We may leave our evil path for awhile. But like a dog returning to its vomit, we tend to return to what was bad for us (Proverbs 26:11).
For awhile, we may become religious: Seek salvation, like Israelites searching for John the Baptist; grieve for our mistakes, like Saul’s bitter weep (1 Samuel 24:17, 26:21) and Ahab’s fasting (1 Kings 21:27); believe in Christ’s words (John 2:23-25); leave everything to follow Christ, like the disciple Judas (Matthew 19:27); or have affection for God (Matthew 13:20-21; Galatians 4:11, 15-16), like the Israelites committing to follow God’s command (Exodus 15:1-19; Deuteronomy 5:27, 29).
Like the Israelites, we can experience God’s majesty, as at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-18, Exodus 32); numerous miracles (Exodus 13:21-22, 16:14-17, 32:8; Joshua 10:13; Luke 16:31); God’s judgment and punishments (Numbers 11:3, 16:41, 16:31, 21:6, 21:1); and God’s blessings (Deuteronomy 32:13-16, Isaiah 26:10).
Pain and suffering can bring us to God (Isaiah 1:5, Proverbs 27:22), but after our misery has subsided, our love for God may disappear quickly (Hosea 6:4).
We may behave well because of our love for worldly interest, honor, our children etc. But while we may be good in one area, our wickedness shows up in another.
Our original nature is corrupt and is the slave of sin (John 8:23, 34; Romans 7:14; Jeremiah 17:9, 13:23). Unless our nature is changed, our resolution to do good is built on sand (Matthew 7:26). We will return to our filth, gratifying our lust (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Without a change in nature, there is no sure foundation for our goodness. We may become worse than before (Mark 4:17, 1 John 2:19, Hebrews 10:38, Luke 14:29-30, Ezekiel 18:24).
By ourselves, we cannot change our nature (John 3:4). We need God to give us a new heart and make us holy.
With our sinful nature changed by God, we will have a new understanding; new conviction; and a new appetite for God’s word and imitating God’s character by doing just and holy things.
Summarized from a Jonathan Edwards sermon:
Major conflicts or contradictions in life can lead us to search for God. In Exodus 3:1-14, Moses saw a bush on fire that didn’t burn up. That unexplainable event attracted Moses away from tending his flock and brought him to God.
A disrupting event in our life can turn us away from our normal path. Some examples include the bishop’s reaction to Jean stealing his stuff in Les Miserables; being unable to graduate due to flunking a class we thought we knew well; and feeling deeply lost after getting what our hearts intensely desire.
When Moses walked over to the burning bush, God called to him, “Moses! Moses!” In the Bible, the doubling of a word implies emphasis, and doubling a proper name conveys emotional intensity. God wanted to be closer to Moses, yet His holiness forbad Him. From a distance, God told Moses He would rescue the Israelites through Moses (v8, 10).
Similarly, God wants to be closer to us, but His holiness forbids Him to be close to sinful humans. So, through Christ, God came down to save us.
Christianity has a lot of contradictions that are beyond our understanding. For example, many things in life seem to be predetermined, but we also have free will. Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount demand perfection, yet Christ is extremely merciful and loving. He sacrificed Himself on the cross, taking our place to be consumed by the wrath of God the Father.
It is difficult for us to understand how we, as sinners, could be filled with Christ’s righteousness, beauty, and glory, or how our God can be both full of love and truth, mercy and holiness.
God could be using contradictions to lead us to Him. Keep exploring, and God will reveal Himself to you.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon
在生活中一些打破日常平静的事件可能使我们转离日常的轨迹。例如在悲惨世界中，主教如何应对窃取他的东西的冉阿让; 又如因为考试不及格而不能毕业，但考的一科却是自己以为很有把握的课程; 亦或是终於得到心中强烈渴望的东西之后的心灵空虚和失落。
摩西走向燃烧着的丛树时，上帝呼唤他，“摩西！摩西！” 在圣经中重复一个单词表示强调，重复一个名称代表强烈的情感。上帝想要更接近摩西，然而祂的圣洁禁止祂前往。上帝从远处告诉摩西祂将用他来拯救以色列人（出埃及记3：8, 10）。
基督教有许多表面看似矛盾而超出我们理解的地方。例如生活中的许多事情似乎是预先确定的，但我们也有自由的选择；又如基督的教导非常严格，像在登山宝训中的完美要求，然而祂又非常怜悯慈爱, 为我们在十字架上牺牲, 取代我们的位置被父神的忿怒惩治。
Paul was in prison because of the Ephesians, and the Ephesian Christians were suffering too. Then Paul encouraged and prayed for them (3:1,13). What did Paul pray for? Let’s learn from Ephesians 3:13-21.
Typically, one would pray to reduce their physical affliction and sickness. Paul didn’t. Nor did Paul pray for their health, wealth, beauty, reputation, or comfort.
Instead, Paul asked God to strengthen them through the Holy Spirit!
Paul also asked God to help them grasp the immense love of Christ—not just knowing with their minds, but fully realizing the width, length, depth and height of Christ’s love.
This love is shown by God never forsaking us (Heb13:5). If we know that, we should never feel insecure.
This love is shown by Christ: even though He is God, He became human, suffered to the point of death, and died on a cross for us (Philippians 2:5-8, Matthew 26:38). If we know that, we would follow Christ who loves us so much.
This love is shown by Christ giving us the glory His Father gave Him (John17:22). If we remember that, we will not be enslaved by worldly things.
This love is worth the adoration of millions of angels (Revelation5:11-12). Shouldn’t we adore Him also?
Day by day, we should strive to be mindful of this immense love of Christ so that we might be renewed, even as our physical bodies grow weak (2Corinthians4:16).
When we suffer, we must guard against being controlled by the suffering, and instead seek to overcome whatever sorrow and grief are upon us. We must ask God to strengthen us through the Holy Spirit and to help us grasp Christ’s immense love.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon
保罗因为以弗所人被监禁，而以弗所的基督徒也在受苦。保罗鼓励他们不要气馁, 为他们祷告 （以弗所书 3：1, 13）。保罗祈求些什么呢？让我们从以弗所书3:13-21中学习.
上帝从不放弃我们，祂的爱就如此显明出来 （ 希伯来书13：5）。如果知道这一点，就不应感到不安全。
基督的一生也显明了这种爱。 虽然祂是上帝，但却成了人，为我们受苦, 以致于死, 且死在十字架上 （ 腓立比书2：5-8; 马太福音26:38）。如果知道这点，就会跟随这么爱我们的基督。
基督赐下从父神那里得到的荣耀，这种爱也由此显明出来 （ 约翰福音17：22）。记住这点，我们就不会成为世物的奴役。
这种爱值得千万天使的敬拜 （ 启示录5：11-12）。我们岂不也该加入他们的敬拜大军吗？
When we prioritize anything over God, we have broken the first commandment. Breaking the first quickly leads to breaking other commandments.
Let’s consider an example. Many thirst for approval, and would lie and cheat to get others’ acceptance. In this case, approval has become an idol. Worshipping this idol can lead to breaking the ninth commandment. To illustrate, Mary speaks falsely of Joe’s character. Christine knows Mary is wrong, but Christine wants Mary to accept her, so she pretends to agree. Because Christine values Mary’s acceptance over honesty, Christine has lied against another’s character.
If the meaning of our life and our hope rest on something other than God, that thing will become our idol. Driven by the wrong thing would distort our life.
So, how do we get rid of our idols and improve permanently?
First, we need to agree that we have to change.
Second, we need to identify our idols, the earthly objects that we base our hope and happiness on.
Identifying the idol doesn’t mean we’ve removed it.
If we change because we are afraid of missing out on some earthly thing, such change won’t last. Or, if we change because we think we are better than others, such change also won’t last. As soon as it becomes more profitable to change back, we’ll flip. If we can get something more for smearing others, we would do it. In order to truly change, we need to be driven by the right force from within.
We change to follow God because He is so much wiser than we are.
We change to follow God because God loves us, which He demonstrated at the cross. Thus, it is rational for us to follow Him. It is rational for us to change.
Meditate on the love of God. Meditate on the Gospel. Even angels, who are much more intelligent than we are, “long to look into” it (1 Peter 1:12).
It is easy for us to revert back to our old habits, but if we continue to meditate on the cross, we will gradually improve. We will focus more and more on God. Then, one day we will see why Paul said the Gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16).
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon:
让我们举一个例子。 许多人渴望得到认可，会用欺骗的方法赢得他人的接受。此时，他人的认可成了偶像。崇拜这个偶像就导致违反第九条诫命。比如，玛丽诬陷亨利的品格。珍妮虽然知道玛丽错了，但因为希望玛丽的喜欢和接受，就支持她对亨利的攻击。 在珍妮的眼里，玛丽的接受比诚实更重要，所以就加入了说谎伤害他人的队伍。
How does Christ change people? Let’s see how Christ convinced a promiscuous and lonely Samaritan woman (John 4:6-26).
To begin, Christ talked to her. At that time, Jews didn’t mingle with Samaritans, and men wouldn’t talk in public to women they didn’t know. Also, she was an outcast (drawing water from a well alone at noon, rather than a cooler and busier hour of the day). In approaching her, Christ broke racial, gender, social, and moral barriers and showed Himself as a bridge between polar opposites in society.
What Christ was about to give to the woman was “the gift of God.” One with strength, money, power, or other indicators of social status wouldn’t have a higher chance to get it. It was and is a gift for everyone.
Second, Christ linked the Gospel to something important and desirable. Christ compared the Gospel to water, which is paramount for survival. Unlike laws that we are forced to follow, water is something one desperately needs.
Lastly, Christ showed her what she was pursuing would never satisfy her. When the Samaritan woman asked for the living water, Christ told her to bring her husband, a non-sequitur response. The woman had had five husbands, and the man with her at that point was not her husband. Christ wanted her to see that what she was seeking, be it water or men, would never be enough. She always had to return for more.
Irrespective of what we pursue—money, health, possession, beauty, sex, power, friendship, family, importance, or intelligence—we will never be satisfied. We always want more, and these things can destroy us.
But Christ’s living water wouldn’t abuse us. We don’t need to earn it. It is a gift.
On the cross, Christ asked for water, which symbolized Christ experiencing unquenchable thirst when His Father had forsaken Him. Because of His suffering, we can have the gift of the living water, the gift that can fully satisfy us.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon
无论我们追求什么在世上的物件或重要的事情--金钱, 健康, 美丽, 性, 权力, 友谊, 家庭或智慧--我们总觉得不够，总想要更多，而这些东西可能会摧毁我们。
gospelinlife.com/downloads/eating-with-jesus-5123/Loving our neighbors implies serving people very different from us, or even offensive to us. How is that possible?
The key is to focus on Christ.
We could see the apostle Peter’s focus shifting from himself to Christ via two fish-catching incidents. In both cases, Christ told him where to fish, leading to lots of fish.
The first time was when Peter first met Christ. Peter’s response to the spectacular experience was: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:1-10). Peter’s focus was himself.
The second time was after Christ’s resurrection. As soon as Peter knew the person teaching them how to fish was Christ, Peter at once jumped into the water to swim to Him (John 21:7). Peter could have run away because Christ might punish Peter for denying Him three times. Instead, Peter swam to Christ at once. Peter’s focus had shifted from himself to Christ.
Peter changed because Christ let him in and never let him down. Christ let Peter in by opening up to him, making known to Peter everything He learned from the Heavenly Father (John 15:15). Christ never let him down. He even died for him to save him (John 15:13). Christ had become Peter’s greatest friend.
Not just his great friend, Christ also had filled Peter’s deepest needs. Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Peter didn’t have to yearn for others’ approval or material things on Earth. When Peter tried to compare himself with John, Christ told Peter to focus on his own path and story, and to focus on following Him (John 21:20-22).
Peter became an overflowing spring that fulfilled the needs of countless people. But he didn’t accomplish this by himself.
Peter also became a part of the body of Christ, which includes the Christian community. This community builds each other up, helps each other, and rejoices and mourns together.
May the almighty Christ be our greatest friend and our focus. May we let Him fill our deepest needs. May we be a part of the community of Christ so that we might love and serve our neighbors.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon:
彼得也成为基督身体的一部分。 这身体包括基督徒的群体, 而这个群体彼此建立, 互相帮助, 一起欢乐，一同悲伤。