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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."
Sermon Central Staff
OUR NEED FOR PAIN
There is no tougher dilemma in the Christian life than the problem of pain. It could be the pain of broken relationship, the pain of rejection, or the pain of insults. Or it could just be plain old physical pain. Nothing tests the faith like pain.
It was physical pain that became a life's work for a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Perhaps nobody studied pain like Dr. Brand.
I became acquainted with his work through the writing of one of my favorite authors, Phil Yancey. He and Dr. Brand wrote several books together including, In His Image, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and The Gift of Pain.
Dr. Brand died in 2003 at the age of 89. I want to read a little bit from an article in Christianity Today about him:
"Born to missionary parents in the mountains of southwestern India in 1914, Brand attended London University, where he met his wife, Margaret Berry. The two surgeons returned to Vellore, India, to teach at the Christian Medical College and Hospital. While working as the school's first Professor of orthopaedics and hand research, Brand pioneered surgical work with those suffering from Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection more commonly known as leprosy. He was the first surgeon to use reconstructive surgery to correct deformities caused by the disease in the hands and feet, and developed many other forms of prevention and healing from the disease.
"Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen's disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.
It was on this issue that Brand's work with Hansen's disease met with his theological reflections on what he viewed as 'the most problematic aspect of creation: the existence of pain.' Pain, Brand believed, was not antithetical to life, but a requisite for it. God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain,' he later wrote."
Dr. Brand's research helped him form a theology of pain. He compared the body's need for pain, to alert it to danger, to the soul and the spirit's need for pain to alert it to danger and help it to survive.
You see, as Christians, we believe, that our trials, our pain, our deepest hurts, have a purpose beyond our comprehension. This dovetails nicely with what we find in the opening pages of the book of James.
(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Purpose of Your Pain, 2/2/2011)
A Thanks Offering For God's Grace
In this country, the entire nation celebrates Thanksgiving in November. Some celebrate by busily preparing food, watching football and gathering with family. These are great Thanksgiving celebrations. However, Christians have a greater blessing in the opportunity to give thanks to God. Whether people in this world want to recognize it or not, everything they own is given to them by the Lord and there is going to be a day when all will give an accounting.
Christians are thankful for God's saving grace.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." This is one of the great evangelistic summaries in the Word of God. F.F. Bruce so wonderfully points out, "This is the watchword for the reformation theology: 'By grace alone, through faith alone, to God be the glory.'" The Bible teaches that everything Christians have comes by grace. "Grace" (charis) here affects man's sinfulness. It not only brings forgiveness to repentant sinners, but also joy from the Holy Spirit and heartfelt thankfulness to the Lord Jesus. This grace changes repentant sinners into new creations without destroying their individuality.
Those who live on this earth were marked by sin that came down to them as a curse from the time of Adam. It was decided and agreed upon by God the Father, Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit that Jesus would come to earth and redeem sinful mankind from willful sin. Christians have been saved by grace and they are sustained only by the grace of God. The precious children of God feast from the manna of God's Word daily, just as Mephibosheth did at King David's table. And there will be that day when all who have Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord will be eating at that geatest Thanksgiving feast, the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb of God." What a day that will be!
Does your life Express God's Grace?
God doesnít call people who are qualified. He calls people who are willing, and then He qualifies them. ...
“God certainly can, and sometimes does, heal people in a miraculous way today. But the Bible does not teach that He will always heal those who come to Him in faith. He sovereignly reserves the right to heal or not to heal as He sees fit.” [Joni Eareckson and Steve Estes. A Step Further. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978) p. 127.]
Richard Baxter, the Puritan preacher of the 17th century conveys the urgency, the zeal of Christian witness when he said, "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men!"
Rush Limbaugh has this phrase as part of his self introduction. "Talent on loan from God." It might sound arrogant, but it really isn’t. It’s humble. I’ve heard him explain it too. He knows that whatever he is able to do is a gift from God with which he is to do his best for God. Your talent, too, is on loan from God.
The repetition of small efforts will accomplish more than the occasional use of great talents.
"We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so. You must undertake something so great that you cannot accomplish it unaided."-Phillip Brooks
** IS THE CHURCH ON THE ENDANGERED LIST?
Many Americans are on a spiritual quest. This should be good news
for the church. But, according to researchers, many of them are
choosing noninstitutional forms of religion. A recent poll by Gallup
shows that weekly church attendance is holding steady at about 40
percent of the population - the same rate as in the 1950s. But other
researchers - like Dave T. Olson, director of TheAmericanChurch.org
- claim only 17.7 percent of the population attends a church service
any given weekend.
Olson, who bases his numbers on annual church attendance reported by
individual U.S. congregations, says, "People who only go to church
now and again exaggerate how often they go."
Albert Winseman, religion and social trends editor for the Gallup
Organization, says people are shopping for alternatives to church
and that is one reason 3,000 local churches close their doors
"Most denominations are either declining or stagnant," says
The Assemblies of God is one of the few Christian groups to show
steady growth in recent years. The Yearbook of American and Canadian
Churches reports the Assemblies of God and Southern Baptists are the
only Protestant faith groups of the largest 25 to report an increase
in membership for 2004.
An April Gallup poll indicated 65 percent of Pentecostals attend
church weekly, second only to Church of Christ (at 68 percent) among
VANISHING PROTESTANT MAJORITY
Half a century ago, two-thirds of the population considered
themselves Protestants. Officially, for the first time last year,
self-identified Protestants dipped below half of all Americans,
according to Gallup research.
Evangelical and Pentecostal church attendance looks stable, but
membership isnít keeping pace with population growth. Olson says
although the same number of people are attending church as 15 years
ago, there are an additional 48 million people living in the
But people are not necessarily flocking to other faiths. J. Gordon
Melton, author of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, says
tabulating all the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and New Agers
accounts for only 7 percent of Americans. Self-professing atheists
comprise another 10 percent of the population.
"In the culture today we donít have the churchgoing momentum we did
in the 1950s, when írespectable peopleí attended church every week,"
says Earl Creps, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
"Thereís no guarantee anymore that people are going to come to
Although only 17 to 40 percent of Americans attend church regularly,
about 80 percent of the population professes Christianity.
Pollster George Barna, who last year wrote the book "Revolution:
Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary," believes a
transformational shift is occurring in how Christians view church.
He claims more than 20 million committed yet disaffected
"revolutionaries" have struck out on their own to form house
churches, family faith communities and cyberchurches.
WHAT CHURCH OFFERS
Creps, author of "Off-Road Disciples," believes these
"revolutionaries" are forfeiting a great deal by not being involved
in a local church. "A great church offers relational connections,
people modeling how to live faith, accountability, the enormous
power of a group worship experience and the operation of the gifts
of the Spirit," he says.
Theologian J.I. Packer says the reality of corporate church life
pervaded first-century Christianity and should today as well.
"Individuality is not correct, according to biblical standards,"
says Packer, author of "Knowing God." "The church is central in
Godís plan. God uses the church to set up His kingdom - the
corporate relational reality where people respond to Christ as King.
We canít dismiss the structure God has established."
Many observers believe house churches and cyberchurch movements are
short-lived trends that will never amount to more than 5 percent of
Melton says such methods donít represent a new phenomenon. "For
decades people have been saying they can be a good Christian and
never go to church," he says.
Gallup sees a strong link between individual spiritual commitment
and church attendance by measuring factors such as prayer, Bible
study and small group involvement.
"People can say they are a spiritually committed person without
attending church, but it happens only 5 percent of the time,"
Creps says merely getting people into the sanctuary isnít the goal.
"The issue really is the need for every person to come to God
through His Son Jesus Christ. That involves a connection with a
community of Christians - which we call church."
"The church is Godís primary vehicle for the proclamation of the
gospel," Winseman says. "The abundant life is found most abundantly
in the community of the local church."
--John W. Kennedy, Todayís Pentecostal Evangel
This article reveals the current condition of the church and some new trends in Christianity but for the church to be the Acts New Testament church we need to continue to explore and discover from acts what it looks like and what it does.