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Entries in J.I. Packer (17)

Tuesday
Jun132017

Boys will be boys and girls will be girls

Sometimes, my husband acts like a big kid. When my boys are around, or perhaps when he's biking with his buddies, he will occasionally forget to assess the risk before doing something. These are not frequent occasions. Some day, his tendency to let his little child rear its head will mean he's a good grandpa. That said, there are times when despite being adults, we don't behave in a mature way.

The Struggle to Grow Up

The purpose of this post is not to recount the struggle for men to grow up. Delayed adolescence is something we're all aware of. And it's not just confined to men. In all honesty, I get frustrated when women imply that men never grow up but we do. We may roll our eyes at men for behaving like boys, but having two sons and a husband, I can assure you, men roll their eyes at the way women demonstrate their lack of maturity. 

Young girls are often petty, cliqueish, competitive, and catty. They hold grudges with one another. They get offended easily. They gossip. They envy. Of course, there are exceptions, but these are things I'm sure many of us remember as part of life as a teenage girl. Do these vices magically disappear from us when we hit 18? Are these habits completely absent in women over 30? Check out a Twitter or Facebook thread where complementarianism and egalitarianism are being debated and you will have your answer.

I say all that to say this: emotional maturity is something that will either hinder or help us in our pursuit of personal holiness. If we feel like we're not making any progress in our sanctification, instead of wondering if God is really working in our lives, perhaps our first line of inquity ought to be our own emotional maturity. 

Spiritual Maturity Needs Emotional Maturity

In J.I. Packer's book, Rediscovering Holiness, there is an an excellent chapter which deals with practical ways to pursue holiness. He ends the chapter with a section called "Avoiding the Peter Pan Syndrome." We struggle to mature in our present culture. Packer says:

It has been truly said that the greatest social problem of the modern world is extreme emotional immaturity masquerading as an adult lifestyle . . . Affluence allows childish self-indulgence to become a lifestyle from one's teens onward, and the results in later life are painful.

Of course, we as Christians are shaped by our culture. We may think we're not, but if we really look closely at ourselves, we can't really deny it. If we want to be spiritually mature, we have to be emotionally mature. Spiritual maturity requires willgness to put aside our own wishes. It means doing things we don't want to do. It means self-denial. It means loving others and living the fruit of the Spirit. And it means facing the ways in which we are still immature. Packer says:

Maxims and disciplines of devotion cannot help us if we are not prepared to be changed at this point. Am I willing to learn whether I need to grow up emotionally? Are you?

Christians Need to be Mature

One way we as Christians can live counter culturally is to be mature men and women. One does not want to be legalistic in this, but there are many obvious ways in which people display maturity: taking responsibility for one's actions; being teachable; owning our sin; making amends when we've wronged others; controlling our tongue; putting aside childish things. These are only a few things which are basic evidences of maturity that if absent, may make it difficult to grow spiritually.

There is nothing wrong with remaining young at heart, but at the same time, there is nothing wrong with acting our age and not going into older age kicking and screaming. Growing up is part of our design as humans. I'm not 25 years old any more, and that ought to be reflected in my conduct emotionally. I am no longer a baby Christian, and that ought to be apparent as well.

Saturday
Jun102017

Living without the back patting

In Rediscovering Holiness, in the chapter "Growing in Christlikeness: Healthy Christian Experience," J.I. Packer discusses some of the signs that show we are growing in Christ. One of the signs of growth is that we will take a "growing delight in praising God, with an increasing distaste for being praised oneself." (emphasis mine)

We may not be aware that we seek the praise of men simply because we don't actively seek the spotlight. However, there are many ways we reveal, at the very least, a tendency to generate attention for ourselves rather than God. Perhaps I teach a Sunday school lesson and no one says "good job!" Will that make me disgruntled? Perhaps I write a blog post and no one comments, or no one notices. That happens a lot these days, and that has been very good for me.

What is my motive for telling people what I'm doing? Is it for the attention? That is a hard one for me, because I do like to share my joy at things. And yet I don't want to come across as looking for validation. That is difficult these days because places like Facebook and Twitter are full of voices soliciting attention.

Many years ago, my husband and I were watching his cousin's little girl play out in the yard at my in-laws' house. She was a cute little thing and she was running about with a dog. When she came into the house she said to us in her 3 year old innocence, "How did you like me out there?" She was very aware that she was cute and she was very aware that we were watching. How often do we have that thought, even if it is lurking in the background?

Sincere praise for God is the goal, and in order to give sincere praise to God, we have to forsake it for ourselves. Packer's way of describing it is that we have to have a "distaste" for it. Don't we all like to have someone pat us on the back? Tell us how good we are at something?

I have been very convicted about the things I say on Twitter. When I see others come across as self-promoting or self-aggrandizing, I have to wonder how I come across. I'm beginning to understand more fully my husband's motto for living: words are over rated. While I can't see myself ever fully embracing that maxim, perhaps I'll take more seriously the principle of less is more.

Tuesday
Jun062017

We hate all sin but our own

In his book Rediscovering Holiness, J.I. Packer emphasizes the need for repentance. If we are going to be holy, repentance is essential. Practicing repentance is what he calls "going downward to grow up." Repenting is essential for our initial conversion to Christ, and it's essential to our ongoing pursuit of holiness.

Packer points out that in order to pursue regular repentance (and he insists that repentance must be daily because sin is daily) we must pursue humility:

Humility rests on self-knowledge; pride reflects self-ignorance. Humility expresses itself in self-distrust and conscious dependence on God; pride is self-confident and, though it may go through the motions of humility with some skill (for pride is a great actor), it is self-important, opinionated, tyrannical, pushy, and self-willed. 

I don't know about anyone else, but I see myself all too clearly in those last five adjectives. I am far too opinionated at times, far too sure of myself, too self-willed. The principle that we must be aware of ourselves is crucial, I believe. Too frequently, rather than focusing on our own sin, our attention is drawn to the sin around us. Yes, we hate sin, but how much do we hate the sins that lurk subtly; like the sin of pride? It's so easy to point a finger, totally oblivious that the act itself may reveal our own pride.

I found Packer's comment convicting:

We should not take it for granted that, because we are holding on to the faith that others have given up, God has to be pleased with us, and therefore we should be pleased with ourselves.

Are we pleased with ourselves? Do we take pleasure in pointing out others' sins? Do we spend more time proclaiming the faults of others rather than our own? If we use social media or blog, is our writing filled more with the descriptions of others' sins? Too much focus on the sins of others leaves little time for reflecting on our own. Are we patting ourselves on the back, oblivious to the fact? Do we even take time on a daily basis to examine our own hearts or do we rely on our respectable exteriors?

Only by doing what Packer suggests, "growing downward," will we be honest with ourselves about our own sin. It's painful, to be sure, but without that honesty, we will not grow in holiness.

Friday
Jun022017

Same sin, different packaging

I highly recommend hanging out with older, seasoned authors. J.I. Packer's book Rediscovering Holiness if proving to be very enjoyable. I loved this:

Puritan theology affirmed that in Christians, sin has been dethroned but not yet destroyed. Now sin takes on, as it were, a life of its own, seeking to reestablishthe dominion it has lost. Its power appears both in bad haibts, which are often deep-rooted and linked with temperamental weaknesses, and in sudden forays and frontal assaults at points where one thought oneself invulnerable. Of itself sin never loses strength. The most that happens is that with advancing age, ups and downs of health, and shifting personal circumstances, indwelling sin finds different modes of expression. 

At the time packer wrote this book, he was in his 80's, so he knew a lot about sin's impact on our lives. I am only into my 50's, and I can see the truth of Packer's observation about indwelling sin. The daily circumstances of my life are very different today even from ten years ago, but there are certain sins I still struggle with; they simply appear in different packaging. 

We can have victory over sin every day, but as Packer points out, it has not been destroyed. Part of the pursuit of holiness (not the entirety, mind you) is putting off sin. And that means self-examination and honesty with ourselves. 

Tuesday
Apr282015

Say it over and over 

Words to encourage, from J.I. Packer, on our assurance:

Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Savior is my brother; every Christian is my brother, too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is utterly and completely true.