Read More »
We all live in a story. A loving, Triune God created the entire universe. He gave it function, purpose. He built a temple on earth and formed humanity in his image to be his priests. These humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed this loving God and so he cast them out of the original garden-temple. Ever since then we have been fighting against and rebelling against God.
We, however, are not without hope. While casting Adam and Eve out of the garden-temple, God promised to send Someone to crush our enemy the serpent. Thus snake-crusher would rule the world with mercy, grace, justice, and righteousness—and most importantly love. The story we all live is his story. How he came as a human and how that’s changed everything after he came. He will come again physically to end all pain, suffering, and sin. If you do not locate yourself in that story, you may have distorted narrative syndrome.
We see askew syndromes in our current fallen world. On August 23, 1973, the Kreditbanken in Stockholm, Sweden was robbed. The criminals gathered the bank employees and stored them in the bank vault for six days. After the stand off ended and the hostages were freed, many of them had bonded with their captors and rejected help from the Swedish government and even defended their captors actions. Swedish psychologists first called this norrmalmstorgssyndromet, and now it’s commonly known as Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is a kind of “traumatic bonding” where the victim identifies and empathize with their captors. We hear this and it sounds irrational, but it happens.
Another scenario. A wife and husband are having financials problems. It’s stress on their relationship. Until now, their marriage has been mostly good. They’ve had, what they perceive, as a normal amount of fighting and disagreements. They receive a notice that the bank is foreclosing on their home. The wife is frustrated because she believes the husband has been irresponsible with their money. He begins drinking heavily after receiving the notice. During a heated exchange that night, he hits his wife. She’s in shock. How could this have happened? He blames her nagging for the abuse immediately after it occurs. The next day they don’t talk in the morning. They leave for work. Upon arriving home, the wife notices her husband’s car in the driveway early. She comes in and there is flowers and a dinner waiting for her. He profusely apologizes for his mistake last night. She feels relieved. Maybe he made a single mistake. However, this cycle becomes the norm in their relationship. As a result, she feels:
- That the violence was his or her fault.
- An inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
- Fears for their life and/or the lives of their children (if present).
- Has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient (source).
This cycle (and its devastating effects) is called battered person syndrome. This alternate narrative of shame and guilt is so deeply seared into the abused heart that they feel like they are who their abuser says they are—that they do deserve this kind of treatment.
Can you see how living a bad narrative can harm you? For the scenarios mentioned above, years of counseling and help may be needed to overcome the traumatic experiences and lies they have been told and now believe and live.
These two examples are extreme. They are some of the most traumatic, but don’t all of us in some small way experience daily the rehearsal of lies in our heart? We eat, work, watch movies, see billboards, and hear conversations. The lies may be:
- You’re worthless. You looked at pornography again.
- God won’t have anything to do with you. Filthy.
- The lasting affect of your adultery will never leave your home.
- Your children hate you. They are disobedient all the time.
- Your wife doesn’t respect you. You’re half a man.
- Your husband doesn’t love you. You’ll never live up to the women in the porn videos.
- The color of your skin makes you less valuable as a human.
- Your body isn’t good enough. Not sexy enough. No one wants you.
- Sex is just as good with no strings attached.
- You are the sum of your sexuality.
We see, watch, listen to these distorted narratives and soon enough we believe their lies and live them. Soon enough you experience distorted narrative syndrome. These lies become your liturgy. They become your false gods and false gospel.
The solution to these perverted liturgies is God. He speaks truth. We hear. He gives his Son. We eat and drink him without price. He sends the Spirit. Our old man with all the accompanying lies dies and we are raised to new life in Christ. God justifies us. He redeems us. He adopts us. He loves us. He says without hesitation, “There is no condemnation for you, my son. It is finished” (Rom. 8).
God acts for us—when we couldn’t act for ourselves (Rom. 5:8). He grabs for our hearts and affections (Jn. 3:16). He pours out his love on us. And when the lies from the distorted narrative syndrome resurface, God gives us everything we need to crush those lies (2 Pt. 1:3). Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). We have everything in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
These truths are part of a true and better liturgy. We must rehearse them daily to ourselves. We must be part of a community that rehearses these truths. And we must rehearse these truths for others. We must know that in us the old humanity is dead—with all its lies—and we are no longer captive to the body of sin. We have been freed in Christ and have new life in him. We no longer identify with and sympathize with our captor, but with the risen and reigning King. Moreover, we don’t just sympathize with him. We are inseparably united to him.
We are no longer a victim of distorted narrative syndrome. We are part of a true and better story. Selah.
“…the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.”
(Proverbs 11:6 ESV)
The struggles of pornography aren’t new. Lust has been around since Genesis. And it will be a fight till the New Heavens and New Earth—but it is one that you can win, because it has already been won for you.
Many men feel addicted to lust. I think, according to the Scriptures, we can call ‘addiction’ a kind of captivity. It holds you captive.
In the Old Testament, the word for ‘captive’ means to be overthrown or to have another assume control of you. For many, the lure of internet women seems to control them. They think they can’t help it.
So, what exactly is holding you captive?
It’s not pornography; it is your own lust. I love how the KJV translates Proverbs 11:6, “…transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.” Our badness is what cripples us. We get “taken” by our own lustful cravings. The internet isn’t to blame. The porn stars aren’t to blame. That woman at the office isn’t to blame. What does the Bible say? We are taken captive by our own naughtiness.
But there is hope for the lust locked.
His name is Jesus.
Go to Jesus. He sets captives free.
Jesus came to set captives free. Captives to all kinds of sin.
Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
The Risen Lord is your only hope. You can bounce your eyes as women walk by, you can even sell your computer—but the issue is greater. It’s in your heart. It’s in your beliefs.
Jesus brings liberty. By his cross he kills our sins, and by his resurrection he gives us new life. Look to Jesus. Confess and repent. Ask him to help you, acknowledging that apart from him you cannot defeat your lust (John 15:5).
Ask the Spirit to help you believe and act upon this truth: You’ve been liberated.
Captives cannot free themselves. We need a Liberator. Know that every Christian, everyone who names to the name of Jesus, is a freed captive. We are all the same. We are all led by the glorious Liberator.
Ephesians 4:8, “Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
Jesus, when he rose from the dead and went back to the Father, was leading us captives. He set us free.
You are free.
You are no longer identified as a captive to sin. So don’t act like one. Don’t think like one. Think like a Christian. One is more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). Sin is dead. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Now, you take captives.
If you want to live for the glory of God—things will change in your life. You will begin to look more like Christ (Romans 8:29) and less like your captivity.
One thing you’ll need to do is take some captives. Instead of being a captive to lust, take sinful thoughts captive—to obey Jesus.
2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
The Satanic powers will hurl all kinds of temptations at you, hoping to erode your confidence in Christ. Don’t listen to them. Seize them. Recognize the lie, turn from the allure of sin, and obey Jesus. Jesus demands that we control our bodies (1 Thess. 4:3). And God will give us the power to do what he commands. The Holy Spirit of Christ is at work in you (Galatians 2:20). You are free. Free indeed. Believe it. Live it.
Read More »
Over the month of August, we have posted many articles here at Servants of Grace as part of a series titled “Dear Seminarian.” The goal of this series has been those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. Our purpose was to help Bible College and seminary students to grow in the grace of God as they prepare for, while they are attending and after they graduate from seminary.
Bible College and seminary is a unique time in life. As has been pointed out numerous times—get plugged into a local church. Don’t forsake your first love Jesus as you study. Spend regular time studying the Word so that you may love Christ, His people and His Church.
The writers in this series have aimed to help you as Bible College and seminary students think through not only why you are in seminary but also how to grow in the grace of God while in seminary. At the end of the day all of the time you are spending studying the Word of God should lead to increase love and likeness to Jesus.
I hope this series has encouraged you, exalted in King Jesus, and has helped you grow in the grace of God.
Here are the articles in order:
1) Five Suggestions For Future Seminarians by C. Walter
2) Grow in the Grace of God by Matthew Fretwell
3) Cultivating Humility by Dave Jenkins
4) A Call to Ministry by Griffin Fulledge
5) Know Your Bible by Dr. Brian Cosby
6) So You Want To Go To Seminary? by Zach Kendrick
7-10) Advice To Seminary Students P.1, P.2, P. 3 and P.4.
11) After Seminary is over by Joey Cochran
12) Love God’s People, and His Church by Dave Jenkins
13) Grow In Passion For God’s Word by Dave Jenkins
14) Pursue Purity by Mathew Sims
15) Attending Bible College or Seminary Online by Mike Boling
16) Advice To Married Seminary Students by Craig Hurst
17) A Little Advice by Jason Helopoulos
Read More »
Proverbs is known as wisdom literature. This wisdom is not only something, which someone experienced (namely the writer Solomon), but it’s supposed to be applicational—meaning, it applies to your life. When we read Proverbs, we should think about them as a father gifting his son/daughter with his experiences, knowledge, and understanding about all aspects of life. There is much to learn in life, and a wise person will heed the advice of an elder, who has already experienced it. One of the most beloved Proverbs concerning love, faith, and trust is Proverbs 3. However, among the insight given to us is not only about godly love and faith, but wisdom and discipline—these two go hand-in-hand. Let’s briefly look them.
Assuredly, no one enjoys discipline, but godly discipline is good, pure, and holy. As the writer of Hebrews states, if God is disciplining you, He is treating you as a child of His (Hebrews 12:7). The Holy Spirit’s work in us propels us to repentance. It is a form of discipline and one that we should never neglect or reject. The reason we receive God’s discipline is because He loves us. Think about it…God’s wrath is not that He punishes or sets up boundaries, but His wrath is when He allows you to do whatever you want to do. As a parent, if I were to allow my children to play in traffic, someone would lock me up for neglect and child endangerment. Likewise, if God didn’t love you, He would turn the other way and give you up to your desires and passions (Rom 1). So, if God corrects you then He loves you, be encouraged with these words:
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
The reference to “her” in this passage is “wisdom,” which is personified. That means the writer desires the reader to “know” wisdom as much as he/she could know a person; and so, he applies human traits to the word. Wisdom should be something that we seek after and yearn for (James 1:5). The Bible student (you and me) will be wise to heed these words, as wisdom is far better than gold, silver, or costly jewels. Everything you see on earth can be wiped away in an instant, but wisdom will stay with you.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.” Prov. 3:13-18
Read More »
This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.
It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in my first seminary class. I was excited as that first professor walked into the room, wrote his name on the board, and proceeded to handout the class syllabus. My excitement quickly migrated to being overwhelmed when the paper hit my hand. As I look back now, more than a decade later, I would give that young man five nuggets of advice:
Be Patient: I was eager to learn all that seminary had to offer, but I was also naive. I wasn’t going to become a Greek exegete, homiletics’ expert, or theological scholar overnight. In truth, I wouldn’t after four years of seminary and holding a Masters of Theology (Th.M.) diploma in my hand either, no matter what the piece of paper said. Don’t get overwhelmed. Do what you can without sacrificing your marriage, health, or sanity!
Study for the Long-Run: My friend, you are at the beginning of vocational ministry. What you learn in seminary is only opening the door for a lifetime of study. Seminary is wonderful at disseminating information, but the real gift of seminary is the tools it puts in your hands. It will teach you to think theologically, read voraciously, exegete the original languages, and communicate effectively. Seminary will point you to the right books, authors, and history. You will learn how to study, read, write, teach, counsel, and preach. It is an equipping institution, not a finishing school. Learn how to use the tools of the pastorate, so that you can use and grow in them throughout the life of your ministry.
Don’t Forsake the Church for the Academy: Seminary can be demanding. Add to that the need to provide for your family and there is little spare time. Yet, the seminary student must be engaged in the local church throughout their seminary days. I look back and wish that I had been more involved in the local church. A few lower grades and little more service would have been good for my soul and those who I later had the opportunity to serve.
Find a Professor and Don’t Let Him Go: As a student, I was reluctant to make myself known to my professors. I would sit in their classes, but never scheduled office meetings, lunches, or sought advice. I was concerned about being a “fan-boy,” and having the wrong motives. Though there is some wisdom in this concern, I erred in not finding a professor and making sure that I learned all I could from him. Find a man of character. A man that you respect. One you can learn from. And make him your new best friend. Glean everything you can from him. It will be helpful in the present and in the future when you need someone to call on for advice.
Study Devotionally: I have never understood the logic that pastors need to have separate devotional times from their sermon and teaching preparation. If a pastor’s sermon and teaching preparation are not devotional, affecting his own soul, there is something wrong. The same can be said for the seminary student. You are not at seminary to earn A’s. You are at seminary to be equipped for the pastorate. The best equipping that can happen in your life is growing in knowledge, devotion, and delight in the Lord. As you study, study with an eye towards Him. Do not rise from that desk until your heart is inflamed and stirred by something you have read, studied, or written. The Bible is not a textbook. Your studies are not purely academic. And your education is not essentially a means to employment. Seek the Lord now in your studies. It is a lesson learned well now, for it only gets more difficult with the demands of the pastorate.
Finally, let me just remind you to enjoy this opportunity. I have met men from around the world, who would literally give their right arm to enjoy what you are experiencing. Don’t take it for granted. Enjoy it to the glory of God. It is a gift. A gift to you and to the people you will have the privilege of serving in the near future.
Read More »
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)
Some people are known for speaking their mind. They like to say it like it is. No hemming, no strings. They are known for not having a filter.
The Bible has a category for this kind of lifestyle.
It is detrimental to other people—and it is a roundabout way to hitting the self-destruct button.
Wisdom puts a filter over our mouths. Some things just don’t need to be said. But if we are known for being the kind of people who “say what we think,” we will not be the kind of people that commend the wisdom of God.
We are to always be honest. We are to always be truthful. And we are to always seek after God’s wisdom for our lives.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
Rather than blurting out our words, the Scriptures call for a craftsmanship to our speech.
Prov. 25:11 is giving is a wonderful image. Imagine a hunk of gold crafted into a beautiful cluster of apples. And now imagine those pristine apples of gold, set, not in hay, or on a nice black cloth, but in silver. It’s impressive craftsmanship. It’s valuable. It’s desirable.
The message, the medium, and the manner all matter.
“The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”(Proverbs 16:21)
Sweet speech doesn’t mean we should speak a little ol’ lady from Georgia. Wisdom calls us to communicate in a helpful manner, with speech that is not bitter, off-putting, or yucky. This is effective teaching. It’s thoughtful, crafted, and meant to serve the hearer. It’s seasoned with grace. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
Sweet and salty. We know this a divine combo!
Let’s commend God’s grace to one another. Always. Let’s speak of grace. And let’s speak like Grace, Jesus himself, has spoken for us. We are his.
Stay salty, friends.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Read More »