25 January 2008

Reflections on Marshall's book - chapter 1

I've just started reading Walter Marshall's The Gospel Mystery Of Sanctification. The first chapter (introduction) has some simple, yet profound, comments on how important it is to work out HOW we are to become conformed to the image of Christ in holiness, rather than simply focusing on the WHAT of the Christian life. I'm eager to find out what he's going to say about this gospel sanctification, and preparing to be rebuked about how much I simply work on auto-pilot, rather than relying on God for the strength that He supplies to enable good works.

One of Marshall's comments in Chapter 1 is an insightful critique of a "Christianity" which devalues the empowering source of obedience, preferring a Just-do-it outward-results-oriented mentality. Walter comments:

When once [some people] know the nature and excellency of the duties of the law, they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice, making more haste than good speed. They are quick in promising, 'All that the Lord has spoken, we will do,' (Exod. 19:8), without sitting down and counting the cost. They look on holiness as only the means of an end, of eternal salvation: not as an end itself, requiring any great means for attaining the practice of it. The enquiry of most, when they begin to have a sense of religion, is 'What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' (Matt. 19:16); not, 'How shall I be enabled to do anything that is good?'

From: http://www.covenantofgrace.com/gospel_mystery_of_sanctification1.htm

I was reminded of the sinful mindset that sees a holy life as a necessary, but somewhat unpleasant, requirement of getting to heaven. I was rebuked in how easily I want to accept Jesus as my ticket to heaven, without embracing Him as the all-wise, all-trustworthy Leader for my daily life. We so easily disregard how repulsive and wrong a God devoid life is, and forget the wonder of the powerful grace of God to change us to make us actually do good! The bare-minimum-righteousness mindset creeps in so easily, as we embrace the easy-life-now-and-heaven-later, in preference to deeper reliance on and fellowship with God.

This teaching brings my mind to Deuteronomy 6:24, where we are told that all the teachings of the law are FOR OUR GOOD: The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always...

A further reflection makes me ponder about Christianity and personality types. Let me explain. Marshall comments: ...they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice...
This makes me wonder whether there are certain personality types, or certain dispositions, which would find this more of a temptation than others. Some people are geared to be more get-up-and-go practical concrete-thinking types, who don't seem to want to or need to dwell on motivations, or particular means, to inform obedience. At the other end of the spectrum are the more abstract, reflective thinkers, who, generally speaking, are slower-paced and tend to dwell on their motivations for things in greater detail.
Could the more practical types, therefore, be more likely to struggle with reliance on God and neglect gospel sanctification in their obedience? Or, conversely, could we even infer that this issue of having our motivations informed by gospel truth be a sometimes unhealthy introspective preoccupation of those with a more abstract, reflective way of thinking?

Just a few raw thoughts...



  • I think that motivation is the root and key... however... I know that if I don't act on my motives, I easily get lethargic. Sometimes I have a really fun project but I keep getting distracted. By the time I have spare time, I've lost motivation to do that enjoyable project.

    Biblically speaking... Matthew 7:24-27 is Jesus' illustration about the man who built his house on rock. At first I thought it was about building your faith on solid foundations... but to my surprise, it was actually about practice. "Any everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."

    James 2:18 "But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

    Psychologically & physiologically speaking... the body obeys the mind, but the mind reacts to the state of the body. Chemically... if the body abnormally releases certain hormones or chemicals, it affects how you think and feel. Studies show that when people slouch and walk looking at the ground and act depressed, their minds slowly become fooled into becoming depressed. When those test subjects walk with confidence with their chin up, their mood is lifted psychologically and chemically.

    Socially, those who spend more time in isolation and spend their time reflecting, appear to be less social or "happy" than those who spend all day talking to customers and moving around.

    There is a symbiosis if you will between reflection and action (My own thoughts) Your motivations may control your actions, but your actions also sustain/influence your motivations. This may sound like "What came first, chicken or egg?" Intuitively, you think the mind has total control over the body... but the mind is influenced in more ways than you can imagine... everything from food/diet, weather/climate (yes there's been studies between races and their perception and psychology), hormones, age, gender, memories, childhood, upbringing, genetic disposition, how you walk, how you act, your job and what you do, whether someone honked or cut you in traffic one morning.

    In biblical practicality, you ask how do you rely on God, or honor God as God in thought and action? The answer may be as simple as both. James 2:21 - Abraham had faith, and exercised it by obeying God through action. The answer is simple but hard to do. People who seem to have "lots of energy" are actually fueled by doing lots of things. People who seem to have lots of thinking energy are fueled by doing lots of thinking. This is what it means to be extroverted and introverted. Introverts feel that extroverts exert a lot of physical energy, and extroverts feel that introverts "think too much". This is like a see-saw. If you're attempting to balance it, you'll always be leaning towards one side a bit more. Another way of putting it is... humans favor the path of less resistance. So it comes down to one question: "Are you taking the path of less resistance, or the path of highest reward?"
    i.e. Are you doing lots of Christian activities because you love organizing things and feel energized to do them? Do you like to reflect, think and feel motivated on the spot more because it seems to take less effort and you enjoy it more?
    (Matthew 7:13 doesn't directly support this statement, but it does say that the way of righteousness and greatest reward is narrow, and more difficult for man to keep on.)

    A challenge for the
    Extroverts: Do you stop to thank God for you strength and abilities. Reflect on God's majesty more.
    Introverts: Does the thought of getting out there more scare you? You love God so much? Share it then with as many people as you joyfully can.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11:11 pm  

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