Using Your Time Productively

When I was a child in elementary school, people often asked me, “What is your favorite subject?” Invariably my response was one of two things. I either said, “recess” or “gym.” My answer revealed my deepest predilections. I preferred play to work. Indeed, my nascent philosophical musing regarding the cosmic “Why?” questions took place as I made a game of walking to school via tiptoeing along a long path, pretending I was a high-wire walker in a circus.

I asked myself the meaning of life wherein I had to spend five days a week doing what I didn’t want to do just so I could play on the weekends. I was always at the schoolyard a full hour before school began—not out of a zeal for getting a head start on my studies, but so I could “redeem” the daily grind by having an hour’s worth of fun on the playground before the school bell rang. For me, time redemption meant rescuing precious minutes of play from the required hours of work.

I’ve come to realize that when the apostle Paul exhorted his readers to “[redeem] the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16), my practices are not exactly what he had in mind. His was a solemn call to the productive use of one’s time in the labor of Christ’s kingdom.

Coram Deo

Do you use your time productively for the kingdom of God?

Passages for Further Study

Ephesians 5:15–16
Psalm 31:15
1 Corinthians 7:29

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Experiencing Transformation

We are all born with the same malady. Love for God and affection for Christ are not natural to us. Before we can love God, something must happen to us. Our hearts of stone must be changed into hearts of flesh, hearts that pulsate with new life and new affection for God. When one speaks of being “born again,” he is speaking of his change of heart.

When God quickens us from spiritual death, when He regenerates us by His Holy Spirit, He does radical surgery on our hearts. He turns the stone into living tissue. To be converted is to gain a new disposition, a new inclination, a new bent to our hearts. Where formerly we were hostile, cold, or indifferent to God, now we are warmly attracted to Him.

To be a Christian is to be a new person. We have undergone a transformation that is rooted in the heart.

The more we know of God, the greater is our capacity to love Him. The more we love Him, the greater is our capacity to obey Him. Our new affection, however, must be made to grow. We are called to love God with our whole hearts. The new heart of flesh must be nurtured. It must be fed by the Word of God. If we neglect our new hearts, they too can undergo a kind of hardening. They will not revert once more to a total heart of stone, but they can get a bit leathery.

The new heart is the creation of the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit is working within us to yield His fruit. As our hearts are more inclined to God, so the fruit of His Spirit is multiplied in our lives. Unregenerate people can perform external acts of righteousness, but no man with a heart of stone can yield the authentic fruit of the Spirit.

Our sanctification is a matter of the heart. It is a process that flows from intimate fellowship with God. Jesus summarized the matter by showing the link between love and law: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

Coram Deo

The more you know God, the greater is your capacity to love Him. How well do you know Him? Your obedience or lack thereof reflects the answer to this question.

Passages for Further Study

Hebrews 4:12
Proverbs 4:23
John 14:15

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Getting to the Root of the Problem

The Bible has much to say about the heart. In Scripture, the heart refers not so much to an organ that pumps blood throughout the body as it does to the core of the soul, the deepest seat of human affections. It is out of the heart that the issues of life flow. Jesus saw a close connection between the location of our treasures and the drive of our hearts. Find a man’s treasure map and you have found the highway of his heart.

In this fallen condition, the heart is seen as the root of our problem. We are said to have “a heart of stone.” I remember two songs from my teenage years that lamented this fact of human nature. One was called “Hearts of Stone” and the other, a Dixieland jazz piece, was titled “Hard- Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah.”

Hardened hearts, of course, are not limited to vamps, nor are they found only in Georgia. They are found in the breasts of fallen creatures everywhere who have no affection for God. The stony heart is calcified. It is like an inert rock. It has no passion for God, no affection for Christ, no love for His Word. The hardened heart knows nothing of a longing for the things of God.

When Jesus told Nicodemus that it was necessary for him to be reborn in order to enter the kingdom of God, He was telling him that he had heart trouble. Nicodemus had a congenital heart defect—a condition of sclerosis of the heart with which he was born.

Coram Deo

Examine your heart before God. Ask God to soften your heart and make your spirit pliable in His hands.

Passages for Further Study

Jeremiah 17:9
Psalm 33:21
Psalm 101:2

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Merging Activism and Quietism

The two great heresies that have plagued the church on the issue of sanctification for centuries are the heresies of activism and quietism. The twin distortions are guilty of eliminating one or the other pole of the paradox. In activism, God’s working is swallowed up by human self-righteousness. In quietism, the human struggle is swallowed up by an automatic divine process.

Activism is the creed of the self-righteous person. He has no need of divine assistance to achieve perfection. Grace is held in contempt, a remedy needed only by weak people. The activist can lift himself up by his own bootstraps. His confidence is in himself and his moral ability. Perhaps the most arrogant statement a person can make is this: “I don’t need Christ.”

The quietist insults the Holy Spirit by insisting that God is totally responsible for his progress or lack of it. If the quietist still sins, the unspoken assumption is that God has been lacking in His work. The creed of the quietist is, “Let go and let God.” No struggle is necessary; no resistance to temptation is required. Sanctification is God’s job, from beginning to end.

God calls us to the pursuit of holiness. The pursuit is to be undertaken with strength and resolution. We are to resist unto blood, to wrestle with powers, to pummel our bodies, rejoicing in the certainty that the Holy Spirit is within us helping, disposing, convicting, and encouraging.

Coram Deo

Are you an activist, rejecting God’s assistance—or a quietist, insisting that He is totally responsible for your spiritual progress or lack of it?

Passages for Further Study

Ephesians 3:20–21
Hebrews 13:20–21
Galatians 6:4

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Cooperating with God

Martin Luther gave the following analogy: When we are justified, it is as though a doctor has just administered a sure and certain remedy for a fatal disease. Though the patient may still endure a temporary struggle with the residual effects of his illness, the outcome is no longer in doubt. The physician pronounces the patient cured even though a rehabilitation process must still be carried out.

So it is with our justification. In Christ, God pronounces us just by the imputation of the merits of His Son. Along with that declaration, God administers something to us; He gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit begins immediately to work within us to bring us to holy living.

The New Testament contains a ringing paradox with respect to sanctification. The Bible says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work within you both to will and to do” (Phil. 2:12b–13a). Notice that there are two agents working here. We are called to work and God promises to work as well. We call this activity synergism. It is a cooperative effort between God and man.

Coram Deo

Are you cooperating with God in the process of sanctification or are you depending on Him to do it all?

Passages for Further Study

2 Corinthians 6:2
Romans 13:11
Philippians 2:12

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Conforming to the Image of Christ

The obvious fact that we all sin can create an atmosphere of false security among us, leading us to accept with ease the idea that sin is so commonplace that we ought not to be too bothered by it lest we surrender our mental health to a self-deprecating neurosis. Yet in our desire to console ourselves and maintain a good self-image, we may push to the back burner the mandate of God, “Be you holy, even as I am holy.”

Evangelical Christians are most vulnerable to succumbing to this distortion. We stress the fact that our justification is by faith alone and insist that our righteousness is found in Christ alone. Though these assertions are true, it is equally true that the faith by which we are justified is a faith that brings forth fruit in our lives. The slogan of the Reformation was that we are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

The instant true faith is present in the heart of the believer, the process of sanctification begins. Change begins at once. The Christian begins to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are becoming holy. If we are not becoming holy, then Christ is not in us and our profession of faith is empty.

Coram Deo

Reflect on the final statement of this reading: “We are becoming holy. If we are not becoming holy, then Christ is not in us and our profession of faith is empty.”

Passages for Further Study

1 Peter 1:15–16
1 Timothy 2:8

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.

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Pushing Through Plateaus

Many of us are satisfied with echoing Christian jargon and subsisting on a spiritual diet of milk instead of growing spiritually. Strong growth requires a healthy diet. It requires what the apostle Paul called “meat.” We need the discipline of study, the discipline of prayer, the discipline of service.

Most of us require being disciplined under the authority or tutelage of another. Self-discipline is merely the extension of discipline learned under another. It does not come by magic. If you desire to break out of the plateau on which you are paralyzed, then it is imperative that you get under the discipline of someone qualified to take you further and deeper into the Christian life. Your pastor is the most obvious person to help.

Refuse to be satisfied with milk. It is possible to break out of stagnation and move ahead into a growing, enriching development. We are called to be disciples, not for one year but for our lives. It is ultimately impossible for the Christian to quit his growth lessons. Our master teacher is God the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit dwells in us, He will not allow us to remain stagnant in our growth.

We must remember, however, that sanctification is a cooperative process. The Spirit is at work within us, yet we are called to work diligently under His divine supervision. The degree of our growth is dependent in large measure on our practice in godly discipline. We still may experience the frustration of getting stuck at various plateaus of spiritual growth. In order to progress beyond them, we need meat and practice, practice, practice.

Coram Deo

What steps can you take to institute a personal program of spiritual growth?

Passages for Further Study

1 Thessalonians 5:23
John 17:17
Hebrews 10:10

From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul.
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