie in good notions or speculations so much as in good and useful actions. Not he who thinks well, or he who talks well, is in the sense of the scripture allowed to be wise, if he do not live and act well.”

This should prompt us to ask questions like:

What about justice?
What about holiness?
What about law?
What about righteousness?
What about the glory of God?
What about repentance?
What about judgment?

“What about grace?” isn’t the only question worth asking.

If you’re a pastor, also remember that biblical shepherds not only feed the flock but they also run off the wolves, pluck off the parasites, mend the wounds, and rescue the wandering. If you’re a layman, this is what you should be looking for in a pastor.

It impossible to read Augustine’s Confessions and not walk away contemplating the importance of true self-knowledge. Many autobiographies have purported to contain honest self-reflection. Perhaps, a few do. However, most autobiographies are simply a record of what an individual thinks about himself. This first autobiography is different in that it is a record of Augustine’s scrutiny of himself in the light of God’s revelation.

No one can know himself rightly apart from God. Augustine writes:

Accordingly, let me confess what I know of myself. Let me confess too what I do not know of myself. For what I know of myself I know because you grant me light, and what I do not know of myself, I do not know until such time as my darkness becomes ‘like noonday’ before your face (Isa. 58:10).

This truth is especially important in an age of social media. We must call people away from staring long into the dim mirror of the internet. These echo chambers only confirm us in our narcissism and self-delusion. True self-knowledge cannot be mined from Instagram and self-help books. This sort of knowledge comes only in the context on God’s self revelation.

Augustine exhorts us: “Your best servant is the person who does not attend so much to hearing what he himself wants as to willing what he has heard from you.”

How do you know if God is with you?

One sign of His blessing is that He gives you lots of work to do. Joseph is a good example of this truth. Genesis repeatedly says “The Lord was with Joseph.”

This is demonstrated on three different occasions by Joseph’s workload increasing. He becomes an overseer in Potiphar’s house (39:4). He becomes an assistant to the jailer (39:22). And he becomes a governor of Egypt directly underneath the Pharaoh (41:40).

It should also be noted that Joseph was a number two. He always served a master. And he always had work to do.

If the Lord is with you, you will be blessed with plenty of work.

Habits are like stones rolling down hill — the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak when it is a sapling — a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full grown tree. A child can wade over the Thames River at its fountain-head — the largest ship in the world can float in it when it gets near the sea. So it is with habits: the older the stronger — the longer they have held possession, the harder they will be to cast out. They grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. Custom is the nurse of sin. Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination. —J.C. Ryle

“He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is now obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action.” —Ellul, Propaganda

Matthew 23:1-12 is a passage we need to give great attention to in an age of celebrity.

In it, Jesus deals with the ministry of the scribes and Pharisees. Note two things:

  1. Jesus endorses their teaching but not their practice: “…all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds” (v. 3).

  2. Jesus criticizes not only their hypocrisy, but also their motives: “…But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men… They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men” (v.4-5).

Three takeaways:

  1. Ministers can have good doctrine but be immoral hypocrites. Their hypocrisy doesn’t make their teaching false. Therefore, receive their doctrine but reject their example.

  2. The motives of a minister are fair grounds for criticism. Jesus has no problem doing what today would be wrongly labeled ad hominem. And the standard rejoinder won’t cut it (“Yeah but that is Jesus and your no Jesus.”) John does the same thing in his third epistle. He says, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.” The problem with Diotrephes is his motives. He, like the Pharisees before him, likes being a man of influence and power. Paul does it too. It’s all through Scripture as a model for us.

  3. We are apt to immediately assume that good teachers are good men. Conversely, we are apt to reject good teaching when it comes from a bad man. Both impulses are wrong.

Btw, we should be quicker to apply the passages dealing with Pharisees, Sadducees, etc to our own churches, than to ones outside our circle. These sins are common sins. We must be on guard against them cropping up in our own hearts, because they certainly will. Keep your pruning shears on hand at all times.

Yesterday is gone. Today is here. Spurgeon writes:

Again, the manna was to be continually sought. So must your spiritual food. Do not try to live on last year’s manna. Stale experiences are poor food. I know no dish that is worse than cold experience—you need to have a daily realization of the things of God. Hourly feed on Christ, for the food of years past will be of small account to you. Continually go about the meadows and feed, sheep of the Lord! Go again and again to the still waters, drink and be satisfied!

Jeremiah 29:6 has special application in our day:

“Take wives and father sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may give birth to sons and daughters; and grow in numbers there and do not decrease.”

Christians, increase!

New content from Michael this week: #

Four episodes of County Before Country are now out. These are very short (~5 min), and highly practical:

Michael has a sermon up from his new church, “The Church United.” It is taken from Philippians 2:1-4. Here’s an excerpt:

We are quick to form parties in churches.

This is how people organize themselves in churches by secondary affinities. To some degree, it is natural. Birds of feather, flock together.

But the church isn’t natural. It is super-natural. It is Spirit-created body. God brings in a diversity of people and unites them into a single congregation.

We don’t unite around the peripheral issues. If unity is there, that is fine. However, we labor towards unity in a single purpose. That purpose is the advancement of the kingdom of God through the preaching of the gospel. That is where our unity is found.

You can find it on Spotify, iTunes, Podcast Addict, or at this direct link:


Notable #

A theology of modesty from Doug Wilson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mu65Sjk9XHw

An insightful little list from our brother George Bruno:

It’s just two weeks…
It’s just six feet…
It’s just a mask…
It’s just non-essential businesses…
It’s just six months…
It’s just church…
It’s just Easter…
It’s just school…
It’s just non-essential travel…
It’s just Thanksgiving…
It’s just Christmas…
It’s just a vaccine…
It’s just two masks…
It’s just two vaccines…
It’s just till 2022…
It’s just three masks…
It’s just three vaccines…
It’s just an anal swab…
It’s just a vaccine passport…
It’s just a checkpoint…
It’s just an isolation camp…
It’s just till there’s no more viruses…

Big Tech’s Unlikely Next Battleground: North Dakota

Notice the implications: we can take the fight to BigTech if we make it a local and state issue. For example:

“The state fights pose a thorny problem for the tech companies, whose legions of lawyers and lobbyists are trained to extinguish threats in Washington and the courts. The 50 state legislatures are diverse and unpredictable, with both Republicans and Democrats aligning against Big Tech.”

County before country, brothers.

David Wegener has written a wonderful piece of satire which imagines Alexander the Coppersmith’s respond to Paul after reading 2 Timothy 4:14. It hits really close to home…

“Brother” Paul,

I’m finding it very difficult to write this letter to you since I know how you’ll respond, but I choose not to think about that. You’ve mentioned me in two of your allegedly “private letters” to brother Tim and I feel I must respond.

In the first you claim that I’ve rejected the faith and a good conscience. And, as if that was not bad enough, you accuse me of blasphemy. How would you feel if someone said those kinds of things about you? Have you ever thought of that? I thought you were supposed, “to correct with gentleness” the “erring brother.” I thought you were supposed, “to admonish” him in private, rather then publishing your attacks in a public forum. We’ve only talked privately on two or three occasions and I feel like you don’t even really know me or what I’m about.

Yes, we disagree. I had hoped to enter into a dialogue with you (and others), but when you hand me over to Satan, that puts a bit of a damper on things, doesn’t it? I’ve talked to a lot of people and they have real problems with your letter, in particular your comments about me. Even some who agree with you, they thought you were overly harsh. Boy, that’s an understatement.

We’re dealing with some hard issues here and I thought the church was supposed to be a community of people seeking the truth and sharing our life journey together. Don’t you think we should evidence a little more humility as we talk about the deity?

And then comes your next “private-public” letter where you said I had done you “great harm.” Then you express your desire for the Lord to repay me according to my deeds. Sounds rather vindictive to me. Sounds like you’re calling down a curse on me. Sounds like you’re coming from a pagan worldview to me. Again, put yourself in my shoes: How would you feel if someone wrote this kind of stuff about you?

I did what I felt needed to be done. If that was offensive to you, I’m sorry. If you really knew me and my background and all that I’ve been through, I doubt you’d be so quick to make snap judgments, even claiming God is on your side.

My only regret in writing this to you is that it could serve to dignify your attacks on good men. I hope this letter will set the record straight. I’m not going to respond to any more of your letters or attacks, as I’m a busy man.

Sincerely yours,
Alexander the coppersmith

Talk again next week,

Michael & Bnonn

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