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How To Live a Miserable Life Part 1

1. Try to Repay Jesus for the Cross

2. Neglect the Bible

3. Neglect Prayer

There is truly nothing that brings more joy to the human heart than to know and live in the reality of being forgiven in Christ and enjoy the delicious fruit of grace. Sadly many struggle with living in this joy as a characteristic of their lives. Instead many settle for sub-glorious moments, hours, days and eventually lives as followers of joy incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What follows is my humble attempt to serve you. In the next three days I want to outline 10 ways that you can live a miserable Christian life. Perhaps you can identify with some of these.

I have written these to myself first and foremost and desire to share with you. My prayer would be that you would inspect your life, heart and motives for unsuspecting parasites that serve to suck out your joy in Christ that you might pluck them out and hopefully be edified together with me.

1. Try to Repay Jesus for the Cross

The sure-fire way to short circuit joy in Christ is to undervalue him and overvalue yourself. It is really a subtle shift into idolatry. Instead of living your life in complete dependence upon and appreciation to Jesus for everything you have, you find yourself depending upon yourself to repay the glorious gift of salvation and life. What could be more frustrating than this?

This takes the form of practicing disciplines of grace (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, etc…) for the purpose of repaying Jesus. In this posture you see these post-salvation works as somehow meritorious to diminish the eternal debt that was born by the Savior. I don’t know about you but for me the reality of the debt that was born by Jesus compels even more hearty praise and appreciation.

Do you see the offensive shavings of idolatry here? You end up saying that Jesus gave you a good spiritual boost to your feet and now you’ll take it from here. It sounds like an evangelical hybrid with Rome. Instead we need to realize that it is grace that saves sinners, it is grace that sanctifies sinners, it is grace that keeps sinners, and it is grace that will ultimately present sinners as blameless before the throne of God. Our constant dependence upon the grace that is ours in Jesus reminds us of his richness and our neediness; this reality brings joy and intensifies our appreciation of the cross of Jesus. For the sacrifice of the Son of God was never intended to be offensively repaid but rather it is to be valued for its supremacy and efficacy.

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Are you trying to repay Jesus for Calvary? If so you are no doubt living a miserable Christian life. Preach the gospel to yourself afresh that you might agree with God about the eternal value of Jesus and then join him in delighting in Jesus (Matt. 3.17; 12.18)

2. Neglect the Bible

The Bible is the means of grace by which God communicates himself to his children, even shaping our minds into conformity to him (Rom. 12.1-2; Eph. 4.20-23; Ps. 119.28, 58, 65,116). So if the Christian neglects the Bible they neglect the mind and affections of God and so therefore rely upon themselves for a mere caricature (idol) of who God is.

The whole point of revelation is to confront and conform us to God, even to agree with him, thinking his thoughts after him. Our avoidance of revelation serves to avoid confrontation and leave us stagnant. The believer is blessed in obedience to the divine commands (Jn. 13.27; Lk. 11.28; Jam. 1.25). The joy in heart comes from submission to the will of God.

If you and I neglect the Bible we neglect the means by which God sanctifies his children (Jn.17.17) and so therefore a dusty Bible will make a miserable Christian.dustybible.jpg

Do you come to the Bible to find information or to find transformation? It is true that information brings transformation, but if your motive for Bible study is to glean some new facts to impress your small group then the Word of God, which is intended to humble you and exalt God has just been offered on the altar of self to exalt you at the expense of the glory of God.

What is your Bible reading schedule like? What is your motive for reading your Bible? What type of fruit have you experienced in your devotions? How is God teaching you to think like him through the revealed Word of God? These are good questions to ask yourself as you seek to evaluate your own practices.

It is possible to open the Bible for reading but neglect the Bible for surgery. What I mean is you can read the Bible faithfully but apply the Bible hypocritically.

Consider James 1:22-25 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Do you see this? You can deceive yourself with faithful reading while being miserable. Instead we are to come to the “mirror” to examine ourselves that we might agree with God, apply his word and even enjoy the “blessings” of obedience.

Are you fasting from the Bible? If so you are no doubt living a miserable Christian life. Resolve today (now!) to change and esteem and enjoy the word of God.

3. Neglect Prayer

In prayer we find ourselves verbally submitting to divine sovereignty, professing agreement in divine goodness, massaging our hearts to understand divine holiness, while also clinging to divine grace. If you neglect prayer you will not be refreshing your own heart with the richness of the divine character. Additionally, you will fail to appreciate the blood-bought privilege of prayer. When you pray you are to remind yourself that it is only in the footsteps of the submissive Son that you may even approach the throne of God much less ask for anything.

In prayerless seasons you find the greatest times of self-dependence and self-worship. For why pray when you can handle it? Why pray when you do not need help? Why pray when your heart is not saturated with the glories of the Cross? There is no need to pray when you are declaring self-sovereignty and self-supremacy.

It is here in self-dependence that misery sets in with vengeance. When you catch a glimpse of yourself refusing to submit to God, even to acknowledge his supremacy and willingness to help, only to carry the burdens of life on your own shoulders misery sets in. It is in this self-dependence that joy is absent. Do you live like this? How long can you go without prayer? Do you not see the declaration of sovereignty in this fasting of communion with God? Resolve now to pray. In fact pray now! The Puritans used to say, “Pray until you pray!” meaning, get after prayer and keep getting after it until you find yourself praying!!

We enter the Christian life through humility and we live the Christian life through humility. Prayer is to be a tangible and regular reminder to the blood bought follower of Jesus that he is needy and so therefore not self-sufficient. I need to pray to crush my idols.

Are you neglecting prayer? Then you are no doubt walking in or headed to a miserable Christian life.

How To Live a Miserable Life Part 2

4. Be Selfish

5. Go to a church that does not preach expositionally

Yesterday I began a look at how to live a miserable Christian life. Specifically to look at 10 sure fire areas or activities that are counter Christian and so therefore devoid of joy.

In the first post we highlighted the dangers of 1) trying to repay Jesus for the Cross, 2) neglecting the Bible, 3) neglecting Prayer.

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Let’s pick it up here in view of highlighting pitfalls for Christians that we might not find ourselves miserably caught in the mire.

4. Be Selfish

This is really the seed for everything. I have heard a good friend describe sin as the deification of man and the ‘mannification’ of God. It is to flip the roles. For the Christian to be selfish or self consumed is really counter intuitive. It just doesn’t make sense.

It reminds me of the time I saw Vlade Divac (former Lakers’ center) smoking cigerattes before a game. I’m thinking, this is totally contradictory and inhibitive to what the guy is about to go do…he is about to go and run up and down the court for two hours and he is choking down these cancer sticks like they are made out of protein or something. 

In a similar vein, selfishness for the Christian is absurd. The whole point of Christianity is humility. We come to God in humility, confessing our prideful rebellion against him, begging humbly for grace (not earned!!) that we might be given mercy to trust him for forgiveness. Then the whole outflow of the Christian life is to stream from this humble spicket of a biblical self awareness. 

But what happens? We find ourselves getting frustrated, angry, impatient, intolerant, bitter, or just plain contrary to others in or out of the body of Christ. And why??…because they said or did something that ‘offended’ you or me.

Let’s remember that bitterness, anger, impatience and selfish frustration are all sinful and all stem from pride. It comes from a heart that is not getting what it feels it deserves so it reacts. Often times this reaction comes in the form of manipulation, this may be active manipulation (slander, yelling, violence, etc..) or passive (ignoring folks, harboring bitterness, anger…). This is disruptive for the unity of the body of Christ and must be expelled. 

To harp and hang on people’s quirks will drain you, it will make you miserable and it will distract you from the big picture of Christianity, which is to promote and defend the gospel, in your own life and in the world! (of course I am not speaking here of sin issues, for these must be dealt with in accordance with Matt.18, but rather speaking of matters of preference or just peripheral issues that tend to bug is so much when we are inward focused). 

In the book of Philippians Christians are commanded to be united around the gospel. This radical union is to characterize everything we do. We are even to be actively working to consider one another as more important than ourselves, looking out for the interests of others…in an attitude of humility (1.27-2.4).

We do not have the time or the right to look out for ourselves. We shelved ourselves and our interests when we came to Christ. Our interests now are Christ’s! For we have been “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6.19). It is Christ who is “our life” (Col. 3.4).

5. Go to a church that does not preach expositionally

Expositional preaching is simply to explain the authorial intent of a given passage and make appropriate application. It is to give the meaning of the text, for if the Holy Spirit’s intention is not communicated then the text is not communicated.

So why is this important? What if you go to a church that preaches topical sermons week in and week out? Or if you go to a church that uses a verse as a springboard to talk about an issue? Well it is helpful to remember that it is God who has designed both us and our spiritual growth plan. God has seen fit to arrange things where the child of God is to be equipped by the preaching of the word of God. Consider 2 Timothy 3.16-17, paying particular attention to the purpose statement (so that)… 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

So what is Timothy to do? 

2 Timothy 4:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Preach the word. Not preach about the word, preach around the word, or tell stories about the word…but preach the word!! The man of God is supposed to work hard to rightly divide the truth (2.15) that he might present God’s meaning that God’s people might be equipped and conformed into the image of Christ. 

What do you do if the Bible is not preached? I don’t know how many sermons I’ll get to hear before I die. I’m only 30 years old, I was a flamin’ pagan for 21 of those years and for 5 other years I went to lousy churches that feminized Christian men and painted caricatures of Jesus week in and week out. So point being, I have a lot to learn and one of the great avenues for growth (according to God) is the preaching ministry of my church. God has given gifted men to teach (Eph. 4.11) but these men are not just given to be window dressing, they are to work, they are to study, to practice and to teach the word that the body of Christ might be built up into the image of Jesus. This is the whole point of Ephesians 4 (4.11-16)

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So if you want to go to a church where the pastor has wax on his fingers from tickling ears each week, delivering sermonettes for Christianettes, massaging your conscience by telling you what you want to hear then you will be miserable. You will be miserable because if you are a Christian you want to be like Christ. Therefore just like muscles that need to be torn down in order to grow you likewise have to have your heart ripped to shreads by the razor of divine truth as delivered the preacher God has given (this is why an elder qualification is that he be “able to teach” 1 Tim. 3.2). Biblical preaching builds strong Christians. These products of faithful exposition will be able to deal with the trials that God brings to refine your faith and make you complete (Rom. 5.1-5; Jam. 1.2-4)

Your church choice should not revolve around the children’s ministry but rather the pulpit ministry of the church. The pulpit is the trough that feeds the whole place, including your children’s ministry. If you are not being fed meat you will be ill equipped to fulfill your responsibilities to train your own children. It is as rediculus as having cool toys for your kids at home while dumpster diving for dinner on the way home from work…it doesn’t make sense. The priority for the Christian is to be taught the word of God that they may be built up in the truth of God according to the likeness of the Son of God all to the glory of God.

How To Live a Miserable Life Part 3

6. Resist Biblical Correction

7. Neglect Service in the body of Christ

8. Neglect Evangelism

Here is part 3 of the the look at how to live a miserable Christian life. The goal here is obviously not to be miserable but to be filled with heavenly joy by being good stewards of all that Christ has given us. The first 2 post may be found here (part 1) and here (part 2).

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6. Resist Biblical Correction

It is interesting the way God has done things. He has saved sinners and then commanded them to work out their salvation (Phil. 2.12). We are to be progressively growing into the likeness of our Master. This obviously implies a current state of practical imperfection. 

God has been pleased to give his saints the word of God to be learned and applied, specifically within the context of the church of God. We are to practicing the “one-anothers” that are commanded (love, serve, encourage, admonish, etc..). This practice serves to chip away fleshy barnacles and mold Christ likeness in accordance with his word. 

However, if the Christian is opposed to correction, bowing up in pride to it, they will become angry and bitter. This is why the Proverbs repeatedly show us the deadly downfall of refusing correction: 

Proverbs 10:17 He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray.

Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.

Proverbs 29:1 A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. 

So in the context of a fulfilled Christian life believers are constantly admonishing and encouraging/exhorting (same Greek word) one another. In fact this action is the result of having a heavenly perspective (Col. 3.1-4) and being filled with the Word of God (Col. 3.16). 

If we give and receive correction within the framework of the gospel (humility and dependence) then we will be on our way to growing into Christ likeness. It is this that brings joy, resistence to correction brings misery.

7. Neglect Service in the body of Christ 

Another great way to be miserable as a Christian is to not serve. This kind of goes with number 4 (being selfish). Remember that as a believer you have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6.19), graced with supernatural gifts (Rom. 12.6ff.), and commanded to employ them for the edification of the body and the glory of Jesus (1 Pet. 4.10). What’s more God has prepared these good works for us to walk in before the foundation of the world (Eph. 2.10)

So if we selfishly (paganly, idolatrously, sinfully…etc..) suffocate our gifts by burying them in the ground we have manifested our lack of esteem for the gift, the giver, and the intended recipients. This is ugly and makes misery. 

Serving in the body has a supernatural effect. There is something about the sermon of humility that is preached to your heart when you serve in the Spirit according to the Son’s death to the Father’s pleasure. When you serve biblically you grow in love and appreciation for the Savior. When you neglect service you grow in self-focus, self-dependence, and ultimately self-worship. This will truly make you miserable.

8. Neglect Evangelism

As Christians we talk so much about faithful evangelism whether this be our struggles with boldness and clarity or just basic obedience. But the bottom line is that Jesus commands us to do evangelism (Matt. 28.19-21). He also says that he is going to be there with us in this context. As D.A. Carson has said, “The blessing and incentive of evangelism is the presence of Jesus.” 

So when we neglect evangelism we neglect this joy. We neglect the spiritual exercise of reminding ourselves of what sin is, who God is, who Jesus is and the reality of hell. It is imperative to preach the gospel to yourself everyday to remember what a sinner you are and what a Savior Jesus is. Evangelism is just another opportunity for you to hear this, to remind your own heart of this great salvation. 

But not only this…people actually get saved when Christians evangelize!! God has ordained that eternal life come through the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 1.15; 10.17). God is only saving people through the gospel. Therefore if you tell people it they may get saved!! This is considerable!! 

Think of the joy that is in heaven over one sinner who repents (Lk. 15.10). There is heaven wrought joy in the heart of the evangelist has he proclaims the message of life to dead sinners, knowing that if God wills they will be called forth from the cave of death like a spiritual Lazarus. 

However, if you and I neglect this discipline we pursue the less than desirable path. There is such joy in speaking the truth about God; this brings God pleasure and the Christian joy. Fasting from the gospel will bring spiritual malnutrition to your soul.

Preach the gospel to yourself, preach it to others, just say it!! It is powerful (Rom. 1.15)!!

Do not neglect this practice, for where evangelism is lacking so to is joy.

How To Live a Miserable Life Part 4

9. Deny the Sovereignty of God

10. Think that every Christian must look and act like you

So let’s look at the final two. I know that there are myriads of others, however, these have been some common ones that I have encountered. 

9. Deny the Sovereignty of God

Not many Christians will deny that God is sovereign…cofessionally anyway. There are of course those who believe that God does not know the future or cannot control the future (open theists). I am not talking about this group here. Instead I am referring to those who affirm that God is in control (Ps.115.3) but then deny this theological truth with their life. 

A common way that we do this is by worrying. Rarely do we find ourselves worrying about what has happened in the past (unless it is the present or future consequence of the action). Instead we worry about what will happen in the present and in the future. 

Jesus diagnosis this problem by saying that it is due to a lack of faith and is a characteristic of unbelievers (Matt. 6.30-32). This really is the issue. When we are worrying about events or circumstances we are reacting with a faithless self-absorption that is upset because we have realized that we are not sovereign. And to make matters worse, we just marinate in this posture of anxiety, refusing to trust and depend upon the God who is sovereign and good. 

Jesus tells us to seek the agenda of God, even delighting in it (Matt. 6.33) and then trust in the power and goodness of God while being content with his care for us. This is a good word for my heart. Instead of having my heart race and my stomach turn in knots for a lack of personal sovereignty my soul should be comforted by the reality that God is indeed sovereign. 

Look, anybody can affirm God’s sovereignty on Sunday morning or in a conversation with another believer, but it is the trusting child of God that really believes this truth that will affirm it as a characteristic of their life…even when things are not in accordance with our “ideal”….because we know that it is in accordance with God’s sovereign will.

10. Think that every Christian must look and act like you

One of the most underappreciated aspects of Christianity, I feel, is the diversity of backgrounds and life stories that populate the collective church of Jesus. Upon salvation Christians sever their enlistment in the army of Satan (Eph. 2.1-3) and are adopted into the family of God. 

ned-flanders.jpgHowever, Jesus does not give everyone a uniform and a lunchbox and tell us all to walk, talk, and look like a certain guy or girl. Instead we are told to hate sin and love Jesus. We are all to be looking more and more like Jesus everyday as we look less and less like Adam. 

But something funny happened on the way to glory…some folks get pretty upset when church people do not look, talk, and play like them. Sometimes people get heated and eventually judgmental when people don’t wear certain clothes to church (suit & tie, or other dress up stuff…) or they don’t talk a certain way, or they have tattoos, or they listen to certain types of music, or they don’t home school (or do home school)…the list is endless. 

The problem comes when we want people to primarily conform to our image rather than to Jesus’. So according to miserable Erik, everyone should be wearing Erik’s uniform (which is all black btw…) and talking the same way and basically doing everything I do….or else!! This is crazy. You and I are not the Savior, Jesus is. Sure we are to be examples of godliness and others are to follow us as we follow Christ, but we are not to expect and demand everyone to be us.baptist.jpg 

Instead enjoy liberties in Christ, enjoy the diversity in the body, and enjoy the world that God has made. Do all of this while hating sin and loving Jesus. If Christ and his glory are preeminent we’ll be much better off. Christianity is about Jesus not us. Let’s work hard to look and act like him and encourage others to do the same.

I do pray that this has been helpful. Jesus prayed that we would have his joy (Jn. 17.13). Let’s work hard at valuing him sufficiently that we my enjoy him supremely and exalt him preeminently!!
Erik Raymond
 

 

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