Tuesday, February 13, 2007

the meaning of 'saint'

I used to think that the definition of 'saint' was something like this:
"A person who lived a perfect life. You should try to emulate them - even though that's impossible."
Upon closer reading, though, it seems the definition of 'saint' is closer to this:
"A convicted felon who has been pardoned by the King."
or perhaps:
"A (formerly terminal) cancer patient, who was completely cured by the Great Physician, and who refers other terminal patients to Him."

Saturday, February 03, 2007


"Not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit"
More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is under way throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia:

Iraq: More than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations. ... Also, more than 1 million Bibles [were] shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.

Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000.

Kazakstan: only three known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000.

Uzbekistan: no known Christians in 1990, but now more than 30,000.

Iran: In 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders tell me there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches.

Sudan: More than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an ongoing genocide. ... Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," one Sudanese evangelical leader told me.

Egypt: Some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society told me they used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape.

Friday, February 02, 2007

hunger and thirst

Every Thought Captive continues along the thoughts of the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:6 - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Luke 6:21, 25 - Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. . . Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

As we read through the beatitudes, we must keep in mind that Christ is teaching us about His kingdom. These beatitudes are characteristics of the true child of God, those who have been born again. These are not descriptions of the exceptional “super-spiritual” Christian. These are characteristics that all Christians possess in varying degrees. As we look at this characteristic, ask yourself if it can be found in your life. If it is absent from your life, you should fear for your soul and cry out to God for mercy and salvation. If these cannot be found in you, then Christ is saying, “Woe unto you!” instead of “Blessed!” He is pronouncing upon you a curse. May this cause you to repent and turn to Christ for salvation.

Let’s look at the order of the beatitudes covered thus far. A true believer is poor in spirit. He knows that he is helpless, that all of his supposed righteousness is but filthy, repugnant rags before God, and that nothing good dwells in him apart from Christ. Moreover, he weeps over the sin in his life. He possesses a broken and contrite heart. Furthermore, seeing himself as nothing, he is meek and humble, treating others with gentleness and self-control. Now, as he has realized the depravity in his hearts, he sees that the only solution is to be righteous, to be freed from the sin which separates him from God. He desires to be like Christ.

The idea of hunger and thirst speaks of a deep longing and strong desire that aches desperately to be satisfied. In using the imagery of hunger and thirst, Jesus is conveying the importance righteousness is to our lives. Righteousness is as necessary to our spiritual lives as food and water is to our physical lives. Without food and water, death is inevitable. Without righteousness, spiritual death in an eternal hell is inescapable. The use of such language also illustrates that what we need is something outside of ourselves. Just as we are dependent upon food and water that is external to us (if not then it is self-destructive), so we must be dependent on a righteousness outside ourselves. All forms of self-righteousness must be deemed as not genuine righteousness. We must see them for the filthy rags that they are. The only true righteousness is the righteousness found in Christ. Because of His death and resurrection, we are declared righteous by faith. Moreover, as we are being conformed to His image through sanctification, we exhibit more of His righteousness in our lives. It is this conformity to Christ that all true believer hunger and thirst.

We see throughout the beatitudes the refrain, “Blessed is the man who . . .” drawing our attention to happiness and blessedness, for which everybody longs. Everybody wants to be happy, but they hate the only source of true happiness. They want the blessings that only God can give, but they don’t want God. They want to go to heaven, but they don’t want God to be there. Instead of following after God, people seek to fulfill their hunger for happiness in every way imaginable except the only way that will lead to real blessedness. Instead of thirsting for holiness, without which no one can see God (Hebrews 12:14), the source of all true joy, their self- centeredness drives their desire for happiness in and of itself. They seek to satisfy this hunger through family, wealth, entertainment, fame, health, academics, worldliness, religion, athletics, esteem of men, morality, sensuality, and a host of other things, but none of these bring happiness. None of them will quench the thirst for happiness.

The hunger and thirst that is found in unregenerate fallen man is sinful. Every intent of the though of his heart is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). The fact that every desire of man’s heart is wicked and sinful highlights the necessity of regeneration. Man cannot change these desire through their own power. God must take the heart of stone which hates Him and turn it into a heart of flesh that loves Him. This change is regeneration. If you have been saved, then your heart has been changed. Your desires have been changed. You now desire righteousness. As I have heard one preacher put it: “If you have a new relationship with God, then you have a new relationship to sin.” If you have been regenerate, then you will hate the sin you once loved. There has been birth into all true believers a desire to be like Christ, to be holy. Sin is still present in his life, but he no longer relishes it as he once had. The sweet flavor that sin once had has become putrid. He feels the tension that Paul expressed in Romans 7: For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil I hate. We see the sin in our life and are appalled, and we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

This beatitude is a great comfort to true believers, especially when distraught by the presence of sin in his life. Sometimes we can become so distressed over the sin that is in our lives and over our lack of conformity to Christ that we can begin to doubt whether we have been born again. But, if we are concerned about such things, than there is evidence that we have been born again. If we see ourselves as already righteous, as “full now” (Luke 6:25), then we have every reason to doubt. Why? A true believer will desire to be righteous. He will be “hungry now” (Luke 6:21). So, if you are content with yourself, and your little dab of Christianity, your touch of religion, I would fear for your soul. But if you are hungry and thirsty to be like Christ, than be encouraged, not only because you have evidence of regeneration, but also because you have the promise of having that hunger satisfied at the appointed time. Everyone whom God has effectually called out to be His children, He has declared righteous, and they will be ultimately glorified. After regeneration, the process of sanctification begins and will continue until the end of the Christian’s life on earth.

This process of being made righteous involves means. The evidence that one truly does hunger and thirst after righteousness can be seen in how ardently he is using God’s means to attain godliness. Moreover, evidence can be seen in how much he avoids things which hinder sanctification.

Prayer, Scripture and the fellowship of the church are the weapons of our warfare which God has given us. These are the means by which we take our thoughts captive to Jesus Christ. These are the means God has given to us to conform us to Christ. We are commanded not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We must realize that we are more worldly than we realize, and we are influenced by the world more than we care to admit. Yet, if we desire to be righteous then we will be active in seeking to be righteous. Yes, it is all of grace and not of ourselves, but there are still means. Let us not forget that. How, then, do we renew our minds? By reading the Word of God. If you truly hunger and thirst for holiness, then you would love the nourishment of God’s Word. Do you love the preaching of the Word? Do you spend time in Scripture? If you regularly neglect God’s Word, it could be that you have no desire for righteousness and are void of saving faith.

Another means God has given us is prayer. Do you go to the Father in prayer? Do you pray for holiness? If you can go days without praying, perhaps it is because there is no hunger for God, revealing the wicked, unregenerate heart within you.

God has also given us other believers as a means of sanctification. Do you love the church? John wrote in his first epistle that if we say that we love God, yet hate our brother, then we are liars (4:20-21). God has called us out into local bodies. We are to encourage one another unto godliness. We are to hold each other accountable. We are to lovingly rebuke one another. If it is your habit to forsake the church, you are probably not saved.

God also uses trials in our lives to make us righteous. This particular means differs from the three mentioned above in that the of three should be actively pursued daily. The means of trials, on the other hand, are more passive. Our response to them, however, is very important and revealing of our true desire for righteousness. I won’t tarry to long here. I will cover it more thoroughly as I write on the beatitude that deals with persecution. Our hunger to be like Christ should be stronger than our desire to avoid pain and hardships. No trial, however severe it may be, should be disdained if it is to make us holy. Our thirst for righteousness should cause us to fall on our knees and cry out, “Lord, whatever it takes; I want to be like Christ!” Trials can drive us to our knees and create in us a greater dependence upon Him. They can work in us such a Christlikeness that they can be seen as sweet and precious gifts from God. That is why we can “consider it all joy” (James 1:2) when we encounter various trials.

Are there things in your life which hinder sanctifiaction? Television and the Internet are filled with all kinds of immorality which has enslaved many professing Christians. For some, the content of TV viewing and Internet use is fairly neutral, but the amount of time spent engaged in them may reflect improper stewardship of free time. Close friendships with worldly people can put before you negative peer pressure, hindering your walk. There are many things which could be in your life which is working against your sanctification. I encourage you to examine your daily activities and if there is anything there which should not be there. If you do hunger and thirst for righteousness, then get serious about it. Take action! Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Look to Jesus!

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?