An Honorable Ambition

Are you ambitious enough as a Christian?  While ambition is fraught with danger, there is a godly ambition that we are called to as Christians.  This godly ambition is closely tied to our love for God and His Glory: we long to see God glorified; we long to be used by God to glorify himself; therefore, we can and should have a godly ambition for our gifts and talents to be used to their highest for His highest.  As Oswald Chambers put it in the title of his class book:  My Utmost for His Highest. J. Oswald Sanders quotes Paul and Jeremiah at the head of his chapter entitled "An Honorable Ambition."

To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition. 1 Tim 3:1, New English Bible

Seekest though great things for thyself? Seek them not.  Jeremiah 45:5

In reflection upon these verses he writes:

Is there not more than a modicum of truth in the claim that ambition is the 'last infirmity of noble minds?'  Was not Shakespeare expressing a profound truth when he made Wolsey say:

Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambitions/By that sin fell the angels; /how can man then, The image of his Maker, hope to profit by't?

We cannot deny that there is an ambition which warrants these strictures.  But there are ambitions that are noble and worthy and to be cherished.  When the two passages at the head of this chapter are held in constant tension by one who desires to  be effective in the service of God and realizes the highest potential of his life, there need be little fear for the outcome of that ambition.

We need to be ambitious for the glory of God.  One peculiar sign of this godly ambition is prayer: prayers that take Jesus at his word and asks the Father to do great things for his glory in your life, your family, your church, your Session, your Diaconate, your nation, your workplace, etc.   Pray daily and specifically.  Keep a record of these ambitious, specific prayers.  You will be amazed (worship) at what begins to unfold before your eyes as you pray daily over your list.

Signs of sinful ambition are the craving for recognition, the need to be in control, the need to get it all done yourself, and a short temper when things don't go your way.  If that is your spiritual disposition, then don't be fooled by the outward facade of your ambitions.  Like worm infested fruit, our ambitions can shine on the outside and be gutted of spiritual fruit on the inside.  (BTW-I have found that when ambition finds expression in prayer first, the heart issues are dealt with by God in the process.)

Be ambitious for God.  Pray it up.  Use your gifts.  Invest your life.  All for His Glory.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning

Our Christmas Eve Candlelight service will be at 7:00PM. This is a 45 minute service with a brief message. The music is great and we always close with Silent Night as we light the candles. We hope that many folks from the community will join us. Our Christmas Sunday morning service will be at 10:45AM.  This will be a short, family friendly service.  We will not have Sunday School.  During the service, our children's choir and orchestra will be singing Jesus, Joy of Highest Heaven. This Sunday will be a wonderful time for us to gather on the Lord's Day to celebrate our Saviors birth.

The Sign of the Cross

I mentioned yesterday in the morning sermon the ancient Christian tradition of making the sign of the cross.  This tradition, practiced by Catholics, Orthodox and some protestants as well, has ancient roots.  Tertullian mentions it as early as the second century, and in the fourth century Cyril of Jerusalem instructed converts to make the sign of the cross.

Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified.  Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still.  Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God.  It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils:  for He triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly (Col. ii. 15); for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragonPs. lxxiv. 13..  Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour thy Benefactor (from section 36 Lecture XII, "On the Words  Crucified and Buried").

Cyril makes a good point regarding the centrality of the cross for the Christian.  Sins are forgiven and Satan is defeated because of Christ's work on the cross.  He makes a mistake, however, when he says that that power can be invoked by making the sign of the cross.  My point yesterday was that the power of the cross belongs to us by faith in Jesus Christ, not by making the sign of the cross or by doing any other religious rituals (for Protestants such acts of ritualistic devotion may take other forms, as I also noted yesterday).

In John 12:36 Jesus says, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”  To believe is to have faith--the root is the same Greek.  So, Jesus emphasizes faith in Himself as the light of the world (John 8:12).  Paul emphasizes faith in Christ as well.  In Romans he writes, "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:22-25).  When Paul says that God put Christ forward as a "propitiation by his blood" he is speaking about the crucifixion.  A propitiation was a sacrifice offered to avert wrath.  God's wrath on sinners is placed on Jesus on the cross.  All who receive Christ by faith receive this this benefit from his crucifixion.  This cross work of Christ received by faith, is the basis for our salvation.  So Paul writes in Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The forgiveness of sins and freedom from spiritual darkness purchased by Christ on the cross is ours by faith in Him.  Sadly, for many people the sign of the cross has become a ritual, rather than something that bolsters real faith in Christ.  For those who think that they are accessing Christ's power through making this sign, it has actually become a deadly substitute for faith that saves and sanctifies.  Certainly, if one thinks that by making this sign one can be forgiven, scare demons, receive some special blessing, or bring about a substantial change in the elements used in the Lord's Supper then one has departed from the teaching of Jesus and Paul.

We should learn from the early fathers and from the traditions of the church, but we must always to Scripture to regulate our faith and our practice.  Not one time does the New Testament tell believers to make the sign of the cross.  Christ and his benefits are ours by faith alone.




Hurricane Plans #2

Based on the current path of the Hurricane, the Sunday morning worship service and Sunday School is cancelled until further notice.  Please visit the website Saturday evening for an update.
The Sunday PM fellowship dinner and children's program has been moved to the following Sunday, September 4th. There will be no service at all this Sunday evening, regardless of whether the Hurricane threat subsides.