Do I learn through dark providences, or simply seem relieved when they are over? (Healthy Christian Growth)
Fact one: Thomas Nagel is an atheist. As he’s made clear on many occasions, he wants to be an atheist. As he said, famously, in The Last Word, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
Fact two: Thomas Nagel is brave enough to have a clear and critical look at one of the great intellectual supports of modern atheism, the neo-Darwinian account of nature. He has found it “prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.”
Walking with God implies that a man is actually reconciled to God the Father. This is possible through the all-sufficient righteousness and atonement of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our peace as well as our peacemaker. George Whitefield writes:
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)
Various are the pleas and arguments which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God. But, perhaps, one of the most common objections that they make is this, that our Lord’s commands are not practicable, because contrary to flesh and blood; and consequently, that he is ‘a hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed’. These we find were the sentiments entertained by that wicked and slothful servant mentioned in the 25th of St. Matthew; and are undoubtedly the same with many which are maintained in the present wicked and adulterous generation. The Holy Ghost foreseeing this, hath taken care to inspire holy men of old, to record the examples of many holy men and women; who, even under the Old Testament dispensation, were enabled cheerfully to take Christ’s yoke upon them, and counted his service perfect freedom. The large catalog of saints, confessors, and martyrs, drawn up in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, abundantly evidences the truth of this observation. What a great cloud of witnesses have we there presented to our view? All eminent for their faith, but some shining with a greater degree of luster than do others. The proto-martyr Abel leads the van. And next to him, we find Enoch mentioned, not only because he was next in order of time, but also on account of his exalted piety; he is spoken of in the words of the text in a very extraordinary manner. We have here a short but very full and glorious account, both of his behavior in this world, and the triumphant manner of his entry into the next. The former is contained in these words, ‘And Enoch walked with God’. The latter in these, ‘and he was not: for God took him’. He was not; that is, he was not found, he was not taken away in the common manner, he did not see death; for God had translated him. (Heb. 11:5.) Who this Enoch was, does not appear so plainly. To me, he seems to have been a person of public character; I suppose, like Noah, a preacher of righteousness. … But whether a public or private person, he has a noble testimony given him in the lively oracles. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews saith, that before his translation he had this testimony, ‘that he pleased God’; and his being translated, was a proof of it beyond all doubt. … ‘And Enoch walked with God.’ If so much as this can be truly said of you and me after our decease, we shall not have any reason to complain that we have lived in vain. (“Walking with God”)
According to James L. Christensen, “The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy; rather it tries to make us great enough for life.” In addition to the work of the Holy Spirit, I think the development of godly character is closely tied to reading God’s Word in order to know God’s Will. The righteous man knows that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness …” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)
Proverbs 11:3 tells us that, “The integrity of the upright guides them …” Character is the result of a mature moral compass that guides how we think and act. Concern for the integrity of that compass is an important attribute of character. The psalmist expresses this when he prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (139:23-24)
Our God is not impressed by our going through the motions of righteousness. He has unlimited insight into the real quality of our character. Who has not been disappointed with someone when it is discovered that he has real issues with integrity? Think how disappointed God must be when we fail to live with Christ-like character. Most of us fail to understand that God does not rush in to change our conditions when there is a much more serious problem – our character. We may struggle with the problems of this world, but God is preparing us for the world to come.
God will bring us through difficult circumstances, but it is often by walking through the fire of troublesome situations that we develop godly character. Character lessons are often best learned through experience. Our trust and confidence that God will bring us through hard times will deepen our relationship with Him. Paul writes, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)
In summary, a Christian character is living with Christ-like behavior. Our Christian character is to be the catalyst from which all our actions come. In facing life’s problems, a Biblical character is the proof that we have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Consider this: Are you a window through which other people can see Christ? You must pray for this to be a consistent quality in your life.
Radio talk show host Dennis Prager:
“I first look to the Bible for moral guidance and for wisdom. I say this even though I am not a Christian (I am a Jew, and a non-Orthodox one at that). And I say this even though I attended an Ivy League graduate school (Columbia), where I learned nothing about the Bible there except that it was irrelevant, outdated and frequently immoral. I say this because there is nothing — not any religious or secular body of work — that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral bases of Western Civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world. … If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? … The universities and their media supporters have taught a generation of Americans the idiocy that men and women are basically the same. And they are the institutions that teach that America’s founders were essentially moral reprobates — sexist and racist rich white men.”
The manner in which the Word of God is preached will certainly make the hearers aware of its importance to the preacher. Al Martin writes:
I wish to apply myself very briefly to the area of the manner of the message:
Genuine urgency is the mother of true eloquence. A man seeking to arouse people from their sleep because of the imminent danger of fire will find little success in his mission if he simply ambles up and down the hallways of the burning dwelling mouthing with correct English pronunciation some words regarding the imminent danger. However, let a man be convinced that those lives are truly in danger, and that their deliverance hinges on his ability to stir them into immediate action, and such a man will not fail to rouse people from their sleep and cause them to take the necessary action for their safety. The urgency of such a man is not primarily born of adeptness in the arts of elocution, but it breaks forth out of the womb of genuine concern and urgency. Urgency in some, because of personality, temperament, or because of built-in microphones, may express itself in volume. In others, it may be expressed in other ways in which urgency finds her own overtones.
Urgency will cause us to labor in the area of securing and maintaining vital audience contact in the context of preaching. If we have come into the pulpit not simply to deliver an oration but to communicate urgent truth to needy men and women, we shall not rest unless we have their attention. … God alone can get the truth into the heart, but you must give yourself to gaining their ears.
Holy Spirit-wrought urgency will also drive us to work cultivating the art of communicating to men in a popular vocabulary. When we use a given word in the context of preaching and receive that ‘long ago and far away’ look, we should immediately sense that the word we have used has not registered. If we are sensitive to this, we will then use a different word. . . .
Also, this matter of urgency will drive us to work at applicatory preaching. Perhaps the most difficult part of a regular pulpit ministry is the work of application. But just as a competent physician who longs for the health of those committed to his care will not be content unless he knows the specific maladies of his people and is able to apply specific remedies, so the true servant of God … will labor to know the specific expressions of sinful need and then to apply the specific remedies set forth in the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ. (“What is Wrong with Preaching Today?”)