05 October 2006

"But otherwise": skewed priorities

by Dan Phillips

Consider this description of a guy. We'll call him... Guy. Guy G. Guy.
Guy's really a good person. He's as honest as the day is long. He's hard-working, a straight-shooter. He gives to charity -- and not just to formal charities: I've never seen Guy turn down a panhandler on the street. He's devoted to his wife and children, he's a regular church-attender. He drives within the speed limit, always seems neatly dressed and clean. I hardly ever see him sitting around. He's often out working on his yard, or even helping elderly neighbors work on theirs.
Good guy, right? Oh wait. Left out a trait.
Guy does have this one pastime. When the mood strikes, Guy molests small children.
But otherwise, a good guy, right?

Well, no. I'm pretty sure I lost you with that last, stomach-jolting little attribute. It's what we call a deal-killer. However nice the other descriptives might be, that last one counter-balances and stains them all. It's a vice so repellant, so intuitively appalling, that extended argumentation isn't necessary. Our image of this imaginary fellow does an abrupt volte-face, with one simple, specific bit of information.

So why do we, Christian and non-Christian, so regularly commit even a worse error in moral evaluation?

I just finished laboring through Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World for a class. My, that was a chore. Four sets of authors batted around the question of "the fate of the heathen." They ranged from (IMHO) the clueless (John Hick, Clark "Evangelical! Really! I Swear!" Pinnock), to the sorta cluey (Alister E. McGrath), to the considerably more clued (R. Douglas Geivett, W. Gary Phillips [no relation]).

Hick and Clark "I Am an Evangelical! Really! I Am, I Am, I Am!" Pinnock wrung their hands about the horrible injustice of God sending good, moral, decent, religious people to Hell just because they didn't believe in Jesus. McGrath stood a bit to their Biblical right, though in a muzzy way; Geivett and Phillips considerably more so.

Unless I missed it, however, no one challenged what I think is the fundamental issue. Clark "Did I Mention That I'm an Evangelical?" Pinnock stood pretty much with John "At Least I Don't Claim to Be an Evangelical" Hick in accepting the proposition that "there are pagan saints in other religions" (p. 119) So Pinnock shrinks back from the thought that God could condemn everyone except believers. Even in their responses, the other three writers did not focus on what I think is a central issue.

Which "central issue" would that be?

Well, back up with me for one second. Can a person be rightly considered moral if he does all the wonderful things I mentioned, but just has this one little recurrent indulgence that he embraces and practices, involving little kids? If you can't give me a hearty "No" on that one, further conversation probably would not be fruitful.

Why can't we say that he's basically good, though? He does more good things than bad, doesn't he? But none of that matters, because we intuitively recognize a certain hierarchy in morality. Replace the sin of pederasty with a failure to signal his right turns, and we'd relax a bit. He might be a decent fellow after all. On any hierarchy, failure to signal one's turns ranks well below the abomination of child molestation. A child is infinitely more precious and valuable than a traffic regulation.

Let's stay with the same man, then, with an alteration. Remove the pederasty, leave him with all the other virtues (and if you like throw in a score of others). Just add this one specific: he does not hold Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

What do you think now? Is he a moral man?

Your answer to that question will tell me everything about your moral hierarchy.

Someone asked Jesus once what amounted to this: What is the chief imperative of the universe (Matthew 22:36)? What is at the pinnacle of the moral hierarchy?

As you may know, the Lord Jesus answered the man's question. Plus, at no extra charge, He laid out the second imperative of the universe.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40, emphases added)
Jesus laid down two categories: first the vertical, then the horizontal. First, the theological. Second, the social. First, love the Lord your God with everything you've got. Second, love your neighbor as you already love yourself.

When we rank a person's morality, we usually primarily judge as to whether he is kind, honest, generous, decent, giving, merciful, loving -- to people. What outrages us is pederasty, rape, murder, theft, violence -- against people. Horizontal crimes. These are, indeed, important areas. In fact, they comprise the second-most important area of morality in the universe.

Second. Not first.

The chief indicator of a person's character is his relationship to God. In other words, his theology, his doctrine, his faith.

Nor should we anachronistically imagine that by "your God" Jesus means "whoever you conceive God to be." No honest Jesus-scholar would suggest that He means any other than the living God of Israel, who reveals Himself in the Law and the Prophets. It is that God -- and, by extension, the God who reveals Himself through Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:27; 17:5; John 1:18; 17:3, etc.) -- who must be loved above all else.

Can a person be a moral person, and violate what Jesus calls "the great and first commandment," the commandment that comes before and above all others?

An affirmative answer reveals a genuinely worldly viewpoint. It indicates that we're seeing the moral universe through man-centered glasses.

But if you believe Jesus, you must answer "Of course not. It's a deal-killer."

Yet we have the odd spectacle of folks who may well confidently say of a rapist, pederast, murderer, or terrorist, "He'll burn in Hell" -- but balk at saying the same of someone who violates the ultimate moral imperative in all of creation. A good guy who rejects Jesus is, by our skewed priorities, still a good guy. But if he harms women or children -- well. That's different.

When you make yourself think it through, it's odd.

But the spectacle of folks who claim to be "really, really" evangelical, balking at the justice of laying the most severe judgment on the most heinous crime in all creation? "Odd"?

Worse than odd.

Dan Phillips's signature


49 comments:

Carrie said...

Great post, Dan.

Matthew 22 really is that simple, I never thought about it that way. A good point talking point for the "I'm a good person" types.

David said...

Can a person be a moral person, and violate what Jesus calls "the great and first commandment," the commandment that comes before and above all others?

First - Define "moral". I guess I have a problem because you are choosing to use a definition that is not in common usage or at least applying in a manner not commonly used. I am not saying you are wrong, the more I think about it, but that your choice of terminolgy makes me think there has to be a better word choice. Or, not. In the end, i agree with you.

Second, While there is a 1st and 2nd command - are they really seperate? The answer is you have to be both, not one. I personally think it is odd that there are so many fundi's out there which seem to ignore the second command

And I find that worse than odd

You are immoral if you fail on either count.

ajlin said...

I love it when a theological post has clear and direct application to evangelism. The thoughts you give here are not only theoretically useful, they will, in fact, be used by myself and others in bearing witness to the Lord.

Suziannr said...

Just another way to show us how MAN-CENTERED we are. Thanks for that.

SFB said...

The interesting thing about having a conversation with an unsaved person is that not a single person will recognize their utter inability to OBEY those 2 imperatives of Jesus. They will automatically revert to defining those imperatives by their flawed "moral" standards and seek to reiterate their "decency" and relative worth to God, at least as compared to others.

Thanks, Dan, for a post that makes black-and-white an issue that must remain so. The T in TULIP is a capital T after all.

DJP said...

David, if I understand you correctly, I think you pose a decent point or two. Let me interact a bit.

Doubtless it will cause many to stop and think -- or, at any rate, that's my hope! If so, it's a by-product of my having had to stop and think, myself. Our definition of "morality" tends to be strictly horizontal, strictly man-centered. My whole point is that God does not see it as we see it. God is (surprise!) God-centered; so should we be.

The second commandment is "like" the first, in that it involves love, as the Lord says. But it is second, and relative. God is to be loved with everything we have; our neighbor is to be loved as we love ourselves.

I don't disagree with you that Fundies (and all Christians) can often be faulted in our failures in the second commandment. But to anyone who'd say my stress on the first necessarily leads to neglect of the second, I'd offer the (to me) obvious response:

Embracing the first commandment necessarily leads to embrace of the second.

The reverse is not true.

That is, if I do love God as commanded, I immediately find that this God whom I love commands me to go and love my neighbor. If I refuse to do that second, I am not embracing the first.

Andrew said...

Your answer to that question will tell me everything about your moral hierarchy.

Andrew said...

...that's what I get for trying to do more than one thing at once.

I meant to post the above quote and follow it with "Brilliant!"

Scott said...

Very logical post...It really illustrates in interesting aspect of human nature, the hierarchy of sin. We often deal with this hierarchy but rarely discuss it in a logical manner.

However, I would say that in the eyes of God, this hierarchy does not exists, would you agree?
Ultimately, from the perepctive of a Christian, all have sinned and faith in Christ is the only necessary and sufficient condition of redemption.

However, I would ask one question, How does ones definition of "loving God" play into this disucssion. Reading the gospels, I am often faced with Jesus rebuking the religious authorities because of their systematized love of God, their religion, and thier lack of love for others. (I think this begins to touch on David's second point). The religious of the day thought they loved God but Jesus flatly showed them how they were wrong...could we who have a new system be wrong too?

donsands said...

Tha Law, God's moral standard, brings us to the foot of the Cross, or it condemns us.

Nice thoughts to think over. Appreciate it.

I was going to write something about Clark "Did I mention I'm a Evangelical?" Pinnock, but I won't.

Don Fields said...

Excellent! Your critique was right on when it comes to our determination of a person's "goodness". Thanks for shedding some light on the often-asked question

DJP said...

Scott -- How does ones definition of "loving God" play into this disucssion

Totally. We have to remember, though, that Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for their diligence, commitment, nor any of the rest. It wasn't that they were too extreme about embracing the word of God; it was that they weren't extreme enough (cf. Paul's remark in Romans 10:2). They'd covered over the Word with tradition, majored on minors (and nons), and neglected its weightier matters.

DJP said...

Well, Don, if you'd like to email me your thoughts about Clark "Well, The ETS Says I'm Still an Evangelical!" Pinnock, feel free.

Gordon Cloud said...

Great post, Dan. This reminds me of Prov. 21:4 in which God calls even the plowing of the wicked sin. When one does not know the Lord as their Savior, even the "good deeds" they do become sin for them.

David said...

"Embracing the first commandment necessarily leads to embrace of the second."

Well, it should. It seems that some who claim to embrace it do not show that much evidence of embracing the second.

David said...

And you are right on our man centered ness

go to google

type - define moral

Examine the definitions that come up.

All man centered.

DJP said...

Very good catch, David!

This is probably my main point: we have often unthinkingly accepted the world's definition of morality. Hence, we play their game, not God's. Hence, we lose: lose our way, lose our focus, lose the debate, lose our hearers.

Sojourner said...

The only reason man isn't supposed to be treated like a squirrel is because of the image of God he is stamped with. Rejection of God will ultimately lead to severe immorality towards our fellow man precisely because if there is no God, then there is no reason not to treat man like another animal if he becomes incovenient. Like when he is an "unwanted" fetus, an old cripple, a severly retarded person, and etc.

So yes, rejecting God is far more horrible than child-molesting because child molesting springs from hating God.

jeff said...

David, you said:

Well, it should. It seems that some who claim to embrace it do not show that much evidence of embracing the second.

I think the key word there is "claim." I think that Dan is right in his assertion, in that if one genuinely embraces the first, then there is attendant embrace of the second. COnsequently, and I guess to flesh your point out and piggy back on Dan's if I could, then if someone fails in the second, that should lead us to doubt the genuineness of their embrace of the first. And I think Jesus fleshed that out in action in his presentation to the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19. He obviously loved himself and his stuff more than others and ultimately more than the God he claimed to serve from his youth.

Dan,

Thank you for another insightful and challenging post. Not only did it challenge me to examine my own love toward God and others (which I believe is always biblical no matter how long you have been a believer, 1 Cor. 13:5) but it challenged me to re-evaluate my definition of moral, and really think through that definition. Sadly, I too have acquiesced to the world's thinking in that, and your post has helped me look at it in a new, more biblial light. Not that I had ever asserted that a person can be moral and go to heaven without Christ, but I have applied the "moral" label to those without Christ, who really don't deserve it.

DJP said...

Jeff -- if someone fails in the second, that should lead us to doubt the genuineness of their embrace of the first

Exactly. Isn't this pretty much one of John's arguments, too, in his first epistle?

striving... said...

One question that I always come to when I see the news is what if this evil vile person, kills, rapes, horrible man things and then repents right after, and then dies. He goes to heaven if his repentence and acceptance of God and Jesus is truly faithful, right? I always wonder, if they do all these things their whole life, never accepting the first and great commandment until the very end, is it the same thing? Yeah anyway, just my thoughts when I read this. It is a great post, ecspeically with all the shootings happening at schools and things this last week. The world is full of sin, the dad from Columbine on the cbs news the other night had it right. God is not where he should be in societies eyes, they have tried taking him out of to many things

candyinsierras said...

I think Jonathan Edwards had a good approach. First get people to see and acknowledge their utter depravity, (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), instead of trying to prop them up with "good self esteem", hence the "but I'm a good person" argument, then hit them with the absolute love, grace, mercy of God, and a result is right thinking of the first commandment, extending into the second commandment, as we realize our own utter dependence on God for anything at all that is moral.

étrangère said...

It comes down not to, 'Why should God not save person X?' but 'Why should God save anyone?' Mercy, mercy, mercy. I feel a song coming on.

I tried to read a tome on this by an inclusivist (that is, all who are saved are saved by Christ but some do not realise it during their lifetime as they respond to what revelation they have with the faith God gives them, and then discover in encountering Christ at death that they worship him... cf scene in C.S.Lewis' Last Battle). I felt that he was making the most convoluted theorising which was all unecessary - none of it was heretical in this author's case, but it made me keep thinking, "but God would be just and loving in condeming everyone" - which the author affirmed, but then seemed to ignore in practice.

SolaMeanie said...

Sigh. Sigh. And double sigh.

Perhaps one day these supposed evangelicals might come to the novel conclusion that God's Word means what it says and says what it means. That is if they can put the wine and brie down long enough.

Kaffinator said...

To all these excellent comments I can only add some nit-picking:

"What outrages us is pederasty, rape, murder, theft, violence -- against people. Vertical crimes."

Dan, didn't you mean to write "Horizontal"?

donsands said...

I think Luther said the greatest of all charges from the Almighty God, is to love Him with all your strength, mind, soul, and heart. And therefore, the greatest sin is to disobey this.

striving,

Here's a thought that came to me while reading your thoughts.

"Most men hope to go to heaven when they die, but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth. ... We must be saints before we die, if we are to be saints afterwards in glory. The favourite idea of many, that dying men need nothing except absolution and forgiveness of sins to fit them for their great change, is a profound delusion. ... It is common to hear people saying on their deathbeds, 'I only want the Lord to forgive me my sins, and take me to rest'. But those who say such things forget that the rest of heaven would be utterly useless if we had no heart to enjoy it!" -John Ryle

Some food for thought I thought.

DJP said...

Kaffinator -- Dan, didn't you mean to write "Horizontal"?

AIGH! Yes, of course, you're right. Thank you, I'll go fix it!

(It's kind of related to math, which I don't do; so when I use those terms, I have a memory trick... which I failed to use that time! Sorry, and thanks!)

Craver VII said...

Thanks djp. This problem people have with perspective is why I never begin a Gospel presentation with, "Jesus loves you," but rather, "God is holy, holy, holy." When we look at the story beginning with God as the reference point, it's easier to see where we need to be; everything is clearer.

I've been around books for a bunch of years now, and I'm not real impressed by what professors and scholars are writing and buying. It seems (based on what books are selling)that they prefer something new over something true.

Taliesin said...

Exactly. Isn't this pretty much one of John's arguments, too, in his first epistle?

Also Paul in Galatians 5:14, where he reduces the law down to the one commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. This is reconciled to Jesus' use of the two commandments by understanding that we can only fulfill the second if we have already fulfilled the first.

Backwoods Presbyterian said...

Wow. This is some mind-blowing heart-punching serious dogma that has to be reconciled in your Platonic mind. Great. Great. Writing. Jesus First then all things follow from that.

Tim Nussbaumer said...

I like what C.S. Lewis says about this sort of thing. He talks about morality "getting in the way" of salvation. The moral person (and I know this is using morality in a different way than you did in your post) is many ways has a more difficult time grasping the gospel than the immoral man.

For example, look at the parable of the 2 Prodigal Sons (a more aptly named title). You see 2 sons that are equally lost: one does everything the father asks of him and the other rebels in huge ways. Which one is accepted by the father in the end? They are both utterly lost but only one recognizes because the other believes he is a good person.

The problem with the "good person" is that they believe they have leverage on God. They have a sense of entitlement and they "want their rights." Unfortunatley, as has been noted numerous times, they will get what is rightfully theirs unless the grace of God is embraced in their life.

Jon from Reidville, SC said...

DJP:
Great post! One of the great lessons my dad taught me was that the flaw with the idea that we can be good enough to merit God's pleasure is that it works at the extremes (Hitler, Mother Theresa) but fails at the middle. I.e. there is some place on the continuum where Bill gets into heaven because he walked the old lady across the road but Fred goes down because he kicked his dog!

I would take issue with you on one thing. I postulate that there is no way that you can really love people unless you really love God. In this way I would say that there is no such thing as a good marriage outside of Christ because I can never really love my wife unless I love God primarily. The trouble is that there are many pagans with better marriages than Christians. But that is another kettle of fish!

striving... said...

donsands, yes, thank you. That brings a little more clarity to it. But does God except those people that ask forgiveness just before death. In "Knowing Scripture" R.c. Sproul, he talks about how if the letter of a commandment is not broke but the spirit of it is, it is still a sin, is it equal punishment. Some think not, less lashes for lusting or desiring something sinful, than actually commiting adultary or murder for example.

Bryan Riley said...

Great post, and even greater continuation of the post in your comment discussions with David. You both, together, clarify many important points to living the Christian faith.

We can't be moral without Christ. In our humanity, at our best, it is still filthy rags. There are none who are righteous, nope, not one. So, your point is "spot on" with God's word. David also makes a good observation about the failing of many who claim to be walking the Christian faith.

donsands said...

striving,

Surely the Lord can move upon any heart he so desires to, so that even at deaths door, God can forgive someone.

These are some deep things to think on.
Have a blessed evening in His gentle hold. John 10:28

Luke said...

Jeff said: 'If someone fails in the second, that should lead us to doubt the genuineness of their embrace of the first.'

It seems to me that the relation between the two commandments is even stronger than this, and perhaps stronger than what Dan talks about in his post. I think the command to love the neighbor is actually explicating the command to love God with all we've got.

The first command says 'Love God!' How? we ask. The second command answers, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' In loving the neighbor we love God. This was a common theme in medieval theological reflection: it's actually God--more precisely, the image of God--that we love in the neighbor.

The two might not be strictly equivalent--loving the neighbor and loving God--but I for one always get stuck on what it looks like to love God in abstracto, apart from loving the neighbor. This is probably just my own shortcoming.

I also wonder whether molesting children and not professing faith in JC are on the same level. Presumably conscience is sufficient to convict everyone of the vileness of child-abuse, regardless of time and circumstance. But what would you say about those who have not hear of Jesus? Or those whose environments and surroundings make it very difficult for them to perceive the Gospel in a positive light?

DJP said...

I also wonder whether molesting children and not professing faith in [Jesus Christ] are on the same level

They really aren't.

That's what the entire post was dedicated to discussing.

Luke said...

Fair enough. But if the point is that the vertical sin of rejecting Christ is worse than the horizontal sin of child molestation (and if this isn't the point after reading it again I should just go to bed), my position still stands (a fortiori, in fact).

Another way to put the question I'm getting at is whether conscience convicts all people--not merely those in Christianized nations--of rejecting JC in the same way it convicts evryone that child abuse is wrong. On an empirical level, this doesn't seem at all clear.

donsands said...

luke,

I like your thought on loving God. I do believe we love God the most by loving the least of these.

However, my first love is Christ, because He first loved me.

The risen Lord said to Peter: "Do you love Me?"
In fact He asked it three times: "Do you love Me?".

"Then tend my lambs, and feed my sheep."

We all need to love Christ first and before, our wives, children, and even ourselves, and then we can love our wives, children, and even our enemies.
All for Jesus.

Steve W. Prost said...

A keeper post.

We should all remember the skeletel structure of this argument to corroborate how 'good' people could deserve God's wrath not only for an effective evangelistic tool, but to help us keep us Christians in a humble frame of mind (like 'chief of sinners' Paul) in regard to how we are still, for all our regeneration and true progress in sanctificaion, essentially sinners for falling so short in fulfilling the greatest commandment whose violation is a worse offense than child molestation offends the child victim.

If we could see our own sin from God's objective point of view, we would melt in shame and like Job "despise (ourselves) and repent in dust and ashes".

Tom Chantry said...

Luke,

You say, "The first command says 'Love God!' How? we ask. The second command answers, 'Love your neighbor as yourself."

I don't believe there's anything in the text to suggest that the second command is a further application of the first. In fact, in Romans 13 we're told how to love our neighbors: by keeping those commands of God which relate to other persons. Wouldn't it naturally follow that the answer to how we love God would be in keeping those commands which relate directly to Him? And the first of those is to have Him as God and no other - exactly what this post was driving at.

As for conscience, it is at best an imperfect guage of the significance of a sin. When Paul argues in Romans 1 that sin has corrupted the conscience, it is with regard to the person and nature of God.

Cameron said...

This is some kind of record...I've completely agreed with Dan Phillips two posts in a row! :)

Rick Potter said...

Hi Tom Chantry,

You said: "Wouldn't it naturally follow that the answer to how we love God would be in keeping those commands which relate directly to Him?"

I struggled with this concept: How do I love God? I agree with you that being obedient to His commands (as a rule of life) is the answer. John 14:12-24 confirms this. Verse 21 says "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest (reveal) Myself to him."

And, just a thought on your final comment where you say "As for conscience, it is at best an imperfect guage of the significance of a sin."

I agree with your thrust but I think one point Dan's post iterated was that by focusing on the significance of sin we miss the significance of the One we sin against. Let me use a quote to show my meaning: "The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted, therefore sin is not small, because it is against a Holy and sovereign God who is worthy of admiration." We dishonor God when we prefer other things (anything) over Him and that seems to me to be the most sinful insult. I do beleive that conscience can be a more perfect gauge when we focus on the significance of He who is truly significant.

What a great comment section from a great post.

Rick

Rick Potter said...

Luke,

You say: "Another way to put the question I'm getting at is whether conscience convicts all people--not merely those in Christianized nations--of rejecting JC in the same way it convicts evryone that child abuse is wrong. On an empirical level, this doesn't seem at all clear."

My short answer to this would be - Yes - because you are responsible for your rebellion. But it's not that simple. From this side of the question there are issues like original sin, regeneration, common grace, general and special revelation, and many doctrinal matters that are parts of the equation. Romans 1:20 (which is an example of that special revelation)speaks to some of this. But we see that it all begins with the grace of God. It moves from the abstract into the clear light of truth as one matures in wisdom and understanding. What causes this movement? I am drawn to the Father. How? Read John 6:37 & John 6:44.

You say "On an empirical level, this doesn't seem at all clear". If I am reading you right I would suggest that a full reading of Phil's post might be of use.
The Key to
the Gospel

donsands said...

rick,

Good thoughts. Here's a couple more.

The key verse in that passage of John 14 for me is v.23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word".

How do we love God? " Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ... But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us". Rom. 5:5,8

Love is the most essential of all fruit of the Spirit.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Excellent post, Dan!

I had a pastor (in a Wesleyan holiness church) who would never lead in a general confession of sin during the worship service. When I asked why, he said, "Well, there may be someone who hasn't sinned during the last week, and they would be lying to confess."

I boggled at how to answer that, and thought of the two greatest commandments. "Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment. Do you honestly believe that any Christian ever does that perfectly for a whole day? Or even a whole hour?"

His answer was telling - "Well, I certainly don't."

"What do you think would be the greatest sin? Wouldn't it be breaking the greatest commandment? Are you telling me that you, the pastor, commit the greatest sin every day? And still you think there may be someone else in the congregation that doesn't? Besides, even John Wesley, holiness hero, had a general confession in the Methodist liturgy."

I think he got it then, but it still never filtered down to the worship service. Sigh.

Tom Chantry said...

Rick,

The more we consider and discuss this the more it illustrates how much we need to be sanctified. We tend to think of the sanctification of our desires and our will, but we also require a sanctification of our thoughts, of our consciences, and even of our priorities.

I do believe this is at the heart of the problem of Christians struggling with the idea of nonbelievers and their potential for inclusion in heaven. A man may be truly saved, and even seeking holiness as he understands it, but until his priorities and conscience begin to be brought into accord with God's Word - until he sees that the insult to an infinitely worthy God through unbelief is a terrible sin - he may be confused by the apparent holiness of his unsaved neighbors.

4given said...

On Thursday nights we have our church family over for Bible fellowship. We are actually going through a study right now by Gardiner Spring called The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character.
Here are some excerpts that reminded me of your post.
The eminent gifts and distinguished usefulness of many professing Christians are no doubt imparted to them for the benefit of the church ofGod, while they themselves are reserved to be cast away. A man may converse on the subject of religion as though his lips were touched with a coal from off the alter, and yet be at heart ignorant of those things in which he is the instructor of others. Oh, it is a lamentable thought, but it is nevertheless true that a man may preach like an apostle, pray like an angel, and have the heart of a fiend.

donsands said...

4given,

Very nice quote, so true. Thanks for sharing that.