Live Not By Feelings: Three Ways to Love and Live the Moral Life (1 Peter 1:13–19)

image001To feel good or to be good. That is the question. And in Sunday’s sermon, I considered the difference between the moral life that God commands (and grants by the power of his grace) and the therapeutic life that our world gives us (with no lasting grace).

As countless cultural commentators have observed, there has been in our culture “the triumph of the therapeutic” (see Philip Rieff’s book by that title). And unfortunately, this way of thinking and living has shaped the church for the last two generations, a point David Wells makes in his book Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision. More recently, Carl Trueman has chronicled how this addiction self-oriented, inner-directed, immanent (not transcendent), feelings-obsessed way of living has consumed our world. And while understanding its origins takes time, seeing its effects does not. It’s everywhere.

And in Sunday’s sermon, I showed how 1 Peter 1:13–19 calls the followers of Christ to live by a different moral calculus and to throw off the idle and idolatrous ways of our fathers. In our case, that means rejecting a way of life controlled by our feelings.

Bought by the blood of Christ, Christians are to be holy as their Heavenly Father is holy. And this means rejecting a therapeutic worldview and the gospel of grievance that comes with it. And in its place we must learn afresh how to walk as children of God, clothed in his holiness, set apart for his glory, and satisfied with grace.

That’s what Sunday’s sermon sought argue from Peter’s first letter. You can watch that message here, or listen to it here. On these issues, a few other resources may be helpful. You can find them below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Solus Humanus: Why We Need a Sixth Sola in Our Confused Age

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset

It used to be a given that humans, made by God, were assigned a gender based upon their biological sex. As Genesis 1:27 puts it, God made them “male and female.” Culturally, this is no longer the case, however. As documented in his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman shows just how modernism has turned the person inward and how psychological man (i.e., the self-directed person) has been eroticized and taught to create a world in their own image.

Most recently and most dramatically, the transgender movement has assumed a view of the world, where the inner feelings of a person outweigh their biology. No longer is gender something that comports with the givenness of the world, or God’s gift of a physical body—made either male or female. Now, individuals are taught that they can create their own fluid identity and they can demand that others recognize their self-created self, even if it does match traditional norms. Everything is queer now.

To say it another way, as gender studies have defined identity as something people can create, gender is no longer biologically determined. This shift away from an essentialist view of gender to a constructivist view is a key change in our society, and one Christians must address in order to share the gospel and to rightly relate to reality. Yet, the trouble goes beyond gender; it relates to the larger question of what it means to be human.
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Carl Trueman on Academics and the Local Church

Lately, I have been thinking about my entrance into the PhD program and the impact such heavy-duty training has on the edification of the local church.  Such academic equipping is certainly not required.  Most biblical prophets and apostles were “regular joe’s.”  Amos was  a shepherd.  Peter and John were fisherman, “uneducated, common men” who had been with Jesus (cf. Acts 4:13).  Jesus himself was an unschooled carpenter, while his cousin, John the Baptist, was a self-taught wilderness prophet.  According to the Bible, theological education is no panacea for heresy (cf. John 5:39ff); nor is it the golden key that unlocks the mysteries of God’s word.  All true understanding is Spiritually given (1 Cor. 2:1-16). 

Nevertheless, assiduous study has its place and the church has benefitted greatly from the likes of its church doctors.  Augustine, Luther, Machen, and Mohler have each benefitted the church in God-honoring ways because the Sovereign Lord of all wisdom (Col. 2:3) has been pleased to use their scholarly gifting and theological training for purification and expansion of his church.

In a recent edition of Themelios, Carl Trueman in hi article, “Minority Report: The way of the Christian academic,” reflects on the relationship between theological academic(ian)s and the church.  He concludes with an exhortation to wannabe theologians:

The calling of a Christian academic is a high one, for anyone charged with the teaching of God’s truth will, as the Bible tells us, be held to a higher level of accountability than others. The path is marked with difficulties and challenges; but none are insurmountable, and the basic disciplines of the Christian life are in fact more, not less, important and useful. You want to be a Christian academic? Work hard, pray, read your Bible, and go to church.

Personally, I am still working out how my own theological training serves the local church.  However, the question is not own of principle, but of specification.  The church is central, not theological education.  This is an absolute: all investments in biblical and theological studies must be for the church (cf. Eph. 4:11-16).  Why?  Because I, along with all those pursuing doctorates in theology, will be judged accordingly (cf. James 3:1). To those who have been given much, much will be required (cf. Luke 12:48), and those of us who have had the privilege of studying the Bible for years are accountable for sharing the riches. 

When we stand before our Lord and beneficient giver of all Truth, may we be found faithful.  Until then, may we labor to tell the Good News to the lost and build up the church with the nourishment of God’s Holy Word.  Theological training and biblical institutions of higher learning must be committed to the local church.  Until that end, may we pray and labor.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

(HT:JT)