Emotive Religion

For although to true religion there must indeed be something else besides affection; yet true religion consists so much in the affections, that there can be no true religion without them…As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart; or where there is heat without light there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart: so, on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things (original italics; Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Hendrickson, p 243).

Fluffy Faith

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17.6).

The yoga teacher sits in a lotus position atop a polished wooden platform. Behind her, verdant woods are visible through panoramic windows. Gentle music tinkles from overhead speakers. Two dozen students in spandex outfits, most of them women, settle onto purple and blue mats to begin the class with ujjayi, a breathing exercise. Their instructor, Cindy Senarighi, recommends today’s mantra. ” ‘Yahweh’ is a great breath prayer,” she says. ” The Jesus Prayer also works. Now lift your arms in praise to the Lord“ (Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, “Stretching for Jesus”, Time, September 5, 2005).

Does this bother you at all, Christian? There is a growing trend of Christian yoga. It is not the problem but merely a symptom of the problem. Christians are learning how to avoid and be devoid of convictions. They are able to listen to Hindu chants to Sheva without feeling queazy and then pray to Jesus. Some reading this may even be thinking that I am being ridiculous to question Christian yoga.

What they might find interesting is that even a Hindu professor of yoga philosophy (Subhas Tiwari) thought it absurd to claim there is such a thing as Christian yoga…for he says, “Yoga is Hinduism.”

The issue we are seeing more and more in the church is the downgrading of theology and doctrine and the exaltation of personal experience of God – as if he is some nebulous aura to be tapped into for spiritual nirvana. Not only this, but how many times do we here in small group Bible studies the kind of fluff a Buddhist mystic would tout? I felt God moving through my body leading me to this place etc.

I do not want to diminish the need for personal experience…I want to guard against a cotton-candy-like faith that is sweet on the tongue but as a meal will rot your teeth and leave you hungry. Why will we go to broken faiths that hold no water when we have the Christ? Answer: because we do not know what and who we have!

What is needed now is a robust, rock-solid faith that stands in the face of hypocrisy and tenderly chides hollow worship. What we need are Christians who know what the Bible says…who know that Jesus commanded more than superficial love of people. What he commanded is that we obey all that he commanded. This will require more than a syncretism of faiths. It requires knowing doctrine that is solid and meaty. It requires a diligence and a pursuit of truth that no other faith and practice can offer.

Be Careful How You Serve

With many new opportunities here in the US of ways that people can give of their time and resources to the hurricane victims in New Orleans it is important for us to pause and think about the assistance that is given. We live in a country of enormous wealth where there can be two television fund-raising specials and millions of dollars raised to buy supplies and such for folks. This is a marvelous thing.

However, I pray that we are not blind-spotted to the fact that there are many more people all over the world in need of such assistance.

When we give for such causes we need to think of the big picture – What do I want to accomplish by giving this money? The answer should not merely be to feed someone. It should be to give God glory by meeting the needs of people. If we merely feed people and do not share the saving news of the Gospel then we are only putting a band-aid on fatal wound. Yes, we should meet physical needs, there is no doubt. But to merely do this is to deny the fact that the most pressing need in people’s lives is to taste of the Bread of Life.

For a great article on this Andrew Myers has some provoking thoughts.

Five Distinguishing Marks

During the First Great Awakening many people rebuked the preachers by saying that it was a work of Satan. They cited 2 Cor 11.14 which says that even Satan can appear to be a minister of light. That is, even ministers can be workers of evil – looking like a shepherd, but being a slaughterer.

The same can be said about individuals who claim they are Christians…they can appear to be of the light, but they are children of the devil (1 Jn 3.10).

Although Jonathan Edwards wrote his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God to respond to the critics of the First Great Awakening at large, I believe the five marks can be used to distinguish a work of the Spirit of God in the individual as well.

I will just list them:

1. Raises people’s esteem of Jesus (1 Jn. 4:7)
        • embrace why God has done things the way he has
        • confessing Jesus is vital to this esteem
2. Operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom
        • 1 Jn 4:4
        • redirects men away from sin (which is Satan’s purpose for men)
3. Establishes in men a greater regard for holy Scripture
        • 4:6
        • it certainly must be from God if men heed the Word of God more
        • the devil would never want people to regard the Word of God because it glorifies God and sanctifies men
        • Lk 16:29
        • Satan hates the Word of God
4. Leads people to the truth
        • verse 6b: “spirit of truth and the spirit of error”
        • There are spirits that mimic God’s spirit but are false. A spirit of God confirms biblical truth: Hell is real, men need a Savior, Jesus is God
        • Leads you to embrace doctrines that are pervasive in Scripture.
5. Operates with spirit of love toward God and man
        • Verse 7, 12-13

If the fruit that is manifest in someone’s life looks like the marks above, more than likely his heart has been worked on by God. Edwards’ book is a detailed study of 1 Jn 4. As more and more people claim they are Christians (without any way to distinguish them from the world) it is important for ministers and the congregant to discern whether he is, in fact, a Christian – and to be able to counsel friends and family who speak with their lips but deny Christ with their loves.

[[These observations are taken from Dr. Thomas Nettles’ class on Jonathan Edwards]]