Jonathan Edwards writes,
But though spiritual pride be so subtle and secret an iniquity, and commonly appears under a pretext of great humility; yet there are two things by which it may be discovered and distinguished. The first is this: he that is under the prevalence of this distemper, is apt to think highly of his attainments in religions, as comparing himself with others. . . .That the person who is apt to think that he, as compared with others, is a very eminent saint, much distinguished in christian experience, in whom this is a first thought, that rises of itself, and naturally offers itself; he is certainly mistaken; he is no eminent saint; but under the great prevailings of a proud and self-righteous spirit. And if this be habitual with the man, and is statedly the prevailing temper of his mind, he is no saint at all; he has not the least degree of any true christian experience; so surely as the word of God is true. . . .
Secondly, Another infallible sign of spiritual pride, is persons being apt to think highly of their humility. False experiences are commonly attended with a counterfeit humility. . . . An eminent saint is not apt to think himself eminent in any thing; all his graces and experiences appear to him to be comparatively small; but especially his humility. Nothing appertains to christian experience, and true piety, is so much more out of his sight. He is a thousand times more quick-sighted to discern his pride, than his humility. On the contrary, the deluded hypocrite, who is under the power of spiritual pride, is so blind to nothing as his pride; and so quick-sighted to nothing, as the shows of his humility.
from Religious Affections, italics in original
“There are some doctrines that if, come judgment day it turns out I’m wrong on, I’ll be really mad about. ‘You know Russell, the paedo-baptist were right.’ ‘What? Are you serious? The paedo-baptists? You’ve got to be kidding me!’ The age of the earth is not one of those. I’d shrug my shoulders and say “Well, okay.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“If you teach your people a caricature of wrong positions, you will only serve drive them into those wrong positions when they encounter them. If you present evolutionists as a bunch of idiots and they prove not to be that, you’ve undermined everything that you have taught those people under your care. You were wrong about the evolutionists, what else were you wrong on?” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“Talk the way the Bible talks.” (Dr. Jim Hamilton)
“The problem with our prayer lives is not that we pray about the same old things every time. We naturally pray for the things that are important to us. The problem is that we pray for the same old things in the same old way.” (Dr. Donald Whitney)
“For those with mental illnesses, they need to realize that their radar is out and surround themselves with those who are not. All of us have times when we need others to help us. We need to realize our weak points and work to insulate ourselves with the wisdom of others….People can have ethical intuition skewed. Wisdom is recognizing it.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“How does mercy relate to love? Mercy is a kind of love, but not all love is mercy. The Son loves the Father, but the Son does not show mercy to the Father.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“We have to understand the system in wrong worldviews in order to blow it apart, not just caricature the system. It’s scary because we can’t just demonize them. There’s a reason why people believe what they do. They’re not stupid. There are usually good things in different systems, but they all have gaps.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“Evangelical ethics usually goes wrong by thinking through individual ethics before ethics within the church. We see Paul judging people inside the church in 1 Corinthians 5, not those on the outside. People in the congregation like homosexuality sermons because its an ‘Us vs. Them’ situation. But we soften how we handle divorce. We call it a ‘tragedy’ instead of a ‘scandal,’ while railing on what is done on the outside of the church.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“When you have weak eccleseology and strong political identification, you have people who are incensed if you insult a political figure but not about disbelieving the Trinity. They’ll tear up over Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA’ but never shed a tear over ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.'” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“When faced with sinful issues, resist the temptation to build a hedge and bind people’s conscience for the sake of the few who struggle. Don’t ban computers from your people’s homes because some of them use internet pornography. It’s much harder to teach people to submit to Christ and love righteousness than make up rules for them to follow.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“There is no silver bullet to protecting religious liberty other than a massive movement of healthy churches that the government is scared to mess with. As long as churches decline, religious liberty will decline.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“You want all people to come into the church and experience an embassy-like experience of the Kingdom as an outpost of it, yet recognizing where it is in the context. A USA embassy in Saudi Arabia must be American. But there also must not people people chanting ‘U-S-A Rules!’ outside. Know your context and understand the transcendent Kingdom. We’re all satellite campuses of Mount Zion Church of Heaven right now.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“A wedding is not a bling show. It is a covenant, not an expression of the love of the couple. The community verifies that the couple ought to be getting married. The opportunity to voice against the marriage is the center of the ceremony, as the community affirms or denies the legitimacy of the union.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“Generational divides within the church exacerbate sexual issues in the church. We blame the younger people for the divide. No! It’s the older people who have neglected to train them. Older men with younger men, older women with younger women. We have to train our young people how to fight the battles against Satan’s potential inroads.” (Dr. Russell Moore)
“Men, have you heard the rumors of about this class? Let me tell you it’s far worse than the stories. I’ll never trick you. I’m coming with the 105 mph fastball every pitch. You are Joe Theismann and I am Lawrence Taylor. And I’m coming for your leg every single play.” (Dr. Russell Fuller, Elementary Hebrew)
Yesterday I sat down to finish up my taxes. That’s a rather remarkable sentence because I usually wait until April 14th to begin frantically digging through the box where I keep all my important mail in a wild hunt for W-2s. But this year I started over a month in advance, only to discover that I owed over $700. Discovering that you owe $700 does not naturally compel immediate and decisive action, so there my completed forms sat, taking up space in the top left corner of my laptop between “Paper on Deuteronomy 6:1-9” and “Book Thesis.”
I don’t have a printer in my room, so yesterday I scooped the files up into gmail and sent them on down to the library computer for printing. Grumbling as I laid down homework time upon the alter of civic duty, I opened my file only to have an ominous box with the works “Does not support” flash across the screen. Cursing the computer for its incompatibility with my Mac, I printed the form and began the process of hand-filling it out.
That’s when I discovered a little box known as “Exemptions.” Somehow I’d overlooked that box which reduces your gross income when I filled out the form originally. Instead of owing $700, I now owed $200. Rather relieved, I signed my name to the bottom of it and set it to the side. Next came state taxes.
California was a piece of cake once I figured out my address from last year. Then came Kentucky. Kentucky isn’t so friendly. Directing me to a third-party website, the grumbling arose yet again as I transferred all the information off of the W-2s in my hands to the good people at TaxSlayer.com. As I finally cleared the last hurdle (no, I ‘m not blind, NO I wasn’t born before 1946) another friendly box met me with a little note that read: You’re not a resident, so you can’t eFile. Cursing the backwardness of the state whose capital I can’t even find on a map, I scrolled through all of the forms and finally located the one entitled “NP-760” to print and mail.
And that’s when I saw that my federal taxes had a rebate of $200 on them. That didn’t make any sense. I’m supposed to owe $200, which was $700 an hour before. Unbeknownst to me, part of the Obama stimulus package was a $400 tax credit for low-income workers, which is currently my status in the eyes of Uncle Sam. This information appeared on no tax forms, but was installed in the system for the electronic tax preparation software. Which I never would have used for my federal taxes if Kentucky had its own eFile system like California. And I never would have found my error of overlooking my Exemption status if the computer in the library had been compatible with the form I filled out on my MacBook.
The very things that I cursed for making my life more difficult were ten minutes later saving me $1000, which I’d much rather apply towards tuition than funding some pork bill which allocates tax dollars for experimental surgery on some Senator’s favorite Siamese cat.
It’s humbling to see that even in the smallest aspects of life I don’t know what’s best for me. There I sat, bitterly grumbling about wasting an hour of homework time to fill out forms again. But it was the filling out of those forms yet again that will allow me to continue to pay for the school where a week ago I took an exam on trusting in the sovereignty, providence and kindness of God in every situation. Even tax forms.
I don’t know what’s best for me. So I complain about allergies and the fact that I’m stuck indoors while everyone else is on a 13 mile hike. So I grow discouraged about the fact that I have to work 32 hours a week which reduces my social life to practically zero. So I sigh about the fact that all of my friends are getting engaged (just saw another one today on facebook) and each year just keeps extending my valentineless Valentines Day streak.
It’s not often that we see the blessing and the trial collapsed together so closely as I did yesterday. It was years before Joseph realized why the Lord had allowed him to be tossed in a pit, sold to a tyrant, and locked in a hole in the ground with a bunch of others who actually deserved to be there. And it was millennia before the human race understood why it was important to keep a bunch of squabbling, rapacious brothers alive during a famine that struck the ancient world. If Judah dies, there’s no Jesus. And if there’s no Jesus, there’s no righteousness to give to us. And if there’s no righteousness to give to us, there’s no reconciliation with God.
Maybe things like yesterday happen to compel us to faith when the blessings and the struggle aren’t collapsed so close together. Our understanding is shadowy at best. As William Cowper says so beautifully in God Moves in a Mysterious Way, the song he wrote the very night before the mental illness with which he had battled throughout his life finally overcame him,
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.