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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
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If you live in Polvadera, New Mexico, or in Nikolai or Perryville, Alaska, you don't have any neighbors who registered with Ashley Madison. However, Polvadera (population 269) has no Internet access, and Nikolai (population 94) and Perryville (population 113) are tiny. That's 476 people out of more than 321,000,000 Americans. The rest of us are left to wonder about our neighbors' marriages.
 
Authentic character is vital for those who would influence their culture for Christ. How do we build such integrity? (Tweet this)
 
Consider this analogy: a house in our neighborhood had a red brick exterior. Now it is covered in white stone. Masons cut the stone, piece by piece, and fitted it over the brick walls. Gradually the red became white. The owner could have had the bricks removed, but why go to such an expense? His goal was to change the appearance of his house, not its underlying character. 
 
My goal is the same, more often than I would like to admit. Hidden beneath the white veneer, there are bricks stained red by sin. Here's the problem: I cannot remove them. I can cover them up, but I can't replace them.
 
But God can. "Sanctification" literally means "to be made holy." We are sanctified positionally when we make Christ our Lord: "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). By trusting in Jesus, we position ourselves to be transformed as the children of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).
 
However, we are also sanctified progressively as we walk with Jesus: "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). How does progressive sanctification work?
 
First, admit that you need to be made more holy. Face the fact that the timbers of your house are termite-infested with sin, that your walls are stained with the mold of disobedience to God's word and will.
 
Second, ask the Master Carpenter to remove what you cannot. Invite the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that displeases God, and confess all that comes to your thoughts. Do this at the start of every day.
 
Third, invite the Spirit to take control of your attitudes, thoughts, words and actions (Ephesians 5:18). Ask him to manifest the character of Christ in you. Then stay submitted to him all through the day. When you face a decision, pray for his guidance. When you are tempted, pray for his strength. When you fail, pray for his forgiveness and restoration. Stay connected to the Source of your sanctification. (Tweet this)
 
Fourth, believe that God is answering your prayer. You may not be able to see him at work, but he is. Sanctification is a lifelong process. Moment by moment and day by day, God is transforming your life "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29).
 
When Michelangelo was asked how he created his magnificent statue of David, he explained that he saw David in the marble, then cut away everything that didn't look like him. Will you look more like Jesus today?
 
 
Publication date: August 27, 2015

 

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"Today's financial market volatility, combined with great political uncertainty both at home and abroad, will undoubtedly have an effect on consumer confidence and perhaps even our customers' attitudes and behavior.  Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. . . . Let's be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations."
 
If a Starbucks barista was especially friendly to you this week, now you know why.  Company CEO Howard Schultz sent the paragraph above in a memo to the chain's 190,000 employees.  He once told 60 Minutes, "We're not in the business of filling bellies.  We're in the business of filling souls." 
 
Meanwhile, a recent survey shows that Pope Francis is significantly more popular with Americans than the Catholic Church.  And in one presidential poll, Brady Olson, a 15-year-old who lives on an Iowa farm, is receiving more support than all but four of the 17 Republican candidates.
 
What do Starbucks, Pope Francis, and Brady Olson have in common?
 
Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister knows the answer.  Banister's story is remarkable: he contracted bone cancer in high school, and nearly lost a leg.  He broke three vertebrae in his neck playing college baseball, and was paralyzed for ten days.  He went on to play professional baseball for seven years, then coached for 20 years before the Rangers hired him as their manager.
 
Banister knows something about leadership in tough times.  He was recently invited by ESPN to contribute a guest blog, where he noted: "You can't coach today's game by yesterday's rules.  The millennial athlete needs for their leader to be a serving leader who focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and the communities in which they belong. . . . Leadership today is about authenticity, not authority."
 
Authenticity explains Starbucks' compassion, Francis's popularity, and the rise of non-political politicians.  And it empowers Christians to impact their culture for Christ.
 
Henri Nouwen: "When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian."  His statement bothered me at first.  For years the "What Would Jesus Do" movement has taught us to imitate Jesus.  "Many ways and forms" seems to broaden Christianity beyond biblical norms.
 
Then this thought occurred to me: perhaps Nouwen means that we are each to be authentically ourselves as we follow Jesus.  As the "body of Christ," some are a hand, some a foot, others an eye or an ear (1 Corinthians 12:14-17).  Paul notes, "there are many parts, yet one body" (v. 20).
 
Similarly, Jesus embodied the gifts of the Spirit.  None of us has been given all of these gifts.  Thus we must each utilize the gifts we have received, so that together we can express all the gifts and continue the ministry of Christ on earth.
 
W. H. Auden: "Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about."  If you're authentically who Jesus has created and gifted you to be, you'll be original.  And the Kingdom will advance, to the glory of God.
 
 
Photo courtesy: en.wikipedia.org
 
Publication date: August 26, 2015

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler grew up together in Sacramento, California, where they attended the same Christian high school.  Skarlatos and Stone are now serving in the American military.  Sadler is in college; his father is a Baptist pastor.  The three decided to vacation together in Europe.  Last Friday, they boarded a high-speed train with 500 other passengers traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
 
They had no idea they would make history. 
 
When a gunman on the train opened fire, they tackled and subdued him.  A British consultant named Chris Norman joined them.  Yesterday, the four received the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest recognition.  French President Francois Hollande: "Here are four men who with the help of others acted not just to save their own lives but who also came to help others and saved the lives of others."  According to President Hollande, their instinctual reaction helped prevent "true carnage."  (For more on the train heroes, see Ryan Denison's Heroes derail terrorist's plans on French train.)
 
We seldom know the future significance of present actions.  When a small skirmish broke out at Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, few knew that the American War for Independence had begun.  When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, no one knew that what we call World War I had begun.  When the transistor was invented in 1947, few knew it would spark the beginning of the computer age.
 
We never know the eternal significance of present faithfulness. (Tweet this) In fact, God says we cannot: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  We cannot see the soul, or know how God is working in human hearts.  If we cannot understand what he is doing today, how can we understand what he is doing eternally?
 
No one who left a spiritual legacy knew they were doing so.  When Moses gave Israel the laws of God, he did not know he was building a cultural foundation for civilizations around the world.  When Paul wrote letters to churches and friends, he didn't know they would be read by billions of people across the world 20 centuries later.
 
When Luther posted a list of 95 discussion topics to the door of his village church, he didn't know he was helping begin the Protestant Reformation.  When Jim Elliott wrote in his private journal, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose," he didn't know he would be martyred and that his credo would echo for generations to come.
 
If you want your life to be significant, don't seek significance but service.  The Lord warned, "Do you seek great things for yourself?  Seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5).  Rather, seek to serve.  Seek to love your Lord and your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  And your life will count, in heaven and on earth.
 
Because we are made in God's image, we instinctively recognize true greatness as service to others.  France awarded its highest honor not to tycoons who made a fortune in business or politicians who were elected to high office, but to men who risked their lives to save other lives.
 
Charles Spurgeon advised, "Write your name on hearts, not headstones.  Write your epitaph on the lives of those you influence and it will be eternal."  Will the epitaph you write today be eternal?
 
 
Publication date: August 25, 2015

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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