Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Made or Become?

I came across a quote the other day that looked like a misquote. Oswald Chambers quoted 1 Corinthians 9:22 from the King James Version, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” That did not sound right to me, but it is. It is not stated that way in other translations, not even in the New King James. Other translations say “I have become,” rather than “I was made.”

I looked the verse up in Greek, and read the thoughts of a number of scholars, and did not learn much from the process. Is the verb active (what Paul “became” of his own doing), or is it passive (what he was “made” to be by a power outside himself)?

Grammatically the matter cannot be settled, but I think in practical terms we know the answer.

We become what God wants us to be only by his power, but only as we submit ourselves to him. He does not work with the proud, but only with those who submit to him (James 4:6ff). We become capable of submitting to others and leading them to salvation only as we allow ourselves to be his instruments. We do not have that ability within ourselves, but we do have that ability made available to us by his grace. We “become” what we need to be only as he “makes” us what we need to be.

Until we recognize that we cannot “become all things to all” except by his power remaking us, we will not become capable instruments for saving others. Trying to remake ourselves is a pointless undertaking. Expecting God to remake us without our willing submission and active participation is equally foolish.

The Propinquity Effect

Research has shown that the more we interact with people, the more likely we are to become friends with them, be influenced by them, and become like them. It is not so much that “birds of a feather flock together” as “birds who just happen to be near each other grow similar feathers.” This is called the propinquity effect.

“Why might this research be important to us?” Well, aside from the fact that it confirms what we should already know from the Bible (1 Cor 15:33; Prov 13:20), it also tells us something about what will happen if we allow our children to grow up spending most of their time with non-Christians.

The propinquity effect is especially strong in youth. Since we no longer have arranged marriages, there is a very strong possibility that young men and young women will be attracted to one another simply because they find themselves thrown together often. I have known a number of young couples who did not have shared values or interests and yet decided to get married. Marriage is still expected of people at a certain age range. If, when they reach that age, there is no one around who shares their values and interests, they will often convince themselves that they are “in love” with someone who happens to be at hand – no matter the unsuitability of the mismatch. A few marriages like this work out, but most are disastrous.

Of course, we cannot guarantee that Christian camps or Christian schools, or Christian singles get-togethers will solve these problems. Perhaps it would be wise to talk with our youth about the propinquity effect. That will not solve the problem either, but at least it will give our youth a better chance.

Then again, maybe we should consider the possibility that we have all come under the propinquity effect. Is the church drifting from its moral and spiritual standards simply because we “flock together” so much with the world?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spiritual Metacognition

“Metacognition” is a fairly new term used to describe thinking about the process of thinking. The best students are those who use metacognition. They not only study well, but they try to view themselves in the process of studying so that they can evaluate and improve their approach to study. They don’t just study algebra or zoology; they think about how they study algebra or zoology.

Surely this concept has application to worship and Christian service?

The most faithful Christians not only worship and serve, they also think about how they worship and serve. They strive to do so better. The concept seems to be similar to Paul’s statement in Philippians 3.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
. (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)

A dandelion from the hand of a three-year-old delights a parent or grandparent. The same gift from an adult is not so delightful.

Are we growing in our Christian service? Do our lives honor the Lord more now than when we began? Do we honor him more than we did five years ago? If we are not growing, if there is no sign of improvement, if our service has remained the same, then in reality we are regressing. To still be bringing him the gifts of our spiritual childhood when we ought to be spiritually maturing is really to dishonor the Lord.

Let us apply some metacognition to our spiritual lives. Let us not only worship and serve, let us seek to improve our worship and service.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fake News Regarding Faith

I have heard it said that Christians are just as likely to be divorced as non-Christians. Often the statement is made by preachers, usually in the midst of an exhortation to be more diligent in the practice of our faith. But it seems that this so-called statistic is not even close to accurate.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains that of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend worship 60% have been divorced. But of those who attend church regularly only 38% have been divorced. Admittedly, 38% is still not good. But the gap is significant. [Bradley R.E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ...and Other Lies You've Been Told, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), p. 133.]

Those who attend worship regularly are much less likely to be divorced than those who consider themselves Christians but do not attend regularly. I wonder what the figure would be if we checked those who both attend worship regularly and who worship at home? What of those who attend worship regularly, worship at home and who are involved in some form of Christian service?

Don’t be fooled by fake news. A mere verbal faith does not make a difference in divorce statistics, but a living and active faith makes a significant difference.

Let’s try that last statement with a slight change.

Don’t be fooled by fake news. A mere verbal faith does not make a difference in one’s salvation, but a living and active faith makes a significant difference.

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, ESV).