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The Faults in our Stars | Classics Series

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The following blog is the newest installment in our Classics Serieswhere we revisit posts from days gone by. This blog was originally posted in September of 2019.

I have to admit that the older I get, burying my head in the proverbial sand is more attractive. Yeah, I’m a coward. It’s my protection mechanism against information overload and the drag that comes with it. I can’t digest all the information coming at me. Plus, I fear the fatigue that comes with the letdown in the news. But don’t worry, that will become old news in a few hours or days! 

Because every time we take our heads out of the sand and come up for refreshing air, we realize danger and disappointment surround us. Often, we find out that another beloved hero or leader has fallen or some dirt has surfaced to tarnish their otherwise blissful and inspiring legacy. So, we choose to suffocate ourselves spiritually in the sand of our own heads by not wanting to hear or know anything that would change this sublime state.

Leadership failures and hero falls are becoming more quickly known and broadcasted because of technology these days. But it’s not always the case for more historic figures that predated this ‘every person a journalist’ era.

Consider one of our Christian heroes: Horatio G. Spafford, a 19th century Chicago lawyer, whose legacy as a hymn-writer was firmly fixed in the tragic loss he experienced of his four daughters on the Atlantic. He penned the beloved “It Is Well With My Soul” as his confident acceptance of God’s promises and plan. This is usually where the story ends on Spafford.

Yet, as is little known, it didn’t really end well for him. Though he and his wife Anna were able to have 3 other children and adopted another later in life, Spafford, who was a member of the Fullerton Ave Presbyterian Church (in Lincoln Park, Chicago), adhered to quirky and maybe even quixotic or heterodox doctrinal views, such as universalism. He attempted to use his influence as a board member and elder of the church to fire the new  pastor. He thought he would sway the vote, but a majority surprisingly showed up to vote. He lost by a large margin and stormed away from the church. Thankfully he didn’t go to infect another church.

Wandering and worse off, he started his own sect that claimed itself purer than other churches. He became beholden to the coming of Christ in the land of Christ more than Christ himself. Having majored to a fault on end-times theology, social justice issues, and strict entrance requirements to his group, he eventually moved his family to Palestine where he contracted malaria and died.  Anna, his wife, kept the colony and its activities alive for the rest of her life. Though it was well for a time for Spafford, it didn’t end well. Sad.

You're probably disappointed to hear that. Maybe you’ll never sing that song the same way again. Maybe you’d rather just not trust your heart (and voice!) to another beloved songwriter or Christian leader because you’re afraid that they’re just going to break it.

But that is where the good news comes in. I'm preaching to myself here, too. You must get the sand out of your head by reminding yourself of Christ who is the Hero that can never disappoint. Most (if not all),  the luminaries in the Bible have tarnished reputations. They all point back to the Christ. Their lives are the black felt on which the diamond of our Christ shines purer and fairer.

You must get the sand out of your head by reminding yourself of Christ who is the Hero that can never disappoint.

If you need a human to prop up your faith, you should repent of trusting in anyone else for happiness or lasting encouragement. Humans, in so far as they are following Christ and persevering, are worthy of honoring and following, but we must never be surprised or ultimately crushed when something dark is exposed about their lives.

If anything, we should be driven to prayer for them (if they’re still alive) and ourselves. We should take to the Word for fresh courage and perspective and be slow to make hasty conclusions. Protect yourself first from our Christian cultural tendency of hagiography (biography that idealizes a subject) and celebrityism. And when the next Christian luminary in your life falls from your sky, “consider Christ who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).

Take heart, my friend.

Christ is all.

Posted by Will Pareja with

God is Greater Than Our Heart | Classics Series

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[5.5 MIN READ]

The following blog is the newest installment in our Classics Serieswhere we revisit posts from days gone by. This blog was originally posted in September of 2019.

You’ve probably heard it: the judge within you whispering (and maybe sometimes shouting) doubt and condemnation. But, rest assured: that's not the final word on you, believer.

The book of 1 John is a lighthouse bright for your darkness and it brims with rich Gospel assurances. You can’t read that letter from pastor-apostle John without being both challenged and comforted.

John was probably Jesus’ bosom buddy of all the Twelve. Peter might have been the leader entrusted with the birth and formation of the Church, but John got Jesus’ heart and pastored like him. We get 5 of the 27 New Testament books from this John (the gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Revelation). John was a specialist in Christian assurance (John 20:31; 21:24). Right knowledge is vital to a living, assured faith. He uses the word ‘know' a lot. For instance, he states:

“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” (1 John 3:19-21, emphasis added)

"Right knowledge is vital to a living, assured faith."

True faith is an abiding reality no matter how small or mature it is. The measure of one’s faith is not dependent on the object of their faith.  True faith never goes beyond the pale into rank, damnable unbelief.

Though related, however, assurance of faith and grace isn’t always a steady state. Just notice the two “ifs” above. It doesn’t mean we’re less saved. It just means that due to one or multiple variables (like personality, health, sin, or circumstances), we may be less sure at times than at others.

Often a believer’s doubt or self-condemnation is a result of a guilty conscience. Real, damnable guilt was dealt with once and for all on the cross. Yet, that is precisely one of the ongoing struggles for the Christian— distinguishing between guilt and genuine conviction of sin.

John helps pacify the troubled conscience with two assurances. In fact, some Bible versions (NET and CSB) viably translate ‘heart’ (cardia) as ‘conscience’:

1. Looking Back

If we look back to the previous verses (3:18), it talks about how true faith demonstrates in visible sacrificial deeds towards the brothers; not just talks about it. If we can look back and see that we have shown love for God’s children, then, we can take that as a mark of divine love at work within us. We’re assured!

2. Looking Up 

As Doug O’Donnell quips: “Our hearts don’t always align with our heads.” We go looking within or listening to ourselves or other accusations more often than not. John intercepts us as we’re headed into yet another one of our tailspins of guilt.

The late Dr. James Boice summarized this as ‘faith must be fed by knowledge of what is true about God.’ In other words, we should look forward or out and up at God and his verdict; not our experiences.

When our hearts pound the gavel again, and again, must take comfort in God’s greatness and omniscience. God is greater than our hearts. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s omniscience usually (and rightfully) is a deterrent to sin, but here in 1 John it is a comfort over our condemnation.

Yes, God knows your woefully repeated failures. Yet, God knows what he has done for you, and that is so much greater than anything you’ve committed or omitted. Instead of defensively telling yourself or others the usual ‘God knows my heart’, tell your Accuser (which is what Satan means): “You are right. I am that and worse, but God through Christ has forgiven me, and I am dressed in his righteousness alone. God is greater than my heart.” Resist the accusations like that.

“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin…”
(Before the Throne of God Above)

 And then, be at ease when there aren’t those accusations (verse 21). Enjoy confidence before God. Timidity, fear, and guilt are not the emotions that our good Father wants us to have. Go ahead, beloved child of God dressed like Jesus the Son, hop into your Father’s lap and ask away.

Dear saint, rest— assured.

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