The Care and Feeding of the Born-Again Heart: In Remembrance of Our Spiritual Forebears… To Recall, Recognize, Repent, Renew, Rejoin
Each short, pithy, and sweetmeat for the race-runner’s heart will be followed by a very brief offering under the banners of “The 5-R’s”: Recall (Dt 8:2; Rev 2:5), Recognize (John 8:32; 17:17), Repent (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9), Renew (Isa 40:31; Romans 12:1-2), Rejoin (Ezk 11:19-20; 1 Peter 4:9-11).
Our “Principle from a Puritan Forbearer” for today’s feast of the heart at The Training Table reminds me of an aspect of a larger problem in many “Western churches” of our day:
If and when the disciplines of discipleship are neglected, missing, or executed incompletely, sloppily, or in deference to pleasing man over God, the details or “attributes of the Christian life”, the signs of the faith usually fall into the categories of, “unknown”, “unmeasured”, “unaccountable”, “untried”… and eventually—left in neglect for long enough—“deemed untrue”… or even detestable to the coddled pride.
The swings between legalism—“legalistically-applied and adhered to” and license—“unapplied and untested all together” can often define how “the Signs of Living to Please God” are neglected or inappropriately treated. The result can be infant, undiscipled, unprepared, and defenseless Christians are often produced by the church and left as causalities in the war against worldliness, the flesh [sinful habits], and the devil. This is a shame.
The Law of the Farm
In the very same way God created a framework for the birth, the seedling, the growth, and the fruitfulness of plant-life in nature before He created humankind (Genesis 1,2), there is a “birth, seedling, growth, and fruitfulness process” witnessed in the born-again Christian. It’s linear, logical, organic, cyclical, noticeable, and measureable… and worthy of all thanksgiving and praise! Signs of the faith are very important to establish, recognize, encourage, and procreate.
Fruitfulness is a sign of faith and a life willing and devoted to loving and pleasing God and blessing neighbor as self.
And if such “signs, marks, and fruits” are not preached, taught, known, made explicit, written down, accounted for, encouraged, measured, and intentionally stewarded with all the time, talent, and treasure we can bring to bear… while their opposite DIScouraged… We will naturally default to that state of lukewarm ineffectiveness God despises, because He desires to be glorified and loves His children so… (Rev 3:16).
Please carefully and intentionally read a rendition of the signs of faith by Richard Baxter. Please understand that the language of the day is offered intentionally by me: It requires a posture of honor, care and humility to ingest… and that nourishing, a feast of the heart!
Signs of Living to Please God, Richard Baxter
“See therefore that you live upon God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and will suffice you, which you may discover by these signs:
1. You Love to Know God: You will be most careful to understand the bible, Holy Scripture, to know God and what doth please and displease God.
2. You Love to Glorify God: You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God, rather than the pleasing of men.
3. You Love to Know Your Own Heart—both as depraved and divine: You will look to your own hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
4. You Love to Honor the Spirit—the affections/emotions flowing from the heart: You will reverence your conscience, and have much to do with it, and will not slight it: when it tells you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when it tells you of his approval, it will comfort you.
5. You Love God, and Neighbor, as Self: Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honor with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.
6. You Love to Practice Integrity—inside and out: You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.
7. You Love to Live in the World, but Not of It: Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, it will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God’s judgment, is small. You live not reliant on them. You can bear man’s displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased with you in Christ.
These will be the evidences of your Christian faith.”
NOTE: Even though it’s implicit above, I would add explicitly, You Love to Belong to a Bible-Based Church: As a committed and serving member, partaking in the sacraments, learning, growing, raising children, and on mission to a dark and decaying world as Christ’s light and salt in word and deed.
Faith is Capable of Degrees
The New Testament speaks of faith in various ways: little faith (Matt 14:31), great faith (Matt 15:28), unfeigned faith (2 Tim 1:5), and strong faith (Rom 4:20). But, seen as “signs and foundations of the faith”, the above signs offered by Puritan Richard Baxter should be taken seriously, soberly, and as, a) a foundation for God’s assurances in Christ, PLUS, b) a platform for discipleship, growth, holiness, fruitfulness, and servant-effectiveness!
Only Biblical Christianity offers both the foundation and the platform for living—in time and for eternity—”Coram Deo”, before the face of God.
Recall—“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Recognize—“ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Repent—“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Renew—“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Rejoin—“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:1-8).
Please consider taking whatever time, talent, and treasure it requires to see how the sings of the faith above should and can be applied to your own Christian faith and walk in word and in deed. Consider how sharing these signs with an accountability person or group can help you be loved and cared for in the ways God most desires: The fruits of His glorious plan to conform you more and more into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ!
Please come on back to The Training table next week. The menu will consist of the wonderful subject and reminder of, The Benefits of Seeking to Please God, by Richard Baxter.
Living a life pleasing to God is THE life worth living in the here and now, but will also be the determining factor for what our life, our “rank”, our rewards, and our station will look like for eternity, Beloved of God. It’s huge…
Keep on runnin’ the Godly and good race, marathoners in and for Christ,