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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."
Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen even in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. All that is secret and hidden is made manifest. It is a struggle until the sin is openly admitted, but God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Ps. 107:16).
Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of all his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother. The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder. Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother. He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God. It has been taken away from him. Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ… The sin concealed separated him from the fellowship, made all his apparent fellowship a sham; the sin confessed has helped him define true fellowship with the brethren in Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 112-113.
From the Australian Psychology Society
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that can range from mild annoyance to intense rage. It is a feeling that is accompanied by biological changes in your body. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure rise and stress hormones are released. This can cause you to shake, become hot and sweaty and feel out of control.
When people have angry feelings, they often behave in angry ways too. Angry behaviors include yelling, throwing things, criticizing, ignoring, storming out and sometimes withdrawing and doing nothing.
Why do we get angry?
Anger is often associated with frustration - things don’t always happen the way we want and people don’t always behave the way we think they should. Anger is usually linked with other negative emotions or is a response to them. You may be feeling hurt, frightened, disappointed, worried, embarrassed or frustrated, but may express these sorts of feelings as anger. Anger can also result from misunderstandings or poor communication between people.
Men and women often, but not always, manage and express anger in different ways. With men, anger may be the primary emotion, as many men believe that anger is the more legitimate emotion to express in a situation. Often men find it harder to express the feelings underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness or grief. For women the reverse may often be true - the anger gets buried under tears.
Anger IS an indication of what is going on inside of us, but Paul warns:
“In your anger, do not sin.” We often may feel that our emotion gives us license to act out. Some of us may even feel like venting is a good thing. We go off in a fit of rage, leaving a trail of destruction behind . . . sure WE feel (momentarily) better, but do those around us?
This is an area I struggle with. I display my anger in both outbursts and in withdrawal and depression. I have sinned in my anger, too. Have you?
Sometimes, we are tempted to think we are the only ones who struggle with this burden. Ellsworth Kalas tells the discovery that Thomas Wolfe the fine American writer made about loneliness:
Wolfe was a lonely man. He once thought that loneliness was something suffered especially, perhaps even uniquely, by the young, so he wrote an essay titled “On Loneliness at Twenty-Three.” For a time he thought of himself as perhaps the loneliest person who ever lived. But gradually he came to a broader conclusion. He wrote,
"The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."
Kalas goes on to note that in our sin, we further complicate our loneliness. We become alienated from God and from one an...
RAVI ZACHARIAS: A LECHEROUS HEART
One of the most powerful stories I have ever heard on the nature of the human heart is told by Malcolm Muggeridge. Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity. He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her.
"She was old and hideous...and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper....This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask." The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, "What a dirty lecherous woman!" But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him--it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.
[Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (Word Publ, Dallas: 1994), pp. 136-137]
The word "virtue" is taken from the Latin word virtus and actually means "strength" or "manliness." So you see that the real strength of this life is found by successfully winning the inner war of faith. It is because of weakness that we are ruled by passions and controlled by sin.
But God has called us out of this. He has called us to virtue through the victory of Christ on the cross and empty tomb. "For we are not called to ease," Luther wrote in his lecture on Romans chapter seven, "but to struggle against our passions. But only to those who manfully struggle and fight against their faults, invoking the grace of God, does God not impute sin." "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Amen.
DO YOU HAVE AN AWARENESS OF SIN?
A basic mark of true spirituality is a deep awareness of sin. In Scripture those who most despised their sinfulness were often those who were the most spiritual. Paul said he was the chief of sinners. Peter said to Jesus, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." Isaiah said, "Woe is me, because I am a man of unclean lips." Spiritual people realize they are in a death struggle with sin. For Paul, ultimate spirituality was to be like Jesus, and that is not something you could attain by any one-time experience.
Blessed Are The Peacemakers
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9) There is a commission from God that is available to every obedient Christian today and that is to be a peacemaker. Argument and discord is a great waste of energies better spent on more productive activities. Nothing wears men and hardens hearts like that of strife.
In His opening on the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus gives us something to do, not just something to be, in the seventh Beatitude. Mature Christians are not to shut themselves up in seclusion, indifferent to the evils of the world around them. They are to interfere for its betterment through peacemaking.
Those who are truly blessed are Christians who labor hard in Christ's work. Their first and utmost endeavor toward mankind is to tell all who will listen, about Jesus, for He alone can bring reconciliation and peace between man and God. Until this happens there can be no true lasting peace among mankind. No man can know God's lasting peace nor guide others to it until he accepts Christ as personal Savior and Lord.
Who is a peacemaker? 1.) The person who strives to make peace with God. "...We have peace with God through [the] Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 1); 2.) The person who strives at every opportunity to make peace between others. "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." (Romans 14: 19) "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2: 3)
Peacemakers love peace but they do not passively accept trouble brought about by sin. There are those who claim to love peace, yet they remove themselves from all trouble. They ignore and flee problems and threatening situations, and they often evade issues. They make no attempt to bring true peace. The peacemaker (of whom Jesus speaks) faces all trouble that stands against the righteousness of God, no matter how dangerous and he works to bring true lasting peace, regardless of the struggles. All peacemakers have had struggles in obtaining true peace.
Peaceable and peacemaking are to be the character of the children of God and they will be looked to for help. Biblical Museum records this statement about such a peacemaker; "John Dickinson was often called, by way of distinction, 'the peacemaker' and such was his heart to keep the bonds of peace from being broken, suc...
I have a question for you that can revolutionize your life and ministry: Are you a sinner who struggles to love God, or are you a lover of God who struggles with si...