Saturday, October 23, 2021

Live Like You’ll Live Forever

Live Like You’ll Live Forever

The world makes its quiet but furious war against death, groping to live forever. Plastic surgery, obsessive fitness, compulsive dieting, pouring billions into scientific research searching for the holy grail of immortality. The author of Hebrews describes the condition as a lifelong slavery to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

Try as we may, Adam’s and Eve’s children cannot shake the ancient nightmare.

[God] drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

Humanity, east of Eden, still reaches out in vain for that Tree of Life.

Curing Death

How would the world change overnight if all people everywhere heard that a man had cured death? How many ages would pass celebrating the discovery? But as it stands, these same people bypass the knowledge of a true eternity because it is not the eternity they invented.

God has placed in us a sense that life continues after death: “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Yet most suppress this knowledge of their own immortality. But why?

Because they “did not see fit to acknowledge God” (Romans 1:28) — the God “who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). They disavow the truth their hearts would thrill to believe because they do not approve of any eternity with God. Better to steal happy moments from a broken and fleeting mortality, their dead hearts reason, than submerge in an endless existence with the God they disapprove.

Immortal Beings

All men, we know, shall live forever. We trust and love the eternal God, we believe in the resurrection from the dead, we believe Jesus’s promise of eternal life with him. And we know the everlasting fate of the wicked: “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

Eternity exists, we believe, and all men are immortal. The souls we come in contact with at the ballgame, in the restaurant, walking the dog — shall be a million years from now. The mailman, the bus driver, the nosy neighbor — immortal beings. The most decrepit among us shall outlive the galaxy.

Even considering those who have gone before us — the deceased grandfather, the fallen child, the departed spouse — though hidden momentarily from our eyes, we know they are and shall be again. Death, we profess, is the Great Interruption, not the Great End.

Falling Leaf

While we say we believe in undying souls (a truth that the world would go delirious to acknowledge), do we give that momentous reality much thought? Does that eternal weight of glory hold much weight with us? Has it changed your week at all?

How many of us have believed upon eternity, as John Foster lamented, in vain?

The very consciousness that your minds have been capable of admitting and dismissing this subject [eternity] without a prolonged and serious emotion, ought to produce at last that seriousness, by means of wonder and alarm, which may well be awakened by the consideration how many years you have believed this truth in vain. (An Essay on the Improvement of Time, 150–151)

How many years have I believed in eternity without much effect? And not just any eternity, but eternity with the Blessed God? Eternity with Jesus Christ? How many of my waking moments of these short and numbered days have orbited around the ceaseless “day of eternity” (2 Peter 3:18)? If in Christ I have hope in this life only, do I really feel myself of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19)?

How this world deceives me. The sturdy tree and its branches I call “this life”; the falling leaf I call, “eternity.”

Forgotten Forever

With one glance of the mind, I realize my madness. Who at sea would give all his affection and thought to a day’s trip onboard, completely disregarding the inescapable land ahead? I forget that “Surely a man goes about as a shadow!” (Psalm 39:6) as a dream (Psalm 78:18–20), as a flower that fades, as grass that withers (Isaiah 40:6–8), as a mere mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). This world, O my soul remember, “is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

I hope you have kept eternity closer at hand than I have.

Have you, Christian — possessor of the mightiest revelations, steward of sacred knowledge, keepers of the way of eternity — appropriated these truths for yourself and distributed them freely to a desperate and decaying world? Has forever bent down with you as you changed diapers? Has it drove with you to work? Has it laughed along while you had a game night with neighbors?

Has “everlasting” brought you low to plead in prayer for your children, your church, your city? Has that terrifying splendor, “immortality,” lifted your gaze from this painted and perishing kingdom to the one that cannot be shaken?

Has eternity provided you an anchor in suffering? Sent you along on a grand mission? Warned you against friendship with Here and Now? Bestowed solemnity to life? Brightened up gloomy days? Infused courage to venture on in Christ? Showed you the coming tsunami that will wash away all these splendid sandcastles? Endowed acquaintances with new significance? Lifted our eyes with abiding gratitude to God? Equipped us to drive a spear through sin?

Have you believed in eternity in vain?

Tree of Life

We must awake to the coming world without end. We are those who look “not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

People all around us live and die for the seen, the felt, the tasted, the pleasurable, the transient. But God has left you and me here to speak, to reason, to plead with immortal souls that they be reconciled to God.

Through faith in Christ, we have reached our hands out to a Tree of Life on Golgotha’s hill, and we will taste of that fruit denied to our first parents:

To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (Revelation 22:14)

This tree is within reach because Jesus Christ — the Resurrection and the Life — has drawn near to us. He promises, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” and asks the pertinent question, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26).

God give us grace to believe, and to make sure our friends know, our families know, our children know, that eternity is only a short time away.

from Desiring God
via DG

What Happens to Desires Without God? Ephesians 4:17–24, Part 4

The heart that loses God as its greatest desire becomes a cauldron of desires for sensuality.

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from Desiring God
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from デイリーブレッド

Friday, October 22, 2021

Bible Memory Brings Reality to Life

Bible Memory Brings Reality to Life

For many Christians, the term Scripture memory means rote memorization of Bible verses. And this conjures up feelings of past failure (over how often they’ve tried and given up), or futility (over how little they recall of what they once memorized), or fear (over memories of having to publicly recite verses).

Who wants to pursue Bible memory if it means more failure, futility, or fear?

No one, if that’s what Bible memory means. But that’s not what it means. It means so much more than rote memorization. And it’s crucial that we see the bigger picture of Bible memory so we understand why it’s so important to the Christian life — why God repeatedly commands us to remember.

Here’s how I describe it:

Bible memory means stockpiling your God-given memory with God-breathed truth (2 Timothy 3:16) so that your God-given imagination can draw from it to construct a more accurate understanding of God-created reality, enabling you to live in “a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

Let me try to briefly unpack this.

Your Amazing Memory

Your memory is amazing. If you’re thinking, “No, it’s not,” you’re probably overly aware of your memory weaknesses. And you probably measure yourself against people with extraordinary memories, like Charles Spurgeon, who, as J.I. Packer described, had “a photographic memory, virtually total recall, and as he put it ‘a shelf in my mind’ for storing every fact with a view to its future use” (Psalms, 4).

But don’t let phenomenal memories blind you to the marvelous gift of God that is your own memory. Your ability to recall information to your conscious mind is just one function your memory performs. But it does far more than that.

Your memory is a vast library, far more sophisticated than the Library of Congress, where you’ve been collecting information since before your birth. In that three-pound lump of wet grey tissue inside your skull, in ways that remain largely mysterious despite wonderful recent advances in neuroscience, you have stored enormous amounts of information in the form of impressions, sensations, sights, sounds, smells, cause-and-effect observations, propositional statements, stories, and dreams, as well as real, unreal, or anticipated experiences that produce joy, sorrow, pleasure, anger, delight, horror, desire, fear, and on and on. And you draw from this mental library all the time, every day, consciously and unconsciously, to do everything you do.

And more marvelous still is how your memory works with all levels of your consciousness to allow you to imagine.

Why You Understand Anything

By imagination, I’m not talking about our ability to create fantasy worlds in our minds. I’m talking about our ability to draw from our vast store of information and construct an image (or model) of reality, and then draw implications for what it means. That is the primary function of our imagination. It allows us to conceptualize things we learn are true, but cannot see. Which is crucial for those of us called to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18), to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

And what empowers our ability to imagine is our memory.

Augustine, in his jaw-dropping meditations on the human memory in book 10 of his Confessions, explained it this way:

From [my memory] I can picture to myself all kinds of different images based either upon my own experience or upon what I find credible because it tallies with my own experience. I can fit them into the general picture of the past; from them I can make a surmise of actions and events and hopes for the future; and I can contemplate them all over again as if they were actually present. If I say to myself in the vast cache of my mind, where all those images of great things are stored, “I shall do this or that,” the picture of this or that particular thing comes into my mind at once. Or I may say to myself “If only this or that would happen!” or “God forbid that this or that should be!” No sooner do I say this than the images of all the things of which I speak spring forward from the same great treasure-house of the memory. And, in fact, I could not even mention them at all if the images were lacking. (215–16)

It’s our immense memory that provides our creative imagination the information from which to make sense of reality and draw the correct implications. And we can’t imagine anything that isn’t meaningfully present in our memory.

This is why Bible memory so important.

‘You Shall Remember’

Have you ever noticed how often the Holy Spirit inspired biblical authors to stress the importance of memory? Over and over God commands us to remember his word (for example, Numbers 15:40; Psalm 103:17–18; Isaiah 48:8–11; Luke 22:19; 2 Timothy 2:8). In fact, it would be worth a week of your devotional Bible reading to look up all the texts that mention these words as they relate to what God has revealed to us: memory, memorial, remember, remembrance, remind, call to mind, recall, forget, forgot, and forgotten.

To re-member is to call to mind something we’ve previously learned, something that exists in our memory. We can see such remembering in Lamentations 3:21–23, written while the author was experiencing terrible distress and suffering:

But this I call to mind,
     and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
     his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
     great is your faithfulness.

The truth that the author called up from his memory, which sustained him in great need, was something he learned prior to his need. And it was something he was learning in more profound ways at that very moment.

That’s Bible memory: calling to mind and keeping in mind biblical truth we’ve learned, so that it expands and deepens our understanding over time, and continues to shape the way we live.

Meditation’s Servant

That’s perhaps why the Bible doesn’t say much about rote memorization, but it says a lot about meditation, because meditation is the way we both learn and remember. If you take that week of devotional exploration, it will add to your understanding of how meditation relates to remembering if you look up all the texts that mention these words: meditate, meditation, understand, understanding, know, knowledge, wise, and wisdom.

Biblical meditation (or reflection, rumination, contemplation) takes place when our God-given imagination processes the God-breathed information we store in our God-given memory in an effort to understand, or further understand, God-revealed reality, so that we might live wisely. We can see this process at work in Psalm 119:97–99:

Oh how I love your law!
     It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
     for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
     for your testimonies are my meditation.

Implicit in this text on meditation (and most others in Scripture) is repetition. We all know from experience that repetition is what drives most information into our long-term memory. And this is the great value of memorization — it is a servant of meditation.

That’s certainly been my experience. Few practices have helped me meditate on Scripture more than memorization. The method I’ve found most effective has me repeating the same section of text over many days. This repetition not only has driven these texts into my long-term memory, but it has given my imagination the opportunity to ruminate on them.

As a result, I’ve gained a deeper, richer understanding of these texts and how they relate to other Scriptures and the world. That’s been the greatest benefit for me. Even though I don’t retain perfect conscious recall of many Scriptures I’ve memorized, meditating on them has woven their meaning and application into the fabric of my understanding. And they do come to mind much more readily, especially in times of need.

Keep the Goal in Mind

If Scripture memory has negative connotations for you, don’t think of it as memorizing Bible verses. Rather, think of it as

stockpiling your God-given memory with God-breathed truth (2 Timothy 3:16) so that your God-given imagination can draw from it to construct a more accurate understanding of God-created reality, enabling you to live in “a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

It is a gift of God, a means of grace, to help you meditate on God’s word and bring reality to life.

As someone who struggles with memory weaknesses and who used to believe that Bible memorization wasn’t for me, I strongly recommend memorizing Scripture, especially larger sections. This is something you can do — you really can. You won’t regret employing this very effective servant of meditation.

For accurate understanding comes from careful meditation on true information. And accurate understanding results in our discerning right implications for what true information means. And when we live according to this understanding, the Bible calls it wisdom (Psalm 111:10).

This is the goal of Bible memory.

from Desiring God
via DG

Is Stress Making Me More Holy or More Sinful?

Life’s pressures have a way of exposing hidden sins and introducing new temptations. So how we do know if pressure is making us more holy or more sinful?

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from Desiring God
via DG