Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3 Questions For Every Life, and Every Decision

by CWK

A Path of Life/Basic Ethical Principles/How to Make Decisions
3 Main Questions to ask......when making decisions/deciding the course of our life/setting our goals.

1. What goals to pursue (END)?[1]
                -Glory of God[2] [3] [4] [5]
                -Happiness[6] [7] [8]
                -Knowledge of/Intimacy with God[9]
                -Heaven/ Life Eternal[10]
2. What kind of persons to be (MOTIVE)?[11]
                -Love of God[12] [13] [14] [15]
                -Love of Man[16] [17]
                - God-Fearers[18] [19]
                -The Virtuous Person[20]
3. What practices/guidelines/rules to follow (MEANS to the end, i.e. the how)?
                -The Word of God[21]
                -The Path of Wisdom: time[22] + prayer[23] + Godly counsel[24] [25]
                - Led by Spirit (expectancy of God’s leading, submissiveness,[26] [27]prompt and sincere obedience to God once    
                  the right path is clear)
                - Clear Conscience[28] [29] [30]

*DUTY BELONGS TO US/ consequences belong to God.

[1] Augustine said, "When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."
[2] God’s ultimate and supreme end in creating the world was “that there might be a glorious and abundant emanation of his infinite fullness of good ad extra (outside himself)... God was moved to this end by the perfection of his own being (Edwards).” This means that God created the world because He overflowed in glory and desired to communicate that glory in his creation. Humans, as image bearers of God, are to live as an expression of the glory of God. Sin means we have ‘fallen short of the glory of God.’ GK Chesterton understood this when he said: “Whoever I am, I am not myself.” Redemption in Christ means we are being renewed in the image of God and conforming to the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism: q. 1).
[3] Brainerd: “Took pains to describe the difference between a moral and an immoral self love; the former uniting God’s glory and the soul’s happiness that they become one common interest, but the latter disjoining and separating God’s glory and man’s happiness, seeking the latter with a neglect of the former.” God’s glory and our happiness are inextricably tied together.
[4] ‘There was nothing brought under the consideration of the students of divinity who attended me at Geneva, which appeared to contribute so effectually to overthrow their false system of religion, founded on philosophy and vain deceit, as the sublime view of the majesty of God presented in the four concluding verses of this part of the Epistle (of Romans 11). Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things. Here God is described as His own last end in everything that He does. Judging of God as such an one as themselves, they were at first startled at the idea that He must love Himself supremely, infinitely more than the whole universe, and consequently must prefer His own glory to everything besides. But when they were reminded that God in reality is infinitely more amiable and more valuable than the whole creation, and that consequently, if He views things as they really are, He must regard Himself as infinitely worthy of being more valued and loved, they saw that this truth was incontrovertible. Their attention was at the same time directed to numerous passages of Scripture, which assert that the manifestation of the glory of God is the great end of creation that He has Himself chiefly in view in all His works and dispensations, and that it is a purpose in which He requires that all His intelligent creatures should acquiesce, and seek and promote it as their first and paramount duty. Passages to this effect, both in the Old and New Testament, far exceed in number what any one who has not examined the subject is at all aware of.” Robert Haldane on influences that brought salvation and revival to a number of students he ministered to. His point is that the turning point was a redirecting their focus on God.
[5] “It is, the chief end of God in the world to manifest his glory. Many think, especially infidel men, that God's chief end is the happiness of his creatures; but, from deep study of the Word of God for years, I see that it is not so. If that were his chief end, all would be happy. His chief end is diverse - it is self-manifestation. Had it not been for this, God would have remained alone in awful solitude. I would desire to speak with deep reverence on such a subject. This seems to be the reason why there are vessels of wrath as well as of mercy - that they might be mirrors to reflect his attributes. And I believe, brethren, when creation is done, and when redemption is done, that there will then be a complete manifestation of the glory of God (Mc’Cheyne: Sermon: The Vessels of Wrath).”
[6] “If I were to ask you why you have believed in Christ, why you have become a Christian, every man will answer truly: For the sake of happiness (Augustine).” “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... (Psalm 1:1).” ‘Blessed’ means nothing less than: O, how happy!
[7] What is the good life? The unwasted life? The truly happy life? “If you knew what was good in life, you would abstain from wishing for foreign things. For me, it is better to die for Greece than to be monarch over my compatriots (Leonides to Xerxes at Thermopolae. after he was offered the kingship of all of Greece if he would only surrender).”
[8] “...the best place for pleasure that I know of, is where a Christian lives; the finest happiness in all the world is the happiness of a child of God. You may have your pleasures—oh, yes! you shall have them doubled and trebled, if you are a Christian. You shall not have things that worldlings call pleasures, but you shall have some that are a thousand times better (Spurgeon: Warning Neglected).”
[9] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).” “If God contains the fullness of all good things in himself like an inexhaustible fountain, nothing beyond him is to be sought by those who strive after the highest good and all the elements of happiness (Calvin).”
[10] “Life eternal is the supreme good; death eternal is the supreme evil (Augustine).” According to Jesus we ought to take extreme measures for extreme pleasures: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire (Mt. 18:8).”  “Those who will get to Heaven must fight their way (Matthew Henry).”
[11] This assumes that the heart (the internal control center of the life) is most crucial in who we are – as opposed to perfunctory external actions: ‘an appearance of godliness’ without a changed heart. Embracing and sanctifying Christ in the heart is of the first order (1 Peter 3:15). This also assumes that Jesus was right when He said that the two great commandments are: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Lk. 10:27; Dt. 6:5)... and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:39; Lv. 19:18). In the end, love for God and love for our neighbor cannot be separated because our neighbor is the image bearer of God. True proof of love for God is found in love for our neighbor. If we say we love God and do not love our brother we are liars (1 John 4:20).
[12] Edwards in Religious Affections: “A man must first love God, or have his heart united to him, before he will esteem God’s good his own, and before he will desire the glorifying and enjoying of him as his happiness.”
[13] What is love? “It is a holy fire kindled in the affections, whereby a Christian is carried out strongly after God as the supreme good (Thomas Watson).”
[14] Augustine: “Moral character is assessed not by what a man knows, but by what he loves.” it is our inclination that governs us in our actions (Edwards, Religious Affections).
[15] “The most of our spiritual decays and barrenness arise from an inordinate admission of other things into our minds; for these are they that weaken grace in all its operations. But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition (John Owen).”
[16] How can I serve and benefit others in all I do? How can I serve the need and advantage of my neighbor? Love for people involves: 1) Benefiting (doing what is best for that person—looking not only to our own interests but also to the interest of others: Phil. 2:4), 2) Admiring (holding others in high esteem as image bearers of God), 3) Desiring (this has mainly to do with romantic love: see Song of Songs and Ps. 45:11; there are some things we should NOT desire: Proverbs 6:25).
[17] “We all have some capacity for doing good. Now, take it as a truism that power to do good involves the duty of doing good. Wherever you are placed, if you can bless a person, you are obligated to do so. To have the power and not to use it is a sin. If you withhold your hand from that which you are able to do for the good of your fellowman then you have broken the law of love... All your knowledge, all your experience, all that you possess that grace has given you, demands a return in the form of service rendered to others. (Spurgeon: Am I My Brother’s Keeper).”
[18] “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).”
[19]Get the true fear of God upon your hearts; be really afraid of offending Him (John Flavel).”
[20] There are pivotal, central virtues (traditionally referred to as “cardinal virtues”); these are the hinge on the door of true character: prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. 
1) Prudence: “taking trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it... the fact that you are giving money to charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether the charity is a fraud or not...Christianity is an education in itself. That is why an undeducated man like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world (C.S. Lewis).” This could also be desribed as the “Path of Widsom”; see notes under what practices to follow.
2) Temperance: “going the right length and no further (C.S. Lewis).” This relates to self-control. “Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism (Solzhenitsyn).” Self-control is: self dominion; self rule; self sovereignty; we sit on the throne of our own lives; we have power over ourselves and our appetites. The person who has self-control realizes that something that is good in itself can be taken to excess: Proverbs 25:16: Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for you, lest you be filled therewith, and vomit it.”
3) Justice: right dealings between men: “the discrimination between the righteous and the wicked is the first lesson of justice (David Jones);” giving a person their due: respect; debt; justice in court (declare innocent – innocent; guilty – guilty); no stealing, slandering (Ez. 18:5-9). “Do not withhold food from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it (Prov. 3:27).” “Owe no one anything, except to love one another (Rom. 13:8).” The question is: what do I OWE this other person (and God)? Showing partiality because of connections, bribes, etc. is strongly condemned in scripture (James 2:1). *SEE MORRIS ON JUSTICE
4) Fortitude: this is the ability to persevere in virtue. “In the same way a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is the quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of virtue (C.S. Lewis).” “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way – you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperation action, brave by performing brave actions (Aristotle).”
[21] The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the OT and NT is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy God (WCF, smaller catechism, q. 2).
[22] Proverbs 14:15: “The simple believe everything, but the prudent man considers his steps.” This takes time, meditation, and prudence. Prudence is an important Christian virtue; it is the ability to wait out decisions until the right course is clear; it is the opposite of impetuosity: the tendency to act quickly and think later. Fundamental to prudence is the ability to consider consequences: the ability to make decisions with the future/end in mind, and not just the dictates of the moment. Wisdom has a strong consequence orientation. We must think practically about what is likely to come of a certain decision: what will be the consequences, both positive and negative? Sacrificing momentary satisfaction for true satisfaction is ‘paying in advance.’ “Would you rise in the world? You must work while others amuse themselves. Are you desirous of a reputation of courage? You must risk your life. Would you become strong morally or physically? You must resist temptation. All this is paying in advance. That is prospective finance. Observe the other side of the picture. The bad things are always paid for afterward (Churchill).” When under pressure we can always say: “I need to pray about that more.”
[23] “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your good Spirit guide me on level (righteous) ground (Ps. 143:10).”
[24] “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 10:22).”
[25] “The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations 
lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat (Sun Tzu: The Art of War).”
[26] “Thy will be done was a petition sweet to my soul, and if God had called me to choose for myself in any affair – I should have chosen rather to have referred the choice to him. For I saw that he was infinitely wise and could do nothing wrong, as I was in danger of doing (David Brainerd).”
[27] “...bidding adieu to our own counsels and desires, and those of all men, we may be attentive to the only will of God, the knowledge of which is true wisdom (Calvin).” Calvin’s symbol for his life was a heart in a hand; the heart was his, and the hand was God’s. Below this symbol was the motto: ‘promptly and sincerely.’ He intended always to offer his heart to God promptly and sincerely.
[28] Conscience: internal witness to our actions which either accuses or excuses. “Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relationship with you, in holiness and sincerity that are from God (2 Cor. 1:12).” If we continually thwart conscience we can develop a ‘seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2)’; this is practically killing our sense of right and wrong.
[29] For our conscience to function correctly it must be: 1) Cleansed by blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14), 2) Submitted to Word of God, 3) Considerate of weaker brothers (Romans 14).
[30] A clear indicator of whether something is in line with a godly conscience is: “Can this action be offered to God?” “Everything which God wishes us to do can and ought to be offered to God; nothing is unworthy of him but sin. When you feel that an action cannot be offered to God, conclude that it is not appropriate for a Christian (Fenelon).” Or, as Paul says: “Present (offer willingly: yield) your bodies (whole self) as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your reasonable (conscious, thoughtful devotion) act of worship (Romans 12:1).”

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