Tag Archives: pragmatism

Behold Your God — Week Eleven, Day Five

11 Aug

We’ve talked a lot in the last few days about the unconventional ways of God’s kingdom. God often works in ways that are not according to our expectations. He often calls us to do unusual things. The easy way is often not the right way. But today’s study has a very important paragraph which I want to highlight here:

“It would be dangerous to think that just because something seems impractical or reckless it is the spiritual thing to do. Doing something reckless in Jesus’ name is not equivalent to obeying Him. Obedience, not reckless self-directed spirituality, honors God.”

Last night I was reading a little booklet called An Hour with George Mueller. Many people know George Mueller as the godly man of the 1800’s who housed thousands of orphans in England, relying on donations through prayer and faith. One of the things that struck me about Mueller’s approach was how rooted it was in the promises of God. In other words, Mueller would pray in faith based on what God had said in His Word. So the spectacular answers Mueller received were not because he was a special person but because he leaned on a God who was able to do above and beyond what we ask or imagine. Mueller would have rejected the approach of doing something radical or impractical just to avoid pragmatism. Instead, he would bank all on God. And that is what the Behold Your God study has been urging us to do from the beginning. To live our lives based on who God is, this is the path of maturity, fruitfulness and blessing, even through hardship and pain.

Behold Your God — Week Eleven, Day Four

10 Aug

Day four is convicting if you have ears to hear. The author gives us all sorts of scenarios where pragmatism plays out and they are all close enough to reality to cause us to check our hearts.

But I was drawn to the last paragraph of the study, which talked about Hebrews chapter 11. Several years ago I heard Matt Chandler preaching about this chapter, known widely as the Faith Chapter, and he said of the people of God, “some people shut the mouths of lions and some people get eaten by them!” This is in fact what Hebrews 11 implies . . .

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

Notice here the people of faith have very different outcomes in their lives, even as they all follow the Lord in faith. We cannot tell what the results of our lives will be in this world if we follow God. This is the reason pragmatism is so wrong. It demands a certain outcome to be the only acceptable one and then designs outcomes to get there.

Instead of putting a certain goal out there, let’s just bank on God to do what He wants with us, knowing that His plans for us in the end are better than our plans for ourselves.

Behold Your God — Week Eleven, Day Three

9 Aug

In contrast to yesterday’s study, today’s is very short, with several passages of Scripture to read and to interact with. In today’s study, the dangers of pragmatism are clearly seen, as several biblical figures go awry doing what looks reasonable and sensible and what is approved by the majority, only to find in the end that they did not do what God told them to do. This is our struggle. We often think God’s commands to us unreasonable, so we choose our own way, but this is deadly to the spiritual life. It is a dangerous expression of pride. It is also very easy to do. Our flesh will convince us that we are acting in wisdom. Here are some examples of this pragmatic spirit . . .

“Why pray when I can work and get something done?”

“Who cares about a little cheating on my taxes as long as no one finds out?”

“My exaggerations and lies made the story I was telling more interesting.”

“No one can be totally pure, so my little glances at things I shouldn’t watch don’t offend God. He knows I will fail.”

“What does it matter how we do church as long as people are excited and giving is good?”

“The worship song has very little true biblical content but it moves my emotions, so it must be ok.”

“I have to watch the latest raunchy TV show to be relevant to my unbelieving friends.”

“The preacher hardly uses the Bible but I sure feel good when I leave church on Sunday.”

“We’ve got to live together before we get married so we can save extra money for our wedding.”

“I don’t need to read my Bible because I can just listen to Christian radio.”

“I don’t need to go to church because I can watch a great preacher online every week.”

“I can’t choose church over sports on Sundays for my kids because then they’ll miss out on scholarships.”

“I don’t need to gather with people to worship God. I have my church at the lake.”

Each of these quotes are examples of pragmatism trumping biblical truth. But many people in our culture would accept at least some of these things as reasonable or permissible courses of action. We must look to God not to what is comfortable or easy or socially acceptable. What would God have you to do? That is the question.




Behold Your God — Week Eleven Introduction

6 Aug

This week of Behold Your God may in many ways be the hardest for us to fully understand and embrace. The focus of this week’s study is pragmatism, a philosophy so deeply woven into the American psyche that it will take a serious work of the Spirit of God to free us from its grip. Pragmatism is based on the idea that whatever works is what we should do. In the church context, this idea of “what works” usually revolves around things like attendance, baptisms, budgets, a sense of excitement, and excellence in programming. None of these things are wrong in themselves, but when they become the focus, you can be sure that pragmatism will work into the mix somewhere.

The reason I say pragmatism is so difficult is that as I write this early on a Sunday morning I realize that if our attendance is off today, I will have to fight discouragement. My own heart wants to strategize rather than rest, plan rather than pray. There is, of course, a place for strategy and planning. We see this in the Bible often. But we put far too great a focus on these things.

Pragmatism is such a danger to us because it can cause us to take our eyes off of God and put them on measures of success that may or may not be very important at all. And this is really the ultimately deadly aspect of pragmatism: it insists on success. One of the reasons American Christians are so depressed and defeated and deflated is that they have been taught more about the American dream of prosperity and success than they have been taught the ways of God. They believe that their Christian lives ought to be one uninterrupted victory after another and that they should always be onward and upward. And the evidence of Scripture gives just the opposite picture. The kingdom of God is often not outwardly impressive. The kingdom is often filled with failure and stumbles and weakness. This is the truth we need to embrace and when we do, we will see the death of pragmatism in our lives. When we trust God enough to trust His ways and when we hope in God enough to make Him the goal, then we are on our way to living a life that is true to His calling for us.

Behold Your God — Week Ten Introduction

30 Jul

We are now heading on to the homestretch of our Behold Your God study this summer.

This week, we explore two particular dangers on the road to beholding God: idolatry and pragmatism. We will get into these two dangers as the week.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I like to think of God as . . .” or “my God would never . . .?” If you’ve heard these kinds of phrases or used them yourself, you are in a danger zone. When it comes to who God really is, it is absolutely irrelevant what I think. Now for my own life, it is essential what I think of God. But my thoughts of God do not change who He is at all. He is who He is whether I believe in Him or not, whether I twist His reality to fit my conceptions of who He ought to be or not.

So the question really isn’t “what do I think about God?” the real question is, “what, if anything, does God say about Himself?” If God tells us who He is, then we really have a basis on which to believe in Him. If He doesn’t tell us who He is, we are left with the best thoughts of the highest minds, but they are all human just the same. So our understanding of God comes down to whether He has authentically revealed Himself and whether we can learn from that revelation.

God has revealed Himself to all people through the book of nature. The universe displays an order and design, a symmetry and a power that points to a great God. But understanding this is insufficient to save us. We cannot be saved just by believing God exists. But God has revealed Himself also through the Word of Scripture. God has revealed who He is by giving us His inspired Word. So we must strive to understand what He has revealed and walk in those truths. In Scripture, we can find the way to salvation and life with God. That way is Jesus, the living Word, who is the God-Man, who came to live and die and rise for the glory of God and the good of His people. God has spoken to us through His Son, but the truth about His Son is given to us in the Bible. Therefore, if we are to know Jesus well, we must know the Bible. Otherwise, we are in danger of creating a Jesus of our own conception rather than the One God has revealed. In so doing, we will be sitting ducks for the kind of idolatry and pragmatism explained in this week’s study.

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