What is the purpose of the dark nights in general? Two things. The first one is the development of a spiritual hunger and a purging of the heart. If you would look with me to Deuteronomy 8. In Deuteronomy 8:1-5, this is actually the text that Jesus quotes when He’s being tempted. The first temptation by the devil.
One of the great challenges to Christian spirituality in the western countries, in the developing nations, in our globalized modern economy, one of the greatest challenges of all is secularism, for secularism squeezes spiritual life to death. And in our common fight against secularization, the destroying of real spiritual life, Christians are finding God today in different ways. Let me suggest to you five as we near the end. There are some Christians, we might call them liturgical Christians, they pay a great deal of attention to the structure of their worship services.&nb
You have some things that are difficult to deal with in the Psalms in which the psalmist is actually calling down bad things on his enemies. There are wonderful praise psalms like Psalm 19. But look at Psalm 18 just for a minute. And we are told at the beginning of this Psalm that this is a thanksgiving for deliverance by God, a psalm of David, the servant of the Lord.
Worship is first and foremost for God and about God. Its benefits, in forming believers and in reaching unbelievers, are secondary.
You know when you teach, you have to always be careful on how you word things. You don’t want to word things in a way that causes difficulty. For instance, many people might have a problem with saying, “Jesus is exaggerating here,” because for many of us, exaggerating has an air of dishonesty, lack of truthfulness.
It is important to appreciate the fact that Israel’s law is given in the form of a covenant. What do we mean by this? A covenant is a formal, legal contract between two parties. There were in the ancient world what are called parity covenants in which an individual might make a formal, legal contract with another individual in business or commerce of some kind. But the kind of contract that the Bible presents to us, which we refer to as “covenant” is a contract that God makes with His people, Israel, in the form that is described as a suzerainty covenant.
J. Hudson Taylor who lived from 1832 to 1905 comes to mind as one of many Christian leaders through the centuries whose spirituality has been rich in all essential aspects, deeply devout, refined in character and vigorously engaged in a worthy cause in the world. Hudson Taylor was the founding director and the illustrious pioneer of the innovative and strategic China inland mission known today as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
Of all the gospels, John goes into greatest detail and most clearly describes the election and the security of the believer. Among the texts that are most famous in this respect are 6:39.
Proverbs are essentially puzzles. This is important to get. A proverb is not intended to be simple to understand the minute you read it or hear it. It is supposed to be soluble, so it is not a puzzle that just makes you say, "I don't know; I have no idea what this says." A reasonable adult can always figure it out and explain it to a thoughtful child or adolescent.
Of course it made sense for the four gospels to be placed first, because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each in his own way presented the life of Christ who was, Christians believe, the God-man who from earthly perspective founded the religion now known as Christianity. It made equally good sense to place the book of Acts next, because it was the only history book of the first generation of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Except for the book of Revelation, the remaining NT documents are all letters or epistles.