Give Not Thy Strength

The first principle king Lemuel’s mother teaches him is: “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” (Pr 31:3) A man devoting a disproportionate amount of strength to pursuing women is one thing; giving away his strength in the process is quite another, and seems to be the larger point in the instruction.

A strong, confident man is naturally attractive to women, and this is a good thing, encouraging men to be strong in body, soul and spirit. (1Co 16:13) God has designed men with this capability and tendency so they can protect and bless women, since women are the weaker gender. (1Pe 3:7) God commands men to pursue strength and develop it (1Co 16:13), so men ought not neglect, compromise or relinquish their strength. (Ps 84:7)

Men should bring their strength to any relationship, especially with a woman, rather than looking to women to strengthen them. Women want to draw strength from men, to sense their confidence and capability, to be able to depend on them, to be supported, defended and protected.

A weak, frail, incompetent man who refuses to strengthen himself as well as he can, sabotaging himself such that he depends on women for validation, does no one any favors in this; it is a perversion of God’s design. In looking for his strength, a woman may quickly sap what little he has, and find him unable to support and stabilize her in a crisis, or worse, find herself dominating and disrespecting him … causing the Word of God to be blasphemed (Tit 2:5) and frustrating them both. (Est 1:17-18)

When a man believes he’s weak without a woman’s affirmation, he buys into the lie that he’s not uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God, made directly in His image for a unique and significant purpose. This undermines his confidence, such that he becomes more fearful of women, more easily threatened and intimidated by them, and dependent on their acceptance in a way that defrauds them both of what God has designed him to be.

The truth is that Man is made in the image and glory of God differently than Woman, and this is good for both men and women. Man is made directly in the image of God (Ge 1:27); Woman is made in the image and glory of Man, in the image of God in Man: she is an image of an image of God. (1Co 11:7) This is intrinsic to God’s design, empowering a synergistic, interdependent one-flesh relationship between husband and wife which enables them to fulfill their mutual destiny together. (Ge 1:28) A man should respect this design, and guard his dignity here for both their sakes. (1Ti 2:11)

In pursuing strength, a wise man looks to God to strengthen him (Ps 18:32); he does not look to women. He is unashamed of involuntary weakness, and will routinely take stock of his particular aptitudes and capabilities, asking God to enable and quicken him (Ps 143:11), always growing stronger. (Pr 24:5) As he pursues God he finds dignity in God’s design, sufficiency in God’s grace (2Co 12:9), and power for his journey in Christ. (Php 4:13)

Though unafraid to face his own weaknesses, a man ought not to seek weakness, voluntarily weakening himself, either by speaking so as to make himself appear inappropriately vulnerable or deficient, or by neglecting to discipline and exercise himself physically, mentally and emotionally. He should always act in a manner that engenders respect (Ec 10:1), both for himself and for others. (1Pe 2:17)

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7) This is true for all of us, for both men and women, but in a day of role-reversal corruption and proliferating anti-male sentiment, this reminder is particularly needful for men.

writings    posts

Far From the Wicked

Some people are far away from the kingdom of God (Ps 73:27), and some are not. (Mk 12:34) What’s the difference?

Salvation is far from the wicked, because they’re not seeking God’s statutes. (Ps 119:155) They’re at enmity with God because they aren’t subject to His Law (Ro 8:7); their very nature opposes it. (Je 13:23)

Thinking we’re saved, or that we even want to be saved while we’re committed to sin is a contradiction; salvation is from sin (Mt 1:21), not in sin. (Ro 6:1-2) If we intend to sin and are unconcerned about it, we don’t want to be saved from sin at all — just from the consequences.

Coming to God implies wanting to obey Him, desiring to be aligned with Him, to live in intimate fellowship with Him (Jn 14:21); there’s no salvation apart from this. (He 12:14) Regenerate souls delight in God’s Law (Ro 7:22); we keep it as well as we can (Ps 119:94), and ask God to quicken us so we can obey the rest. (Ps 119:35-37)

Spiritual life produces obedience (1Pe 1:2) in those who are God’s workmanship (Ep 2:10); those who hope in God’s salvation do His commandments  (Ps 119:166), obeying unto the transformation of their souls. (Ps 19:7) This is how we identify the children of God. (1Jn 3:10)

Let no one deceive us here (1Jn 3:7-8): unless we repent and turn away from our sin to God we perish. (Lk 13:3) Those who are willfully disobeying or neglecting any part of God’s Law as a manner of life have no hope of eternal life (1Jn 3:6); they’re self-deceived (Ja 1:22) and will be trodden down by God. (Ps 119:118) Those who are dismissing Torah wouldn’t be persuaded to seek God even if someone came back from the dead to persuade them. (Lk 16:31)

writings    posts

Everlasting Punishment

Fear of suffering eternally in Hell should move us (Jud 1:22-23) to seek the Lord earnestly, striving to enter the Way (Lk 13:23-24), until we know we have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) The infinite cost of failure here makes any other outcome entirely unacceptable to the rational soul.

But is Hell, the second death, actually eternal? What if, as some teach, Hell has an explicit finality to it, where souls don’t suffer forever but are rather extinguished, annihilated, such that they cease to exist? Wouldn’t that be more consistent with a loving God?

Annihilationism is the claim that as the wicked are destroyed (Mt 10:28) they cease to exist, that spiritual death is final and complete, an eradication of body, soul and spirit, producing a state of non-existence. The motive is to frame God as more reasonable and compassionate when eternal torment is not perceived to be justifiable. (Ro 11:33) After all, how could a loving God torture souls eternally? 

To begin, observe that we can destroy something without annihilating it, say, by smashing a computer or a car and rendering it inoperative, incapable of fulfilling its intended purpose, forcing its components into an altered, unusable state.

Similarly, in death (separation of spirit and soul from body) spirit, soul and body continue to exist; none are annihilated. (Lk 16:22) So, verses including death and destroy do not, in themselves, imply Annihilationism.

Further, Annihilationism assumes sin has a finite degree (making infinite punishment unjust) and no benefit in eternal torment (making it unnecessary). But if Man’s unchecked sin is indeed infinite, in both intensity and duration, and if eternal suffering would bring glory to God, prompting worship in the righteous by uniquely revealing the nature of both God and Man, then Annihilationism is problematic. To verify this, let’s search the Scripture.

The Word states, as clearly as anything can be stated, that most souls will suffer consciously for eternity. (Re 14:11) This is not surprising, since we all, when left to ourselves, love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil. (Jn 3:19) This is deeply offensive and dishonoring to God. What should He do about it?

Conventional teaching has been that God angrily casts the wicked into a furnace of fire (Mt 13:42), consigning them there forever because they did not believe on Him in earthly life. (Jn 3:36) This punishment seems so harsh that many struggle to understand how this could possibly be consistent with God’s love and mercy, even if we see it in Scripture. Can anyone truly deserve such an end?

How can God impose this kind of fiery punishment for eternity and yet be loving and just? It is impossible to rightly understand these kinds of things without the proper context; as with many other theological problems, the resolution lies in a full comprehension of the nature of Man.

Everlasting, infinite punishment would only be unjust if the wicked were not infinitely so, if their rebellion were finite in either intensity or duration. Yet, Annihiliationism would explicitly hide this reality from us, such that we could never experience the timeless nature of either God or Man. But isn’t this God’s explicit purpose in Creation, to reveal and glorify Himself? (Ro 9:22-23) If so, how then might eternal punishment reveal and glorify God?

When God has suffered the indignity of our sin long enough, suppose all He does is simply unveil Himself (Is 25:7), showing us all Who He is and what He is like, unfiltered, exactly as He is. (Re 20:11) This will distill every place in the universe down to only one: the immediate presence of Almighty God. Infinite depravity will then begin to fully and intimately engage with infinite holiness, justice and love.

This simple unveiling of God changes everything. Whatever is in God and of God is fulfilled and completed (Col 2:10), home at last, while all outside God is incapacitated (Mt 15:13), shaken to the core (He 12:27), unable to function as designed: destroyed.

As this climactic event unfolds, a permanent standoff develops: the wicked remain opposed to God and at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), while God remains infinitely holy, just and loving. These two natures are entirely irreconcilable; they cannot abide in harmony together, not even a little bit. Each side is absolutely intolerable to the other (Pr 11:20), and they clash with unfathomable violence and intensity. God’s indignant fury fills the wicked with terror (Na 1:6), yet there is no place to hide. The damned begin to suffer the real, ultimate consequence of their rebellion, destroyed by the very glory of the God they despise (2Th 1:9), the inevitable result of their own willful choices and nature.

Since God does not change (Ja 1:17), the only way this stalemate will ever end is if the wicked find it within themselves to repent and turn to God (Je 13:23), otherwise their punishment will indeed be everlasting (Mt 25:46), infinite in both degree and duration, according to their own nature. (Is 33:14)

So, as the wicked stubbornly continue in their unbridled rebellion, drowning in inextinguishable holy fire (Mk 9:43-44), they put their hatred for God on universal display (Ps 21:9), permanently showcasing themselves before God’s throne for the righteous to observe and contemplate. (Is 66:23-24) They are held by the cords of their own sin (Pr 5:22), in perpetual shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2)

In this state, what should God do? Must He annihilate His enemies in order to be loving and just?

What if the holy arms of a loving God remain forever open (Ro 10:21), even to those in Hell (Re 22:17), offering mercy and pardon to any who will repent and turn to Him? (Is 55:7) And what if we begin to observe, in age after incredible age, that the damned will never return to God (Ps 81:15), not a single one (Ps 14:2-3), no matter what immense suffering their own relentless, stubborn blasphemy (Re 16:9) continually draws down upon their own heads? (Pr 27:22) If God ever does do such a thing, and the wicked play their hand as predicted, who could ever rightly complain against Him? (Re_15:4)

And if God did annihilate His enemies, how would we ever know how infinitely evil human nature truly is (Je 17:9), when God gives us up to fully pursue our own way?

Perhaps it is only then, as we actually experience eternity itself, that we will be enabled to fathom more and more the infinitude of our God (Ps 145:3), to glory in His infinite mercy (Ps 103:11), to experience the true nature of unregenerate Man (Ro 8:7), and agree that it’s inexcusable. (Ro 1:20) Perhaps this will enable us to begin to perceive the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through His Son (Ep 2:7), as we explore the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ep 3:8)

The eternal, infinite, willful, voluntarily self-imposed suffering of the damned will be a continual, tangible reminder of what we all are like without God, and what we all deserve. There will be no self-glory in His presence. (1Co 1:29) We will never forget what our Father has done for us. (1Jn 3:1)

writings    posts

God Is Able

Life is suffering, and suffering is hard; apart from God’s restraining grace, pain and hardship often produce bitterness. (He 12:15) Fear that we’ll become resentful in our suffering is to doubt God will give us grace to overcome.

God is certainly able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jud 1:24); He’s able to make all grace abound toward us, so that we’ll glorify Him in every circumstance of life. (2Co 9:8)

This motivates us to pray for ourselves (Ps 119:25) and for each other (1Th 5:23), encouraging one another in the midst of suffering (He 12:12-13), that patience will have her perfect work in us (Ja 1:4), and that God will perfect us  — establishing, strengthening and settling us. (1Pe 5:10)

Believers are saved by hope (Ro 8:24), delivered from worry and despair by our confident expectation that, in the midst of suffering, God will strengthen us to the praise of His Glory (Ep 1:12): this is what He’s chosen us for, and predestinated us unto. (Ep 1:11) We’re His workmanship, created by Him in Christ unto good works, in which God has predetermined us to walk. (Ep 2:10)

Once we understand the purpose of suffering, that God’s design is to glorify Himself in us through it, we rejoice in tribulation (Ro 5:3), knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. (Ja 1:2-3) Patiently enduring trial enables us to experience God’s faithfulness, and such experience produces hope. (Ro 5:4) God is faithful to sanctify us, and He will do it. (1Th 5:24)

Look for His smile in and through suffering; it’s only in being willing to die for Christ that we may experience the power of His resurrection. (Php 3:10)

writings    posts

Remember the Sabbath Day

One of the Ten Commandments is: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex 20:8) God’s telling us to remember a specific day of the week and set it apart, keep it special, dedicated for His intended purpose: this day is for rest. (Ex 20:11)

Noting the correct day is where we must begin; God sets apart the seventh day, Saturday, and calls it the sabbath day. (Ex 20:10) So, working on Saturday breaks the command; it’s inappropriate except under extenuating circumstances, where basic necessities, health or safety are at risk. (Mt 12:12) But God is calling us beyond simply resting on Sabbath: He tells us to remember it.

Remembering the sabbath is being systematic, intentional and deliberate about setting it apart; God’s telling us to think about it, anticipate it, prepare for it (Mk 15:42), plan for a complete change of pace. This is where the spirit of the command is critical: God hasn’t formally defined work, and this is no accident; what’s work for one soul isn’t for another.

Work varies by context, so we must careful and prayerful to get this right. For example, a consultant should intentionally forget about work on sabbath; going for a swim or a run, taking a hike or gardening a bit might be quite restful for a working mind on sabbath, but a manual laborer should focus more on physical rest. One who seldom cooks might enjoy making breakfast on sabbath, but a homemaker might prepare sabbath meals ahead to improve her sabbath rest.

While we must not be careless with the sabbath, treating it like any other day and doing whatever we like (Is 58:13), we also need to be careful not to make sabbath a burden, as did the Pharisees of old. (Mt 23:4) Becoming preoccupied, rigid and judgmental about what can and can’t be done on sabbath can destroy its spirit and purpose. Specifics are generally going to be a matter of individual conscience, and this is by design; we should each be careful to please our own master here. When the sabbath is no longer a delight, a true day of rest and peace unto our spirits and souls, we’re missing the whole point.

As a general rule or precept, we should stop laboring, pushing ourselves, doing what we normally do to provide for ourselves and those under our care. The daily grind, the routine, mundane chores and demands of life — these should be off-limits — so long as we aren’t violating the law of love: keeping sabbath shouldn’t cause us to neglect those in need. (Lk 13:15) Whatever facilitates rest and comfort for our selves, families and communities is within the spirit of sabbath.

Creatively obeying from the heart is how we find God’s heart in sabbath; He’s for our total health and well-being, and that’s why He made it. (Mk 2:27)

writings    posts