Exploring Sex, Seniors, and Spirituality

Growing Old Has Spiritual Advantages

Jack may be retired, but he isn’t dead. Watching his ever-beautiful wife’s shadowy figure behind the shower curtain heightens the still-employed passion within. He thoughtfully relives memorable nights when it was “all systems go.” Automatically, his ero-system starts to hum. The mingling of hunger and hope feeds the genitive engine while her soft touch energizes it. This is, until “what’s under the hood” breaks down with the finish line far away. 

“Damn it!,” Jack screams at himself, irritated by his “incompetence.” “What is my problem? I’ve got to do something about this. No way am I going to live for the rest of my life unable to perform. I’m a man, not a wimp!”

Are you less human if you are not sexually active, unable to engage in sexual relationships, or choose not to? Some anthropologists think so. Since we are sexual beings, they reason, we must engage in sexual activity or we are not truly human. This is what can happen when God and His ways are missing from the discussion. Secularism struggles mightily to know the true nature of humans and sexuality. 

3 Reasons Sexual Activity is Not Essential To Being Human (Christian perspective): 

  1. The Church Fathers are nearly unanimous in understanding that in paradise, before the fall, sexual intercourse was unknown. It is first mentioned after the fall. 
  2. In eternity, when we will be more human than ever, sexual activity is not necessary. We will experience a union with God, our spouses, and others that will transcend anything we could imagine on earth. There will be no marriage or physical union, yet real oneness will be experienced. 
  3. Jesus, John the Forerunner, Paul, Mary (according to Church tradition), many Bible characters and saints never engaged in sexual intercourse. Jesus was a perfect human being. A few others have come close. Most were celibate. 

This sounds totally foreign to us who live in a sex-dominated culture. We are inundated with messages that sexual activity is normal. It’s OK to engage in sex as early as you can and as long as you can. To limit its practice is to be narrow-minded, odd, and, worst of all, “goody-goody.” 

The multimillion dollar male enhancement industry is a global phenomenon made possible by internet e-commerce. Worldwide market data for the industry is unavailable, but 2008 sales were estimated in excess of $100 million U.S. (Male Enhancement Blog) 

Most moderns see less sexual activity and/or sexual desire as a problem. The solutions? See your doctor. Try this lubricant or pill. Set up an appointment with a therapist. You must stay sexually active as long as you’re alive.

Even as I wrote this post, I realized I’ve been deeply influenced by these messages and away from a Christian perspective. I keep using the term “sexual intercourse” when the term I need to be using is “marital intercourse.” According to God, the Church, and the Bible writers, proper sexual activity is always marital intercourse. 
 
3 Fundamental (& Traditional) Purposes of Marital Intercourse 
  1. Tame the passions – In 1 Cor. 7 Paul teaches us to escape lustful temptation through conjugal union in marriage. Since the man usually has the “hotter flame,” the wife is the one who cools him in the intimacy of marital intercourse. This is God’s design.   
  2. Create life – Procreation is passing on the image of God to another human being and is not just physical. Married couples can birth eternal human beings. To “be fruitful and increase” (Gen. 1.28; though there is debate as to the exact meaning), is foundational for most married couples.  
  3. Promote marital unity – Marital intercourse demonstrates and solidifies a strengthening bond of sacred companionship and friendship to enable humans to make it through this life  Described in Proverbs 5.15-23, beautiful intercourse nourishes a spirit of friendship and harmony in marriage. 

How do these fundamental purposes apply in various stages of life? 

  • In young couples (20-40), #1 is often the dominate purpose followed closely by #2,  then #3.
  • In middle-aged couples (40-60) – #1 and #3 may be the purposes that dominate.
  • In older couples (60+) – #3 purpose will dominate with #1 always in the picture.    

Christian Marriage

Marriage is a Christian reality not secular. In Ephesians 5.22-33, marriage is described as “a great ‘mystery.’” Mystery is the same word as “sacrament” leading the traditional church to understand marriage as a sacrament infused by and infusing God’s grace. This is no trivial matter. In the marital relationship, God is pictured and seen in his sacrificial love for humanity through Jesus Christ. Only the crucifixion provides a more powerful picture. 

Dr. Josiah Trenham, pastor, scholar, and author of Marriage and Virginity according to St. John Chrysostom, says that a “husband and wife living together [is] the 

tangible expression of the gospel. The husband represents the self-denying love of Christ pouring himself out for the salvation of his bride, the Church, his wife, and the woman functions as the humble church. This is the most profound tangible expression of the gospel. People should be able to look at Christian couples and say, ‘Wow! There is a God who loves humanity; and a humanity/church that loves God.'”

Ancient writers, old age, and sexuality 

Please indulge me. Let me pass on to you a “revelation” about these matters that was introduced to me a few years ago and continues to play out in my life.

The purpose in getting older is to help you live more deeply in union with Christ and to prepare you for eternity where you’ll live together with God forever.

Aging, even with all its challenges and “malfunctions,” is to be celebrated as a struggle to become like Christ. 

This reality emerges from a patristic understanding of the resurrected state and thus the nature of the body in the afterlife. A Patristic worldview on the nature of the resurrected state and transformation of the human body has practical implications for all Christians. Here I quote Dr. Trenham: 

Here [on earth, currently] many are seeking a “Viagra condition,” and doing all they can do, at great expense, to avoid the effects of the aging process…I have counseled an ailing and aging parishioner who is poignantly frustrated at the growing number of impediments he faces as he nears death. When I suggested to him that perhaps these very bodily impediments were actually gracious blessings bestowed by God to enable him to calm his bodily passions, detach himself from the world, and ready himself for a successful transition from this life to the next (and therefore should be embraced and plumbed wholeheartedly for all the grace inherent in them), his countenance was transformed and his whole perspective on what was happening to his body changed.

The Christian perspective on aging is reflected beautifully in Kontakion 9 of the Akathist Hymn for the Repose of the Departed

Bless swiftly passing time; every hour, every moment bringeth eternity nearer to us. A new sorrow; a new gray hair are heralds of the world to come, they are witnesses of earthly corruption, they proclaim that all passeth away, that the eternal Kingdom draweth nigh, where there are neither tears nor sighing but the joyful song: Alleluia! 

Preparation for the next life includes a lessening of the sexual passions and physical “performance.” This reality can be grudgingly tolerated, passively accepted, or positively embraced. What begins as a thoughtful choice becomes a transformational heart and mind attitude that morphs and develops over time. This is all preparatory for the next life where there is no marital intercourse even though we will experience a “oneness” only tantalizingly known in earthly marriage.

You can embrace getting older or keep worshiping youth. But, it’s wiser and healthier to understand that your physical limits are happening because God desires you to become less attached to the things of the earth and to make the transition to the next life. Your physical limitations are actually freeing you to become a fuller human being already experiencing the Kingdom of God. 

Dr. Trenham reminds us:

This is the natural process of infertility. So get ready. Dispossess yourself, set your life in order. Spend your last years really seeking the Lord. Positively give up the earthly pleasures of sexual union knowing that a greater pleasure of eternal union with our spouse and with Christ in heaven is coming.

 

Preparation Through Moderation and Regulation.

Moderation: Just as it is necessary to be moderate with food consumption, so with sexual activity. Enjoy your sexual meal times yet include sexual fasting days as well. Follow a personal rule of “no sex” days. Use these days to focus on prayer and communion with God. St. Paul encourages this in 1 Corinthians 7.5: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 

Regulation: Regulate your sexual activities. Monitor how your body is functioning and allow it to guide you. You need to be in control of your “urges” not the other way around. Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD) writes about regulating human activities which is applied to marriage by Dr. Trenham: 

Christian marriage is to be characterized by a sexuality both reasonable and disciplined. One need not separate those whom God has joined together in order for self-discipline to exist. Marriage is “disciplined pleasure,” and as such is harmless. Chastity, which ought to exist in marriage, is the body’s holy robe. Clement’s pedagogical goal was not to eradicate the things which came naturally to men, but to regulate them for holiness. (Marriage and Virginity, p. 47)

I hope you’ll gain a fresh perspective on aging as a Christian from this post. Now you have a few more reasons to celebrate getting older (besides “Senior discounts”). 

How have you struggled with the aging process? How do the realities I highlight give you a different perspective? Please, share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K  

Hope For Those Wanting To Know “How To” Pray

Brief Instructions on a Prayer Rule

I sit on the veranda overlooking the Caribbean ocean fitfully sobbing. As a 16 year old kid, I’m alone confronting my own contemptuous selfishness, flush with shame. My parents are fully confident that God wants us serving Him in Jamaica. I’m far-removed from such certainty. But as I read “How to Pray” by R. A. Torrey, the rottenness of my rebellion, self-centeredness, and stubbornness overwhelms me. Thus the brokenhearted tears. I am a mess and don’t know the extent of it.

Now, 46 years later, as I look back at that crucially formative time, I see God’s handprint all over. Three realities introduced there mark me for life – solitude, repentance, and prayer. It’s too bad that I practically ignore those realities for most of my life. Now, thanks to the grace of God, I’m trying to make up for lost time (if that’s even possible). 

So here’s a question coming out of my own life experience. How is it that we can go through our entire Christian life and never learn how to competently communicate with God? I use the words “how to” on purpose because I believe that is our main problem. We know the Bible includes exhortations to pray. We’ve studied Jesus’ prayer for His disciples. We’ve heard dozens of sermons about prayer. We may have even read some books on the subject. We know that we should pray, need to pray, want to get answers to prayer, feel guilty when we don’t pray with or for others, and should “pray without ceasing.”

Yet, prayer remains a mystery without any kind of solving involved. Our hearts clamor to know God more deeply. Yet we are ignorant of the practice of prayer in that process. We know we’re “supposed to” pray but we struggle with “how to” pray. 

Part of the problem is that we’ve ignored a solid, time-tested “how to” of prayer the Church has practiced for centuries while inventing innovative, hit-or-miss methods of self-expression and individualistic credo. Prayer is no longer seen as abiding communion with God. Prayer is more like verbally rubbing the magic lamp so the genie-god will appear to give us what we wish for. 

The best “how to” for prayer that I’ve experienced over the last decade is a “rule of prayer.” A prayer rule, thoughtfully and wisely established, can transform your relationship with God and your own heart. Real communion with God is possible when you include components such as:

  • Morning liturgical prayers
  • Psalms
  • Scripture readings
  • Silence/stillness
  • Intercessory prayers 
  • Prayers throughout the day 
  • Evening prayers 

A prayer rule need not be lengthy or complicated. In fact, it must be simple and doable. Those knowledgable of a prayer rule all say the same. Begin small and let it grow over time, if at all. The important thing is consistency and true communion. 

15-20 minutes in the morning, prayers throughout the day, and 5-10 minutes in the evening = prayer rule. Most of us have 20-30 minutes every day to devote to prayer if our desire for God is great enough. 

In my next post, I’ll get more specific about what might be included in a rule of prayer.

In the meantime, ask God to help you establish a prayer rule for yourself and ask Him “how to” do it. 

Dr. K 

Sharing The Secret To Resonant Communion With God

Freedom Is Found Within A Rule

Wouldn’t it be great if you could organize an everyday prayer habit? Given the choice between a sporadic, sketchy prayer routine and a vibrant, vital one, most Christians would choose the latter. Yet, many Christians do not know how to establish a vibrant, vital prayer routine or maybe fear the idea of organized prayer. Most are familiar with “daily devotions,” “morning quiet time,” or “Bible study.”  However, they’ve never been challenged to organize a daily “prayer rule” to enhance their relationship with God. I offer up that challenge.

 

The idea of a rule for Christian prayer has been around for centuries. It is how the Church prays whether liturgically or personally. The concept of personal “spontaneous” prayers is a relatively modern one. Though spontaneity may be beneficial in communion with God, it should not be the totality of your prayer life. A prayer rule provides the foundation and framing upon which resonant communion with God is built. 

Perhaps the reason so many Christians struggle in prayer is because they think they need to make up their own prayers every time they pray. This becomes difficult to sustain as they find themselves either at loss as to what to say or stuck saying the same inane words over and over again. 

These frustrations with prayer can be eliminated by establishing a prayer rule. 

Meaning of Rule

The English word “canon” comes from the Greek κανών, meaning “rule” or “measuring stick.” 

By establishing a prayer “rule” you set up a personal “canon” – a list of prayers you say daily at set times and, if possible, at set places. This rule becomes the guiding authority for communion with God. It also provides a “measuring stick” to size up the scope of your prayer life. 

You may defensively react to such notions. Any idea of putting “rules” on prayer seems legalistic or restraining. Yet, it’s actually freeing. 

Like rules for any activity, a prayer rule sets you free to engage God with genuine attentiveness. Can you imagine playing basketball without rules? It would be a chaotic mess with every player doing whatever he/she wants just as long as the ball goes through the hoop. It would cease to be a basketball game and resemble a 5-on-5, free-for-all, full contact fight. For any activity, rules are a must.

I am not advocating that a set of rules be placed on how you pray, though some guidance is usually good. I’m suggesting that you establish a set way of praying into which you enter daily. For example, a prayer rule may include certain liturgical prayers, silence, intercessory prayers, psalms, prayers of thanksgiving or praying at certain times during the day. 

You are free then to enter what has already been established as good and fruitful rather than “winging it,” making it up as you go hoping something good will result. 

Over the next couple weeks, my posts will help you establish a prayer rule. I hope you’ll take  up the challenge to commune with God using a prayer rule. 

Dr. K 

 

What the 5 “Solas” Really Mean

Looking At The Flip Side

The Reformation has powerfully impacted Christianity. Some think that’s a good thing. Others believe it is a disaster. Many understand that, as beneficial as the Reformation was in its time, there are unintended consequences that adversely affected the Church then and continue to do so today. 

It is often pointed out that there are five main tenets to the Reformation. I’ve listed them below with some unintended consequences from my own perspective. 

  • Sola Fide: Faith alone – I don’t need to put forth any effort to experience salvation and its fullness. 
  • Solus Christus: Christ alone – I don’t need the Church. It’s Jesus and me. 
  • Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone – I don’t need Tradition, creeds, councils, or personal experience. The Bible alone, and my or my group’s interpretation of it, is the only authority I need. 
  • Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone – I don’t need saints, hierarchy, images, or priest/clergy. I believe that to honor anyone else is to dishonor God.   
  • Sola Gratia: Grace alone – I don’t need sacraments, means, or method. Grace is seen as a created substance isolated from anything material, physical, or experiential.  

And, here are some unintended consequences to the Reformation: 

  1. I don’t need church history, organized religion, dogmatic doctrine, or any spiritual authority over me. 
  2. I am an autonomous self, able to determine for myself what I will believe (or not), what I will do (or not), how I will decide, whom I will follow, and when all this will take place. 
  3. I see church as optional. I need faith, Christ, scripture, God’s glory, and grace but I don’t need the Church. How could it be that the reformers missed the claim of “Sola Ecclesia?” Of course, they could not make that claim since they were opposing the one church they knew. Centuries of church divisions, theological battles, “fresh” truth claims, and re-awakenings have not healed the church’s brokenness or purified her operation. Since it’s not what I think it should be, I can reject it. 

I doubt what I write here will be received well by many of you. But, I want to challenge your thinking about these matters. 

I’m sure the reformers were devout, smart, and articulate men – to be admired for many reasons. However, the consequences of their actions and beliefs are difficult to deal with today.

At least for some of us. 

Dr. K 

A Second-Look At A Popular “Doctrine” That Clouds Spiritual Reality

Positional Righteousness Re-Examined

Does this make sense to you? Why do I need to make any effort to move forward spiritually when God sees me as perfectly righteous in Jesus Christ? Since I’m perfect in Christ, why would I struggle to pray, fast, love my neighbor, or give to the poor? This highlights another de-motivating idea (along with “faith alone”) that has entrenched itself into the belief systems of many evangelicals. It goes something like this: Since the Christian is declared and seen by God as perfectly righteous in Christ, it is not necessary to exercise any effort or engage any means to become like Christ. Here is another example of a theological idea interfering with actual spiritual reality. 

Here are some common phrases to describe what I’m talking about: 

“Imputed righteousness” – Protestant Christian doctrine that a sinner is accounted righteous by God purely by God’s grace through faith in Christ, and thus all depends on Christ’s merit and worthiness, rather that on one’s own merit and worthiness. It is a concept in Christian theology that proposes that the “righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers – that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith.” It is on the basis of this “alien” (i.e. from the outside) righteousness that God accepts humans. 

“Positional righteousness” – A Christian is in perfect standing before God in Christ. The believer is just as perfect as Christ in the Father’s sight. 

“Positional sanctification” – God declares a Christian to be absolutely holy the moment he/she believes in Jesus Christ. When God looks at a Christian, He sees the righteousness and holiness of Christ. 

Nowhere in scripture are Christians actually told to identify themselves as righteous because God sees them that way.  A few scripture passages (Philippians 3.8-9, Romans 5.17, 1 Corinthians 1.30, Ephesians 1.6) are interpreted with this notion in mind. However, this direct teaching is absent from scripture.

Why Is This Popular? 

Many cling to this teaching in order to convince themselves that, despite their unrighteous thoughts, behavior, and attitudes, they are actually righteous.

Many cling to this teaching because it seems logical. I am in Christ and He is righteous so that makes me righteous. Yet, Jesus is also love, kindness, peace, humble, wise, patient, gentle, meek, wonder-working, prayerful, and rightfully authoritative. Are you automatically all of those since you’re in Christ? No one speaks of “positional humility” (I am humble because Christ is humble) because we know better. Why then, positional righteousness? 

Key Passage 

2 Corinthians 5.21: For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (Unfortunately, the KJV mis-translates the Greek word genometha (might become) as “be made” – “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”)

Reasons to believe this verse does NOT support “positional righteousness:”

  1. The verse, in context, is speaking of the apostles not Christians in general.
  2. There is no mention of faith here as the hinge that makes us righteous.
  3. Imputation is not mentioned. Yet, the verse is often interpreted that our sin is laid on Him and by faith His righteousness is imputed to us. 
  4. When God took on flesh, He was made “to be sin for us.” This is not just a reference to the cross but to all of his earthly life from birth to death. 
  5. The phrase “that we might become” seems to speak of an ongoing process not a past, accomplished fact. 

In other words, if taken at face value, the verse is teaching that because Christ took sin upon himself, humans may become righteous. 

Remove a theological agenda and the verse reads:

For us, sinless Christ became like sinful man, so that sinful man might become like sinless God.

This is in agreement with Gregory of Nazianzen (329-390) who wrote: “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” Jesus assumed human flesh, soul, and mind so that all that makes us human might be redeemed and healed.

He also wrote:

Let us seek to be like Christ, because Christ also became like us: to become gods through him since he himself, through us, became a man. He took the worst upon himself to make us a gift of the best.

Jesus became like you so that you might become like Him. 

Does that reality light a fire of desire in your heart? Does who Jesus is and what He did give you hope and drive to become like Him? 

Believing in positional righteousness does not inspire or give hope. But, Jesus does. 

Why is this so difficult to grasp? I’ll touch on that in my next post. 

Dr. K 

It’s All For Your Salvation

2 Corinthians 1:6 and Salvation

I was planning on moving on from my discussion of faith alone and salvation until I read 2 Corinthians 1.6 this morning. This is how it reads in the NKJV:

Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted it is for your consolation and salvation.

This verse makes no sense if you believe salvation is by faith alone. How could Paul’s sufferings or consolations have any bearing on any one else’s salvation? What do personal sufferings have to do with one’s salvation if salvation is only brought about by faith alone? 

To make “faith alone” work for this verse, you’d have to do some radical spiritual gymnastics – twisting, jumping, and flipping around. You end up being more concerned about sticking to a theological system than simply understanding scripture itself. 

However, this verse means something to us as we understand salvation to include bringing us into union with the Triune God, entailing all of life, and healing of our hearts and minds. Salvation is not limited to forgiving sins, escaping hell, and getting us to heaven. Salvation also involves enduring suffering and enjoying consolation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is much more here than faith alone. 

Salvation is ours as we, in faith, endure affliction and enjoy consolation. 

St. Paul is an example to us of this reality. 

Now the verse makes sense. 

Today, as you struggle, suffer, rejoice, and/or find comfort, know that all of this is for your salvation. 

Dr. K 

What Every Christian Should Know About Prayer

It's Not What You Think

You only truly know what you experience. So when a disciple made the request to Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” Jesus did not give his disciples a book to read, a program to follow, or a video to watch. He didn’t form a small group to study prayer. He didn’t give them words to study, exegete, or preach. He gave his disciples words to say and a way to say them. That, according to Jesus, is what it means to pray. That’s how you learn to know how to pray. You learn to pray by praying. There is no theory here, no theoretical ideas at all.

 

You don’t understand Jesus’ words in order to say them. You say them in order to understand them. 

Jesus made prayer accessible and good. We’ve made prayer complicated and intimidating. Let me save you hours of frustration and help prayer become simple again. 

Learn to Pray By Praying 

Learning to pray is a meandering path for many Christians. My journey with God in prayer has taken me from a period when I dismissed prayer as unnecessary to the present where prayer has become an integral part of each day. Along the way were long stretches of inconsistent time with God followed by short bursts of focused effort. On my own I tried my best to learn how to pray by reading books on prayer. “I need to pray! So, I’ll read a book about prayer.” Huh?

However, what I needed to do was actually pray. Learning comes in doing. You learn to play the guitar by playing the guitar. You learn to swim by swimming. You learn to cook by cooking. You learn to pray by praying. Jesus knew this. When asked to “Teach us to pray,” Jesus gave his disciples words to say and a way to say them.

We have much to learn from this brief exchange. But first let’s see that…

Prayer is best learned by repeating a set prayer.

Jesus gave his disciples a liturgy, a prayer liturgy – a form or order to follow with meaningful words expressing the essentials for living in relationship with God. Good prayer liturgy is the way you learn to pray. Good prayer liturgy teaches you to know God and yourself in relationship with Him. It’s that simple. 

Here it is simple and plain. Learn to pray by saying this prayer from Jesus in the morning, at meals, and at night. 

Our Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, 

Give us today our bread 

and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors 

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. 

Don’t listen to the ignorant naysayers who believe that repeating a set of words becomes boring, methodical, nonsensical, and rote. They don’t actually know what they’re talking about. Real liturgical prayer is filled with meaning, struggle, surprises, depth, and wonder. Follow Jesus. He knows what he’s talking about. 

I have been saying these words almost daily (and now multiple times during the day) for over 5 years now. After all these years, I’ve not tapped into the depth of their meaning though new experiences of prayer sometimes happen. This prayer, in particular, is an inexhaustible treasure of God’s life, love, and light. 

Say it consistently with a humble heart and you’ll discover its treasure. 

How will you implement Jesus’ prayer to his disciples in your own daily life? What obstacles do you need to overcome in order for this to happen? When will you start? Share below. 

Dr. K 

5 Ways To Live More Authentically

You Only Know What You Live

As I talk with Christians, I often hear them claim things about themselves that are not validated by their life. They know they fall short, but try to convince themselves otherwise. They don’t understand that experiencing the struggle to live a life in Christ is how they are becoming what they claim. They are not there yet. Saying so does not make it so. Sadly, many Christians live under the delusion that if they believe hard enough about “who they are” they will become that person. However, that is not true faith. That is not reality. 

Have you ever read a book and then believed you knew the topic because you read about it? Many Christians approach God this way. They read the Bible and think they know God because they’ve read about Him. They quote scripture believing they are quoting something about themselves. Maybe I’m sensitive to this since I pretty much did this very thing for decades.

You can think about and quote scriptures. But if you are not seriously trying to live scriptures then maybe its better for you to be silent and, in humility, admit that you struggle to live what you quote.

Why? Because you only know what you live. You only know something when you experience it. 

Knowing?

You see, the idea of “knowing” has gotten messed up. To most people knowing means to know about something. If you can get it “into your head” or “understand it” intellectually then you know it. But knowing was never meant to be purely intellectual.

If you could ask only one of the following people to come speak about France at your Rotary Club, which one would you invite? The person who read a travel book on France? The person who vacationed in Paris? The person who lived in France for a year? Or the person who was born and lived in France, speaks the language and actually is French? Which person really “knows” France?

This does not deny that each person above has a certain knowledge about France. Each level of knowledge, however, has its limits. That is what needs to be humbly acknowledged.

Christian Knowing?

Christians have a tendency to claim much about themselves that is not actually lived. “I know God.” “I am mature.” “I pray.” “I am a Christian.” “I love everybody.” “I am not judgmental.” “I am saved.” “I know the truth.” “I give everything to Jesus.” “I am filled with the Spirit.” “I am a follower of Jesus.” “I love you.” Easy to claim. Almost impossible to live.

Simultaneously, Christians hesitate to claim much about themselves that is actually lived. “I am impatient.” “I am judgmental.” “I am a controller.” “I am angry.” “I don’t love my enemies.” “I am proud.” “I trust myself more than God.” “I don’t know God.” “I lie.” “I am a hypocrite.” “I don’t act like Jesus.” Easy to live. Almost impossible to claim.

Solutions

  1. Learn to live in repentance. Keep turning from your old self, your former ways, your faulty thinking and keep turning to God and his love, light and life.
  2. Start using the word “becoming” – I am becoming mature, becoming less judgmental, becoming a follower of Jesus, becoming more humble, becoming a Christian.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Sizing yourself up against other Christians is unwise and useless.
  4. Devote yourself to knowing God in your experience of Him. Learn an everyday communion with the Trinity. Struggle on the narrow way with God. 
  5. On your spiritual journey, be quick to admit your faults and slow to claim mastery.

Don’t claim to know what you don’t live. You’re only fooling yourself when you do. Become more authentic.

Choose one of the solutions above. Begin to practice it today.

Dr. K

Is “Faith Alone” Biblical? Let’s Take A Look

Salvation Is Always By Faith

One of the most frustrating “push backs” to the necessity of spiritual practices, liturgy, and “disciplines” in Christian living comes from anti-“works-righteousness” individuals. They think since salvation is by faith alone, there is no need for spiritual efforts. Believing is enough. However, is that understanding true to scripture and real life? 

Since the Protestant Reformation, a new doctrine has become a part of most evangelicals’ thinking. It is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Though the bible nowhere mentions that salvation is by faith alone, 500+ years of saying it is so makes it very difficult to refute. There is no doubt scripture teaches that salvation is by grace through faith. Salvation is initiated by God’s gracious, loving mercy and responded to by human beings in faith. What I’m addressing here is the notion that salvation is by faith alone

Why Important?

Among many reasons, believing that salvation is by faith alone surprisingly diminishes one’s motivation and ability to live as a Christian. If I am saved by faith alone I need not put forth any effort related to being a Christian. I only need to believe. When someone challenges me to “work” at my salvation, I immediately respond that “I am saved by faith alone and what you’re proposing is “works-righteousness” which I whole-heartedly reject.” 

This is a perilous doctrine. It throws the serious follower of Christ into a quandary. Faith itself is misunderstood. Salvation is made out to be something it is not. It belies scriptural teaching. It’s effects are so stealthily embedded in minds that many “Christians” can’t truly live as their heart begs them to live. This is one example of one’s theology impeding one’s authentic Christian living.

No wonder so many Christians are frustrated with Christianity as they know it. Truth is, they’ve not known the real thing due to doctrines such as “faith alone.” 

One Reality – James

Though the relationship of faith and works has been debated for over 500 years, there is no doubt about one reality. You cannot find “faith alone” taught in the bible. The only place it is mentioned is James 2.24 where St. James presents faith alone as something NOT to believe. “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only [alone].” I am not misquoting the verse. It’s as plain as it gets.

Earlier, St. James writes, “faith by itself [alone], if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2.17). No wonder Martin Luther described the book of James as “the epistle of straw.” For him it lacked theological substance and significance. He couldn’t get his mind around the reality that faith and works were somehow in synthesis or union for real justification to take place. On a mission to destroy the Roman Catholic doctrine of works-righteousness he “discovered” something in scripture no one had ever seen before. He invented a new doctrine – in essence, making all scriptural references about faith into scriptural references about faith alone.    

So a firestorm of debate has spread for centuries over a teaching not present in the Church for 1500 years. “Professional” and amateur theologians make arguments that don’t solve much. How God saves, justifies, and sanctifies seems absolutely clear to many. The rest of us come to this mystery in wonder and naivete’, allowing God to enlighten or veil as He sees fit.

One reality is certain. Nowhere in scripture is “faith alone” mentioned.  

Other Scriptures

What about Ephesians 2.8-9? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Look closely. Salvation is said to come by faith. However, no mention is made that salvation comes by faith alone

How about Abraham? “He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4.3). “For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness” (Romans 4.9). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5.1). See it? Justification and the imputation of righteousness is always by faith. But not once does St. Paul say these occur through faith alone.  

Romans 3.28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Galatians 3.2, 6, 8: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?…just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’…And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham…” 

Always by faith. Never by faith alone

My Purpose

I bring this up today to challenge the notion that Christians need not put forth effort to experience the fullness of salvation because “salvation is by faith alone.” As you can see, this is not a biblical teaching. 

You are not saved by faith alone. If you are saved, you have not been saved by faith alone. You are not being saved by faith alone. You will not be saved by faith alone

You are saved by faith. If you are saved, you have been saved by faith. You are being saved by faith. You will be saved by faith.

Salvation/justification is always by faith. Salvation/justification is never by faith alone

As far as my finite mind can tell, that’s the truth.

Luther got it wrong it seems. Experiencing salvation fully involves more than faith alone

“Faith alone” is no excuse for lack of effort related to all salvation has to offer. 

I hope you’ll think about this for a while. 

Dr. K 

Here Are Helpful Thoughts To All-Day Communion With God From Basil of Caesarea

Pray Without Ceasing - Note the Importance of Giving Thanks

Giving ThanksFrom St. Basil the Great (330-379) 

As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.”

 — St. Basil the Great, from Homily V. In Martyrem Julittam, quoted in the Prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume 8