This week's thought comes from one of my favorite authors -- J. I. Packer. It is found in his classic work, Knowing God. Not that copies sold guarantees good content, but it has sold more than three million copies worldwide and is considered by many to be a book that should be a reference book on the shelf of every serious Christian. In fact, if you are looking for a book to use for a discipleship class for new believers, or a discussion group for Christians of any age or maturity level, this one should be high on the list. It is filled with tremendously helpful insights into the Gospel and Christian living.
Today's thought has to do with truth. But not just truth as "brute objective facts." It has to do with truth as a revelation of the person of God. It speaks of how truth is personal (better yet, how truth is a Person -- as Jesus reminded us when He said, "I AM the truth..." ). And it shows how truth heeded brings immense benfits into people's lives. I found it a good reminder. I trust you will as well. Enjoy.
"Truth in the Bible is a quality of persons primarily, and of propositions only secondarily. It means stability, reliability, firmness, trustworthiness, the quality of a person who is entirely self-consistent, sincere, realistic, undeceived. God is such a person: truth, in this sense, is his nature, and he has not got it in him to be anything else.
That is why he cannot lie (Tit 1:2; Num 23:19; I Sam 15:29; Heb. 6:18). That is why his words to us are true, and cannot be other than true. They are the index of reality. They show us things as they really are, and as they will be for us in the future, depending on whether we heed God's words to us or not...
Psalm 119:151 says, 'All your commands are true.' Why are they so described? First, because they have stability and permanence as setting forth what God wants to see in human lives in every age. And second, because they tell us the unchanging truth about our own nature. For this is the purpose of God's law: it gives us a working definition of true humanity. It shows us what we were made to be, teaches us how to be truly human, and warns us against moral self-destruction. This is a matter of great importance, and one which calls for much consideration at the present time.
We are familiar with the thought that our bodies are like machines, needing the right routine of food, rest and exercise if they are to run efficiently, and liable, if filled up with the wrong fuel -- alcohol, drugs, poison -- to lose their power of healthy functioning and ultimately to 'seize up' entirely in physical death.
What we are slower to grasp is that God wishes us to think of our souls in a similar way. As rational persons, we were made to bear God's moral image--that is, our souls were made to 'run' on the practice of worship, law-keeping, truthfulness, honesty, discipline, self-control, and service to God and our fellow human beings. If we abandon these practices, not only do we incur guilt before God; we also progressively destroy our own souls. Conscience atrophies, the sense of shame dries up, one's capacity for truthfulness, loyalty and honesty is eaten away, and one's character disintegrates. One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being dehumanized. This is one aspect of spiritual death.
Richard Baxter was right to formulate the alternatives as 'A Saint or a Brute.' That, ultimately, is the only choice, and everyone, sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously opts for one or the other. Nowadays some will maintain, in the name of humanism, that the 'Puritan' sexual morality of the Bible is contrary to the attainment of true human maturity, and that a little more license makes for richer living. Of this ideology we would only say that the proper name for it is not humanism, but brutism. Sexual laxity does not make you more human, but less so. It brutalizes you and tears your soul to pieces. The same is true wherever any of God's commandments are disregarded. We are only living truly human lives just so far as we are laboring to keep God's commandments; and no further."
Much of our culture's 'live for the moment, run on your feelings, indulge every pleasure, give in to every urge, and focus on the sensual instead of the eternal' has led to damaged souls, personal frustration, disillusionment, broken homes and marriages, and dysfunction in all levels of society. We have forgotten (or chosen to ignore the fact) that order, and limits, and consistency, and virtue, and self-humbling worship, and self-discipline, and self-restraint are 'exercises' the soul needs to be trained in in order to be healthy and strong and weather the storms of life. And because they are so neccessary to health in life and society, it should come as no surprise that the Bible -- which encourages them all -- should do so.
Packer is right. People almost universally seem to know the routines needed to keep their bodies healthy and fit -- as if that were the most important thing. Yet they so often fail to apply those same principles to the soul. We take so much care of the temporal, the decaying, and that which will pass away, and tend to ignore (to a large extent) the things most valuable and eternal.
In the long run (in the light of eternity) it would be far wiser for us to train the eternal soul to be fit and godly, than to train the perishable body to have a mere decade or more of slightly better mobility and a little more energy. Quality of life in this life has all but replaced the Christian emphasis on preparation for eternal life.
But, of course, such a change in priority and the paradigm shift it requires, would mean really believing that the things eternal and invisible far outweigh the things temporal and visible -- and that would require a radical counter-culture stance in nearly every way. Hopefully, though, care for what matters most will win out, and you will make the necessary changes regardless of being counted in the minority when you do. It will never be otherwise, for narrow is the way that leads to life, and wide is the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).