Partial Obedience

Real obedience is “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart.” Anything else is disobedience.

My oldest daughter Anna hates washing dishes. While she was growing up, whenever my wife or I asked her to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, she suddenly remembered homework or some other desperately important thing to do. My wife Nancy would ask again and again until Anna started shouting and Nancy started crying. Eventually I would intervene and Anna would do the dishes. She did a fine job, but the process was exhausting.

“Mack”, an employee of mine from several years ago, never refused to do a task, but did a poor job at it. If I asked him to update a spreadsheet, he might update a column and leave the rest unchanged. This had the unfortunate effect of changing the results in most of the other columns and ruining everything. In the time it took to correct his work, I could have done it, and four other things. “Mack” soon found other opportunities.

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Afraid to Be Holy

Holiness, being set apart, is exactly what most of us don’t want. It is scary, lonely, hard, and subjects us to all manner of injury. Yet God commands us, in company with our brothers and sisters in Christ, to be holy. 

This morning I mentioned to a member of my Bible Fellowship class that we would be studying holiness. Like many people, he asked if I meant “morally good or ethical.” “Actually,” I replied, “to be holy is to be set apart to God. Morality is only part of holiness.” To be holy, we must be morally like God, but we must also be different in non-moral ways from the world around us. Ancient Israel is a good example. Circumcision confers no moral benefit, but God required it of His people nonetheless. Following the dietary and hygiene laws in Leviticus results in better health, but not in claims to greater righteousness.

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Modern Idolaters and Chronological Snobs

Whether we admit it or not, we often think that we are smarter, more moral, and better than our ancestors. We should not be so sure. 

My son recently completed his first year in engineering at Virginia Tech, and found himself surrounded by highly accomplished and intelligent faculty and students. These people differed on religion, politics, lifestyles, interests, backgrounds, and almost everything else. Yet they agreed on one important opinion: people today are smarter, more virtuous, and perhaps even better overall, than people of yesteryear.

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