Believe in your heart

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

Many people misunderstand the meaning of “believe in your heart.” Biblically, the heart is not the organ that pumps blood to the body, but the thing that controls our thoughts, emotions, decisions, choices, hopes, aspirations, and fears. To believe in Jesus with your heart is to believe in Jesus in the place that controls all of your decisions, emotions, hopes, joys, and dreams; the place that controls the way you live your life.

Too many people assume that to believe in your heart is to believe in Jesus in the secret place that only God sees. The clear biblical witness is: what is in the heart is made evident by the way we live.

The interesting thing to consider here is that many people if asked the question: “are you a disciple of Christ?” would actually answer, “no, I do not follow him.”

Surprisingly, the same people if asked “will you go to heaven when you die?” will answer yes. The problem is, that Jesus taught that those who follow him, will follow him into death, and on to resurrection on the other side where we will reign with him; our lives embodying his authority in this world here and now.

Those who do not follow Jesus, will not follow him into resurrection. Those who do not follow Jesus, will in the end be condemned.

Following Jesus requires faithful membership in a church, a life characterized by learning from Jesus about what life is and how it is to be lived under his authority, and confession of sins and repentance. Without these three things, you cannot be a follower of Jesus (based on the writings of Jesus’s appointed apostles—The Bible)

As an atheist, earlier in my life, I embraced this fact. If Jesus is the real deal, then I will be condemned. I embraced this, and followed it up with, I am my own person, and I will do what I want, when I want. Screw Jesus, I will live my life however I see fit (I used a little more interesting language at the time). Strangely enough, I lived like all of the so called Christians, I merely added correlating words to my lifestyle.

I would encourage those who are clearly not a follower of Jesus to readily embrace the fact that they are not, and not cower away from the consequences of that decision. It is quite liberating to own up to rejecting Jesus, rather than pretending to love him in secret. Many times, this will become a watershed moment that leads to a significant moment where one wrestles with the gravity of life’s decisions.

For those who are not followers of Jesus, if you honestly think he is really the Son of God, embrace the fact that you will be condemned at the end of your life, and do your best to enjoy what is left of it. Without regrets (there will be plenty of time for that later—now is the time to enjoy). Perhaps, the weight of dealing with this reality will bring people back from their deep dream, and wake them like a whiff of ammonia to the reality that our decisions last much longer than today; not only in the lives of the ones we love, but also in the life to come.

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Temporarily Ashamed to Be Reformed: Justification

In my doctor of divinity in puritan studies course, I wrote a paper on Justification in which I explored the relationship of works with Justification.

During this study I had a very disappointing experience with my Reformed brethren. I asked someone to whom I had (and still have) great respect and appreciation.

My question went something like this: the meaning of Justification in the bible is not univocal. It is generally accepted that James and Paul are using the word “justify” to refer to different realities, or at least different aspects of those realities.

I went on to say that the reformers were in a position where they wanted to lay out a specific articulation of a biblical word with a much wider and variegated meaning in its biblical context. So, when they say that man is justified by faith alone:

Do they mean that men are justified (in Paul’s sense of the word) by faith alone?
Do they mean that men are justified (in James’s sense of the word) by faith alone?
Do they mean that men are justified (as a comprehensive meaning) by faith alone?

#2 is blatantly absurd, see James 2:24. This does not mean that the doctrine of JBFA is wrong, it simply means that James is referring to a different kind of Justification; i.e. not the meaning that the Reformers assumed. This also means that #3 too is false. The way in which the Reformers used the word justify and justification, in order to work, had to assume a Pauline exclusivity.

If the goal was to teach a doctrine of Justification that was more comprehensive, and aimed at capturing the significance of the primary senses of Justification in the primary biblical contexts, then the phrase “justified by faith alone” I suggested, was very unwise.

The bible uses the word justify in a context where it is explicitly stated that men are not only justified by faith, but justified by works also. When elders and leaders lay out parameters of the meaning of a biblical word, they should not define the word in ways that flatly contradicts the way in which the word is used in other contexts, even though the word is used in different contexts with a different meaning.

For example: Though there is a sense in which God is not one, he is three, it would still be immature and unwise to say “God is not one.” This due obviously to the Scripture that does say God is one. You would have to add on to the phrase “person;” God is not one person, but three persons.

In reverse, and in the same sense, the word “alone” should not be added to justification in such exclusive and absolute terms. “Justification,” biblically, is not by faith alone. Now, I wholeheartedly agree that there is a narrow sense in which Justification is by faith alone; but that narrow sense doesn’t account for the whole.

Which leads to two possibilities: 1. Instead of removing the word “alone,” replace the word justification with what the Reformers meant by Justification. They could have said, “a person is declared righteous and simultaneously initiated into a relationship with God by faith alone in Christ alone.” 2. Keep the word Justification, but do so with respect to the wide range of biblical meanings, and so drop problem some words like “alone,” that suggest that the word “justify” can only mean one of its more nuanced possibilities.

When asking the thoughts of professors, and people that the professors pointed me to: I was basically told a lot of things, none of which came close to approximating a thoughtful answer that honestly engaged with my question. I was even told to find a new professor, because my views were too errant. A Rare day for me; for the first time I felt ashamed to be Reformed.

Reformed I am nonetheless.

On the subject of James, i found a wonderful article that treats James in a very thoughtful and enlightening way:

Remember the verses before the justification passage in James says, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (NASB 2:12-13). This later phrase, katakauca◊tai e¶leoß kri÷sewß, “yet mercy triumphs over judgment” in the middle voice, is literally, “boasts against.”47 Perhaps a better sense is that “mercy prevails in judgment.” James calls believers to always temper judgments with mercy (v 13), not unlike Matthew 7.48 In effect,
James says mercy fulfills the law.49 Gathercole also agrees. “An eschatological perspective on the role of works might also clarify the position with regard to the soteriology of James 2 . . . Here the scene is eschatological judgment, as it frequently is in James (cf. Also 3:1, 6; 4:12; 5:17).”50

James is speaking of the eschatological judgment and salvation in the last day. Such themes are clear in the post-exillic prophecies cited above. Leon Morris observes in agreement with Douglas Moo that, “Paul uses justification of the initial step of becoming a Christian, James, like Matthew and others, uses it of final justification, the kind of justification we will see on Judgment Day.”52

James moves in his flow of thought from judgment to justification, just as does Paul (Rom. 2:13, then 3:20, etc.). James speaks of justification, not in some lesser sense than Paul. Justification is parallel to “saving” — “Can that faith save him?” (2:14). Surely James is emphatic that faith cannot be without obedience. He is just as emphatic that justification cannot be without works. But I hasten to add, this is “justification” not in the sense of initial, forensic declaration, but in the eschatological sense of “who is in” (cf Wright above). A living faith cannot exist without an expression of obedience to the royal law of love. Faith with “works” [sunerge,w James 2:22] is clear in the cases of Abraham/Rahab. But it is not self-righteousness or self-merit. Salvation is for prostitutes who trust God and for polytheistic pagans like the uncircumcised Abram. In both cases God is able to “justify the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). James reproves people who claim to believe, but are disobedient, precisely because James’ view of justification is “who is in” not “how one gets in” and it is in reference to the eschatological justification/judgment event. Would Paul have said anything different? No. James refers to the same event as does Paul. Paul writes “the doers [poihtai.] of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13). James writes, “But be doers
[poihtai.] of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
[Gregg Strawbridge]

Who is Romans 7 about?

[A Copy of part of my Exegesis paper]
Josh Shelton

Who is the “I” in Romans 7:14
There are several views taken on the precise identify of the “I” in 7:14. Here are some of the main ones: 1. Autobiographical-as a lost Paul. 2. Autobiographical- as a saved Paul. 3. “Ego” in solidarity with Adam. In this view, Paul, is saying “I sinned in Adam, and now, the nature in solidarity with Adam is in me;” and this Adamic nature (indwelling sin), when it is under the law, behaves in the manner delineated from 7:12-23. 4. “I” or “Ego” as representative of Israel. This is also known as the salvation historical view.
Dealing with the first two alternatives, the most powerful argument for the first view is a simple juxtaposition of a few statements from Paul:
1. that we should no longer be slaves to sin”(douluein, 6:6)

2. “but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God” (6:22)

3. “but now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (7:6)

4. “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”

5. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9).

Juxtapose that with:

1. “I am sold under sin” (7:14c)

2. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (7:14c)

3. “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner to the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23)

4.“making me a prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23c)

5. “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (7:14)

With such a juxtaposition it is easy to see the strengths of the argument.
On the other hand, there are arguments for the opposing view as well. In 7:18, why does Paul say that nothing good dwells in him, and then specify, “that is, in my flesh?” Verse 22, Paul refers to his inner being. Dunn says that this is probably referring to the regenerate life attained through solidarity with Christ; whereas the flesh is attained through solidarity with Adam. The most formidable argument, however, is concerning verse 25. Dunn writes, “It is the stone on which the majority interpretations of Rom. 7, 14-25 break and fall—hence the rather feverish attempts to omit the verse as a later gloss or to rewrite the last section of 7 with v. 25b interposed between v. 23 and v.24.”
Consider verse 25 briefly. Assume that some readers believe that Paul is referring to himself as an unregenerate person for reasons demonstrated in the juxtaposition. When they read Paul’s cry “who will deliver me,” followed by his triumphant celebration, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is only one conclusion that is viable. Paul has been delivered from the state he has in outlined from 7:7-24. So far, then, what is being argued is that being a servant of “the law of sin” is something that cannot describe, in context, someone who has experienced the deliverance of Jesus Christ. But, immediately after Paul’s celebration, he writes “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Dunn writes,
The antithesis between the inward man and the flesh is not overcome and left behind, it continues through and beyond the shout of thanksgiving—as a continuing antithesis between mind and flesh… [Paul] confronts the believer with both sides of the paradox, both sides of his nature as believer…in short, the Christian lives on two levels at once—he knows both life and death at the same time.

So, it would seem that being in the flesh can coexist within someone who has experienced the deliverance of Christ. The cry of verse 24 then is not the cry of a non-Christian for the Christian freedom, but rather the cry of a Christian for the full freedom that is his in Christ.
Hae-Kyung Chang criticizes Dunn’s position in favor of the “Paul embodying Israel” view. Moo points out that Paul in Romans 3:7 uses “ego” as a rhetorical device that does not describe himself personally. Chang, utilizing Moo’s commentary on Romans, and argues that Paul conceived of the world in terms of two aeons or ages. One age headed up by Adam in which the powers of sin, law, flesh, and death rule. Then, on the other hand, there is the age headed up by Christ in which the powers of righteousness, grace, Spirit, and life rule. As such, the world is broken into two categories for Paul. Chang argues that 7:14-25 reiterates the world headed up by Adam. Chang’s most potent argument runs thus:
In Rom. 6 and 8, respectively, Paul makes it clear that “being free from under sin” and “being free from the law of sin and death” are conditions that are true for every Christian. If one is a Christian, then these things are true; if one is not, they are not true. This means that the situation of depicted in Rom. 7:14-25 cannot be that of the normal’ Christians, nor of an immature Christian. Nor can it describe the condition of any Christian living by the law because the Christian who is mistakenly living according to the law is yet a Christian and is therefore not “under sin” or a “prisoner of the law of sin.”

However, Chang’s analysis falls very short with regard to verse 25. Chang says,
v. 25a is not strictly an essential part of what Paul argues, but must be recognized as an interjection, a strong and sudden emotion of gratitude, exclaiming anticipatory over the victory believers have in Christ.

For Chang, Paul’s celebration of Christ’s deliverance is an unnecessary aside that is irrelevant to the flow of Paul’s thought. Dunn’s analysis at this specific point is much more coherent. However, the contrasts between chapter 6,8 of Romans with chapter 7 of Romans is quite formidable. Moreover, the context and the content of 7:1-13 seems to coincide with the view of Israel’s experience under the law. Normally under this view Paul is thought to be recounting his own experience in solidarity with Israel as a regenerate, but non-Christian Jew; under the law, and in bondage to sin. Be that as it may, the Achilles heel, even of this line of thought is still verse 25a and its subsequent statement in 25b. This is so even in N.T. Wright’s, and Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans; Paul’s statement is hard to fit in after his celebration of deliverance accomplished by Christ.
There are particular strengths in each view. Some of the strengths in each view are mutually exclusive and automatically exclude other views, while some of the strengths can pass through the permeable membrane which divides each position. Now, to attempt a synthesis!

Synthetic Reflections

Moo rightly notes that the three views discussed so far, in addition to the Adamic view, provide particular insights into the text. Think of these theological directions as tunes that must be synchronized to the right pitch, and harmonized, in order to hear the particular symphony that Paul is playing here at this point in Romans. Consider the following hypothesis, and see if it adjusts the different tunes into a recognizable symphony that harmonizes the flow of Romans 7.
What if Paul is writing Romans 7 from the Christian perspective; and from that perspective demonstrating the necessity of dying to the “Torah” as a means of sanctification? So that, Paul could say “This is what life under the law looked like for Israel (7:13-24). Because of the death Christians died in Christ, they have died to the law and are therefore free from the dominion of sin.” To which his opponents would respond, “You are treating the law as the problem, Paul.” Paul could respond, “No, the culprit is indwelling sin. The nature in solidarity with Adam is the true culprit, and because of the weakness of sinful man, the law was, is, and will continue to be incapable of transforming sinful people like us into the people that God wants us to become. The Christian still has indwelling sin in him, and because of this sin, life under the law will continue to look this way; the same way it looked for Israel. But now, the basis of the Christian’s relationship with God has changed. God, in his Son, has done what the law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh (8:3). Through the death of the Son, and their death in him (see 6:2), Christians (the Jewish sort in particular) have been liberated from their bondage to the law (Romans 7:1-6). The reason such liberation was necessary was because of indwelling sin, not because of some inherent evil within the law (7:17). Indwelling sin used the law to enslave, deceive, and kill all who were under it (7:11). It was because of this that such a revolutionary change has been wrought by God through Christ. Through Christ, Christians have been translated from “under the law” and are now “under grace” (6:14). This entails that sin will no longer have dominion over Christians (6:14), that that they will be slaves of righteousness (6:18), and slaves to God (6:22).
So then, “this,” Paul says, “is what life under Torah consists of: slavery to sin, and bondage to law, the end of which is death (6:20-21); but now that you have been set free from sin by being taken out from under the law, you are now a slave to God, not sin; and the fruit of this slavery is righteousness, and the end of this righteousness is eternal life (6:22).” “Therefore,” Paul is saying, “if your bondage to the Torah has been severed, and you have been set free from that which has been holding you captive to sin (because of indwelling sin); then, why would you want to return to the Torah as the basis of your relation with God. Sin does not have dominion over you because you are not under the law, but under grace; and because of this, you are a slave to righteousness bearing fruit to eternal life. If you return to the Torah, you will return to the bondage that Israel experienced under the law; and sin will then begin to dominate your life once again. In order to be set free from sin, you must be set free from the law!”
In this case, Paul could be retelling his struggle, using the stories and symbols of Israel’s struggle under the law, but telling it also from the vantage of a Jewish, but converted Christian, who struggled to continue believing the gospel with all of its entailments. One can imagine that Paul returned the power sphere of the law more than once as his default state. The product of Paul’s failure is a life that resumed its existence under the law, and therefore under sin’s dominion. Such a life becomes totally inconsistent with the person the Christian truly is. Romans 7:7-25, then, could quite possibly be an autobiographical warning, that a failure to relate to God on the basis of what God has done for Christians in Jesus the Messiah will result in the domination of sin, as experienced by Israel under the law. Therefore, the need to abandon the Torah, and to participate in the gospel by faith, is a need that remains crucial throughout the Christian life.
It would seem most plausible (I think) to say that Paul is speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel before coming to Christ. However, it must be emphasized, that Paul is writing this to Christians from a Christian perspective. Moo writes “The experience of Israel with the law should remind Christians to never return to the law–Mosaic, or any other list of ‘rules’ as a source of spiritual vigor or growth.” Moo and Wright both hear a noise in Romans 7 that causes a deja-vu of James D.G. Dunn’s earlier comments, but due to some of his exegetical shortcomings, the noise from Paul’s symphony that Dunn was picking up (and playing too loudly I might add) has dropped off and is barely audible in their exegesis. I want to turn that noise up a notch and keep as much of their exegetical harmony as possible.
To sum up, Paul can thus be speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel as Jew in order to delineate life under the power sphere of the law. He does this, it seems, in order to vindicate the law, and simultaneously demonstrate that it is not the true culprit for the death and destruction that followed in its wake. Paul identifies indwelling sin as the real problem. Indwelling sin connotes the nature in solidarity with Adam (already treated by Paul in Romans 5). Israel, then, corporately recapitulated the sin of Adam and they were deceived and killed. All of this is written by Paul from the Christian perspective. His aim is to show that because of indwelling sin (i.e. solidarity with Adam), the law has had a negative impact on all those who are under it. He does this with an autobiographical warning of what will happen to those who are under grace, if they begin to relate to God under the power sphere of the law (and I think Paul knows this from personal experience). Paul is thus saying, “Relating to God must always be on the basis of the gospel, and under the power sphere of grace and the Spirit.” Whether Paul is converted or not in verse 14 is almost irrelevant; regardless of whether he is or not, operating under the power sphere of the law will yield the same results. For Christians, the Adamic nature is still present with them, though they are under grace. Therefore, they must not refer back to the law as a way of life because the law will still unwillingly provide sin with an opportunity to usurp dominion over them.
Where does 7:25 fit in with this new view? After Paul exults in celebration over his liberation accomplished by Christ, he says, “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” The law of sin is served by the flesh (which is the nature in solidarity with Adam, not Christ). Paul is in the flesh when his basis of relating to God is as one who is “under the law.” He does this as one who is not truly under the law, but under grace (his true identity, which is in solidarity with Christ, not Adam); and as such sin does not have dominion over him. So, Paul is not in the flesh, but, when he is (I note the tension here with 8:9), he serves the law of sin. Paul is in the flesh when he fails to relate to God “under grace.” Therefore, is incumbent for the Christians in Rome to abandon the law altogether as a means of sanctification. The law will only serve indwelling sin, and place the believer back under its dominion. Paul knows this all too well. He knows that his failures as a Christian are at root failures to believe the gospel, and subsequently to participate in the person and work of Christ by the Spirit. The law, in fact, has become the very thing that hinders such participation in the gospel. This is why Paul begins chapter 7 by saying we have died to it and are now totally free from it. Specifically, then, Paul in 7:25 is saying that after Christ’s deliverance, there remains in the believer a nature that serves sin; and thus relating to God on the basis of law is totally out of the question. The basis of the Christian’s relationship to God is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, for, God in Christ has done what the law could not do…and in Christ, the righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled, and it is now being fulfilled in those who walk according to the spirit; so, don’t walk according to the flesh, this is not who you are in Christ, for, in Christ, God is creating a new humanity, he is doing this now with you, and that humanity is not characterized by life in the flesh; so do not walk in the flesh…and do not lose hope or become weary, for, those whom God justifies he will also glorify.

Carson and Moo, Introduction to the New Testament,

Douglas Moo makes some interesting comments about the Greek word “nomos” in Paul that are very beneficial. To summarize 4 of Moo’s points:1. “Paul discusses the law as a single entity rather than as a series of commands,” 2. “The law can refer to power or systems of authority: ‘the law of the Spirit of life has freed me from the law of sin and death.” Are two uses of the Mosaic Law intended here, or are two opposing systems to be interpreted? Moo says that the latter is clearly the case, 3. “Occasionally, Paul appears to use “nomos” of the will of God, without regard to any definite, historical form in which that will is expressed.” Passages that Moo uses to illustrate this: “The work of the law’ written in the hearts of the Gentiles (2:15) may reflect such an idea, as may 2:26-27—–that the law is fulfilled by those who are in an uncircumcised state — clearly implying that the historical revelation of the divine will through Moses cannot be intended,” 4. Paul’s use of nomos most often and most basically is referring to that of the Mosaic Law.Douglas Moo, “law,” and “works of the law,” and “legalism” in Paul, Westminster Theological Journal, (1983): 78-84. Quoted from Josh Shelton, Paul and Law Research Paper, submitted to Robert Kendall at Liberty University May, 2012.

Moo, Romans, 409.

This is known as diatribe style and it is composed of a question, emphatic rejection, and explanation. Chang, 269.
Ibid.

Wright, 559.

Moo, 423.

Paul argues that a person’s bondage to the law must be severed in order that he or she may be put into a new relationship with Christ. This awakens concerns about the status of the law. Moo, Romans, 409.
Ibid., 417.

Ibid.
Dunn, 257-273.

Ibid.
Ibid.

Man as a Christian is still part of this world, still belongs in some sense to this world (Rom. 6,19, 1. Cor. 1,29, 6,16, 7,28 etc.). Man as a believer still lives in some sense at least “in the flesh” (2. Cor. 10,3, Gal. 2,20, Phil. 1,22, Phm. 16). [Ibid.]

Ibid. “That is to say, the two dimensions of the believer’s existence run counter to each other and prevent his living wholly in one or other; the Spirit prevents his fleshly desires coming to effect, but so too does his fleshliness prevent the Spirit inspired desires coming to effect. In consequence the believer finds himself torn in two by conflicting desires and impulses, and his experience as a man of Spirit in the flesh is one of continuing frustration.” [Ibid]

Moo, Romans, 427.

Hae-Kyung Chang, 267.

Ibid., 268.
Moo, Romans, 427.

Moo, Romans, 417. The law is a text case, applicable to all people.
Moo’s conclusion of 7:7-12 says “the experience of Israel with the law should also remind Christians never to return to the law–whether the Mosaic or any other list of rules– as a source of spiritual vigor and growth. [Moo, Romans, 441].

For Paul, this would include working out all of its entailments of course.
Such is the case because of the solidarity with Adam in what Paul designates “sarx.”

Those statements that seem to point to some nature in Paul opposed to the evil that is within him can be attributed to his status in the covenant as a Jew.

Wright, Romans, 553.

Ibid., 441.
This would call for something similar to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6 to “reckon yourselves dead.” You are dead, so reckon yourself dead. You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, so “reckon yourself in the Spirit.”
Being under grace is something far more radical than merely God’s willingness to forgive. I am thinking of the new humanity being created in the Jesus the Messiah. Through God’s call, we are translated in this humanity and we are to carry out God’s mandate for us on that basis. “Under Grace” is a way of telling the whole story of Jesus Christ and its ramifications.

My Thoughts on our Family Mission Statement

For those who read the Shelton Mission Statement, and think to themselves: does the Shelton Family actually live up to this mission statement? Here is a rejoinder comment.

I want to be candid: I do think that this mission statement is an accurate reflection of our ideals, but there are moments (far too many) where our thoughts, actions, and behaviors of our family betray our mission.

This mission statement serves two relevant purposes in light of the above statement: 1. The mission statement helps family have accountability. The fact that our family will drift from this mission at times is the very purpose for which the mission statement is created. Therefore the mission statement is not meant to describe what the Shelton family now is, but to prescribe what the Shelton family aspires to be while promoting that aspiration to help it come to fruition. 2. The mission statement is not a foreign set of words for my wife and I. It truly is the heart beat of our life and marriage. We strive with all of our might, incessantly, stubbornly, to grow in our knowledge of God together. This mission statement crystallizes some of the conclusions that we have drawn with one another at various times, now written so that we can be as like-minded as possible. While I am away at work, I want my wife to parent with the same vision that I do. I tell my wife that she is the resident theologian of my household while I am gone, and as a matter of being the head that I am called to be, I do my best to teach her, and stir her into a passion to know God through his word (the way Jesus as the head of the church, relentlessly taught his disciples as the body. Being the head makes you the teacher, not the knower). Of course, my goal is for that passion to know God and study him to spew from her life and lips throughout her “mommy-career.”

I truly believe that my family will be different because of this mission statement. My hope is that more verses will be memorized, deeper conversations about God discussed, more prayers for our family, friends, church, and mission, more surrendering of our lives to the Holy Spirit, a better work ethic, and a better stewardship of our bodies, will all arise from this Mission Statement. Sure, there are times where we will deviate from it. But this statement will call us to account and repent and return to our mission. As such, it will then serve its purpose. May God help us for the glory of Christ!

Family Mission Statement

This Family exists to know God and enjoy him in all of life; and by this, to glorify God. Therefore, God will be glorified in our family with these 5 priorities, beginning with the most important:

The Shelton Family Will:

1. Devote their lives to the study of God’s word. God’s Word will dominate our conversations, our thoughts, our time, and our lives. We will read, study, learn, memorize it. A failure to diligently pursue a knowledge of God is sin. Therefore, we will work to understand the Bible throughout our lives by sacrificially and diligently working to understand and know God more and more each day.
2. We will pray. We will pray to the God of the Bible and as we come to see him more clearly through his word, and see the world through his word, and by this we will express our dependance on God for everything.
3. The Gospel is the central truth in the Word of God and it is central to who God is. Therefore, the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ will be the foundation for all that the Shelton family is and does. This Gospel is the news that must be cherished by all the peoples of the world. Therefore, the Mission of the church, and of the Shelton Family, is to embody this gospel and participate with Christ’s church in her mission through prayer, financial support, and active involvement.
4. The Shelton Family, and each member of it, are the temples of God. God lives in us by the Holy Spirit. God is creating a new humanity in Christ by His Spirit in the church and in the Shelton Family. Our goals, choices, aspirations, hobbies, morals, and lifestyles, are all meant to reflect the new humanity being created in Christ by the Holy Spirit. We will therefore strive with intense effort to surrender to the Holy Spirit.
5. We will work at our jobs, and structure our hobbies, and use our free time mindful of these 4 priorities. As we work we will do so embodying the new humanity being created in the church (4) by the Gospel (3) according to the Word of God (1), and we will do so wholly dependent on God (2). Diet and exercise promotes and facilitates 1-4. Although Diet and exercise are the lowest priorities of the Shelton’s Mission, they are important for developing self-control, honoring the temple of God, and maximizing our usefulness for Christ’s Kingdom. We will therefore, in proportion to our priorities, eat healthy, and live healthy lifestyles with the goal of maximizing 1-4, but never to the neglect of 1-4.

Sam Storms: Why aren’t all people healed?

God loved the apostle Paul. Yet God sovereignly orchestrated Paul’s painful thorn in the flesh and then declined to remove it, notwithstanding Paul’s passionate prayer that he be healed. We are not apostles. Yet, God loves us as his children, no less than he loved Paul. We don’t know the nature of Paul’s thorn (although see chap. 21 for an attempt to identify it), but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse. We, like Paul, have prayed incessantly to be healed. Or perhaps knowing of a loved one’s “thorn,” we have prayed for him or her. And again, as with Paul, God declined to remove it.   Why? It’s hard to imagine a more difficult, confusing, and controversial topic than why God chooses not to heal in response to the intercessory pleas of his people. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I think I’ve got a few. I’m sure that this chapter will provoke many to anger and frustration, while others, I pray, will find a measure of comfort. In the final analysis, virtually everything about healing remains a mystery. I don’t mind saying that I’m weary of those who claim to reduce healing to a formula or a manageable cause-and-effect phenomenon in which we can know with certainty why some are healed and why others are not. I labor in this chapter to avoid falling into that trap. That said, I would like to suggest that the reason why many are not healed may possibly be answered in any of seven ways.

Seven Possible Answers
1. Although we must not give more weight to the role of faith than does the New Testament itself, we must be willing to acknowledge that occasionally healing does not occur because of the absence of that sort of faith that God delights to honor. This does not mean that every time a person isn’t healed, it is because of a defective faith, as if healing inevitably follows a robust and doubt-free faith. But it does mean that faith is very important. How can we conclude otherwise in view of the many texts that closely link healing to someone’s faith? I hope you’ll take the time to pause and read these passages: Matthew 9: 22, 28– 29; 15: 28; Mark 2: 5, 11; 5: 34; 9: 17– 24; Mark 10: 52; Luke 17: 19; Acts 3: 16; 14: 8– 10; James 5: 14– 16. In my book on spiritual gifts, 1 I ask, “Why did Jesus emphasize faith?” Neither he nor his Father needs it. They could have orchestrated life such that something other than faith would be the condition on which they would heal. They are not hampered by the faithlessness or prayerlessness of the sick person or those who pray for his or her healing. The reason Jesus emphasized is this: faith glorifies God. Faith points us away from ourselves to him. Faith turns us away from our own power and resources to his. Faith says: “Lord, I am nothing and you are everything. I entrust myself to your care. I cling to you alone. My confidence is in your word and character no matter what happens.” Faith is not a weapon by which we demand things from God or put him in subjection to us. Faith is an act of self-denial. Faith is a renunciation of one’s ability to do anything and a confession that God can do everything. Faith derives its power not from the spiritual energy of the person who believes, but from the supernatural efficacy of the person who is believed: God! It is not faith’s act but its object that accounts for the miraculous.
2.Sometimes healing does not occur because of the presence of sin for which there has been no confession or repentance. James 5: 15– 16 clearly instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Again, please do not conclude from this that each time a person isn’t healed it is because he or she has committed but not repented of some specific sin. But in some cases (not necessarily all) this is undoubtedly true. We have to reckon with the possibility that lingering bitterness, anger, resentment, envy, or unforgiveness in our hearts is the reason why God withholds physical healing from our bodies.
3.Odd as it may sound to hear it, healing may not happen because the sick don’t want it to happen. Jesus asked the paralyzed man in John 5: 6, “Do you want to be healed?” What on the surface may appear to be a ridiculous question is, on further examination, found to be profoundly insightful. Some people who suffer from a chronic affliction become accustomed to their illness and to the pattern of life it requires. Their identity is to a large extent wrapped up in their physical disability. I realize that sounds strange to those of us who enjoy robust health. Why would anyone prefer to stay sick? Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to be healed? But I’ve actually known a handful of folk who in a very real sense enjoy their dependence on others and the special attention it brings them. They are convinced that the only reason people take note of them and show them kindness and compassion is their affliction. They fear that if they were healed, they would lose the love on which they’ve come to depend. To them, remaining sick is a small price to pay to retain the kindness and involvement of those who otherwise would simply ignore   them. Then, of course, in some instances people don’t want the responsibilities that would come with being healthy. To their way of thinking, it’s easier (and perhaps even more profitable) to remain the object of others’ beneficence and good will than it would be to be healthy and thus expected to get a job and show up nine to five on a daily basis. This is not a common phenomenon, but it does happen in a few   cases.
We must also consider the principle articulated in James 4: 2, where we are told that “you do not have, because you do not ask.” The simple fact is that some are not healed because they do not pray. Perhaps they pray once or twice, and then allow discouragement to paralyze their petitions. Prayer for healing often must be prolonged, sustained, persevering, and combined with fasting.
5. Some are not healed because the demonic cause of the affliction has not been addressed. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I am not suggesting that all physical disease is demonically induced. Of course, it is interesting, is it not, that in Paul’s case God used “a messenger of Satan” to inflict the thorn? There is also the case of the woman in Luke 13, who had “a disabling spirit [or, a spirit of infirmity] for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13: 11). According to Jesus, “Satan” had “bound” her (Luke 13: 16; see also Acts 10: 38). It takes considerable discernment, time, and patience to determine whether an illness has a demonic cause, together with even greater commitment to praying for the individual in question and leading him or her to address the reasons for such spiritual oppression. When these factors are ignored, healing may not be forthcoming.
6. We must also consider the mystery of divine providence. There are undoubtedly times and seasons in the purposes of God during which his healing power is withdrawn or at least largely diminished. God may have any number of reasons for this to which we are not privy, whether to discipline a wayward and rebellious church or to create a greater desperation for his power or to wean us off excessive dependence on physical comfort and convenience or any number of other possibilities. If this leaves you confused, that’s why it’s called a mystery! But what must we say when the problem isn’t the absence of faith or the presence of a demon or the refusal to repent or the failure to pray or a lack of desire? How then do we account for ongoing physical affliction, as in Paul’s case? I strongly urge you to read the next point carefully.
7.   Oftentimes there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires more than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less-than-perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can be attained only by means of physical weakness. More important to God than our physical health is our spiritual holiness. This isn’t to say that the body is unimportant. God isn’t a gnostic! He values and has redeemed our
bodies and now dwells within them as his eternal temple. But while we live in this corrupt and decaying world, inner and spiritual conformity to the image of Christ often comes only at the expense of or at least simultaneous with physical deterioration and suffering (see 2   Cor. 4: 16– 18). Let me personalize this principle. If I believe Romans 8: 28, that God sovereignly orchestrates all events in my life for my ultimate spiritual good (and preeminently for his ultimate glory), I can only conclude that, all things being equal, if I’m not healed it is because God values something in me greater than my physical comfort and health that he, in his infinite wisdom and kindness, knows can be attained only by means of my physical affliction and the lessons of submission, dependency, and trust in God that I learn from it.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, we may never know why a person isn’t healed. What, then, ought to be our response? In the first place, don’t stop praying! Some people find this difficult to swallow. Many times I’ve been asked, Why should Paul bother to pray for release from something that God wills to inflict? The answer is that Paul didn’t know what God’s will was in this particular case until such time as God chose to make it known. And neither do you or I with regard to any particular illness we may suffer. If the Lord had never said in response to Paul’s prayer, “No, it isn’t my will that you be relieved of this thorn,” Paul would have been justified, indeed required, to continue to pray for his healing. I once heard my friend Jack Taylor put it this way: “Never cease praying for healing until you are shown otherwise either by divine revelation or by death!” If, like Paul, you are able to discern, through some prophetic disclosure or other legitimate biblical means, that it is not God’s will now or ever to heal you, you may cease asking him to do so. Otherwise, short of death itself, you must persevere in prayer. You never know but that God’s long-term will for you is complete healing after he has for a season accomplished his short-term sanctifying purpose. In Paul’s case, the only reason he ceased asking for deliverance was that God, in effect, told him to shut up! “No, Paul. I’m not going to heal you. It isn’t my will in this instance that you be set free from this affliction. Rather, I have a higher purpose in view: your humility and my Son’s glory manifest in the context of your ongoing weakness.” And Paul in effect replied: “Okay, Lord, I’ll shut up and submit to your merciful purpose in my life. I know you love me and desire what is ultimately of greatest good for my spiritual growth. Therefore, my prayer now is that you maximize in me the beneficial effects of this pain. Don’t let me miss out on any spiritual good that might come my way from this malady. Teach me everything I need to know, and sustain me that I might be a platform for the glory of Christ and a source of comfort to other suffering saints.”

I’m sure there are other ways to account for why God chooses not to heal, but I trust that these have proved helpful. There is much I do not know about this matter, but of this I’m quite certain: God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances so that we, “for the sake of Christ” (2   Cor. 12: 10), might learn that in our weakness his power is made perfect!

Storms, Sam (2013-04-30). Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions (Re: Lit Books) (Kindle Locations 6340-6343). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Confessing and Asking for Forgiveness

For someone who is in Christ, for someone who has been cleansed, washed, and regenerated; their sins have been covered by the blood of Christ and they no longer separate them from God. If this is true, then why is it necessary to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness?

My response to this is in the following paragraphs.

First, consider the fact that healing is in the atonement of Christ. For believers, total healing is inevitable. Christ will descend and the dead in Christ will rise first, and those who are alive will be caught up to receive new glorified bodies that will be incapable of sickness. Perfect and total health is inevitably ours if we are in Christ. This is our possession, but as Eph. says, we are in between ages, the age of inauguration, and the age of consummation (until we acquire possession of our inheritance), and we are in a position where we are asking for God to give us, in limited portions, what we are guaranteed in the future. Now, someone could say, if we are guaranteed healing, and we already possess it as our inheritance, why should we ask for it. The correct response would be, “God has determined to disseminate limited portions of our inheritance to us (his people) as he sees fit, and he has determined to do it “through us asking and trusting in him.”
Second, consider raising up covenant children. If you have a four year old that you want to train and teach the gospel, then there are certain depths and complexities that are above him. For example, a father of a four year old son is probably not going to teach his son that sin is a state of being, a disposition arising from our connection to our federal head Adam, issuing forth in all sorts of evil and wicked deeds that exemplify our need for a propitiation. Rather, a good place for a four year old to start is with the lie that they just told.
So, in other words, if you want to train them to trust that God will forgive them because Jesus Christ the righteous pleads their case, you start by using God’s appointed means of training; namely, confessing their lie and asking for forgiveness and teaching them to trust that God forgives them of their lie for Christ’s sake (not to say that discipline is not necessary still; it is).
For this reason, 1 John 1:9 may very well be the most important text for raising up Christ-trusting children because it provides the most fundamental means for instructing those who are not sure how to deal with their guilt and failures. 1 John was written to people who believed, but who had doubts about God’s forgiveness and therefore lacked assurance (5:13). There were people telling them that they needed to be sinless, and they therefore doubted that God forgave them when they simply asked Him with trust in Jesus. John stepped in to remind them, if you confess your sins, God is faithful, not to you, but to Jesus Christ, the righteous, crucified, and risen Lord, who pleads your case.
God is not merely concerned with our understanding as individuals. He has demonstrated an extreme sensitivity as to how his covenant children (believer’s children) are raised up and fully trained in their understanding of who God is, and how they are to relate to him.
Part II
Imagine that their are a billion steps of faith that a person could take deeper into their trust in Christ. Suppose that you are at step 25. How do you continue to take more steps deeper into your faith in Jesus. We are not automatically at a varsity level of trust in Christ’s finished work. In regards to individual sins that we commit, we grow in our trust in Christ as we “own our sins before God”, and trust that he will forgive us for Christ’s sake. This is how God has appointed us to grow.
Let me take myself for example: When I commit a sin, the process for me is basically the same as my Son’s, but what is broken down into steps is almost a single thought for me. Let me explain: I am called to own my sin. I know deep down in my heart the following is true: 1. I love money and that is idolatry. 2. I am addicted to material things (idolatry); 3. I have thoughts of personal grandeur (pride) 4. I am not the husband God has called me to be. 5. I am not the father that God calls me to be. I own those things, but I also recognize that all of these things are the result of the sinful state of being that I am now in, and that I am in desperate need of God’s grace to transform me. It’s not merely my need for forgiveness that I feel, but my need to be changed into the person God wants me to be. Kirkegard said that faith is being oneself before God. What he meant was that we stand with an open transparency before God. We don’t pretend that God is pleased with our idolatry, he is not. Faith stands before God with total transparency, and with the knowledge that even the faith itself is infested with sin, and rather than being discourage faith looks with utter confidence and says “It is not my faith, or my confession that God is faithful to; Jesus Christ the righteous pleads my case, and God is faithful to Him.” Now, this whole process sometimes takes 2 seconds for me. The life of faith is a life of learning more and more to walk in such transparency, with trust in God to be faithful to his covenant that he made with Christ. I did not start here though. Neither will my son, or your son, or anyone’s son for that matter. WE must train them. The process of confession and asking for forgiveness is such a means.

So, the whole notion that our sins, as believers, somehow separate us from God is not mentioned in the text. We confess and ask for forgiveness, not because we are again alienated from God, but, because this process is God’s appointed means of growing in our trust in Christ. We are called to mature in faith throughout our lives. With respect to sin, owning our sins and trusting in God’s faithfulness to forgive us our sins is God’s appointed method of growing us in our faith. Trusting in Christ, practically works itself and develops day by day; sin by sin, victory by victory. My sins do not aliennate me from God. Once I have sinned my question is: how do I walk away from this sin and deeper into faith? Answer: confess, repent, with full confidence that God will be faithful to the covenant he established through Christ. So, I walk away from sin, and deeper into my faith, when, after I sin, I trust in Christ and with transparency own my shortcomings and pant and yearn for God’s transforming grace to enter my life and make me more like my crucified and risen King.

The Ultimate Father and his loving discipline

Many people, including myself, fail to recognize the dynamic love of a Father for his child. A father’s love shapes how he does just about everything he does with regard to his child, including things such as: praise for doing good, discipline for doing bad, encouragement to try harder, empathy when goals aren’t reached, etc… When it comes to our relationship with our heavenly Father, the notorious difficulty is with the carryover from our sinful fathers that is projected onto our understanding of our heavenly father and therefore shapes how we view Him in His dealings with us.

God’s discipline for his true children:

There are two great errors with regard to God’s discipline that must be avoided. These two truths will prevent a wrong view of Gods discipline. The First barrier to error is the truth that God must be angry with our sins BECAUSE He loves us. Second, God’s anger and discipline for his believers is always motivated by love and aims at his children sharing in his holiness and is never motivated by inpunitive judgment and retribution. If either of these are misrepresented, our Father-Son; Father-Daughter relationship with God will lack the proper fullness that God intends, and will eventually carryover into the way we parent our own children.
Hebrews 12 says,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons… If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. “
Take my son for example: today I told him to stay out of our extra room in the house because there are nails and other dangerous stuff in there for a two year old to be around. I heard him open the door and I called him three times to get out of the room. At this point, in my heart as his father, the most pressing issue is not that he is in the room with nails but that he is intentionally disobeying me. Why? Because, as his father I know that God has entrusted my son to me and given me the responsibility to, while trusting in God, do all that I can to ensure that my son loves God and trusts Jesus with everything in his life. Also, my son needs to learn to trust me and do what I tell him because this will be what his relationship to God is patterned after.
So what happened? I gave him 3 opportunities to leave the room and he continued to disobey me. Because I loved him, I took him and spanked him. While spanking him, the thought never crossed my mind that he was somehow out of my favor, love, or grace; he was right in the middle of it. There is no such thing as a father who loves his child too much to discipline them. Ideally, a father’s love is expressed in the way that is most beneficial for the child to grow and properly develop.
In other words, my relationship with my son will thrive more when our father-son relationship includes me as his father becoming angry when he does things that endanger his health, heart, and future; especially his heart.
Therefore, never is God’s love more clearly displayed than when He becomes angry with his children for disobeying Him. He cares for us and longs for us to share in his holiness. He wants our desires to be the best desires, and our thoughts the best thoughts, and our actions the best actions. If He truly loves us, then He must be angry with us when we do things that keep us from the fullness that he desires for us.
How did it end with my son? Immediately after I spanked him he cried and held out his hands for me to hold him. I hugged him and kissed him and told him that daddy is not angry anymore and that I only whoop him because I love him and want what is best for him.
I never wanted to bring him any pain. I didn’t enjoy causing his pain, but I understood that he would suffer if he did not learn to yield to me and trust me. And though he was never truly out of my favor he had to experience my anger and unhappy countenance because my love for him required it. His expression of “I’m sorry daddy,” was enough to deter all of my anger and remove my unhappy countenance.
In the same way, much of what we experience in our relationship with God is based on our understanding of him from his word (which is why reading the bible is vitally important and very under prioritized in Christendom today). And therefore, it is vital for us to recognize God’s anger and displeasure with our sins, because this anger is the expression of his great love for us. His anger is not to destroy or tear down, but as Hebrews says “for our holiness,” and ultimately, for our vision of his beauty to be complete when we see him. What does it take to remove his unhappy countenance? This will: A look at the cross of Christ with a heart that feels the pain of grieving God; followed by these words, “I’m sorry Daddy.”
The second part of Discipline will be posted later this week.