Return to Virtue: The Source Of Virtue

(Insight)

(Part 2, see Part 1)

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:7-11

Virtue has been defined for ages and put into practice equally as long. It is therefore both a place of reason and doing. In context to the western world, Aristotle is most famous for his explanation and application of virtue. Accordingly, in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he explains virtue as intellectual and moral; intellectual progress resulting mostly from teaching while the moral is fulfilled from habitual practices (Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2, p. 26). From the standpoint of virtue ethics in philosophy, Aristotelianism is its practical foundation. Ethics and morality are different branches of a similar tree as R.C. Sproul explains:

The English word “ethic” or “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethos. The word “morals” or “morality” comes from the word mores. The difference is that the ethos of a society or culture deals with its foundational philosophy, its concept of values, and its system of understanding how the world fits together. There is a philosophical value system that is the ethos of every culture in the world. On the other hand, mores has to do with the customs, habits, and normal forms of behavior that are found within a given culture.

In the first instance, ethics is called a normative science; it’s the study of norms or standards by which things are measured or evaluated. Morality, on the other hand, is what we would call a descriptive science. A descriptive science is a method to describe the way things operate or behave. Ethics are concerned with the imperative and morality is concerned with the indicative. What do we mean by that? It means that ethics is concerned with “ought-ness,” and morality is concerned with “is-ness.”

Ethics, or ethos, is normative and imperative. It deals with what someone ought to do. Morality describes what someone is actually doing. That’s a significant difference, particularly as we understand it in light of our Christian faith, and also in light of the fact that the two concepts are confused, merged, and blended in our contemporary understanding.

Not to discount all things Aristotle, Christianity has long argued not only for the differences between morality and ethics, but the ultimate source or ethic is God. Sourcing where our measure of what is right or wrong ought to determine our actions. Following from that understanding, the highest virtue arises from God and is progressed forward by God, in us and through us, all for the Glory of God and His Kingdom rather than our own. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done is the imperative. Humanity, however, rebels against God seeking to make their own way forward. Now postmodernism, a reflection of present realities, promotes the Self as god and king. In response to that falsity, society must be rebuilt by Christianity once again until the return of Christ who is the ultimate ethic.

Dominion

In part one, Virtue By Decree, I explained the decree being:

[A] set of obligations weighted upon and against all institutions that hold power and authority over a people. And it represents a set of values expected from those institutions.

Virtue by Decree is a moral legal framework that applies to an entire society, an infrastructure of revolving checks and balances by an eternal clockwork of good over evil; right versus wrong; consistent rather than inconsistent. Roots or foundations though apply. Where does one gain this method of authority that binds all to its one accord however imperfect its creatures? Evolution? Hardly. Reason? Whose? It is enforced by God, the most perfect and most high authority. Yet, left to our own devices, we can quickly destroy that which we have been given. As the Book of Genesis explains,

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Imago Dei, the likeness and reflective substance of God, are the elements of men and women bound eternal to God regardless of their will. “His will be done” (Matthew 6:10), applies to the entire nature of man. There are no boundaries between God and man, only man and God. We can never reach heaven by our own will. A two-way street metaphor is entirely obliterated. Human sovereignty can only be inclined to the creators imputed design. God’s Sovereignty triumphs our own in every which way. Divine Providence holds absolute dominion.

Real-value virtue is therefore rooted in God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the foundational source of all things virtuous through His Triunity and Christ Incarnation. Christ is the completed (perfect) Image of Man, not the distortions we have become, images broken long ago:

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shallrule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3: 1-24).

Responding to the jarring event of human damnation God predestined the answer for humanity’s fallen state. Through the workings of Christ eternal, Jesus would one day become flesh. A man, yet divine without blemish. God and Man. The Incarnation of Christ is when “the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5). “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Christ is the final sacrifice, the last scapegoat, and the sacred feast for a holy altar. His incarnation completes the image bearer. Distorted images of believers can now slowly retune with the Incarnation of Christ through sanctification. In us and through us, Christ demonstrated for us by fulfilling the law and prophecies; He has revived the soul, made the wise simple, rejoiced the heart, enlightened the eyes, endured us on forever, and rules with truth and righteousness. Interpretation of the Scriptures are a sacred duty of all believers through the reliance of the Christian Church for Scripture is our guide.

True Virtue

True virtue is Christ incarnated. There can be no separation between He and the Common Good. Eudaemonia, in the ethics of Aristotle and many virtue ethics, is concerned with happiness or human flourishing by means of prosperity and blessings. While that exists in the Christian life, the goal is not happiness, but one of obedience toward the source of joy. In the final paragraphs of, The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, he writes:

“But all our works are the works of God himself, the works for which he has prepared us beforehand… From this it follows that we can never be conscious of our good works. Our sanctification is veiled from our eyes until the last day, when all secrets are disclosed. If we want to see some results here and assess our own spiritual state, and have not the patience to wait, we have our reward. The moment we begin to feel satisfied that we are making some progress along the road of sanctification, it is all the more necessary to repent and confess that all our righteousness are as filthy rags. Yet the Christian life not one of gloom, but of ever increasing joy in the Lord. God alone knows our good works, all we know is his good work.” (p. 296-97)

Christian Virtue and the source of our JOY is in contrast with Eudaimonia.

The Christian walk requires sacrifice, surrender, service, admonishment, judgement, guidance, and above everything else to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ all for the Glory of God. Virtue and virtuousness are not the goal, though they are expected of believers, the purpose of the faith is to live out the truth of Christ for Christ. Virtue in Christian application is beyond just the habitual and the teachable, virtues are of eternal concern, a matter of works that demonstrates salvation and after salvation comes a life of discipleship and sanctification.

Uncovering Christ as the source for all institutions and peoples may at first appear disingenuous considering that not everyone is a Christian or a Primitive Conservative for that matter. However, as much as I would like to make everyone converts, I know that is not in my control nor even possible. My purpose here is only to clarify the root of a Christian and a Primitive Conservative by which virtue is justified and vice judged.

An Eye for Beauty – A Sermon on Luke 9:28-43 – Interrupting the Silence

Principles Over Politics

Ideas and the meaning of those ideas are important to practicing virtue, encouraging virtue, and decreeing virtue. For example, loyalty and patriotism share similar strands yet one is deeper than the other. Loyalty to friends and family hold a different form of bond versus that of a loyalty to country that we call patriotism. Equally vital to the institutions at hand even considered virtuous, but the cost of discipleship for which Christ commands can quickly turn these ideas upside down as it reads in Luke 14:25-33:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

This is part of Bonhoeffer’s “Costly Grace” metaphor versus that of “Cheap grace” (The Cost of Discipleship, p.45) as one requires surrender, suffering, repentance, and a life dedicated to a singular purpose; the other is quick, painless, and easily dispensable when it fails to converge with competing narratives and visions and desires of ones life. But that exchange of choosing a costly or cheap grace has outward effects on family, friends, and even country. Where do such loyalties stand when they are juxtaposed between a rock and a hard place? Neither scripture nor the saints before us guarantee easy answers or always “the correct” responses, yet that should not dismay the principles of morality and ethics to be used in our laws, economies, education, and daily living standards. Furthermore, history has taught us that not every good idea ought to be enforced i.e. leniency is important; the law cannot save us from eternity anymore than can it save is from harm, ignorance, hurt, hate, or pain. Grasping the essential qualities of a conservative mind therefore are important for the political and social arena.

A Way Forward

Christian, how can we exclaim Christ Alone, but allow ourselves to be swayed in a life of debauchery? Or, how can we claim Christ as King yet spread disinformation for a political identity? True virtue is not an identity. It is a way of life. A philosophy and a religion. Virtue is the oxygen to whose lungs are gasping for air. The struggle for life is not life itself; the struggle is for the life maker Himself. Seek pardon from false riches, fraught authority, and expedient freedoms the world promises. Turn away from it all. Rather, run toward the light of Solus Christus the finished and forever foundation.

Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.

From my previous series, Principles Over Politics, in part one called Exordium, I cite Professor J. Budziszewski:

From time to time Christians may find themselves in tactical alliance with conservatives, just as with liberals, over particular policies, precepts, and laws. But they cannot be in strategic alliance, because their reasons for these stands are different; they are living in a different vision. 

And

Christians can no more be others on the right than others on the left. Citizenship is an obligation of the faith, therefore the Christian will not abstain from the politics of the nation-state. But his primary mode of politics must always be witness. It is a good and necessary thing to change the welfare laws, but better yet to go out and feed the poor. It is a good and necessary thing to ban abortion, but better yet to sustain young women and their babies by taking them into the fellowship of faith. This is the way the kingdom of God is built.

I knew then the time was quick at hand when Christians will have to confront the reality that their way of life in America was coming to an end. That time has arrived. As I proposed also in Part 1 of this series on Virtue, “Christendom and Conservative Thinkers must now begin to prepare for a better and brighter future should that future come. To begin a process of structuring what mankind has learned over the centuries, successes and failures, so as to reform or rebuild the crumbling globe before us.” My message remains the same to Conservatives as well. Anyone who is willing to at least consider the reality and truth of God should prepare for a post-liberal world.

Like Budziszewski, I cannot ignore the calling of Christ, but I will be arguing for a universal Christological Virtue Principle (CVP). It will take time, but it is necessary in preparing a better future for generations seeking a way forward beyond the false dichotomies of our modern political landscape. A landscape quickly decaying beneath our feet.

What Are The Virtues? – Lumen Ecclesiae Press

Next Time: Virtue Explained

Our Shared Liturgy: A Culture of Christ For All The Ages

(Theology/Insight)

You are what you love, love is a habit, discipleship is a rehabituation of your loves” – James K. A. Smith

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

Doth My Heart Love Till Now

Hours tick by regardless of decisions made, actions taken, beliefs followed, or the time we commiserate with people. Some are time wasters, others efficient with their time. Weeks spent in the gym, years at work, and decades dedicated toward leisure. Temples built out of food, mammon, sex, guns, sports, or fishing. Rock etched by the blood of tears. Iron and Steel molted under intense heat. Days turn to months until moments become that last breath. Where one sits at the dinner table established a routine of rituals and processions. Altars surround our lives. But at what altar do you kneel? What does your heart speaketh in that final hour?

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. – Psalm 15:2

St. Augustine of Hippo once replied of Psalms 15:2 saying:

[I]t is possible that a man may speak with his mouth a truth which profiteth him nothing, if he hold it not in his heart, that is, if what he speaketh, himself believe not; as the heretics…

Faith requires a pure sincerity that may fade at periods of life but never will it burnout. Should that sacred fire not exist, yet a person continues forward into the Holy of Holies, a profane fire will be lite becoming a mere intellectual exercise; vain attempts of ritual without purpose or meaning. And should thou not be careful, one runs risk of Nadab and Abihu:

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Not to suggest that God will bring fire down as He did to Nadab and Abihu; rather we must layout the concern that tainting holy ground has serious consequences for the Christian faith and the Universal Church i.e. of whom Christ is the Head. Worship matters and where the heart settles daily determines a proclivity that has eternal consequences.

Augustine, a great father of the faith, understood Sacred Scripture in its clarity of the human heart before an Absolute Sovereign God. Numerous times in the Old and New Testaments, the scriptures warn us that the human heart is misleading:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. – Proverbs 4:23

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. – Romans 13:14

Christ, Family, & Community

For us to properly settled our minds on that which is true and good, Christ must do a divine work within us. Per salvation a work is begun in us as we seek to partake in a body, the local church. Salvation is not the end game for a true believer rather it is the beginning of a life devoted to the Lord and His Kingdom.

Kingdom building requires us to gather and worship, to be discipled and to learn, to go share the Gospel and help all in need. Christ, our bridegroom, betroths us, the body, His bride. Yet while are indeed His, Christ bestows us leaders: Pastors/Priests/Elders, Deacons, and Bishops to pasture the flock through and through. Along with other believers we are to admonish one another in the ways of the Word.

Lastly, the Church is to be the center of community; a symbol of refuge for the broken and downtrodden; and a place of growth and real prosperity for believers. Once a person is saved, Christians must build outwardly from their homes, workplaces, and events. Yes, we gather every Sunday to celebrate the Living Word and the Living God our Savior, but each day must be a day set aside for God and for others. We must not be like the pharisaical. Should a brother or sister be in need, even on a Sunday, we must rush to them. Sharing the Gospel is the essential element but it carries with it great responsibilities as it reads in Matthew 5:3–12:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Our calling is strong and everlasting in nature. There is no separation between believer and the Word; we do not adopt the Platonic or Aristotelian over that of scripture—never. Only the God of the New and Old Testament—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Our sacred liturgy is binding to reality. When and where we gather, so the immanence of God shall be. No, that does not dissolve the sacredness of the cathedral or the holy day. What the immanence of God reminds us is that His will be done. He is not to be forgotten nor can He be defeated. God reigns forever and ever. That sacred liturgy then is the center piece of our Body and the Throne of our lives, Jesus Christ.

Immanence of God - Servants of Grace

So when we gather at the dinner table or the Lords Table we must be sure to layout the real purpose of our joy and hope; our reason for living and being; the meaning of life and purpose.

Christ is the King! O Friends Rejoice 

1. Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice;
brothers and sisters, with one voice
let the world know he is your choice.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

2. Oh magnify the Lord, and raise
anthems of joy and holy praise
for Christ’s brave saints of ancient days.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

3. They with a faith forever new
followed the King, and round him drew
thousands of faithful servants true.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

4. O Christian women, Christian men,
all the world over, seek again
the way disciples followed then.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

5. Christ through all ages is the same:
place the same hope in his great name,
with the same faith his word proclaim.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

6. Let love’s unconquerable might
your scattered companies unite
in service to the Lord of light.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

7. So shall God’s will on earth be done,
new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,
and the whole church at last be one.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

A Review of The Year 202020202020

The Year That Never Ends

This special November Issue (2020) came at the wake of a radical leftist soft-totalitarianism that seeks to devour all that is human and humane. Now as November comes to a close and the great a-wokening continues forward, we must gather together as Christians to uphold the sacredness of our faith, the Truth of Christ in the darkness of our world.

Our approaching December Issue (2020) will be an evolving one. Not an all at once publication of articles, rather a liturgy of prayer, music, art, scripture, poetry, and articles that all direct the reader to the one essential reality that Jesus Christ is KING.

Month of November

November Issue (2020)

By Virtue of Desecration: Liberation & the Sexual Moral Erosion of America

“In-Doxycated”

The Left’s Feminist Narrative Killer

TruthInFocus Podcast: Ep 1 Book Review of Live Not By Lies by Rod Dreher

Totalitarian ‘Diversocrats’ and American Higher Education: A Review

Political Indoctrination and Enzyme Inhibition: How Imbalances Prevent Unity

The Voices of the Silenced

The Convergence of the Progressive Telos

Totalitarian Incantations: Late Modernity’s Radical Manifestations

TIF Podcast: November 3rd Is Here

Insight

Too Divided To Stand: Election 2020 & The Future of America

Thy Week, Thus Far (11/11/2020)

Thy Week, Thus Far: Anti-Trumpist Revoluionaires, Perverted Corruptible Men, & the Coming Judgement Upon Us All

Opinion

America’s Identity Crisis

Special Series

Target Takes Aim

Theology

For I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel

Letter From The Editor

Substack Chronicles

Mere Beauty In Truth

Symposium Of Dreams

In October, we approached the month by spreading our wings and laying a foundation with podcasts, an official statement, and a special series on virtue over politics.

Month of October

A Declaration

Foundations: What We Stand On

AVisualPhilosophy (Month of October) (MereBeautyInTruth)

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse (1903)

MereBeautyInTruth

Slow & Steady: Winning The Race

Thy Week, Thus Far

Wednesday October 7, 2020

Wednesday October 14, 2020

Wednesday October 21, 2020

Thy Week, Thus Far: Trump Vs Biden Vs God

Quick Thoughts

When The Eighth Grader See’s Through Them: The VP Debate Of 2020

Speak Now, Cause What Comes Next Isn’t Pretty

All Things Veritas

Christ & the Coffee Ep 2

TIF Podcast: Ep 1: Live Not By Lies By Rod Dreher

TIF Podcast: Ep. 2 Another Gospel? By Alisa Childers

Special Series: Principles Over Politics (Completed)

Principles Over Politics: Exordium

Principles Over Politics: Virtuous Individualism

Principles Over Politics: Industry

Principles Over Politics: Fidelity

Principles Over Politics: Moral Courage

Principles Over Politics: Integrity

In September, immediate events grabbed at us with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and our public declaration of support for the selection of Amy Coney Barrett.

Month of September

Historical/Analysis

Welcome to the Party: America’s Established Political Parties By Race

Thy Week, Thus Far

Wednesday September 1, 2020

Wednesday September 9, 2020

Wednesday September 23, 2020

Visual Philosophy (Month of September ) (MereBeautyInTruth)

The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David

Highlights (Aug/Sept 2020)

Highlights Reel

All Things Veritas (Youtube Channel)

Christ & The Coffee (Theological/Biblical Series)

Ep 1, Series 1

Insight

Burke, Kirk, & Scruton: A Conservative Legacy for the 21st Century

Special Edition

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Memoriam

Amy Coney Barrett: Our Next Supreme Court Justice Whose “Dogma” is Good for America

Special Report

Riled By Politics: The Fate of the U.S. Supreme Court & The Constitution

Quick Thoughts

The Presidential Retrobate… err Debate of 2020 (Round 1)

Hard to believe, but only four months ago, TIF was launched. August marked the beginning of the direction and purpose behind Truth In Focus. Well researched essays, art, poetry, theology… this is a safe haven for Christians and Conservatives.

Month of August

A Special Report Series

Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020 Part 1: To Mask or Not To Mask Isn’t The Question

Mob Rule, Mob Rules 2020 Part 2: Mob Mentality & The Era of Trump

Opinion

Unsettling Statistics: Children & Consent

Get Woke or Get Broke: When Reason Fails to Stand

PAYWALL’Ed: Academic Research & Open Knowledge

Visual Philosophy (Month of August) (MereBeautyInTruth)

L’Apparition by Gustave Moreau

Poetry

Time by Edward Kyle Richey

Insight

Virtue By Decree (Part 1)

Theology/Scripture

A Word To The Wise

Thy Week, Thus Far

Wednesday August 26, 2020

You can always read these articles and more in our Archives section.

A Word To The Wise

(Theology/Scripture)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10, ESV).

Ancient Greece had a maxim, “Know Thyself” most famously attributed to the philosopher Socrates. This aphorism serves a great and worthy purpose of encouraging self-examination. How often do we stop and reflect on our own nature? Not just asking, who and what we are, but truly trying to know ones personal faults and then seeking to improve, learn, and grow. Philosophy, philo meaning love and sophos meaning wisdom, is the love of wisdom and the seeking of truth. I attribute a great deal to philosophy and would defend her ideals as much as liberty and freedom, but I submit to you that as Christians we are called to first submit to God and His wisdom.

More Than Self-Care

Fearing the Lord in an age of fear and distrust of authority is not an easy sale for Millennials (my generation), Gen Z, and Gen Alpha who are sincerely seeking to make a difference; “our” maxim being “Change the World.” Our youthfulness and wishful thinking is far too often excused as merely laziness, naiveness, and narcissism; a fair criticism but hardly the whole picture of several generations being swept under a complex globalized world that has rapidly materialized more wealth, more goods, and more services than all of human history combined while simultaneously fragmenting “old” methods, standards, traditions, and opportunities. But let’s step away from the cultural and the political towards the Scriptural and Christ Centeredness.

Within the context of fearing the Lord, yir’ah, is a form of piety, respect, or reverence for God. John Gill’s, English pastor and theologian, explains that the converted state is a state of wisdom, a place of recognition of the Most High God and the active working of grace. Christ says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Abiding, menō , a place in which the person is to be kept or to remain. That place is a place of salvation by which only though faith and grace can one be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), but also that place is a place of wisdom that arises from that saving grace and faith. A working grace, a working faith that continues past the state of salvation. Our works matter in the eyes of God, for faith is active (James 2:14-26). Grace never ceases once salvation is accomplished (Romans 5:20-21) meaning a true believer seeks God and seeks to obey His command over their lives even when the Christian will falter, run, and even fall away for a time. Yet those of the vine will remain on the vine and Christ the Shepherd always brings His sheep back to the flock.

Today the term “self care” i.e. a place of spiritual, mental, and physical health focused entirely on ones well-being, is a central tenet of the age. Granted a great deal of narcissism can quickly overtake a person who focuses so much on themselves and never others; a place of complete aversion to hardship or sacrifice or pain is the roots of hedonism. However, ignoring your wellbeing is equally problematic when taken to the extreme of Asceticism which is also unbiblical. God cares about all of His creation. He desires goodness and wellness over them. Christianity needs to refrain from going to extremes when God condones a time for work and a time for rest. One of my favorite examples comes from the Prophet Elijah in Chapter 19 of 1 Kings verses 1-8:

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”  And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

Over and over again in the Bible the people of the Lord in the Old and New Testament are sinners and saints who fail completely on their own, yet find success in their complete reliance on God. Saint Paul states clearly concerning “a thorn in his flesh” that:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Do not ever feel “bad” when you need to rest and to take some time to “decompress” from the world and life’s situations. Know the difference between laziness and weakness, purposely forgoing for selfish reasons and a needed time to sleep or focus in preparation. Death is always with us from the moment of conception til the moment we die. The human body is eventually weakened to the point of death. There is no escaping our weakened estate. While the world ignores reality, Christians must learn to find joy in their weakness and eventual death.

Everything I have explained to you is a place of God’s wisdom, not my own. God’s word is a place of refuge, of hope, and of ultimate good. It is the responsibility of the Church to help all “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33) or to say it differently, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” which the Church is equipped to do. All of which is not “up to us” that is to say Christian’s are not capable of doing the work without the grace of God by which wisdom is birthed.

If Christ is not seeking sinners, humanity is doomed. And if the Church is not speaking to sinners then it has failed the Great Commission. There will always be issues that the Church must uphold and push back against, but no person is without sin nor should go without the hope of Christ and that means having a church full of saints and sinners. And having them over for dinner or going to them whenever and wherever in need. Love, Christ said, love God and love your neighbor as yourself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Knowing thy self will never be accomplished to its fullest extent without first knowing God. He will take you to the deepest and hardest of places but for your good and for His glory.

To my generation and the generations after me, if you want to change the world, then seek after God, His wisdom, and His kingdom first and foremost. Never allow differences to get in between you and that person at the sake of forgoing the Gospel which includes loving your neighbor. Christ died so that we may live! Do not mistake His sacrifice for a life without a true cause. Seek Him, Fear Him, and See Him work in your life and the lives of others. But also know, the God loves you and takes you wherever you are at in life. No person in all of human history has ever been “too dirty” or “too unclean” to be made anew. To be forgiven. To be loved. To be recognized as worthy. Christ can redeem all souls. Lastly, you can go forth in life sick and tired and broken and even get lost on your way, but like Elijah, Christ will find you and feed you and care for you without chastisement. Never fear your weakness. Know that your weakness was never the problem. All are weak, none are strong. The problem was and remains the placement of our weakness in relation to our reliance for the strength we seek. Placed properly in God first and you will be in the highest of strong towers. Seek His refuge, Know His Wisdom, and have His love pour over you like the finest oils and perfumes.

May God Bless You and Keep You Now and Forever. Amen.