Cruciform Press(18 posts)
Book Recommendation: Sexual DetoxWednesday··2011·02·09
Times have changed. People are still the same, but my, how the times have changed. When I was a teenager in the early ‚Äôeighties, pornography was acquired only through determined effort. The availability was limited, and there was a stigma attached to it. Men had to expose themselves to the embarrassment of purchasing it in face-to-face transactions at the drugstore or other public establishment, or sneak away, looking over their shoulders in fear for their reputations, to ‚Äúadult‚Äù bookstores. Boys had to take the risk of shoplifting it, or if lucky, find their older brother‚Äôs or father‚Äôs stash of dirty magazines. A decade later, little had changed for boys like Tim Challies. Tim is the author of a little book I read early this morning called Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn. Beyond that, he requires little introduction here. Add another decade, and all that has changed. Anyone can, free of charge and in total privacy, consume all the porn he wants‚Äîwith no effort beyond a few clicks of the mouse, and no risk of public embarrassment. This has created the perfect environment for a virtual pandemic of sexual perversion. This corruption, and its cure, is the burden of Sexual Detox. Here‚Äôs a sample: If you are like most young men, you have already started to give in to temptation. Perhaps you have only just begun to look at pornography, or perhaps you‚Äôve been doing it for many years. Perhaps you struggle with masturbation. You don‚Äôt want to indulge yourself, but somehow it‚Äôs a whole lot tougher to quit than you would have thought. Perhaps you‚Äôre finding that, more than ever, sex is filling your mind and affecting your heart. . . . You will never stop until you see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing. You will never stop until the sin is more horrifying to you than the commission of the sin is enjoyable. You will need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it. That means you need more grace. You need to cry out to be changed so you do see the monstrous nature of this sin, and then you need to act, in faith that God will meet you with grace as you seek to cut off pornography and begin the reset. . . . The first message of this book, then, is that you must see what porn is doing to your heart. You must recognize that the corruption of pornography is real and, despite the convenient and self-indulgent lies we can tell ourselves, that corruption is only going to get worse. The sin underlying the consumption of pornography will not stop escalating until it cripples your marriage, or until you die, or until you get too old and weak to care about sex. The only difference for single guys? The sin won‚Äôt stop escalating until it destroys any hope you will ever get married. ‚ÄîTim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn (Cruciform Press, 2010), 15, 17‚Äì18, 21. Sexual Detox is not a book of moralistic ‚Äúdo better‚Äù or therapeutic ‚Äúlive happier.‚Äù It offers straight talk about sin and death, grace and redemption. Sexual Detox makes a thoroughly biblical theological attack on the poison that is pornography. In doing so, it strikes at the root of the problem: the sinful human heart. It reiterates the truism spoken by Albert Mohler that we do not have an alien problem in need of an inner solution, but an inner problem in need of an alien solution. The problem is our sin; the solution is Christ. Sexual Detox takes in the big picture, offering, in addition to specific help with porn and the sin it breeds, a general theology of sex. So, while it is addressed to men, I believe it will be tremendously helpful to women, as well. This book will take women a long way towards an understanding of biblical sexuality, and I think I can say‚Äîwithout hyperbole‚Äîthat this might be the last book about sex that any man needs to read, ever, and all in 108 small-format pages, readable in one sitting. Buy this book. Buy extra copies. Get it into the hands of as many young men as you can. Learn it and live it. Sexual Detox is the first book published by Cruciform Press. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life is one of the latest products from Cruciform Press. The thesis of the book is that we are created and redeemed to live cruciform (cross-shaped) lives. Author Jimmy Davis briefly introduces what that means: First, a cruciform disciple to some degree resembles Jesus the Son, who lived in complete awareness of and dependence upon his relationship to God as the Father‚Äôs beloved (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 1:11, 9:7; 2 Peter 1:17). By wholely believing the message of the cross, we too become beloved sons of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:14‚Äì17, Galatians 4:4‚Äì7). The more we become like Jesus, the Beloved Son, the more we will fill up by faith on the love of the Father as his beloved sons. . . . Second, a cruciform disciple to some degree resembles Jesus the Servant, who lived in the complete awareness and practice of his role as a blessed servant to God, people, and all of creation (Mark 10:43‚Äì45). Jesus‚Äô confidence and contentment in his relationship with the Father enabled him to lay aside his rights, pick up the towel and basin, and take the form of a servant by emptying himself for the sake of others (John 13:3‚Äì5, Philippians 2:5‚Äì11). As we fill up by faith on the love of the Father as it is offered in the good news about Jesus and poured out by the Spirit, we overflow with love back to God and out to others, using the resources he has provided in the place he has put us. Our lives will take the form of a cross-shaped servant. ‚ÄîJimmy Davis, Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life (Cruciform Press, 2011), 36‚Äì37. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Among other things, I hope to read the most recent arrival from Cruciform Press, ‚ÄúBut God‚Ä¶‚Äù The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel by Casey Lute, in which the author examines the ‚Äúbut God‚Äù statements in the Old and New Testaments. According to the introduction, he takes some inspiration from some guy named James Montgomery Boyce, but I‚Äôm going to pretend he got the idea from me. If I can judge a book by its cover (plus table of contents and introduction), I expect this to be the best Cruciform publication yet, or if not the best, certainly the most fundamental.
Yesterday, I suggested that ‚ÄúBut God‚Ä¶‚Äù The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel by Casey Lute might be ‚Äúthe best Cruciform publication yet, or if not the best, certainly the most fundamental.‚Äù Having said that, I should confess that I haven‚Äôt actually read every Cruciform publication, so I can‚Äôt really make that comparison. Still, I will say that But God is as fundamental as it gets. The introduction begins with a quote from James Montgomery Boyce: ‚ÄúIf you understand those two words‚Äî‚Äòbut God‚Äô‚Äîthey will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.‚Äù Nine chapters present brief expositions of nine ‚Äúbut God‚Äù texts: Genesis 8:1, ‚Äúbut God remembered Noah . . .‚Äù Exodus 13:18, ‚ÄúBut God led the people . . .‚Äù Nehemiah 9:17, ‚ÄúBut you are a God ready to forgive . . .‚Äù Psalm 40:6‚Äì8, ‚Äú. . . but you have given me an open ear. Romans 5:8, ‚ÄúBut God shows his love for us . . .‚Äù Acts 13:30, ‚ÄúBut God raised him from the dead . . .‚Äù 1 Corinthians 1:27, ‚ÄúBut God chose what is foolish . . .‚Äù Ephesians 2:4, ‚ÄúBut God . . . made us alive . . .‚Äù 2 Timothy 2:19, ‚ÄúBut God‚Äôs firm foundation stands . . .‚Äù Each text and each exposition demonstrates the theme of this book: This is how it is, and this is how it‚Äîand we‚Äîwould end, but God has changed everything. He has done and will do everything necessary for our salvation and his glory. I recommend But God very highly. A fast reader could put it away in an hour, the rest of us in an hour-and-a-half or two. Its fundamental truth is priceless. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
The naturalist insists that the universe, life, and our hospitable planet came into being by random chance. Joe Coffey, author of Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics, illustrates the absurdity of that claim, and the necessity of suspending one’s normal way of thinking in order to accept it. Alvin Plantinga, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, compared this theory to a poker game in the Wild West. The dealer deals himself four aces twenty times in a row. Everybody starts to reach for their guns, and the dealer says, “Wait, wait, wait! I want you guys to think about something. In all the billions and billions of poker games that have gone on in this world and other worlds, don’t you think eventually it could happen that a dealer could deal himself four aces twenty times in a row and not be cheating?” And the people around the table would say, “Yeah, that’s a possibility. Now we’re gonna kill you!” Because nobody operates on a line of possibility that thin. —Joe Coffey, Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics (Cruciform Press, 2011), 28. As you probably would guess, the chances of randomly drawing four aces twenty consecutive times from a deck of only fifty-two cards is many times greater than the chance of unintentionally producing the universe and all it contains. If we all know the dealer is a liar and a cheat, why should we believe scientists who tell much taller tales than that? Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life‚Äîand the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us‚Äîwhat we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:1‚Äì4 Joe Coffey on the significance of eye-witnesses to the New Testament narratives of the life of Christ: This matter of having contemporaneous witnesses is really important. Consider that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Now, suppose I was so enamored with Kennedy that I considered myself his disciple and wanted to start a cult about him in my town. And suppose I know I would have to exaggerate and lie to get it going, but I used the handy excuse that the ends justify the means. I would start preaching, ‚ÄúPresident Kennedy was a great man, but he was much more than that. When he made his campaign stop here in Hudson, he got out of his car, healed a bunch of blind and sick people and then went to the Redmond Funeral Home and raised a couple people from the dead!‚Äù Somebody would say, ‚ÄúWait a minute! I was there that day and none of that ever happened!‚Äù I would ignore the outburst and say, ‚ÄúHey, the next afternoon Jack took a Happy Meal fed the whole town with it.‚Äù And someone else would say, ‚ÄúYou nutcase! I was in Hudson the next day and he did nothing of the sort!‚Äù That‚Äôs probably about the time I would give up on my plan the start a Kennedy Cult. Since the apostles told their stories about Jesus to people who were alive at the time and place where Jesus lived, the credibility of their testimony goes through the roof. Because if their stories were made up, they could never have gotten away with it. ‚ÄîJoe Coffey, Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics (Cruciform Press, 2011), 45‚Äì46.
This excerpt really needs to be read in context to be fully understood, but I‚Äôm not going to give you that. I‚Äôm just going to lay it out there, hopefully to provoke thought, and possibly to whet your appetite for this good little introduction to apologetics. The person who sees evil in the world and concludes there is no God has got it backwards. The existence of evil does not tell us there is no God. Instead, our ability to recognize evil tells us there is a God. So when someone says he has seen such appalling evil that he must conclude God doesn‚Äôt exist, he still has not dealt with the underlying problem‚Äîthe existence of evil. The intellectually consistent answer is to admit, no matter how ironic it may sound, that because evil exists, God must exist as well. ‚ÄîJoe Coffey, Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics (Cruciform Press, 2011), 64. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Remembering to keep first things first: Never Stray from the Gospel The two most important words for apologists are the gospel. Do not forget you are sharing good news. The good news tells us that even though you are more deeply flawed than you have ever dared to dream. That good news is made possible by the person of Jesus Christ, who lived the life we should have lived and died the death for sin we should have died, so that we can be made acceptable to a holy God, adopted into his family forever. It is easy to get into discussion with friends and, in a quest to be right about some particular point, lose sight of the gospel. No one was ever won to Christ through that kind of argument. You did not become a Christian because you were smart or right, or because someone who explained the gospel to you was smart or right. You were saved and are saved because you needed a Savior and he came for you‚Äîjust because he chose to. That is what grace means. Do not lose sight of grace when you share your faith. ‚ÄîJoe Coffey, Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics (Cruciform Press, 2011), 105. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
If John Owen‚Äôs The Mortification of Sin is a bit heavy for you, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin by Brian Hedges might be a good place for you to start. Here is an early excerpt: Putting to death sin is the duty of every Christian, but no one can become a Christian by mortification. The only sins we can kill are the sins that have been forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus. Owen said, ‚ÄúThere is no death of sin without the death of Christ.‚Äù To attempt to kill sin without Christ will only delude us and harden us further in our sins. The first priority in dealing with sin is to look to the crucified Savior, Jesus Christ. In one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament, the newly rescued people of Israel sinned by murmuring against God and his servant Moses. Their unprovoked sin was so evil that the Lord judged them by sending poisonous snakes into their camp. These ‚Äúfiery serpents . . . bit the people, so many people of Israel died.‚Äù Then the people came to Moses, confessed their sin, and begged him to ask God to take the snakes away. Moses prayed for the people, and God gave him a strange command: he was to make a serpent from bronze and place it on a pole in the middle of the camp. Then, if someone had been bitten by a snake, he or she had only to look at the bronze snake in order to be healed. The simple act of gazing at the brazen serpent brought life and healing (see Numbers 21:4‚Äì9). But more amazing is how Jesus used this story on the New Testament: :And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life‚Äù (John 3:14‚Äì15). The most important thing to understand in this first chapter is this: before you can kill sin, you have to look to the Lord who was lifted up on the cross for you. You cannot fight sin unless you have found rest in the inexhaustible sufficiency of the doing and dying of Jesus Christ in your place. You cannot mortify sin unless that sin has already been nailed to the cross of Christ. There is no death of sin without the death of Christ. ‚ÄîBrian G. Hedges, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin (Cruciform Press, 2011), 16‚Äì18. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire [. . .]. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell [. . .]. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. ‚ÄîMark 9:42‚Äì48 In his book Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, Brian Hedges recounts the story of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who, in 2003, was forced to amputate his own arm to free himself from a fallen boulder. He then makes a connection between Ralston‚Äôs experience and Mark 9:42‚Äì48. While sin cannot drag a true blood-washed believer in Jesus to hell, the basic lesson Jesus teaches in this passage is vital to the life of faith. Jesus‚Äô words still hold true: sin is out to ruin us, as badly as t can, dragging us as far away from God as it can, in any way that it can. Just as Aron Ralston didn‚Äôt decide to sever his own arm until it was clear there was no other alternative, so we will not exert holy violence against our sins until we‚Äôre convinced that they really are dangerous. ‚ÄîBrian G. Hedges, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin (Cruciform Press, 2011), 22‚Äì23. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. ‚ÄîRomans 7:21‚Äì23 The problem of sin in the lives of believers is difficult to reconcile with the Bible‚Äôs teaching on the effects of regeneration. If we are dead to sin, why is sin still present? In the last verses of Romans 7, Paul struggles with this conflict. Brian Hedges, considering Romans 6‚Äì7, offers this summary explanation: ‚Äúthe bondage to sin is broken, but the conflict with sin continues.‚Äù Further, he offers this analogy: Imagine that an undercover spy is lurking in the White House administration plotting an act of terrorism against the United States. There is a huge difference between the relative positions of the President of the United States and the seditious mole. Both are resident in the White House, but only the President has legitimate executive authority. The mole works by deception, manipulation, and subterfuge. But he has no right to be there, no rightful rank in the chain of command. In much the same way, sin is resident, not president, in the believer‚Äôs heart. The dominion of sin has ended. Its authority to rule is removed, its stranglehold broken. It has influence, but no legitimate authority to rule over us. It is an insidious mole in the believer‚Äôs heart that works through manipulation, deception, and subterfuge. ‚ÄîBrian G. Hedges, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin (Cruciform Press, 2011), 37‚Äì38. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Albert N. Martin has written what looks like an excellent book for those who grieve (and who will not, at some time?). The following excerpt brings biblical perspective to the inevitable emotions of the bereaved. Our emotions need objective truth to guide them, and the subjective power of the Holy Spirit must harness and channel them in a godly way. Our current cultural climate affords little help to think biblically about this, so consider three texts of Scripture that prove this point. Ezekiel 24:15‚Äì18. God taught the people of Israel a vital lesson through the death of Ezekiel‚Äôs wife, by giving Ezekiel what might seem like a strange command not to mourn her loss: ‚ÄúSon of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead‚Äù (24:15-17a). Ezekiel responds in an amazing way: ‚ÄúSo I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.‚Äù (24:18). I cite this text not to suggest that we are not to mourn when we lose a dearly loved one. Rather, I cite it to demonstrate that it is possible for our emotions to be brought under the control of the Word of God. Ezekiel was able to say, ‚ÄúI did as I was commanded‚Äù because he did not regard his natural emotions as having ultimate authority over his. 1 Thessalonians 4:13. ‚ÄúBut we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have not hope.‚Äù In light of the death of their loved ones, Paul informs the minds of the Thessalonians so that what they know and believe will regulate and take precedence over their emotions. Paul obviously expects that the Thessalonians will grieve, yet he wants them to grieve in a distinctly Christian manner‚Äîone that will be patiently different form the way non-Christians grieve. Again, we see that we must not regard our emotions as ultimate. Rather, the objective truth of the Word of God informing the mind regulates the activity of the emotions through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:15. ‚ÄúRejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.‚Äù In giving this directive to all God‚Äôs people, the Holy Spirit does not insert parenthesis, saying ‚Äúrejoice, (if you happen to be in a rejoicing mood)‚Äù or ‚ÄúWeep (if you happen to be in a weeping mood).‚Äù You may find yourself in a very exuberant mood, but when you come in contact with a brother of sister who is legitimately in a state of mourning, what should you do? You should recognize that your own present personal emotional state does not have ultimate authority over you. Rather, in Spirit-empowered self control, you can and should direct your mind to the concerns that brought your brother or sister into a weeping state, and you ‚Äúweep‚Äù with them. The same is true with prospect to the mandate to ‚ÄúRejoice with those who rejoice.‚Äù Without question, if we will grieve to the glory of God, we must understand this second foundational principle from the Scriptures: Our emotions were not created by God to have ultimate authority over us. Where we fail in this area, as in any other, our guilt and sin are covered by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yet the difficulty of his command, and our frequent failure in seeking to obey it, does not alter our calling. We must use the power of the indwelling Spirit to make an ongoing, scripturally directed effort to reign in our emotions. ‚ÄîAlbert N. Martin, Grieving, Hope and Solace: When a Loved One Dies in Christ (Cruciform Press, 2011), 22‚Äì24. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Albert Martin cites two passages that should be memorized by ‚Äúevery Christian who wishes to grieve and die well.‚Äù Second Corinthians 5:6‚Äì8. Paul declares to the church at Corinth his conviction that while he is ‚Äúat home in the body‚Äù he is at the same time ‚Äúaway from the Lord.‚Äù He also declares his preference to ‚Äúbe away from the body and at home with the Lord.‚Äù Paul is absolutely confident that the moment his spirit leaves the body, he will instantly be in the presence of the Lord. And this is true for all who believe in the Lord Jesus: So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. In every instance, Paul uses ‚Äúwe,‚Äù not ‚ÄúI.‚Äù Whether his subject is being at home in the body and absent from the Lord, being absent from the body and at home with the Lord, Paul constantly uses the first-person plural. The wonder of being instantly with Christ after death is not something reserved for saints of Paul‚Äôs stature. We will all know the same extraordinary joy. . . . Philippians 1:21‚Äì23. in this second passage, Paul affirms his confidence that death will be gain for him, but he also discloses his internal spiritual tug-of-war: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. On the one hand, he longs to be in the immediate presence of his Savior. On the other hand, he recognizes the Philippians‚Äô need for his ongoing apostolic and pastoral labors. In the midst of conveying these thoughts he makes a simple and uncomplicated statement: ‚ÄúMy desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.‚Äù Paul clearly does not think of death as ushering in some kind of ‚Äúsoul sleep‚Äù or ‚Äúspirit anesthesia‚Äù until the day of resurrection. . . . Dear child of God, have you faced the fact that you have both a right and a duty to know what is the immediate sequel to death for your dearest loved ones who die in Christ? On the basis of these two texts of Scripture, you have a right and a duty to believe and confidently expect that those who die in Christ are, in the full consciousness of their existence, immediately ushered into the very presence of the glorified lord Jesus Christ. You can know and rejoice through your tears that their death is gain, and that their gain is nothing less than ravishing face-to-face communion and fellowship with the Savior who has won their trust and captured the supreme affection of their hearts. ‚ÄîAlbert N. Martin, Grieving, Hope and Solace: When a Loved One Dies in Christ (Cruciform Press, 2011), 41‚Äì45. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
I just picked up Cruciform Press‚Äôs October publication, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, today. It‚Äôs a title that makes me nervous. It could be excellent, applying the gospel and gospel priorities to Christian life, or it could go very badly, falling into popular philosophies of so-called ‚Äúsocial justice.‚Äù The introduction and table of contents suggests the former, so I am optimistic. In the few pages I read this morning, the author, Aaron Armstrong, describing the state of creation and life in Eden, wrote, ‚ÄúIt was a world in which poverty could not exist‚Äù [p. 15]. Poverty could not exist because poverty, like all miseries now in this fallen world, is a result of sin. In a sinless world, there is no poverty. Reading that, I was struck with an idea not (yet, anyway) stated explicitly: It is perhaps the first irony of all time that poverty began when the richest people who would ever live wanted more. Adam and Eve had everything they could ever need. They were given dominion over all of creation, and free use of all of it, save one thing: they could not eat the fruit of one tree. Of the abundance of the garden, only one tree was off-limits. And it took only a few words from the serpent to make them think ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not enough; I want more.‚Äù Because Adam and Eve wanted more than God had given, we all have less. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Getting to the root of poverty: The first man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God and declared ‚Äúvery good‚Äù in his eyes. They were then given the task of serving as God‚Äôs representatives within creation. For a time, they lived in perfect harmony with God, each other, and the world around them. But when they chose to sin, everything changed. Their original identity was lost. Their relationships with God, with each other, and with the world were broken, devastated, ruined. This is poverty in its most true and ultimate sense. Incomparable riches‚Äîan unbroken relationship with God and a harmonious relationship with the rest of creation‚Äîhave been squandered. Everything about our existence has been impoverished as a result of sin. A fallen world inhabited exclusively by sinners: that is the essence of poverty. Sin, and the effects of sin throughout creation, is the Poverty from which all other poverty flows. ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 23. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‚ÄúCome, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.‚Äù And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‚ÄúCome, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.‚Äù The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‚ÄúBehold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another‚Äôs speech.‚Äù So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:1‚Äì9 Aaron Armstrong compares current efforts to eliminate poverty to the building of the tower of Babel. The current discussion about poverty has a common theme: most people who think poverty can be eliminated also think humanity must be united to achieve it. If we are one in purpose, the thinking goes, nothing can stop us from achieving our goal: All 191 UN member states unanimously agreed to the Millennium Development Goals. The first of those goals is to eradicate extreme poverty. Jeffrey Sachs believes that if we are united in purpose and tactics, we can end extreme poverty by 2025. Paul Collier believes the eight richest nations of the world need to be united in creating new laws and charters designed to assist reformers within the 50 poorest countries in their quest to change their countries for the better, and that the rest of us need to unite in pressuring them to do so. There‚Äôs nothing inherently wrong with any of these options. Building a tower can be a morally neutral endeavor. But it comes back to the ‚Äúwhy.‚Äù Are we seeking somehow to make a name for ourselves, or are we seeking to make much of God‚Äôs name? ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 23. Armstrong wonders if ‚Äúthat ‚Äòconfusion of languages‚Äô dynamic is still not at work, a means by which God hinders our ongoing attempts at uniting this fallen race for the sake of our own glorification.‚Äù I think he‚Äôs onto something there. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
When helping those in need, Christians need to be discerning in the way we help. In any situation, there may be factors that affect how we offer assistance. But one thing upon which the gospel forbids us to base our decisions is the worthiness of the recipient. The Israelites were freed from slavery because the Lord loved them and kept the oath that he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When he gave them the promised Land, it was not because of their righteousness, for they were a stubborn people. In the wilderness, they provoked him to anger, worshiping the golden calf, grumbling and complaining endlessly. If a people were ever completely undeserving of God‚Äôs mercy, it was the Israelites! Yet, God still brought them to the land he had promised. Is this any less true of us? How can we, if we have been saved through Christ, say to anyone, ‚ÄúYou are not worthy of my help‚Äù? How we help may vary from situation to situation (something that we‚Äôll look at in later chapters), but no one should be considered unworthy of assistance. ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 44‚Äì45. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.
The following paragraph impressed me as one that could be slipped into any book on Christian living. In fact, any such book that doesn‚Äôt contain the principle of this paragraph is probably way off-track. We must recognize that before Jesus ever offers ethics, he offers grace. If we don‚Äôt see that . . . we will use the Sermon on the Mount as a hammer, a means of forcing ourselves or others to act in a way we never could act without the grace of the Holy Spirit. This legalism is the natural inclination of our hearts. We want law, not gospel. We want deeds, not creeds. We want the demands of the law‚Äîeven if it‚Äôs just so we can disobey them. But the good news of the gospel includes the fact that grace always comes before the demands of the kingdom. Jesus is not telling us what is required to earn blessing. He‚Äôs telling us what to do in light of the fact that we are already blessed! ‚ÄúThe gifts of love always precede the demands of love.‚Äù ‚ÄîAaron Armstrong, Awaiting a Savior (Cruciform Press, 2011), 65‚Äì66. Cruciform Press publishes one new book each month, and offers subscriptions in print or ebook formats for a very reasonable price. Books may also be purchased individually. For more information, visit www.cruciformpress.com.