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Motivation and the Christian Life

dreamstime_xs_61827956By Jesse Jost

Apart from enough motivation, growth and positive change are nearly impossible. As followers of Christ, we have a call to grow in holiness and to daily become more like Christ. We are also to grow in good works as we seek to bring Christ’s love and healing to this hurting and broken world.

But without strong internal motivation to actively pursue these things, we grow stagnant, or worse, we grow cold and apathetic, and surrender to the forces of destruction and decay.

We can rail and scold and threaten all we want, but apart from a healthy source of motivation, (and Spiritual power) all commanding of the will is weak and ineffective. I want to be clear up front that to be saved or regenerated, no amount of human motivation will be enough to bring change, we need a supernatural new birth. I am talking about our part in sanctification that is influenced by our efforts or lack there of. What will we choose to build with on the foundation we have been given? Will it be wood, hay and stubble? Or something enduring? (1 Cor 3:11-14)

Where do we look for effective motivation to obey the divine call to holiness that is on our lives?

POISONOUS SOURCES OF MOTIVATION

Before we discuss positive motivation, I think it’s important to examine the destructive sources of motivation that people often turn to when they want change.

Guilt

Guilt is a powerful motivator. The psychological pain of regret and self-loathing is excruciating and we will do just about anything to be free of it. The problem with being motivated by guilt is that there’s nothing we can ultimately do to atone for our wrong deeds. No amount of good deeds can wash away the stain or undo the damage. Guilt is a slave driver that drives a painful and purposeless treadmill. It is like digging your way out of a hole. The harder you work the worse the problem gets. Guilt only leads to burnout and discouragement.

Fear

Our mind has a potent imagination factory that produces startling horror movies of the future. These images can exert a strong control over us. We all have a strong aversion to loss and Satan can uses these made up (and false) glimpses of the future like puppet strings, pulling us away from the life of faith and surrender God is calling us to.

Please note the fear I am talking about here is different from the fear of God or an awareness of consequences. These are appropriate responses to God’s revealed truth. I am warning against Satan’s psychological manipulation that is based on lies and distortion, manipulation that works by casting doubt on God’s goodness or His sovereignty.

Approval of Man

Jesus warns very strongly against doing our good deeds to be seen by men. God cares about why we do things not just what we do. The fear of man brings a snare. (Proverbs 29:25)

This seeking men’s approval is, in some ways, the basis of civilization in a fallen world. People who are alone, and have had the restraining influence of “what will people think” removed, are often disgusted by the filth that rises to the surface of their own hearts.

The shame and praise we live for can have a dynamic effect on the outside, but will be impotent to change the inside. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) The danger in living for man’s approval is the opportunity for self-deception. Because we can selectively edit the image we want to project, it is relatively easy appear more sanctified that we really are. When we live by the appraisal of men, we may believe we are as holy as we appear and fail to notice spiritual cancers that are slowly eroding our character.

Another problem in living for man’s approval is that it can be incredibly demotivating. A few words of criticism, or even lack of recognition can be discouraging, and cause us to shrug, “Why bother?” But God’s call for diligent obedience is for Him and His glory. He sees and notices. The fact that men wrongly interpret things or fail to notice doesn’t change the eternal value of obedience.

Comparing and Competition

Continue reading…

  • Timothy

    I think the true source of motivation is something we arrive at in a much more mystical, and less cerebral way.

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5 Reasons Satan Loves Conspiracy Theories

dreamstime_xs_51403657By Jesse Jost

There is something so tantalizing about a conspiracy theory. It helps us make sense of the evil in this world to place the blame for societal decay on some secret organization, or sinister plot that is going on behind the scenes. I am fascinated by conspiracy ideas, they make for best sellers and great entertainment. But are conspiracy theories spiritually beneficial to us? I don’t think so and here’s why:

1. They create intellectual pride.

Our pride is fed by the belief that we have access to information to which the ignorant masses are unaware. We feel good, knowing we are among the “enlightened ones.” Satan uses conspiracy theories to make us feel “wise in our own eyes.” We enter dangerous territory: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)

We need to realize that we are all prone to seeing patterns where none exist. We suffer from confirmation bias that only allows us to recognize evidence that confirms our theory and discount everything else. And we have motivated reasoning that makes us prone to self deception. Only by a humble acknowledgement of our own fallibility and a deep dependence on God’s spirit to guide us to truth can we minimize the blinding effects of pride.

2. They cause us to lose credibility.

Intellectual pride blinds us. While we feel that we are more likely see through shams and less likely to be duped, we actually become more susceptible to both. When Christians are quick to share conspiracy theories or urban legends, our role as ambassadors is damaged. We are to be prophets of truth and one of our most important messages is the miraculous, but also historical, resurrection of Christ. When our unbelieving neighbours see us believing stuff that a quick trip to snopes.com would easily dispel, how can they trust that our proclamation of the resurrection or our faith in God’s word is credible?

3. They cause fear and discouragement.

A common implied message accompanying conspiracy theories is that certain problems are too big for anybody to handle. Power is entrenched in high places, and there is nothing we can do about it except be faithful Chicken Littles warning that the sky is falling. I’m all for exposing corruption and shedding light on a problem, but only for the sake of a call to action accompanied by practical steps we can take to reduce or eliminate the problem. What we need more than ever is hope. When we lose vision for how we can make a difference, evil starts to win. Continue reading…

  • Eleanor

    Spot on! It’s embarrassing that Christians fall for these. The most distressing part is how it damages our historical, evidentiary reason-based faith.

  • L. M.

    Great post, Jesse! The obsession of many good Christian Conservatives with conspiracies has long bothered me as well. We truly do damage the credibility of our witness for the Lord Jesus by being obsessed with paranoia about unsubstantiated things like the Illuminati or GMO’s or the dozens of other conspiracy theories out there. There are plenty of genuinely diabolical evils out there that we as Believers should be working to expose (the abortion crisis and human trafficking come to mind) – but being frightened at shadows only dilutes our ability to deal with genuine concerns and separates us from our only source of hope and power to overcome, Jesus. The real “shadowy power” manipulating people is, simply, the power of sin – not just some mere human organization – and Christ has called us to be agents of deliverance to overcome this very real – but very defeatable – evil.

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My Glory Weed and the Way of the Cross

dreamstime_xs_39198853By Jesse Jost

A glory weed threatens to strangle me. Its ravenous appetite for praise, recognition, and social media likes devours moments where my strengths are on display. Twined by its thorny embrace, I am jealous of others’ chances to shine, and frustrated when platforms are denied me. I can be reduced to a pathetic approval addict, compulsively checking my phone or computer for likes and comments. With deep-reaching thorns, my glory weed stabs my ego, tormenting me with past criticisms and a haunting sense of being rejected and ignored.

I hate this weed. Yet nothing feels as good as watering it by revelling in past successes and words of praise.

My predicament goes much deeper than my glory weed. I also have a deadly form of spiritual cancer that is attacking my passions and desires. Physical cancer corrupts healthy tissues into a lethal, spreading force. In the same way, my cancer perverts healthy, God-given desires into enslaving passions that grow painful tumours on my soul. My cancer is my selfishness, my greed for my will, done in my way, in my time. It morphs my sex drive into lust, my desire for justice into a cruel passion for revenge, my hunger into gluttony, my protective instincts into anxiety and fear-based control, my need for love into a crippling pursuit of approval, and my worshipping into idolatry. The reach of such a soul cancer is broad and terrifying. A godly desire to use my gifts for God’s glory has often metastasized into a yearning for self-promotion.

I am troubled by the disease and enslavement within, but am often at a loss for how to deal with them. Fasts and self-discipline have been impotent to bring lasting change. I can clean up fairly nice on the outside. I have been a Christian long enough to know the right things to say that will make me sound humble, godly, and spiritual. But deep down I see too clearly that the person I truly am is nowhere near as Christ-like as the person I want you to see. Continue reading…

  • Bill Emmerson

    Praise God for his mercies

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The Books That Have Shaped Me

IMG_6201By Jesse Jost

Its been said that the person we are becoming is shaped by the people we hang out with and the books we read. These are some of the best books that I have ever read; they have stirred me, convicted me, and also brought great pleasure. They are listed below in no particular order, but organized by category. I highly recommend any book on this list! Comment below on the books that have had the biggest impact on you or brought you the most joy. Happy reading!

ChristianLiving/Theology

Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

Very impacting book that set me free from a lot of self righteous anger and my critical spirit that so often “wounds me.” So good!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa

One of several books I’ve read lately that keep me focused on Jesus and the power of the Gospel. Jesus truly becomes more desirable and awesome to me with each passing year.

Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt

Really opened my eyes to the beauty of God and how much we miss.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Showed how the love exemplified in the trinity is the foundation for a correct understanding of all theology. Amazing book.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

A man discouraged and feeling abandoned finds the power of God among the most persecuted Christians around the world. Makes you squirm, but is so faith affirming.

The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War by Joshua Ryan Butler

As someone who has struggled with doubts about God’s goodness because of the doctrine of hell and the God-sanctioned brutality in the Old Testament, this book was so refreshing and convicting. Hell and Judgement day are not truths that call God’s goodness into question, they are great proofs of His passionate love for His creation. God has a love with teeth that will not stop until He has removed the hell from our hearts, and hell from from His glorious creation. Judgement day is good news for the down-trodden and oppressed and all who are in Christ Jesus.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Continue reading…

  • Rebecca

    Makes me want to order a stack of books for my nightstand!! Your recommendations hold more clout than you may realize. = ) Grateful for how you use your reading to gain and give a more detailed picture of the Father.

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How to Sabotage Conversation

dreamstime_xs_42591164By Wormwood, Ph. D.

(Intercepted by Jesse Jost)

It is well known in the underworld that when two or more humans begin conversation, there is explosive potential power at play. Conversation can tear relationships limb from limb, and plant delicious seeds of suspicion and bitterness.

But there is also real danger here. The Enemy, the horrid Creator of the vermin, invented words to communicate love and help form emotional ties between humans as they explore their thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Conversations that have got away from us have stirred longings and ambitions and hatched schemes that have done untold damage to our cause.

Conversation done as the Enemy intended leads to the building of relationships, both with Himself and human to human. He wants conversation to be a place where people are comforted, encouraged, and inspired. The whole thing can be disgusting.

Thankfully, we have had some of the best demonic minds on this issue since the beginning, and over the millennia we have come up with such devious strategies to sabotage conversation, that today I am happy to report that, more often than not, conversation goes our way. It is truly beautiful to watch a talk between people demoralize and destroy them (and, if we’re lucky, many others, too).

Even though the state of conversations these days is very encouraging, I strongly warn you stay vigilant and active in each exchange. I would like to give you a refresher course on how to make the most of every human conversation.

First, truth is our adversary; our goal is distortion and misunderstanding. Strong relationships are built on accurate understanding of the other. When true knowledge of each other is acquired, even if the information is unpleasant, humans can use it to grow closer together. Our desire is to feed them wrong perceptions and believable misrepresentations.

There are two catastrophic things we must desperately try to avoid: careful listening, as well as situations where people feel safe enough to honestly speak their mind.

The conversations I fear most are ones in which the creatures feel perfectly safe with each other, free to be honest and vulnerable. This makes me queasy and sends a chill. It is terrifying how much of our best work can be undone in just one such talk. This toxic environment is fostered by humility, compassion, and that despicable gas they call grace. If you see a conversation where these elements are present, derail it! Continue reading…

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New Podcast!

12370863_1120135844672293_7840213459121591541_oWe are pleased to announce the creation of our own podcast channel. You can find our channel here: http://purityandtruth.podbean.com/

Or find our podcast on itunes by searching for “purity and truth” or “Jesse Jost”.

I am currently uploading all 20 sessions of my three part church history series, after that I plan on continuing to upload the audio from many of my past speaking engagements on topics such as apologetics, evangelism, and romantic relationships. Check it out and book mark the page to check back in the future.

I hope my words are an encouragement to you. God bless!

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Beggared: Part 2

by Heidi Jost

In Part 1, (which you can read here) I left us stuck in a black gloopy rut of failure, wailing “what a mess!” And you raising both eyebrows, ready to commit me to a ward of some kind.

dreamstime_xs_64789976I confessed earlier that I say “Jesus” a lot more now, because it really is all about Him. I am in the rut because, since birth, I have made life all about me. Looking around for some superior ground to stand on and see out, I compare myself with others or with myself-in-my-more-shining-moments. But therein lies the quicksand: This ground is always unstable, a giant maw about to swallow.

Now, we can both keep trying and slipping and sinking using these old habits of making ourselves feel better. “Our plight,” says Michael Reeves in one of the best books ever, “is not merely that we each fail to be good enough and need a little forgiveness… Instead, our very identity is a problem.” (Rejoicing in Christ)

I can think of two unchanging aspects of our identity: we never stop loving ourselves, and we never stop sinning.

But Jesus. His love is always outward and giving, and He has never sinned. He points out, “When you were powerless to save yourself, I did it.” (Rom. 5:6, my paraphrase) He beckons, “If My power could drag your sin down and bury it, how much more can that power raise you up into a new life of freedom!” (Rom. 5:10, my paraphrase)

Okay, so back to those days I failed, snapped at the kids, and left work undone. How does Jesus fit there? How do I get to the point of stopping my wail of failure and instead saying, “So what?” Rather than first trying harder in the next breath to be nicer to the kids, or scrambling to think of some other mom who screwed up worse than I did (a sin in itself), I can face my wrongs. They are bad. I hurt the people I loved most because they didn’t meet my expectations. I idolized the goal of a clean house, and then I got mad because it was still dirty. Double whammy.

Then I can look at Jesus. How does He see my sin? As sin. How does He see me? As a woman He wants to forgive and restore. To whoever is willing, He will give “a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 8:15) Daddy, Daddy! John Piper says, “This is the testimony of the Spirit that we are the children of God.”

We can inherit God. He can, and wants to live within us. His spirit of adoption, the Holy Spirit, yearns to guide us into truth when we are slopping about in the rut of failure. And the truth is: Jesus, who has power over everything, offers us freedom. What we could not do, He did, and then some. He broke chains and shed light into darkness. At every point where we have failed, He has not.

Continue reading…

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Food Police: Punching Our Ticket to Heaven?

dreamstime_xs_29522462

By Jesse Jost

” I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” Ps 81:10

I love food. I dream about it. Some of my greatest memories centre around it. But I’m also leery of it. I partly blame food for my being overweight. Evenings are ruined with a stuffed after-dinner belly, and some foods keep me up nights when I suffer heart burn and acid reflux. I wonder which foods might give me cancer or lead to a heart attack. Believe me, I want to be healthy, especially now that I’m in my early thirties. I want to have energy to play with my kids and be as free from disease as possible.

I want to know how big a role diet plays in our health, so I’ve been reading and studying this topic a lot. Our culture has the idea that the key to health, youth, and beauty is to find the perfect diet formula: which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.

This idea is mercilessly exploited to sell food and supplements. When food is in such abundance that we not only have access to every food group year round but also multiple options in each category, what will make a product stand out? Sellers need to make their product dirt-cheap or convince the buyer that their food fits in the magic food formula and the competitors’ doesn’t.

This good-food-equals-health idea is a source of much guilt and anxiety, especially for a mother who longs for a healthy family. If her family has any health issues, she thinks that because she failed to feed her family the correct diet, the health issues are her punishment for those desperate trips to McDonalds and the last minute instant noodles.

If this idea is a source of anxiety for moms, it is even more a source of self-righteous pride for others. It is so easy to judge the food choices of others, and blame their health struggles on their “un-healthy” diet.

But what is a healthy diet? The more you research nutrition, the more confusing it gets. Each new health finding seems to directly contradict another study. One study shows a food to be a super food, while another will link that same food with cancer.

Continue reading…

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Beggared, Part 1

dreamstime_xs_64789976by Heidi Jost

Yes, read it again. I picked the second definition:

beggared: to exceed the limits, resources, or capabilities of.

Now do you want to hear how good being beggared is?

Climbing out of ruts is painful. Those neglected mental muscles are taxed. But the climb yields delight, because above the mud of the rut is a beautiful view.

And I’m seeing another piece of it. Slowly, slowly.

I’m seeing that comparing really is stupid. (Can somebody get this genius girl a gold medal?) Horizontal gazing only brings deeper ruts, deeper dissatisfaction. Yuck. More mud.

Vertical gazing is really amazing. No eyes on the Joneses anymore, just on Jesus. (Yes, I will stop being so tacky with my wit now. I don’t want you to drop reading this in disgust, because maybe some of my journey will overlap yours and help you a bit, like mine has been helped by so many others.)

I say “Jesus” a lot more now. And I know, as I say this incredible name, I am still far from comprehending the massive awesomeness of Who my mouth refers to. But I say “Jesus” and I think “Jesus” because I see more how everything really is all about Him.

I don’t want to shock you, but I need to tell you that I failed today. Better yet, I said afterward, “So what?”

Because I am learning to see that my identity wasn’t dropped and scrambled when I failed. There are no pieces for me to pick up and reassemble in shining order. In and of myself, I am a mess. Always. Deep down, you probably know that’s true of you, too. Continue reading…

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The Half-Life of the Shackled and Blind

dreamstime_xs_54419891By Heidi Jost

“And Saul approved of their killing [Stephen.]” Acts 8:1

We’ve been talking about Joseph around here. Distilling his tale for my children has a trickle-down effect in my own heart:

Forgiveness unshackles our spirits from the past. Bitterness chains us so we are helpless to be all God wants us to be right now.

Joseph’s brothers wanted him dead, and their wish nearly came true. But Joseph lived. Can you imagine, on the desert journey to Egypt, dragged and dehydrated, how Joseph might have been tormented by the memory reel replaying his brothers’ murderous, hateful words and actions?

Yet he forgave them all. “Am I in the place of God?” he said. Of course not. How could he hold their sins against them, then?

Seeing through God’s eyes, Joseph knew that while his brothers “intended to harm me…God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

We had dinner recently with our friend from Afghanistan, who came of age under Taliban rule. Sitting long at table, we listened to her stories of God on the move in the Middle East.

“Muslims know evil spirits,” she said. What they need to see, and what they are seeing now, is God’s spirit of power and healing. Miracles happen there, and eyes are opened. Like hers were years ago, mostly through the relentless love of missionaries.

“It was always very scary – all the time – over there,” said our friend. Her eyes lit then, “But also, so – “ she gestured, arms out, looking for a word big enough.

“Thrilling?” I said. Continue reading…

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