I had a verse from the Bible hit me right between the eyes a couple days ago. You know what it was? Psalms 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. Not read another book to know that I am God. Not go serve to show that I am God. But rather just be still and know that I am God. The sad, gripping truth is that you and I can live so radically that no man could ever accuse us of wasting our lives, and yet have it all count for nothing. We could serve in a homeless shelter every day in an attempt to not waste our lives and still miss the point. We can cram every nook and cranny of time full of Sproul and Mahaney and MacArthur; we can use vacation time to go build houses for pastors in Tijuana. We can live on half our salary and refuse to spend the money to fix the old but still perfectly functional hardware in the bathroom in order to give all we can so more missionaries can preach the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus.
The dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is manifest in a frenzy of spiritual activity. It’s the worried activity of a heart standing mortified over the possibility that any part of the day be spent on anything other than directly advancing the kingdom of God. Gone is any unhurried enjoyment of God’s good gifts of laughter and creation and sports. The sacred/secular divide stands a dozen stories tall and a mile thick as prayer and bible study and intentional fellowship consumes the dayplanner. And that nagging hollowness of heart must be because I’m not praying enough or reading the Scriptures enough or having enough spiritual conversations. It certainly couldn’t be because of being busy…because God’s not pleased by wasted time.
If I’m honest, it’s a lot easier to try and fill a hollowness of soul with action rather than stillness. It’s easy to read another book or listen to another sermon. It’s easy to distract myself from a spiritual problem with spiritual activities. It’s hard to sacrifice my pride and say “Lord, I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or where to go. I’m lost…help! Please, help!” The dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is the lie that we can find spiritual vitality through spiritual activity. Truth is, reading another book or listening to another sermon isn’t going to help me at all unless the Holy Spirit takes that book and opens my eyes and strengthens my resolve to apply it to my life. Same as physical food, spiritual food needs to be digested. While I can glut myself with good teaching, I still can’t digest spiritual food any more than I can command my stomach to produce the enzymes needed to break down what I eat.
What do I mean exactly by “the dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life”? John Piper’s book by that title has radically transformed my outlook on life. I first read it during my freshman year at TMC. And it rocked my world. It opened up a new world of possibilities. A world of high risk and high reward where the cross shines brightly and Jesus is a God worth pursuing with everything–even at the cost of my life. This is the message the American church needs to hear. We who have more money than the rest of the world combined. Who have the freedom to pursue deep theological study, who have good health. And who sadly most often squander it. (In general. I’m not thinking of any one person, church, organization, etc. in particular.)
But the concept of Don’t Waste Your Life has its dark side too. Radical Christian living can become an idol. Spiritual activity and risk taking becomes central to our life in Christ rather than Christ Himself. Living as practical Catholics, our good deeds become a kind of Pope that we trust in to dispense joy and blessing and fulfillment. Instead of pursuing Christ, we make the horrible mistake of trading the Creator for the creation–albeit the creation being the good works He has called us to walk in. (Eph 2:10)
At it’s heart, the dark side of Don’t Waste Your Life is the trading of being for doing. The call to follow Christ is fundamentally a transformation of nature. Paul likens it to putting off old, soiled clothes and putting on new, shining garments. This is where our position in Christ rests. This is what has secured our justification, sanctification, and glorification. God’s command to be still is a command to pause and understand that everything has been secured in His death upon the cross. Like a photographer in a moving car trying to capture the landscape, the beauty of the cross will be blurred if we never stop for a long, clear gaze upon it. “Be still,” God says. “Be still and know that I am God.”
During my trip cross-country, I passed the time listening to a sermon series on “righteousness, relationships, and romance” preached by Rick Holland in 1999. The 13 part series is broken down essentially into three parts: biblical masculinity, biblical femininity, and biblical relationships. I highly recommend these sermons to anyone in or near college – single, dating, or married. (click here to download – scroll down to 9/5/1999)
In one of the sermons, Rick read a letter from Puritan preacher Christopher Love’s wife to her husband on the eve of his execution by the English government. This letter has perhaps stuck with me more than anything from the series. Mary Love’s perspective is truly phenomenal. It is a testament to the mind-transforming power of the Holy Spirit. I trust it will be a blessing to you.
July 14, 1651
Before I write a word further, I beseech thee to think not that it is thy wife but a friend now that writes to thee. I hope thou hast freely given up thy wife and children to God, who hath said in Jeremiah 49:11, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.” Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children. O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ.
I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my own unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory. Thou leavest but children, brothers, and sisters to go to the Lord Jesus, thy eldest Brother. Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory. Thou dost but leave earth for heaven and changest a prison for a palace. And if natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that the spirit of grace that is within thee will quell them, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above. I know thou keepest thine eye fixed on the hope of glory, which makes thy feet trample on the loss of earth.
My dear, I know God hath not only prepared glory for thee, and thee for it, but I am persuaded that He will sweeten the way for thee to come to the enjoyment of it. When thou art putting thy clothes on that morning, O think, “I am now putting on my wedding garments to go to be married to my everlasting Redeemer.”
When the messenger of death comes to thee, let him not seem dreadful to thee, but look on him as a messenger that brings thee tidings of eternal life. When thou goest up the scaffold, think (as thou saidst to me) that it is but thy fiery chariot to carry thee up to thy Father’s house.
And when thy layest thy precious head down to recieve thy Father’s stroke, remember what thou saidst to me: Though thy head was severed from thy body, yet in a moment thy soul should be united to thy Head, the Lord Jesus, in heaven. And though it may seem something bitter, that by the hands of men we are parted a little sooner than otherwise we might have been, yet let us consider that it is the decree and will of our Father, and it will not be long ere we shall enjoy one another in heaven again.
Let us comfort one another with these sayings. Be comforted, my dear heart. It is but a little stroke and thou shalt be there where the weary shall be at rest and the wicked shall cease from troubling. Remember that thou mayest eat thy dinner with bitter herbs, yet thou shalt have a sweet supper with Christ that night. My dear, by what I write unto thee, I do not hereby undertake to teach thee; for these comforts I have received from the Lord by thee. I will write no more, nor trouble thee any further, but commit thee into the arms of God with whom ere long thee and I shall be.
Farewell, my dear. I shall never see thy face more till we both behold the face of the Lord Jesus at that great day.
from A Spectacle Unto God
(c) Soli Deo Gloria Publishing
Don Kistler, author
I’m currently smack in the middle of my second cross-country road trip in the last three months. The Lord has blessed me with a job as a pastoral intern at a church in California. (Hopefully I’ll be able to write more about it in the weeks to come.) The last three days have been spent driving through Nebraska, Colorado, and southern Utah. I’ve taken time to visit a couple friends along the way who have been kind enough to open their homes up to me. Three days with Blaise Selby and Andrew Meredith as hosts is about as good as it gets.
I’ve passed the time with audio books of Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and Rick Holland’s 13-part sermon series titled A Roadmap for Righteous Relationships. The trip has yielded good time for thinking and some personal firsts. In no particular order:
1. Andrew’s dad, Steve, woke me up yesterday morning to show me a brown bear rummaging through garbage about 30 feet from the Meredith’s house. The only bears I’ve ever seen have been behind bars in the zoo. For a city boy from California, wildlife other than rabbits and bubonic plague carrying squirrels is a foreign concept.
2. Bear-proof trash containers are practically human-proof as well. It’s harder to throw away a plastic water bottle in Lake City, CO than it is to swipe the President from Fort Knox after a terrorist strike.
3. I set a new personal record for highest elevation:12,805 feet. (Engineer Summit, CO) Incidentally, I also set a new personal record for highest elevation while eating a can of tuna: 12,805 feet at Engineer Summit, CO.
4. My car got an astounding 49.5 miles to the gallon from Colorado Springs to Gunnison. 173 miles, 3.5 gallons of gas. And that’s with everything I own except my office chair and cap and gown in the back seat and trunk. I’d be disinclined to believe that gas mileage, but I filled up my tank before leaving Colorado Springs. Not believing that I only used 3.5 gallons, I tried to continue pumping gas after the automatic shut off kicked in, but it shut off two more times before I gave up.
5. The most moral (Utah) and the most amoral (Nevada) states sit right next to each other on the map. One state touts its emphasis on family and conservative values, the other its reputation as the home of “Sin City.” Like the men of Sodom and the self-righteous Pharisees, both will be found equally lacking before the judgment seat of God.
6. Good Christian biography focuses on who the man or woman is rather than on what they did. Spiritually edifying biographies essentially have God as the main character, not the missionary or pastor.
7.The earth just looks like it had a monster flood at some point.
I’m in the middle of reorganizing the category tags applied to posts. I haven’t ever really had any organization to the categories, so they are in need of some serious modifications. This won’t interrupt the site at all, but will make searching the archives difficult until I’m finished (hopefully sometime this week.)
Lions weren’t meant to eat people. On the Serengeti Plain, lions routinely stalk and kill helpless prey. It’s normal. It’s natural. Rather than be horrified, we film lions on the prowl for television shows like Planet Earth. (Which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it.) But as soon as the lions turn their gaze away from gazelles begin hunting people, what is natural for the lion becomes a cause of anger to man.
There is something built into us that finds a creature without a soul killing a creature with a soul revolting. Killing a man is no different to the lion than killing a gazelle. In fact, it’s a lot easier to kill a person than a gazelle. They don’t run as fast. And yet as soon as lions abandon the herd for the humans, out come the guns. This response is entirely appropriate, as the life of a human being is worth infinitely more than the life of any lion. One is made in the image of God, the other is not. No one weeps for the gazelles because they, like the lions, do not bear the image of God and are indeed soulless.
Just as it is repulsive for a soulless lion to overstep its bounds and kill a child with a soul, it is repulsive for man made in the image of God to worship soulless gods. It is an abomination for an image bearer of God to seek his fulfillment and all in that which is of a completely different nature than he is. In ancient times it was statues of Baal, Ashtoreth, and Dagon. Nowadays it is boats and houses and clothes and cars and electronic devices that will be obsolete in six months.
Sadly, most people are horrified by a CNN newsflash about a hiker killed by a mountain lion and completely oblivious to the worse plight of dead souls being coddled to death by their unshakable fixation on possessions. Lions consume the body and leave the soul unscathed. Subtle idols occupy and consume the soul, but leave no telling scars on the outside.
Ezekiel 19:1-8 is a lament over the princes of Israel, calling them lions who made themselves odious by devouring men. The point of the imagery is this: Man is made of spirit and body, and is meant to worship a spirit. God alone is the fulfillment of the soul.