Tag Archives: Worldliness

“The grandest Spectacle ever devised” by Tony Reinke

“Into the spectacle-loving world, with all of its spectacle makers and spectacle-making industries, came the grandest Spectacle ever devised in the mind of God and brought about in world history—the cross of Christ. It is the hinge of history, the point of contact between BC and AD, where all time collides, where all human spectacles meet one unsurpassed, cosmic, divine spectacle.”

–Tony Reinke, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 77.

#competingspectacles

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“From this evil, good Lord deliver us” by Charles Spurgeon

“The more the Church is distinct from the world in her acts and in her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ, and the more potent is her witness against sin.

We are sent into this world to testify against evils; but if we dabble in them ourselves, where is our testimony? If we ourselves be found faulty, we are false witnesses; we are not sent of God; our testimony is of none effect.

I do not hesitate to say there are tens of thousands of professing Christians, whose testimony before the world is rather injurious than beneficial. The world looks at them, and says, ‘Well, I see: you can be a Christian, and yet remain a rogue.’

‘Ah!’ says another, ‘you can be a Christian, I perceive; but then you will have to be doleful and miserable.’

‘Ah!’ cries another, ‘these Christians like to drink sin in secret behind the door. Their Christianity lies in not liking to sin openly; but they can devour a widow’s house when nobody is looking on; they can be drunkards, only it must be in a very small party; they would not like to be discovered tipsy where there were a hundred eyes to look at them.’

Now, what is all that? It is just this,—that the world has found out that the Church visible is not the unmixed Church of Christ, since it is not true to its principles, and does not stand up for the uprightness and integrity which are the marks of the genuine church of God.

Many Christians forget that they are bearing a testimony: they do not think that anybody notices them. Ay, but they do. There are no people so much watched as Christians.

The world reads us up, from the first letter of our lives to the end; and if they can find a flaw—and, God forgive us, they may find very many—they are sure to magnify the flaw as much as ever they can.

Let us therefore be very watchful, that we live close to Christ, that we walk in his commandments always, that the world may see that the Lord hath put a difference.

But now I have a very sad thing to say—I wish that I could withhold it, but I cannot. Unless, brothers and sisters, you make it your daily business to see that there is a difference between you and the world, you will do more hurt than you can possibly do good.

The Church of Christ is at this day accountable for many fearful sins. Let me mention one which is but the type of others.

By what means think you were the fetters rivetted on the wrist of our friend who sits there, a man like ourselves, though of a black skin?

It is the Church of Christ that keeps his brethren under bondage; if it were not for that Church, the system of slavery would go back to the hell from which it sprung.

If there were no slave floggers but men who are fit for so degrading an office, if there were not found Christian ministers who can apologise for slavery from the pulpit, and church members who sell the children of nobler beings than themselves, if it were not for this, then Africa would be free.

Albert Barnes spoke right truly when he said slavery could not exist for an hour if it were not for the countenance of the Christian Church.

But what does the slaveholder say when you tell him that to hold our fellow-creatures in bondage is a sin, and a damnable one, inconsistent with grace?

He replies, ‘I do not believe your slanders; look at the Bishop of So-and-so, or the minister of such-and-such a place, is not he a good man, and does not he whine out ‘Cursed be Canaan?’ Does not he quote Philemon and Onesimus? Does he not go and talk Bible, and tell his slaves that they ought to feel very grateful for being his slaves, for God Almighty made them on purpose that they might enjoy the rare privilege of being cowhided by a Christian master. Don’t tell me,’ he says, ‘if the thing were wrong, it would not have the Church on its side.’

And so Christ’s free Church bought with His blood, must bear the shame of cursing Africa, and keeping her sons in bondage.

From this evil, good Lord deliver us.

If Manchester merchants and Liverpool traders have a share in this guilt, at least let the Church be free of this hell-filling crime.

Men have tried hard to make the Bible support this sum of all villanies, but slavery, the thing which defiles the Great Republic, such slavery is quite unknown to the Word of God, and by the laws of the Jews it was impossible that it ever could exist.

I have known men quote texts as excuses for being damned, and I do not wonder that men can find Scripture to justify them in buying and selling the souls of men.

And what think you is it, to come home to our own land, that props up the system of trade that is carried on among us?

I would not speak too severely of Christ’s Church, for I love her; but because I love her I must therefore utter this.

Our being so much like the world, our trading as the world trades, our talking as the world talks, our always insisting upon it that we must do as other people do, this is doing more mischief to the world, than all our preachers can hope to effect good.

‘Come ye out from among them; touch not the unclean thing, be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.'”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Separating the Precious from the Vile,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons (vol. 6; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 6: 154–156.

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“Technology in its proper place” by Andy Crouch

“Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula. Even the ten commitments in this book are meant to be starting points for discussion– and as you will read, they are ones my own family has kept fitfully at best.

But almost anything is better than letting technology overwhelm us with its default settings, taking over our lives and stunting our growth in the ways that really matter. And I think there are some things that are true at every stage of life:

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance, like celebrities, whom we will never meet.

Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit. It’s out of its proper place when it promises to help us escape the limits and vulnerabilities of those bodies altogether.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture (sports, music, the arts, cooking, writing, accounting; the list could go on and on). When we let technology replace the development of skill with passive consumption, something has gone wrong.

Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding (our family spent some joyful and awefilled hours when our children were ill middle school watching the beautifully produced BBC series Planet Earth). It’s out of its proper place when it keeps us from engaging the wild and wonderful natural world with all our senses.

Technology is in its proper place only when we use it with intention and care. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own; much like my children’s toys and stuffed creatures and minor treasures, it finds its way underfoot all over the house and all over our lives. If we aren’t intentional and careful, we’ll end up with a quite extraordinary mess.”

–Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017), 19-21.

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“Ten diagnostic questions” by Tony Reinke

“As in every age, God calls His children to stop, study what captures their attention in this world, weigh the consequences, and fight for undistracted hearts before Him. To that end, here are ten diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves in the digital age:

1. Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements?
2. Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?
3. Do my smartphone habits distract me from genuine communion with God?
4. Do my smartphone habits provide an easy escape from sobered thinking about my death, the return of Christ, and eternal realities?
5. Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?
6. Do my smartphone habits mute the sporadic leading of God’s Spirit in my life?
7. Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with dating and romance?
8. Do my smartphone habits build up Christians and my local church?
9. Do my smartphone habits center on what is necessary to me and beneficial to others?
10. Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?

Let’s be honest: our digital addictions (if we can call them that) are welcomed addictions. The key is to move from being distracted on purpose to being less and less distracted with an eternal purpose.

The questions sting, and they touch every area of life—God, spouse, family, friends, work, leisure, and self-projection. But this sting can lead us to make healthy changes.”

Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 51-53.

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“The greatest evil” by C.S. Lewis

“I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint.

It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result.

But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business con­cern.”

–C.S. Lewis, “Preface to the 1961 Edition,” in The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1942/1996), xxxvii.

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“Bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing Church of the nineteenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without.

Myriads of professing Christians now-a-days seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound.

If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error.

Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, High Church or Low Church or Broad Church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it!

Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost.

Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog. They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought.

For their lives they could not tell you what they think is truth about justification, or regeneration, or sanctification, or the Lord’s Supper, or baptism, or faith, or conversion, or inspiration, or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of CONTROVERSY and an ignorant dislike of PARTY SPIRIT.

And yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong!

And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion, and, I am afraid, often without hope.
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jelly-fish condition of soul is not difficult to find.

To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion,—has no intuitive sense of truth,—and really NEEDS instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion, and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry.

Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious “agnosticism” just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young persons.

They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and if you charge them with indecision, they will tell you,—“I do not pretend to understand controversy; I decline to examine controverted points. I daresay it is all the same in the long run.”

Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? Now I do beseech all who read this paper to beware of this undecided state of mind in religion. It is a pestilence which walketh in darkness, and a destruction that killeth in noon-day.

It is a lazy, idle frame of soul, which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible, nor yet in the Articles or Prayer-book of the Church of England.

For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions.

And let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology:

  • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
  • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
  • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
  • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
  • by lifting up the brazen serpent
  • by telling men to look and live,—to believe, repent, and be converted.

This,—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad.

Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology,—the preachers of the Gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality,—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma,’ by their principles.

They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small.

Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma.’ No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 416–419.

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“Prosperity knits a man to the World” by C.S. Lewis

“The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere.

The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it– all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.

If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.

His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want.

You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old. The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else.

This is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry— the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon– are always blowing our whole structure away.

They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or ‘science’ or psychology, or what not.

Real worldliness is a work of time– assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience… Whatever you do, keep your patient as safe as you possibly can,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 143-145.

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