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AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."
Recently I heard Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America speak at a conference about reaching people in the age of relativism. He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus. They responded, "wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble." Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, "critical, exclusive, self righteous, narrow and repressive."
"There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news, Zander said. "We are the evidence! How we live our lives are the evidence. Everything counts--all the time."
"With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved," Zander continued, "but not any more. I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for. Not something they can relate to. They are looking for a transcendent God. They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed."
In his book The Youth Builder, Jim Burns talks about the importance of building up young people with affirmation and trust. What he says about criticism applies to every age group: For every critical comment we receive, it takes nine affirming comments to even out the negative effect in our life. Most young people receive more critical comments a day than encouraging ones. You can have a very positive, life transforming effect when you develop a ministry of affirmation.
Life Is Like A Jar Of Rocks
A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2 inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. "The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff." "If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out for dinner. There will always be time to go...
A medical doctor provides a physical description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet.
As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.
All this the Bible records with the simple words, “And they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:24).
What wondrous love is this?
Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8
John Wooden, former basketball coach at UCLA, was the antithesis of many of today’s coaches. He seldom left his seat on the Bruins bench during a UCLA game. "I tried to teach players that if they lose their temper or get out of control, they will get beat," he says. Pressed in an interview to be critical of former Indiana University coach Bobby Knight, Wooden would only say, "I think Bob Knight is an outstanding teacher of the game of basketball, but I don’t approve of his methods. But I’m not a judge, and I’m not judging Bob Knight. There is so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us, it hardly behooves me to talk about the rest of us."
Quote: “Humility is an essential attitude for success in the spiritual life. Any self-conceit, whether nurtured by superior intelligence, wealth, a high position, or the praise of others, is an obstacle on the path. Genuine humility is not posturing. It requires a constant willing-ness to deny oneself, to be critical of oneself, and to be open to Heaven’s guidance even when it differs from one’s own preconceived concepts.” (http://www.unification.net/ws/theme128.htm).
In his book, "Half Time," Bob Buford tells the story of meeting a renowned management consultant at a critical point in his life to determine what course the rest of his life would take. The man, named Mike, asked Buford one simple question, ‘What’s in the box?’
The point of this question was to have Buford decide what the most important thing in his life was to be and to place that choice ‘in the box.’ Now Buford was a successful Christian businessperson who found the lure of success (and we can say fame) waning in his life. He was discovering a stronger urge toward significance rather than success. That desire determined his answer t...
How much easier to be critical than to be correct.
The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.