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Morality by Consensus

Morality by consensus. That’s the way so many of us live, avoiding the things we collectively determine are wrong while affirming the things we determine are right and good. By consequence, our morals are in constant flux, constant transition, as they respond and adapt to the spirit of the age. This is true outside of the church and, sadly, true even within Christian culture.

In The Discipline of Grace Jerry Bridges challenges us that “if we are going to make progress in the pursuit of holiness, we must aim to live according to the precepts of Scripture—not according to the culture, even the Christian culture, around us.” But we can’t do this if we don’t know what those precepts are and we can’t know what those precepts are unless we are immersed in the Word of God. Says Bridges,

To pursue holiness, one of the disciplines we must become skilled in is the development of Bible-based convictions. A conviction is a determinative belief: something you believe so strongly that it affects the way you live. Someone has observed that a belief is what  you hold, but a conviction is what holds you. You may live contrary to what you believe, but you cannot live contrary to your convictions.

Thus Bridges wants us to see that there is a difference between your beliefs and your convictions. We can believe all the right things but still have very wrong convictions. He shows that when it comes to convictions, Bible presents us with something like an “influence continuum.” On one side of a line is sinful society and on the other side is the Word of God. We all exist somewhere on this continuum, influenced to lesser or greater extent by each. “Our attitude toward the Word of God and the time we spend thinking about it. Nothing else will determine where you are on that continuum.” As Christians mature, they move to the “God’s Word” side of the continuum, being influenced more by God and less by society.

As he discusses our commitment to the Word of God, Bridges offers a helpful take on what it means to meditate upon Scripture continually, saying, “We should not think of the concept of ‘continually’ as meaning every moment. Rather we should think in terms of consistently and habitually. What does your mind turn to when it is free to turn to anything? Do you begin to meditate on Scripture? I often people ask this question: ‘When you can think about anything you want to think about, what do you think about?” That is a good challenge and something well worth pondering. Continually meditating on God’s Word is allowing it to fill those little parts of the mind that otherwise get filled with worries and cares and lusts and everything else.

Here are a few other helpful quotes from this chapter of The Discipline of Grace:

  • “However knowledgeable about Scripture we may be, we need to approach it each day as little children, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us. Regardless of how much we already know and understand, there is still an infinite storehouse of understanding of the mind of God waiting for us in Scripture.”
  • “One thing we can be sure of: If we do not actively seek to come under the influence of God’s Word, we will come under the influence of sinful society around us. The impact of our culture with its heavy emphasis on materialism, living for one’s self, and instant gratification is simply too strong and too pervasive for us not to be influenced by it.”
  • How do we treasure up God’s Word in our hearts? The answer is through continual meditation on Scripture. In order to think about Scripture continually, however, we need to have it in our minds. The best way to do this is through the discipline of memorizing key passages of Scripture.”
  • “Our tendency seems to be to equate knowledge of the truth, and even agreement with it, with obedience to it.”
  • “Our acceptance by God the Father is based solely on His grace to us through Christ. His favor is never earned by what we do nor forfeited by what we don’t do. But we may say with equal emphasis that our progress in the pursuit of holiness is to a significant degree conditioned on our use of the disciplines that God has appointed for us. And they have been appointed by God. They have not been initiated by the ‘disciplined’ school of discipleship. They were initiated by God.”

Next Week

For next Thursday please read chapter eleven (assuming that you are reading along with me).

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose. Reading Classics Together