Michael W. Austin

Ideas that matter.

Month: June 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Beloved Dust

img-product-6This book by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel has been on my to read list for a while. I could identify with a lot of what the authors had to say about certain spiritual struggles. This made much of what they described about how we see ourselves, God, and how to abide in Christ very helpful to me.

For example, sometimes it is a drive for some sort of felt experience with God that motivates us to be spiritually active in prayer, study, and other spiritual disciplines. Or we are spiritually active as a way to make us feel good about ourselves, like we have things under control and pass muster before God. But these are flawed motivations for seeking God.

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SCOTUS, Same-Sex Marriage, and Responding with Christian Character

Which is it? Is America on the brink of divine judgment because of our depravity and departure from a sound Christian sexual ethic? Or is this another victory in the long and slow march towards equality for all human beings?

There is a big part of me that doesn’t really want to add to the responses to yesterday’s Supreme Court’s decision. Passions run high on both sides of the issue, and at times reason seems absent. There are people I deeply respect who are happy with yesterday’s decision, and others I deeply respect who are not happy about it. In this post, I’m intentionally not going to say what I think about the decision itself. Rather, I’d like to consider how Christians should engage others as we debate and discuss such social issues, regardless of our own particular views. That’s my focus. I posted a brief comment yesterday about this at my Facebook author page, and I’d like to expand on it here.

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Resource Roundup #1

16226034713_27b13affc3_qThere is so much good stuff on the internet, and so much more that’s not good (deep thought, I know!). I’ll occasionally post links to resources, articles, and blog posts at other sites that I think you might find useful.

Some of the resources I will point you towards will directly relate to the primary focus of this blog–growing in the virtues of Christ–while other things I that I highlight just strike me as something Christians in our contemporary culture might need to know about and will perhaps find helpful in their lives and ministries.

I don’t spend a lot of time searching the internet for quality stuff, but there are some places and people I have found to be encouraging and challenging, and so worth sharing with you. And if you come across something that you think would be good for me and other readers to know about, be sure to post it in the comments!

So, here are a few resources in this first installment of Resource Roundup:

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4 Reasons to Pursue Christian Virtue

As we get to know Christ more deeply, and seek to live in and from the kingdom of God, we will sense a need for deeper transformation in our lives. There are many reasons to pursue a life of virtue. Here, I’ll briefly discuss four:

  1. Seeking to lead a virtuous Christian life is essentially connected to your relationship with God. Putting on the character of Christ is not just a project, or a mere goal; it is intrinsically connected to the pursuit of God Himself. When we divorce our pursuit of character from our pursuit of God, we will end up frustrated or proud. But seeking to be like Christ should lead us to a deeper and humble dependence on God. We will only see real, deep, and lasting change as we abide in Him and depend on the Holy Spirit in us to produce growth. All of this will draw us closer to God. Our hearts will be restored, and our minds renewed.
  2. Pursuing Christian virtue will improve your relationships with others. The more we have and live out the virtues of Christ, the deeper and better our relationships with others will be. Virtues like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (see Colossians 3:12-14) will vastly improve your relationships with your spouse, children, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Sin corrupts our relationships; virtue helps them to flourish.
  3. The virtues are a means to and the substance of true joy. Having the character of Christ is not boring, mundane, or grim. It is a key component of the joy we can have in Christ. We were designed by God to experience an abundant life in Christ when we possess and practice the virtues of Christ. For example, what if I could really be patient, more than I am at present? Imagine not only the removal of frustration with other drivers, co-workers, and rude waiters, but the joy that is a part of just being patient with others, with trials, and with ourselves? I’m not there yet, but I want to be. When I’ve been patient in trying circumstances, I have experienced joy. It is much sweeter than the frustration and anger that are the products of impatience.
  4. The pursuit of Christian virtue will deepen our experience of the grace of God. We are limited, finite, and far from perfect. We are on a journey towards Christlikeness. We will never fully arrive in this life. Fortunately, God’s grace covers our limitations, weaknesses, and sin. The righteous fall seven times, but they get up again and refuse to quit (Proverbs 24:16). By God’s love and grace we are freed up to pursue a life of Christian virtue. We will fall, but we’re motivated to keep pursuing genuine change by God’s love and grace. We really can become more like Christ.

Do I Drink Virtuously? A Christian Approach

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In last week’s post, I discussed a general answer to the question of whether or not Christians ought to drink. Today I will offer a framework for those who choose to drink to help them answer the question, “Do I drink virtuously?”

Alcohol is potentially very harmful. It can lead to disease, death, addiction, broken relationships, and broken lives. There are plenty of ways to drink that are wrong, or morally vicious. The follower of Christ should never get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) or be intemperate with respect to her use of alcohol. One person’s limit may be 2 drinks, while another may only be able to handle much less. Temperance is an important moral virtue to consider here.

But alcohol also has virtuous uses, according to moral theologian William Mattison. The following framework for thinking through our use of alcohol as Christians is drawn from Mattison’s book, Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues.

The first question to ask is “Why do I drink?”

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