Words of Grace, Winter 2006-2007
"Every home should have a room set apart for books, where they may be arranged in order, and kept neat and clean. A good book is a beauty, in and out, and everywhere. But great caution is necessary in the selection of reading matter. The world is flooded with a muddy overflow of literary trash.”
This Issue’s Book Review: “The Liberty of Obedience”, by Elisabeth Elliot
Probably most of you by know have heard of or watched The End of the Spear, the recent movie release about martyred missionaries trying to share the gospel with the Auca Indians of South America. Elisabeth Elliot was one of the widowed wives who returned with her three year old daughter to live with that same tribe of people.
In her book, The Savage My Kinsman, she writes about her life with them. The Liberty of Obedience explains how she studied the essential tenets of the Christian faith in order to share them. She questioned, "And would we have the grace to let that Word operate as He wanted it to, or would we hold out our own notions or the effect it should have?" This is an interesting question for everyone interested in sharing the gospel in a cross-cultural setting. Or to help all of us understand more clearly what cultural trappings we may have absorbed into our own Christian faith. Elliott discusses her examinations about the teachings and examples of Christ regarding the appearance of evil, possessions & the heart, service for God, and Christian maturity. These questions will resonate with all of us as we seek to understand and articulate our own faith to our family members and friends, as well as people around us from dissimilar backgrounds.
"A sincere attempt to discover ways in which I might guide the Aucas in making moral choices led me to the realization that I had sometimes called things sinful which the Bible did not call sinful; and if I had imposed these on the Indians, I would have been guilty of the Pharisees' sin of laying burdens too heavy to be borne." (p. 22) In considering the question "what is meant by the appearance of evil," Elliot attempts to discern how to teach a completely different culture about sin and morality. She wrestled with issues like what does modesty really mean when no one ever wears clothes? What about polygamy? How do you avoid the appearance of evil when Christ Himself (who was perfectly sinless) was accused of gluttony, drunkenness and blasphemy? Obviously the issue lies deeper than what a culture calls evil. It must even lie deeper than what our hearts call evil, because "the heart is decitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17: 9,10) In examining the life of Jesus, Elisabeth Elliot found that Jesus "frequently offended the sensibilities of religious leaders," especially when they had rejected the spirit of God's law for their own ends (like denying financial assistance to needy parents in order to "give money to God" - see Matthew 15: 1-20). Jesus said to the Pharisees on one occasion, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3) But at other times, like when Peter was requested to pay a tax, Jesus replied that they should comply so as not to offend them. Obviously Jesus saw to the heart of people and issues, and was able to discern God's will in each situation. He touched dead and leperous people, rendering Himself ceremonially unclean according to the Pharisees. But in reality He cleansed the unclean by the power of His divinity, just as He called the dead back to life. Elisabeth concludes this fascinating discussion by appealing to the sovereignty and wisdom and mercy of God, "Decisions must be made in the integrity of the heart before God – with an unselfish attention to our brother's good and the glory of God. None of us is capable of plumbing even his own motives, far less those of his brother, so let us be slow to criticize another. Let us not be Pharisees in our certainty of what God could or could not permit." (p. 29)
In another section, Elliot addresses the concept of worldiness for a believer in Christ. She writes, "Paul, as early as AD 62, wrote a letter to a small group of believers who had been plagued by some who set up rules and regulations concerning 'worldly' things. The Colossians, in a sincere effort to forsake the world, had submitted to these rules, and in so doing had actually made themselves part of the world-system.... Throw them off, says Paul – they look wise, they promote an exertion of willpower, but they are worthless in checking the indulgence of the flesh. They have nothing to do with the real issue." (p. 33, Colossians 2) How do we live a godly life? By vigilant self-denial and restraint – trying to be holy as much as we can, or is there a different road? This seems an interesting question for our own GFC church body, with our emphasis on biblical counseling and how people change. (Our church motto is, after all, "Jesus Christ Changing Lives.") Elliot continues to explain, "The Scripture means two things by the _expression, 'the world.' First, and most simply, it means all that is temporal. Second, and by implication, it means all those who are occupied soley with the temporal. The first category comprises things; the second, people."
Elisabeth makes a fascinating observation about Jesus. Although He was completely other-worldly in His spirit, thought, and teaching, "the Lord Jesus...conformed to the world in matters of food, drink, and dress, and even in social situations....He ate what other people ate, drank what they drank – and even in questionable company, and in such a manner that He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. Surely He dressed as other men dressed if He was not easily recognized on many occasions. (He even had to be identified by Judas' kiss.)" (p. 34-35) And yet, we cannot help but observe that Jesus seemed relatively unaffected by these things. He just as often could go without food for a long time (at least once His disciples had to remind Him that it was meal time!), or go for long periods of time without sleeping so He could pray. What a living picture for us of someone utterly in the world, yet completely not of it. Elliot gets to the root of our struggle with attaching ourselves unduly to these temporary things. If we set our heart on following after things that are passing away we cannot be also following after Christ, because they are going in opposite directions. "We are not asked to deny ourselves as many things as possible in order to set our hearts on the Eternal. Things are not incompatible with Christ....They are not sinful for this reason. Only human beings may be sinful... It is our use of things that determines their effect on us. It is our response to events, not the events themselves that shapes us. God is more concerned with the heart." (p. 36) When we become enamoured with "things" the world can provide for us – physical comfort, entertainment, acclaim and status, we find our desires manifesting themselves in "rivalries, bitter jealousy, and disharmony." (p. 37) But how do we keep ourselves pure from loving the things of the world more than we ought? Elliot suggests that by we receive God's blessings with thanksgiving, and sanctifying them by the the word of God and prayer. By keeping our eyes and minds on the Giver of all good gifts we may continually give Him our hearts as well. I would also add that practicing contentment and thankfulness in every situation will help us to enjoy Christ even when we don't have quite so many material blessings.
One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book was because of the focus on the life of Christ. There is nothing like examining the gospels to get your thoughts fixed on Jesus! Elisabeth Elliot's careful analysis of evangelism (or missions) and culture was very interesting, and applicable to the whole postmodern question engaging church culture at the present. Its also interesting to learn more about her life and ministry among the Auca Indians, whom she clearly grew to love and respect. The Liberty of Obedience is engaging and thought-provoking especially as it challenges us to go deeper in our faith and sink our roots into Christ Himself, not just everyday American Christianity.
--(Reviewed by Stephanie Taylor)
“The Liberty of Obedience”, by Elisabeth Elliot, can be checked out from the Grace Fellowship Library. Procedures for checking this and other books out from the library are found in the library notebook, located on the library shelves.
Being Dead, Yet They Speak
(Below are excerpts from Jonathan‘s Edwards‘ “Resolutions”, a series of commitments he made throughout his life when reflecting on certain spiritual truths. He began this practice at age 19.)
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.
Words of Grace From Today
“God created me – and you – to live with a single all embracing passion. All transforming passion- namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
New to the Library:
We have several new titles which have been added to the Grace Fellowship library. Enjoy!
-New Covenant Theology (Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel)
-The Cross-Centered Life (CJ Mahaney)
-Shadow of the Almighty (Elisabeth Elliot)
-Twelve Ordinary Men (John MacArthur)
-Uprooting Anger (Robert Jones)
-Unger’s Bible Dictionary
-Unger’s Bible Dictionary
-Strike the Original Match (Charles Swindoll)
-Improving Your Serve (Charles Swindoll)
-Anxiety Attacked (John MacArthur)
-Sacred Marriage (Gary Thomas)
-Age of Opportunity (Paul David Tripp)
-Not Even a Hint (Josh Harris)
-Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Paul David Tripp)
-The Peacemaker (Ken Sande)
-Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (John Piper/Wayne Grudem, eds.)
-Love to Eat, Hate to Eat (Elyse Fitzpatrick)
-Peacemaking for Families (Ken Sande/Tom Raebe)
-Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp)
Library and Bookstore News
For information on library procedures, such as checking out books and donating books to the library, refer to the library notebook, located on the library bookshelf.
Also Available in the Library: We now have two journals available:
-The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
-The Journal of Biblical Counseling (CCEF), on CD-ROM.
These are available in Pastor Kenny’s office; see him to check them out.
For History Buffs
- December 7, 374 -- The church father Ambrose was consecrated Bishop of Milan. Ambrose was a lawyer who won the position when crowds demanded it. Ambrose had used persuasive oratory to settle a riot between Arians and Orthodox Christians. One of Ambrose’s most important contributions to the church is his refutation of the Arian heresy, which denied that Christ was fully God.
- January 8, 1956 -- Missionaries Ed McCulley, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian were killed by the Auca Indians in South America,
whom they were trying to win to Christ.
- January 17, 1604-- King James of England gets a motion passed to translate the Scriptures into English. The Geneva Bible which was in use at that time had too many footnotes which, her felt, were critical of the Church of England. Through its powerful rhythms and pleasing phrases, The King James Version (completed in 1611) shaped the language of the Bible-reading public.
- February 18, 1678--John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, an allegory depicting the Christian life, was first published. It is the most popular Christian book, next to the Bible itself.
(Adapted from The Christian History Institute, http://chi.gospelcom.net/about/index.shtm).