Ten Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup

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To be good stewards, we need to be better managers in life. That means manage our physical health better. But also things in life, such as, our home, cars, or even finance. Just like we need to have regular maintenance for our home, physical health, or even for cars or recreations bikes, how much more for spiritual health?

That’s why you should read the recent article “10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup” by Chuck Lawless, one of the former profs at Southern. If you are part of a church where formal membership is taught, valued, and practiced regularly, then those questions should not be surprising to you since your church probably remind them regularly from the pulpit, Bible study, discipleship groups, and even when fellowship over a meal. Those questions are helpful diagnostic questions. In fact, if you want to read further on the subject, I would recommend Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Don Whitney. Also, here’s the video intro by the author. I found the book to be very helpful.

The list from the article isn’t perfect or exhaustive. But at least it helps you start the assessment. I would add a few more penetrating diagnostic questions of my own to the list. Such as:
  • Who keeps you accountable in your local church? Don’t just say everyone at church. Are you able to give specific names?
  • Who do you keep accountable in your local church? Again, don’t just say everyone at church. Give specific names.
  • What percentage of giving have you practiced? The question is not “Have you practiced giving or how have you practiced giving?” Rather, what percentage? The question forces you to answer objectively.
  • What sort of reputation do you think you have in your local church vs. what do others in your local church actually say about you?

If those questions make you uncomfortable, that’s because you probably believe that Christianity and/or being a Christian is no one’s business. Yet the Bible teaches that Christianity (the gospel) and life are antithesis to individualistic, self-focused, and selfish life.

Take time to pray over those questions. And allow others in to help you in your sanctification. After all, your sanctification is community project.

Deuteronomy 13-16

Deuteronomy 13

The community of Yahweh’s redeemed must practice disciplinary action against a member (one who lives “among you“) who has violated Yahweh’s command or continues to live in sin, specifically, idolatry (vv. 1-3, 6-8) to serve other gods. The key phrase is “among you” (vv. 1, 11, 13).

Deuteronomy 14

Various dietary laws concerning meat-eating are given in the first half of the chapter (vv. 1-21). The latter half emphasizes on tithing (vv. 22-29). God allows the tithing to provide for the Levites (priests and their family), aliens, orphans and widows. There is connection between tithing and blessings of Yahweh (v. 29).

Deuteronomy 15

Various ordinances given for the observance of the Sabbatical year, such as, grant remission of debts and releasing the salves. The reason is because Yahweh has been gracious to them (the people of Israel), they need to be gracious, which marks Yahweh’s covenant people from other nations.

Deuteronomy 16

Yahweh repeatedly exhorts his redeemed to remember what he has done for them (vv. 3 and 12). This exhortation is not anything new since he gave the same exhortations in the past. This does point out Yahweh’s reason. That is, because people often forget. Like the people of Israel, we get so caught up with ourselves and forget that apart from his redeeming grace, we all would not be where we are. In essence, all throughout our Christian life we are to remember and reflect on who he is, what he did, what he does, and what he will do. In fact, that is what the church must do and be committed to do. The church must prioritize and practice her commitment in re-presenting the gospel, God’s redeeming drama. Everything the church does and must do is precisely because of the gospel. The gospel shapes and must shape the entire church. So when the church gathers to worship, her songs must re-present the gospel, her prayers must re-present the gospel, her preaching must re-represent the gospel, and so on. And when she comes to the Lord’s Table she breaks bread and drink in remembrance of him, which by the way is the most visible and touchable re-presentation of the gospel.

Deuteronomy 9-12

Deuteronomy 9

Moses’ sermon continues with exhorting the people to remember and to learn from the past sins of their people. Fear of men comes from not trusting in the almighty God, forgetting who he is, or being ignorant to who he is (vv. 1-3). Moreover, the basis for God’s redeeming grace is not because of the people. This is repeated three times (vv. 4-6). God warns not to boast in themselves, for he hates and opposes the proud. It is always healthy thing to reminiscent on God’s redemptive history because it helps to have proper perspective on self and the people (the community).

Deuteronomy 10

It is amazing to observe how consistent the pattern of indicative-imperative is in Deuteronomy. God’s commands are always based on who he is and what he did. Hence, as his recipients of his grace, the people need to fear, to walk, love him, and to serve him with everything (v. 12). At the end of the day, we show our gratitude by obedience to him and his word (v. 13). Again, the doctrine of sovereign election is taught in the OT, for instance, in vv. 14-15. As a result, the imperative is given in verse 16. And verse 17 to 18 reinforce the basis and the reason for verse 19 and 20. Indeed, worship is the end (v. 21).

Deuteronomy 11

The talk of Moses is not given to just anyone but those who have witnessed Yahweh’s great power and work of redemption in Egypt and out of Egypt (vv. 2-7). That is, God’s commands of sanctification is given to his redeemed (v. 8). Moreover, there are benefits to being obedient to Yahweh (v. 9). They are not merely some immaterial things but the actual and physical land (vv. 10-12), along with other blessings (vv. 13-15). However, if disobey, there are severe consequences (v. 28), namely Yahweh’s curse.

Deuteronomy 12

God’s redeemed must obey and live according to Yahweh’s commands in the land/place he has appointed. Unlike other sections in the Pentateuch, this chapter emphasizes primarily on “the place” or “the land” that Yahweh has chosen for his people to live and how to live in the place.

Theology of Suffering

I am convinced that what Christians/churches desperately need today (especially, here in North America) is to understand the inseparable connection between the sovereignty of God and theology of suffering.

Perhaps one of the loving things a pastor can do for his congregation is to help disciple and help others to disciple such reality – that because God is sovereign he will use sufferings to treasure him and to enjoy him alone, and that God be glorified in and through sufferings.

Good Friday Reflection from a Historical Confession

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563):

40. Why did Christ have to go all the way to death? Because God’s justice and truth demand it: only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.

41. Why was he “buried”? His burial testifies that he really died.

42. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die? Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.

43. What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross? Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.

Easter Sunday

I like Easter Sunday. Primarily for what happened in history, thereby, what it implies today and tomorrow. I think it is an important day for the church. Not only for our congregation but for all Christendom. Hence, Easter Sunday is a special day.

At the same time, it is not that special. It is no different than any other Sunday, particularly for churches that regularly preach and teach the gospel, and dispense the whole counsel of God. After all, the gospel includes not only what happened on the cross over 2,000 years ago, but what also happened afterwards on the third day. However, the redemptive story does not end with resurrection of Christ. It further includes the ascension and future return of Christ. Hence, the gospel or God’s redemptive history includes the fulfillment of the past, and the present and future realities. This belief is nothing new. This is what the churches have been confessing all throughout her history. For instance:

I believe in God the Father… And in Jesus Christ…suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried…the third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Our confession of faith depends on what happened in the past. For that reason it has profound implications both presently and eschatologically. Hence, churches that are true to the gospel regularly preach, teach, sing, pray, serve, fellowship, discipline, and partake and fence the table. They do what they do precisely because of the gospel. Hence, Easter Sunday is no different than any other Sunday. This is because to worship on the first day of the week is to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which the Scripture says that he was raised on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). That is why churches gather on the first day of the week and call it the Lord’s Day. Every Sunday is Lord’s Day precisely because of Christ’s resurrection. That is why if you are a member of gospel-loving, gospel-preaching, and gospel-driven church, chances are this Easter Sunday is not drastically different than any other Sundays.

 

 

Deuteronomy 5-8

Deuteronomy 5

Be mindful next time when you hear God’s word: “that you may learn them and observe them carefully” (v. 1). This is because there are many careless hearing and hearers. When there is lack of reverence and fear for God, there is lack of reverence and fear for his word. When God speaks, it is almost always instructional or didactic in nature, so that listeners would learn. Hence, preaching must be instructional. Also, it must be forceful for listeners to apply. That means such preaching is persuasive with strong and sound arguments. The nature of preaching is such that it is liken to  “standing between” God and people, to declare the word of the Lord (v. 5). The type of reverence and fear is liken to what is described in verse 24: “God speaks with man, yet he lives.” Such preaching declares God’s glory and his greatness. Such preaching makes much about God, his glory, and his greatness!

Deuteronomy 6

God’s commands are not grievous, nor are they burdensome. His commands always include purpose and benefits: “Now this is the commandment…that you might do them” (v. 1)… “so that you and your son… might fear the LORD” (v. 2)… “that it may be well with you…” (v. 3). As before, God’s commands are always based on who he is and what he did (e.g., vv. 4-9).

One interesting note: Yahweh reminds what the people did not do, in contrast to what Yahweh did (vv. 10-15). All that to say, the people have nothing to boast of, but that Yahweh alone receives the glory and that he should be feared. In fact, fearing God is one of the central themes in the chapter (vv. 2, 13, 24).

Deuteronomy 7

The first half of the chapter reads like Ephesians 1. It is primarily theocentric, not only in terms of who he is and what he did, but also soteriology focused. The text clearly states that salvation is not based on what people did (obviously the previous chapter already established they have nothing to boast – e.g., 6:10-15), but who and what God did, namely God sovereignly chose them (v. 6), not because they are great in number (v. 7), but because of his sovereign election (vv. 6, 8). Hence, as a result of this grace and truth, the recipients of God’s redeeming covenant must keep his commands (v. 11). That is to say, sanctification is evidence that redeeming grace (justification) has occurred. Hence, both justification and sanctification go together.

Deuteronomy 8

If the previous chapter reads like Ephesians 1 or soteriology, then this chapter reads like sanctification or living as the recipients of God’s sovereign grace. First, all commands are for his redeemed people to do (v. 1a) so that they may live (v. 1b). Second, testings in life are given and God-ordained means to humble his people (v. 2). Third, trials/testings reveal what’s in the heart of man (v. 2). Fourth, so that man would ultimately live by God’s word than mere physical things. Fifth, sanctification requires obedience and reverence (v. 6). Six, giving back to God is part of sanctification, which reveals justification took place (v. 10).

And then the second half of the chapter exhorts the redeemed community not to forget who God is and what he did (v. 11), which implies that people do forget. In fact, the text explicitly states so (vv. 11-19). It is better to receive little and live God-dependent than to have much and be self-sufficient and independent from God, which many are prone to do. The warning is also especially to the have’s and well-off folks. Although this is written so long ago, it speaks as if it was written today!