~ The following is an excerpt from Joe Rigney’s book, The Things of Earth. It is a brief comment on the Lord’s Supper.
“In cultivating creation, subduing the earth, and faithfully naming God’s world (in all its varied forms), we are fulfilling the cultural mandate and participating in God’s mission to fill the world with his glory.
When we write, perform, or listen to good music, we are being invited into the life of the triune God, who is the supreme harmony of all. When we write poetry or immerse ourselves in a novel or watch a good movie, our heart and mind can be enlarged so that we have greater capacity to worship God and love others. When we tend our gardens, change the oil, study for a math test, discover the characteristics of electrons, serve our customers, or build a new house, we are assisting in the enrichment of God’s world, and we ought to enjoy these activities and their results with clear eyes and full hearts.
The Lord’s Supper is a regular reminder that human culture can be a means of grace and a divine invitation. After all, we partake of bread and wine, not grain and grapes. In other words, God mediates grace to us through created goods that have been cultivated and transformed by human effort. Bread is grain, but transfigured. Wine is grapes, but glorified. Human creativity and labor mingle with the stuff of God’s creation, and then God establishes the result as the church’s sacramental meal. And this special sacrament testifies to the potential of all human activity to communicate the grace of God. Our cultural efforts are fully capable of enlarging our heart and mind to know God more fully.
But this process of heart expansion through human culture is not automatic. As we saw earlier, it requires receiving culture (or making culture) with a heart of gratitude that is governed by the Scriptures and dependent on God in prayer. It requires believing and knowing the truth, so that our efforts align with God’s purposes, so that our creativity runs in biblical ruts, so that we cut with the grain of God’s world and not against it.
~ Rigney, Joe. The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts (pp. 147-148). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Greek from: Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Jas 1:2). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
~ The word of interest from up above is: ἡγήσασθε – hegesasthe which comes from ἡγέομαι – hegeomai. This is the word that has been translated as “count” or “consider” in verse 2. Logos has a nice chart showing the words various meanings. Here it is:
~ You can see that “consider” and “count” are primary meanings. So what is my issue here?
Quite often when we read this verse, we think it is telling us to enjoy suffering somehow. We think that someway, somehow we are to experience our trials as pure joy. So we at times meet people who talk as though they are enjoying their suffering, delighting in their pain. How godly they are!
~~> I don’t think that that is what is going on in James 1:2.
~ Abraham was justified by faith alone. That is to say that righteousness was reckoned or credited to him. He was regarded by God as righteous. He was counted by God as such. Did he commit sins again for the rest of his life? Yes. But God considered him as righteous. In God’s eyes, he has the status of righteous on account of Christ righteousness being imputed to Him. Like so…
When we repent of our sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness, we are regarded as being righteousness from that point on. Yet this does not mean that we feel righteous from that point on. In fact we may feel like scum quite often.
So ??? James 1:2 ??
So James is telling us that when we go through a fiery trial, we credit what is happening to us as joy. We may not feel joyful, but we credit it as such. We regard it as such. We count it as such. We are taking joy to the bank. And what we put away in the bank, will be something that we use or will experience in the future.
So when you go through a trial, it is as if you are making an entry in a ledger for future joy. Credited today. Experienced in an even greater fullness tomorrow.
The following is an excerpt from an article that I am reading:
Second, some claim that since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness. Space prohibits a full discussion on the topic of “the gift of evangelism,” but a few observations are in order.
First, evangelism is not recorded in the common spiritual gifts listings in Scripture; instead, the office of evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Some (myself included) question whether “evangelism” should be seen as a distinct spiritual gift, such as giving, serving, and so on.
In addition, even if evangelism is a spiritual gift, it is also a command for all believers, just like giving, serving, and so on. Not having “the gift of evangelism” does not excuse a believer from his or her call to share Christ with others.
~ I am not 100% clear on his comment regarding the office of the evangelist and how that might mean that there is no gift of evangelism. I will have to continue to read up.
One thought that I have is that the gift of evangelism might be a species of the gift of healing. If the latter is still around today, then…
*Note: I am not denying that healing is around today. I am questioning whether there is a gift of healing that inheres in a particular person. Sometimes Joe may pray and you get healed. Other times Joe may pray and you do not get healed. Yet still Jane may pray and you get healed…
There are a set of Psalms that bear the subtitle “A Song of Ascents”.
There are fifteen of these Psalms, viz. 120-134.
Why do they bear the subtitle, “A Song of Ascents”?
Here is why . . .
~ During certain times of the years, the Israelites used to observe certain festivals (Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.) Part of what this observance involved was a pilgrimage – a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. This is where the temple was.
Here is the thing about the city of Jerusalem though… It was situated on top of a hill. And this was no small hill. It was fairly sizable.
So as the Israelites would converge upon the hill from the various parts of Israel, and then proceed to climb the hill, they would sing certain Psalms. Can you guess which Psalms they sang as they ascended up the hill to get to Jerusalem?
Exactly. The Songs of Ascent.
Actually beautiful picture emerges from all of this. The picture is that of various groups of people coming from all over Israel and surrounding the hill and then climbing up. And as they climb, they also sing.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” ~ Psalm 121:1 (A Song of Ascents)
And as various groups of Israelites would make their journey up the hill, all the while singing, they would meet other groups of Israelites – fellow pilgrims. And as they met one another, they would all join their voices and sing together and the praise would get louder and louder as they ascended up the hill.
Finally as they got to Jerusalem, here even the priests would be involved in playing musical instruments and in singing and and the city would in effect explode in praise. The city and the mountain in effect were turned into a mountain of praise and a city of praise. Almost like a volcano of praise!
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! ~ Psalm 122:1-2
In this world, Christians are pilgrims. We are headed up Mount Zion, on our way to the New Jerusalem. As we make our journey, we too sing songs – songs of ascent.
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two ways that courage plays out in our lives.
~ I am afraid to do something (e.g. talk before a large crowd) but in spite of the fear I go ahead and do it.
Here fear co-exists side by side with courage. And what happens here in fact involves courage. I after all went ahead and gave a talk.
~ I am afraid to do something but then pray, reason or talk to someone about the thing that I fear and courage arises and fear disappears.
In this case, the fear is either completely driven out or becomes displaced in good measure. For the most part what remains is courage.
It seems that something of a similar sort is at work with weakness and strength, although the way it plays out is different.
~ C.S. Lewis was horrible at math. He flunked his entrance exams and such. He could appreciate math, but just could not do it. It was his weakness. Here is the thing though… what if Lewis was good at manage math and had gone on to become an engineer or something? Then the world would never have seen Narnia or Perelandra and so on. There would have been no Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man. What a loss that would all have been!
And yet Mathematics remained his weakness throughout his life and co-existed side by side with his strength in writing to develop. In fact this weakness paved the way for him to develop his strength.
~ The C.S. Lewis example falls under this also in the sense of being displaced – to the very margins. However I am also thinking that there are cases where the weakness is driven out by a strength. Like you work on that weakness such as being lousy at basketball or cricket or whatever.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
~ Psalm 84:11
A little of a bad thing is a bad thing.
A lot of a bad thing is a bad thing.
A little of a good thing is a . . . good thing.
A lot of a good thing is . . . ? . . . bad thing. Quite often anyway…
God sometimes withholds good things in our lives because if he gave the good thing, we would not be able to handle it and thus it in effect would have really been a bad thing.
~ So for example if God did not allow me to get promoted to the position of a manager at work, it might be because the promotion really would have been a bad thing for me. Had I been promoted, perhaps I simply would not have been able to handle the stress level, the added multitasking, the higher workload, managing difficult people, etc. and I would have wound up on a psychiatrists’s couch.
~ So for example… if God allowed me to win the Pulitzer Prize next week, my head might inflate with pride and that would be not be good. And so the Puliz would really have been a bad thing.
If a good thing really were a good thing for us, God absolutely would not withhold it. In real life however, I think we tend to receive good things in increments.
“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” ~ Psalm 31:19
Sex is good, God created it, he blessed it. He made it the integral piece in the procreation of humanity—science thwarts it and succeeds it but even science admits the masterful design of two humans making more humans. Sex is great, but it does not make all the angsts of longing for intimacy before marriage go away. All those angsts still exist within marriage, they just take different forms.
I know it’s easy for the married person to say this, you protest, because at the end of the day I can still have sex. But what I wish I could tell every unmarried person I know is until we realize our issues are much deeper and more profound than a sexual itch for satisfaction, we will still find our desires unmet. Within marriage and without.
“I am sorry that I have prayed so little,” was the deathbed regret of one of God’s chosen ones, a sad and remorseful regret for a preacher.”
~ I find this to be quite a thought. When I am on my deathbed, I cannot say something like, “Yeah. I have not prayed much in life, but thats ok. I will make up for it now by praying non-stop until I make my exit from this life.”
No. Its not going to happen. Likely not going to happen anyway. Lost time is lost. Lost time is dead to you. It cannot be resurrected. It will not come back. You could have prayed during all that time, but did not. You could have poured it out and you life and other peoples lives could have been so much different, but – but – its all gone now. It never happened. It never will happen.
~ These words from Ch. 4 of E.M. Bounds(1835-1913) book, Power Through Prayer, are words that I always will need to be reminded of.
” … The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. Prayer makes preaching strong, gives it unction, and makes it stick. In every ministry weighty for good, prayer has always been a serious business.
The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.
Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.He will never talk well and with real success to men for God who has not learned well how to talk to God for men. More than this, prayerless words in the pulpit and out of it are deadening words.”
~ Elsewhere Bounds uses the term, “oil of prayer”. I really like that. We all know that whether it be mixing ingredients when we cook, or wiping our hands or the hinge on a door or the engine in a car – oil makes everything go smoother. Everything flows better.
~ Like so with prayer and the things of our life. So we must pour prayer out into our lives and the lives of others.
Hmmm… as I flipped through the Christianity Today website, I saw someone and was like… “Hmmm… Wait a minute!” And it turned out that it was my old pastor from my seminary days. How about that?!? He was interviewed by them… Wow! Anyway – here it is…
All that said … It seems to me that there are two ways that we communicate to God today:
1. Through our words – that is, through prayer.
2. Through our actions.
~ So for example, if we are going on a journey, and prior to starting up our car, we pray for travel mercies, then we communicate one thing to God. However if while on the journey we speed and drive rambunctiously, we communicate another thing.
What is it that we communicate? We communicate that we really do not want His travel mercies.
One thing to note: Note 1: We too are also constantly communicating with God, whether we realize it or not, whether its deliberate or not. Our actions are constantly sending a message to God.
Dr. Conrad Mbewe is the pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia. I often listen to his sermons online and even have some downloaded onto my computer. He recently did a interesting post on India, titled:
~ So suppose that you are going through a massive, massive trial – something very difficult and painful.
What if Jesus had said that you need massive faith in order to handle massive trials?
~ Speaking for myself, I would despair. It seems so often during trials, that I have difficulty scraping up any faith and now, I am being told that..
Anyway… Jesus not say that and Thank Him, because had He said that it, would have … let to an infinite regress. Huh???
What I mean is that, had Jesus said that, then there would have been something incoherent, something odd about what He said.
Why? Because now, where before you have one massive trial, now you have two. That is, in addition to the first massive trial, now you have another massive trial, which is the need to have gigantic faith and the thought of this makes you groan.
So in order to have massive faith, you need to have massive faith beforehand. And in order to have massive faith beforehand, you need to have massive faith beforehand beforehand… and soon…
Again – thank God Jesus said, you need mustard seed sized faith. The size was not really important. What was important is the presence of faith. Just having it. The only benefit that giant faith gets you is a greater assurance… a psychological benefit.
“Those who trust in the Lord Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”
~ Psm 125:1
“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).
Had instead said…
“If you had faith like the seed of a Lodoicea Maldivica aka the Coco de Mer, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).
The Lodoicea Maldivica aka the sea coconut, coco de mer, or double coconut is a tree that grows in the Seychelles Islands. It grows a massive fruit, ~ 40-50 cm in length, which contains a seed, that has the honor being the worlds largest seed (see above).
~ Yes. So what if Jesus had said something like that instead? What would you have done? I think I would faint.
I would faint, because that itself would be a trial. A trial for which I did not have the requisite faith, because the requirement for faith was too large. Too difficult. So I would faint.
~ Something buzzing here… Ok. Take a breath… a thought
->In order to get through a difficulty, I need to have faith in God.
What could an example of this difficulty be?
It could be a sickness, financial struggles, a car accident… and so on. And – it could also be the need to have faith. Huh? So how does the above sentence get re-worked.
-> In order to get through the difficulty of not having faith, I need to have faith in God.
-> In order to get through the difficult of having little faith, I need to have faith in God. ~ Well maybe not quite this last one.
A thought ~~~~> Thank God Jesus said that you only need a little faith in order to get things done. Not much. Quality was more important than quantity. Both small faith and big faith result in getting the job done. The only difference between the two is that large faith comes with some psychological benefits. You don’t freak out as much.
~ Sin are suffering are a part of God’s permissive will. It is something that God allows to happen. The crucifixion is a prime example. He allowed this to happen. The permissive will can be a result of sin or not. Christ was not where He was on account of sin.
~ The following poem(Sonnet 16) by John Milton(1608-1674) was written when he was blind. For me a key question is found, dead-center in the middle. It is one in which I have been in a discussion with, with a friend of mine.
And the question in question?
~~~> “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
On His Blindness
by John Milton
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
~ So the more I read and re-read 2 Corinthians, the more I think that something along the lines of human weakness and human insufficiency giving rise to God’s strength and sufficiency is a major theme of the book.
καὶμὴἐξἡμῶν: means “and not from us”
“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Cor. 4:7
~ So what is of you and what is not of you?
“And who is sufficient for these things?” ~ 2 Cor. 2:17
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, ~ 2 Cor. 3:5
1.Imposed: in some sense or some way… from within, from without, involving circumstance or inability
~ “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” ~ John 9:1
And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?” ~ Exodus 5:14
2. Self-Imposed:Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. ~Mk 14:34
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No. . . .” John 12:27. Yet ~ “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? …~ Matthew 26:53
3. Sinful-Weakness: “He[Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” ~ John 12:6
The forms of weakness described in (1) and (2) are good if the foundation for them is God’s strength.
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Much human strength and especially those which are much admired can actually be categorized in (3) believe it or not.
” … apart from Me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. ~ 2 Cor. 2:5
~ One last one…
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted,but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
~ I heard the following in a Kent Hughes sermon and had to look it up.
“God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and use somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.” ~Oswald Chambers
Abraham sends his servant, to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant journeys out to the city of Nahor, in Mesopotamia and stops at a well when he has reached the outskirts of the city.
11 And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water.12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water.14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this[b] I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”
15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah,
Let us now flash-forward to a another scene which also takes place at a well. This one concerns Jacob, right after he has stolen Esau’s birthright and has had to run from him because Esau was contemplating taking Jacob’s life. Lets flash-forward to Genesis 29
Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east.2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, …
4 Jacob said to them, … “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.”6 He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!”7 He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.”8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud.
~ Theres a lot of drama in the latter scene, but I won’t get into all of that. What I want to point out is that the Jacob scene contrasts markedly from the scene with Abraham’s servant.
The first instinct of Abraham’s servant is to pray. He prays and behold! Rebekah shows up. The first instinct of Jacob however is to put on a macho show. Rachel shows up and he flexes his muscles and rolls away the stone. Then within an instant he is surely in her arms weeping. High drama.
What I want to point out that one person – the servant – operates on the basis of weakness. Another operates on the basis of strength – fleshy, human strength.
~ The weakness of the servant is however really strength. It is really an acknowledgement that the servant – of his own self cannot do anything. However as he prays and waits upon God, God’s strength comes to the fore.
Cutting to the chase… What I am trying to say:
~ There is (1) strength and there is (2) weakness, both of which which differ, one from the other and then finally there is also (3) a strength which is the very same as weakness itself and vice versa. This (3) weakness/strength is different from the strength and weakness of (1) and (2).
In the Jacob well scene we see a display of this natural, fleshy, human strength.
In well scene of Abraham’s servant, we see a display of a weakness that really is strength.
And while I have not illustrated (2) weakness, it is found all over the Bible and life. Solomon seems to have had a weakness in the area of materialism. David in his weakness lusted after Bathsheba. In everyday life, some people find it difficult not to gamble. That is a form of sinful weakness. This is not the form of weakness that is really God’s strength.
“9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9-10
~ Slowed down on my blogging due to intensity at the workplace. But this one comes right out of my work thoughts so…
~ I used to work in the IT field for many years before I made a switch and then went to seminary. During and subsequent to seminary, I felt no pronounced call to ministry and so I headed back to IT. However working here, I confess to being restless. I can’t just code and code and code away forever.
Coding is there but its not my thing. Its bread I suppose so I do it. However I feel like there has to be something else, beyond i = i+1;. What I don’t know. Just don’t. Yet … all that said its interesting to consider the long hard wait that some folks in the Bible experienced.
~ Abraham was told that he would have a son. It would be years… YEARS before Isaac arrives on the scene.
~ Joseph has dreams that he would one day be some kind of ruler and that his family would even bow before him. Little did he realize that he would even do years in a dungeon before he literally would see the light of day.
~ David is anointed as a youth by Samuel and told that he would be king. Yet it would take years before any of this would happen. In fact ~8-10 of those years would be spent in the wilderness on the run from Saul.
~ Moses seems to have had a sense of destiny, while growing up in Egypt. This was that God was raising him up to free his people.
24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian.25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.” ~ Acts 7:23-25
~ Yet, little did he realize that all this would begin when he was 80 years old!
~ Naomi while in Moab, struggled to wait and basically lost all hope… I mean over the course of 10 years, her sons and husband died. And what do you do next if you are Naomi? I honestly empathize with her. I mean we have a 10 year stretch where only the ugly was happening. Yet at the end of it all, little did she realize that her answer, her Godsend – Ruth – was right by her side all along.
~ So it seems like… sometimes when God makes you wait for something… He really makes you wait! It is not always easy waiting and I groan at times but… it helps to look at the above and see that its not just me.
The following is a brief excerpt from a book I often reference:
“Little wonder that the church historically has usually grown the fastest and evangelism has proved the most effective, in small, informal fellowships. These may be fledgling “church plants,” or small groups withing larger more established congregations.14 Even the exceptions to this trend, as with mass response to large crusades, tend not to bear lasting fruit unless newly converted individuals are linked up with local congregations for ongoing nurture and discipleship.15″
His sources are:
14. Gibbs, Eddie. I Believe in Church Growth. (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Seminary Press, 2000), 234-274
15. Catherwood, Christopher. Five Evangelical Leaders. (Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1985), 201-202
~ One thought is that this must be based on data from the Church in the West. So is it applicable to the Church in the East?
~ Another thought is that if its “small groups withing larger more established congregations” then you could probably say that both large and small informal fellowships are good for growth.
In his book, Grace Unknown, R.C. Sproul states in print, some theological matters that I have heard him say many times on his radio program, Renewing Your Mind. This has to do with the matter of monergism and synergism.
Regarding monergism, this is what Sproul says it is:
“Monergism is something that operates by itself or works alone as the sole active party. Monergism is the opposite of synergism. … Synergism is a cooperative venture, a working together of two or more parties. When the term monergism is linked with the word regeneration, the phrase describes an action by which God the Holy Spirit works on a human being without this person’s assistance or cooperation. … Monergistic regeneration is exclusively a divine act. Man does not have the creative power that God has”
~ pg. 183-4
Regarding synergism, this is what Sproul says:
“As part of the process of our sanctification, perseverance is a synergistic work. This means that it is a cooperative effort between God and us. We persevere as He preserves.”
~ pg. 212
Jerry Bridges also says something similar.
In his book The Bookends of the Christian Life, we find written the following:
“… Paul summed up the concept of qualified synergism with a sweeping, dramatic statement: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).”
“So while the Holy Spirit is working in us synergistically to enable us to accomplish our growth agenda, He’s at the same time working monergistically to change us according to His agenda.”
~ Pg. 91
In another book of his, which he co-authored with Bob Bevington, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness, Bridges states:
“Definitive sanctification is monergistic, i.e. God acts independently of man to cause the sinner to see the glory of Christ in the Gospel. … When the Bible uses the word sanctification, it is frequently referring to progressive sanctification, which is gradual transformation of the believer in his or her day-to-day experience. Progressive sanctification is synergistic; the believer works in cooperation with God in dependence on His providing the enabling power to change.”
~ Pg. 216
(3) Bruce Demarest in his book, The Cross and Salvation says something similar.
It should be clear that regeneration differs from conversion in several important respects. (1) Conversion involves a synergism of divine and human working, whereas regeneration is strictly a monergistic operation.”
He also some other things that are quite interesting… but I do not want to digress.
(4) J.I. Packer on the very same issue.
“Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God’s work alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic – it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14). Knowing that without Christ’s enabling we can do nothing, morally speaking, as we should, and that he is ready to strengthen us for all that we have to do (Phil. 4:13), we “stay put” (remain, abide) in Christ, asking for his help constantly – and we receive it (Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:1).”
I think that Packer’s explanation might have the key to help me understand what has not been making sense.
~ John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was a bishop in the Anglican Church. He lived a pretty secular life until shortly after graduating from Oxford University, when he came to a knowledge of Christ Jesus. You can read a short biography of him here by John Piper
What lies below is an excerpt from a sermon by Ryle, titled Happiness that he preached back in 1878. I put the clip in because there is a streak of humor in it. It is on what I would call Faux Happiness – something that is everywhere. (It is exhibited by what I describe as existential incontinence. That is to say that human beings leak – existentially. With their mouths they say “Happy. Happy,” and yet with their lives they say unhappy, unhappy.)
“Oh, no! Worldly merriment is not real happiness! There is a certain pleasure about it, I do not deny. There is an animal excitement about it, I make no question. There is a temporary elevation of spirits about it, I freely concede. But do not call it by the sacred name of ‘happiness’. The most beautiful cut flowers stuck into the ground, do not make a garden. When glass is called diamond, and tinsel is called gold — then, and not until then, those people who can laugh and revel will deserve to be called happy people.
Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, at a time when all Spain was laughing at his humorous work, was overwhelmed with a deep cloud of melancholy.
Moliere, the first of French comic writers, carried into his domestic circle a sadness which the greatest worldly prosperity could never dispel.
Samuel Foote, the noted wit of the last century, died of a broken heart.
Theodore Hooke, the facetious novel writer, who could set everybody laughing, says of himself in his diary, “I am suffering under a constant depression of spirits, which no one who sees me in society dreams of.”
A woebegone stranger consulted a physician about his health. The physician advised him to keep up his spirits by going to hear the great comic actor of the day: ‘You should go and hear Matthews. He would make you well.’‘Alas, sir,’was the reply, ‘I am Matthews himself!’“
My friend told me earlier today that there are three enemies of the Church:
and that the worst of these is Prosperity. Nothing kills the Church like Prosperity. Surely the Western Church is a signal example of this. This is not to knock being wealthy but to knock against the misuse of wealth.
I tend to agree although I will say that Poverty is probably a frenemy, i.e. both an enemy and a friend.