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There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 37
I can remember not too many years ago when we used an old hand operated flour sifter. It was a simple little contraption that consisted of a little tin can with a screen in the bottom and a crank that turned a wire against that screen. Flour wasn’t as fine in those days as it is now and it always needed sifting to get rid of the lumps.
The fine particles that made it through were used in the baking process but there was always some rock-hard pieces left over that were useless and were cast away.
Our lives are placed through a sifter. With each new day, the crank is turned and a few more of our rough edges disappear as the finer parts of our new man and the coarse parts of our sinful, fleshly nature are revealed so that these character flaws can be discarded.
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”
What is carnality? According to the Greek dictionary, it means to have the nature and characteristics of the flesh (or more simply, it means "fleshly"). What, then , is the flesh? Sometimes it refers to the whole material part of man (1 Corinthians 15:39; Hebrews 5:7), and based on this meaning, carnal sometimes relates to material things like money (Romans 15:27) or to the opposite of our weapons of spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4). But the word flesh also has a metaphorical sense when it refers to our disposition to sin and to oppose or omit God in our lives. The flesh is characterized by works that include lusts and passions (Galatians 5:19-24; I John 2:16); it can enslave (Romans 7:25); and in it is nothi...
CHARLES STANLEY ON FORGIVENESS
Charles Stanley, in his book The Gift of Forgiveness, states, "A person who has an unforgiving spirit is always the real loser, much more so than the one against whom the grudge is held." He adds, "Un-forgiveness, by its very nature, prevents individuals from following through on many specifics of the Christian life and practically necessitates that they walk by the flesh rather than by the spirit"(17, 18).
He also expounds in his book on how un-forgiveness devastates the one who refuses to forgive. When we choose to not forgive in one relationship we discover that it spills into other relationships and it destroys them. When the unforgiving person stands around and waits for the other to make restitution he loses out on life because they never make any progress in their game. That sad fact is as they are standing around waiting they form fleshly patterns of behavior and incorrect thought processes. Stanley states, "Regardless of how wrong the other person may have been, refusing to forgive means reaping the corruption in life. And that corruption begins in one relationship including the relationship with God, and works its way into all the rest" (25,26).