Have you been searching for how you, your spouse, and your kids can have true spiritual victory? Please join us as AMBrewster discusses “The Merest Christianity” and applies it to our families.
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Thank you for joining us.
Today we’re starting a series that has affected me more than I can put into words. The truths we’ll uncover over the next few episodes rocked my world over a decade ago. Since then they’ve had a significant affect on my family and ministry. I’ve presented this material in various forms over the past ten years, but this is the first time I’ve specifically formulated it for parents.
But please understand that this is not some man-made idea. This is more than a tactic that worked for me. What I stumbled upon is something that — in many ways — has been known since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, with the help of Satan and our own sinful, forgetful hearts, we either misunderstand it or completely ignore it.
But time and time again men of God have brought this doctrine back to the forefront of our teaching and preaching.
But more on that in a minute.
No doubt many of you are familiar with theSIMPLEmoms. These ladies use and review various products, services, and programs, and blog about their experiences to share with other moms. Well, recently Ginny, one of the bloggers for theSIMPLEmoms, had this to say about TLP: “In my current season of life, it's hard for me to sit down and read a parenting book. I am able to turn on the podcast and soak up what God has for me while I do the dishes or fold the laundry. Parenting is hard, but we have the truth's from God's Word to guide us. I'm so thankful for all the wisdom this podcast shares. It's not always easy to hear what I'm doing wrong, but I'm thankful for the refinement.”
Thank you so much, Ginny for the kind words. We praise God that He loves us enough to point out our shortcomings and provide answers though His Word. We’re also thankful for the opportunity to be that friend who get’s to encourage and bless, but who’s also able to share those faithful wounds that Proverbs 27:6 talks about. We never want to stroke any of our sinful egos like the deceitful kisses of an enemy.
But, as I was saying, the study we’re about to embark on has been taught before.
As an example, nearly everyone is celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses onto the door of Wittenberg Castle church which sparked what is commonly referred to as the Reformation. In fact, this October 31st, many Christians will celebrate Reformation day.
During this time — among other things — Martin Luther drew our attention to The Five Solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. In English they’re Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. These five points are considered the essentials of Christianity.
And then again between 1941 and 1944 C.S. Lewis, famous former-atheist, beloved inkling, and philosopher extraordinaire did a number of radio talks for the BBC.
Those talks were later collected, transcribed, and edited down in the volume we all know and love called Mere Christianity. If you haven’t read that, I would strongly urge you to get a copy. Lewis had a great way of simplifying many of the same truths Martin Luther fought for and making them accessible. Of course, his work was much broader than The Five Solas, but as it was biblically founded, many of the Solas were included in his talks.
Obviously, many other Bible-believing men and women have spoken on, counseled with, and written about these truths.
But for me, these realities hit me the hardest not long after reading “Mere Christianity.” And this lesson completely revolutionized my life.
To be fair, all of the Truth claims of Scripture can and will revolutionize your life if you let them. However, I believe this Truth is the single greatest lesson we can learn. It affects everything we think and do. It’s the answer to our deepest heart yearnings and family struggles.
It’s something I like to call The Merest Christianity. Unlike Luther and Lewis, my goal isn’t to discuss all of the essentials for mere Christianity, I want to talk about the one-and-only, most seminal Truth of the Bible.
So, we’re gong to spend the next few episodes walking through this Truth carefully and clearly so that all of us can truly understand this most beautiful of doctrines and this merest of realities.
But, before we start, let’s me give you a glimpse into the issues we’ll address in this study:
1. First, I want to invite you to this study for your sake. This Truth had to rock my heart before I could even think about parenting my children in it. We need to see to the log in our own eyes before addressing the speck in our family’s.
If nothing else, I pray this study will jar you and enlighten you and draw you closer to your Lord. If that occurs, it will all have been worth it even if none of our children change.
To that end, I’d like you to consider these questions:
By understanding the answers to these questions and putting it into practice in our lives we’ll be able to become more like Christ and, therein, experience spiritual victory. And — only then — will we have the necessary understanding to guide our families in these Truths.
2. Second, I’d like to suggest we use an inductive approach to this study. I could tell you right now what I think “The Merest Christianity” is, but I believe it will be important for our journey through this material if we force ourselves to grapple with the hard questions.
According to the Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, deduction is “A logical inference from a general rule or principle,” whereas induction is “Reasoning from particular facts to a general rule or principle.”
Most American schooling is deductive. Even the Sciences — subjects born from induction — are handled in a deductive way. Teachers tell their students that gravity is a law of nature and then they proceed to demonstrate it by using preplanned “experiments.” This is the show-and-tell side of education. “Gravity exists. Watch the apple fall. See, I proved it! And by the way, the man who discovered it was named Newton.” Deductive education fills a basic need to disseminate many facts in a short period of time, but it falls painfully short of experiential learning. Students taught by deduction may be good test takers, but their true understanding of the subject is often shallow.
On the other hand, induction without deduction isn’t good either. What if every doctor had to learn by trial and error? What if they were not instructed in the findings of doctors that went before them? Each practitioner would be required to start from scratch, and they would barely break the surface of their study before they died. With learning like that, there wouldn’t be a civilization on earth that wasn’t still in the “stone age.” Induction alone is a grueling process that creates many specialists with only a cursory understanding of the subject.
But the marriage of induction and deduction is invaluable. Requiring an individual to personally accumulate the facts allows for deeper investment and a better understanding of the subject. Then by supplementing those findings with the research of those who’ve gone before, the student can synchronize the information and come to personal conclusions. All the while, the knowledge they’re gaining becomes nigh impossible to forget and the whole experience helps root the truths deep in the student’s heart and mind.
When it comes to the Christian life can we afford to be head-knowledge Christians? Can we be Christians at all if we merely posses facts about Christianity? The spiritual life is not a dry subject to be memorized for a test. The Bible is not a textbook we study to earn a grade. Christianity is not merely a set of religious behaviors, it’s a vibrant relationship.
A religion can be taught, but a relationship cannot be. There’s nothing more inductive than relationships. My relationship with my wife would have failed long before we ever got married if all I did was discuss with my brother-in-law all the ways to have a successful relationship with his sister. I needed to personally get to know her if I wanted to have a marriage that would work.
In the same way, if we want to have victory in our spiritual lives, and if our spiritual lives are all about a relationship with God, we have to go about it a little inductively. We can’t hope to be victorious if Scriptural truths are nothing more than factoids. Nay, nay . . . they are grand facets in our relationship with God! So, like any other relationship, it’s going to require involvement, personal investment, and sweat.
So, for the first few episodes we’re going to collectively attempt to discover The Merest Christianity, the most seminal element of our relationship with God. Then we will spend the remaining time learning from others how we can put this foundational truth into practice on a daily basis, keep it vibrant and real in our lives and the lives of our family members, and protect it from the attacks of Satan.
3. And third, as we take this personal journey of discovery and growth, we need to acknowledge that there is hope for victory.
Think of the words victory, success, accomplishment. Imagine the implications of those words. Do they define your parenting? Do they define you at 2:45 in the afternoon when you seem to hit that brick wall in your work day? Do your children have “a spiritual victory of Mr. & Mrs. so-and-so” written on their backs? Is your devotional life a success? Are you victorious when the Office Flirt finds her way to your cubical? What about when you stretch your fingers to the World Wide Web?
I understand that in our human condition we will never be perfect, but are we victorious Christians? In episode 87 we answered the question “What Is Successful Parenting?” And we saw that we can be successful. We just need to understand what God means by that word.
And even though we’re sinners, we can have victory in our personal lives. Let’s look quickly at what God has to say about Spiritual Victory.
First of all, God presents the model of victory through His Son. Matthew 3:17 “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We know Jesus made God-honoring choices. Jesus didn’t sin. Jesus glorified God the Father in every area of His life. In His totality, Jesus exemplified spiritual victory.
But you say, “Yeah, well that’s Jesus.”
But we must accept that God commands us to be like Christ. I Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And Ephesians 1:4 tells us, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
It’s clear that Christ was spiritually victorious. He was holy, He was blameless. It’s also clear that God expects us to follow the model He illustrated in His Son. We too are to be holy and blameless. I believe this is pretty good definition of spiritual victory.
The best news is that God also promises that we will one day be like our sinless Savior. This promise will be completed through our glorification. I John 3:2 tells us, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” and Romans 8:17-30 beautifully paints the deeper realities of glorification. Verse thirty says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” I love that’s stated in the past tense. It’s so powerful.
But in order to have hope for our spiritual transformation on this earth, we must acknowledge that we have more than a future glorification to which to look forward. Though we’ll always be plagued by our sin nature, the Word of God is clear that it is possible to make right decisions, gain ever growing victory over sin, and glorify God in this body. That’s true for us and our families because God promises earthly victory through sanctification. II Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Now, before I continue, do you remember our three application questions?
Please notice that the three verses I’m about to cite deal directly with those three questions.
II Peter 1:3-4 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
If our lives could be defined by these verses I think it’d be safe to say that we were experiencing true spiritual victory.
What about I Corinthians 10:13? “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
There’s not a Christian alive today who wouldn’t love to sin less.
And one of our TLP favorites, Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Every moment of our day can be a moment that God is pleased with when participate in the conforming work God’s doing in us.
But one of our hurdles is that we live in a world that puts an inordinate amount of importance on experiences. So if we gauge our success by our day-to-day experience, what will our conclusion about spiritual victory be?
Paul gives us a personal testimony in Romans 7:15-24. “For that which I do I allow not . . .” And if we’re honest with ourselves we know that Jeremiah 17:9 is spot on when it says that our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And how many times does it feel like Isaiah 64:6 is talking about us when it says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
We eat that donut when we know we shouldn’t and, though we hate every bite we take, we do it anyway. We become livid when our kids keep doing that one thing we asked them time and time again not to do. Every time we get behind the wheel of a car we take a few steps back in our sanctification. Our daily experiences make the thought of success sound like an impossibility.
Yet the ringing truth is that God is quite optimistic concerning our conformity to Christ.
So, imagine with me an optimistic Christian parent who decides it’s high time to find the answer to the question: “I know God says I can glorify Him, but how?” Our optimistic Christian parent also says “even though life seems fraught with failure, I’m going to have confidence in God’s Word.”
So where do they go for spiritual guidance; they go to church! They’re going because they genuinely desire to change. They want to find the answer that will free them from this Israel-like circle of Fail-Repent-Fail-Repent.
But unfortunately so many pulpits in America aren’t teaching us in the ways of Scripture. They either gloat in pop-culture soaked opinion and feel-good inspiration, or they rain fire and brimstone down in utterly vague and confusing terms like: Be holy! Do right! Stop sinning! Don’t listen to rock music!
Now, at first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that advice. Technically, it’s all true. So, when we leave church on Sunday, why doesn’t it help us have spiritual victory?
Well, there are some very important steps missing from the directions. What if I told you, “It’s your responsibility to fly a commercial airliner from Chicago/O’Hare to Houston, Texas”? Knowing that you don’t know how to fly an airplane you say, “But I don’t know how to fly an airplane.” So I respond, “All you have to do is fly it.” “How?” you ask. “Fly it straight. Do it right. Stop crashing. And don’t listen to rock music.”
Where’s the detail? Where’s the application? Where’re the answers you really need so badly?
Well, know this: The Bible DOES provide the answers. Regardless of our daily experiences, and despite our cycle of failure, God PROMISES we can have victory. We can glorify Him. We just need to dig nice and deep into His Word to find the piece of the puzzle we’re missing.
That is what this series is all about. We’re going to the absolute root of Truth. We’ll leave no stone unturned as we dig for the foundation.
That piece — that bridge — that allows us to span the gap between the promises of God and our own human experience is what I refer to as The Merest Christianity. It’s not ground-breaking. It isn’t even original. It’s simply the essential element of Christianity that we too often forget about.
Let me compare the merest Christianity to a childhood scenario that most of us have experienced. My son started standing and walking while holding onto furniture at about 10 months. At 11 months he was all-out walking. When he was three, he was running and jumping like he’d been doing it all his life. And as a ten year old, he gives no thought whatsoever to the act of walking.
That’s how it is with our spiritual lives as well. I believe we may have forgotten about this vital element of our lives; this Merest Christianity, simply because it’s so rudimentary. Even though we talk about it all the time, I believe it’s become elementary to us. We just haven’t put real concentrated thought into it since we were first born again.
Rediscovering that essential element — or, in some cases, learning it for the first time — is our goal. So join us next time as we study the question, why do you (and your children) do what you do?
We didn’t create any episode notes today, but the full transcript of today’s show is available at TruthLoveParent.com. You can find the link in the description.
You can also find our “support TLP link” in the description. If you click that, you’ll be taken to our Patreon page where you can learn about supporting TLP with your finances. In fact, we’d like to thank Cara for being one of our patrons and invite you to discover why she thought TLP was worth investing in.
And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter @AMBrewster.
I know I’ve set the bar high for this series, but I believe it’s attainable for us, our spouses, and our children because we serve a God Who’s in the business of change.
See you next time.
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