Friday, December 4, 2015

Reviling Where They Have No Knowledge

“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.  Also keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (Psalm 19:12-13).
If I had a pet peeve, it would have be presumption.  To me there is hardly anything so hard to listen to as ignorant and angry arrogance, the essence of presumption.  Arrogance with genius might teach me something, but arrogance with stupidity is insufferable and useless, and teaches me nothing except to not be around it whenever I can avoid it.
False prophets and false teachers will arise, “Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.  But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, REVILING WHERE THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong” (2 Peter 2:10-13).

Pride is behind all sin, and to the degree to which pride is present, to that degree, the prideful person is spiritually blind.  And spiritual blindness is of no little consequence.  The great transgression mentioned in Psalm 19:12-13 is directly correlated to presumption, and presumption is a primary fruit of blinding pride. Presumption, according to James Strong, means “arrogance,” and is rooted in the idea of “to seethe;” figuratively, “to be insolent.”  So, in other words, presumption is pride with an angry attitude, but instead of seeing only red (as anger alone evokes), presumption sees a blackness that is felt.  Assuredly, presumption assumes things it cannot support and premises things on faulty bases; therefore, ultimately, by a sure chain of causation, presumption arrives only at unsubstantiated and false conclusions.  This is done either by perfect logic or poor logic (it matters not which) because if the foundation is faulty, the house built on it is faulty.  Just as a liar is not so much a liar because he gets things factually incorrect, but because he is dispositionally off-center, so poor logic is not so much poor logic because it arrives at the wrong conclusion, but because it began its chain of thought off basis.

And presumption is about the wrong basis of things, and therefore, presumption always terminates in darkness.  Pride and all her children are blind.  Reviling where they have no knowledge is the bane of our day.  People flying off the handle full of fecal matter is an apt, albeit, crass and gross way of describing behavior too common today.  Perhaps I’m just an old curmudgeon, but it seems to me that more people speak more often and with less expertise than ever before today.  Never has presumption been so profuse, and deducing powers so poor (in spite of avalanches of information or data or knowledge available).  And therein is the problem I suppose: too much too fast!  Meanwhile, the corresponding absorption rate of information nutrition (true understanding) did not increase at the same rate as the availability of that information.

So many today know too little about too much, never wisely mastering a few important things, but rather foolishly and poorly learning many trivial things.  Behind the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” is a harried and superficial work ethic that potentially causes more problems than it solves.  I imagine this problem is epidemic because of this Information Age we now live in.  Nonetheless, since presumption (as the Scriptures teach), tends toward “great transgression,” it would behoove us to reconsider speaking, texting, tweeting, etc. ad nauseum reflexively, rather than moderately communicating reflectively.  Unfortunately, things are exactly as Richard J. Foster described when he said, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
When the angel spoke to Daniel and said, “Conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4), it was not so that people could fill their heads with more knowledge than they could turn into wisdom, but for them to actually learn wisdom (the proper application of knowledge gained).  As Foster said, we need “deep people,” not wide and superficial people (however intelligent or gifted they might be).  We can’t master the rind and novice the seed.  We must know things deep enough (seed center deep) to speak intelligently of them; if not, we cease promulgating and progenating effectively.

As John Gill put it (in reference to Daniel 12:4), “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased; that is, towards the end of the time appointed, many persons will be stirred up to inquire into these things delivered in this book, and will spare no pains or cost to get knowledge of them; will read and study the Scriptures, and meditate on them; compare one passage with another; spiritual things with spiritual, in order to obtain the mind of Christ; will peruse carefully the writings of such who have gone before them, who have attempted anything of this kind; and will go far and near to converse with persons that have any understanding of such things: and by such means, with the blessing of God upon them, the knowledge of this book of prophecy will be increased; and things will appear plainer the nearer the accomplishment of them is; and especially when accomplished, when prophecy and facts can be compared together: and not only this kind of knowledge, but knowledge of all spiritual things, of all evangelic truths and doctrines, will be abundantly enlarged at this time; and the earth will be filled and covered with it, as the sea with its waters.”

When the end comes, as assuredly it will (and perhaps it has already begun), we must be about our Father’s business—not flippantly or superficially—but really and deeply.  Scripture declares that knowledge puffs up but love edifies, and I would suggest that knowledge without love is inherently superficial and presumptuous.  True knowledge is inclusive of love because it is exclusive to Jesus Christ (who is God who is love); you cannot have one without the other.  Paul, in one place, instructed Timothy to “guard the deposit committed to [him], avoiding profane, empty babblings, and opposing ideas falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20); in another place, Paul said that unselfish love is the catalyst to “the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of the mystery of God, that is, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).  Thus the “falsely called knowledge” is without a doubt profane and empty, devoid of love, and therefore—if used—is presumption.  Those that speak from themselves not only seek their own glory (see John 7:18), but also they presume, and are therefore found REVILING WHERE THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Magnanimous Man

“The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!” (Habakkuk 3:19 Amp.). 

The prophet Habakkuk had just had a vision that his country was about to be invaded and decimated.  Though the Chaldean nation would be the army used to accomplish this, the essence of his vision was a great and terrible revelation of Almighty God coming in splendor and wrath.  Before and after the arrival of God (in the form of this Chaldean army invasion) were “pestilence” and “plague,” and famine and “decay” entering Habakkuk’s bones!  In spite of this terrifying revelation and the devastation he saw, Habakkuk took courage.  He chose magnanimity above pettiness and character above faithlessness.   

The word “magnanimous” or “magnanimity” is not a common word today, and perhaps in no small part, because rare today is the person found identified with it.  It means “showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit” or “showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind” (Merriam-Webster).  It is from the Latin words “magnus” which means great, and “animus” which means spirit.  In other words, it personifies someone who has a great or large spirit.

Unregenerated man is systemically unable to be magnanimous (in the purest sense) however much above pettiness his behavior demonstrates.  This is because it is about large spirit, not large soul.  A large spirit is only accomplished by enlargement of the new creation man displacing the old Adamic nature.  It assumes regeneration.  Some think to define “magnanimity” as “large souled,” but strictly speaking, that is incorrect, for it is the spirit, and not the soul, which is enlarged.  Enlarging soul without regeneration, or by the immature and misguided Christian (regenerated but still carnal) is a major problem today.   Beyond the regeneration experience is enlargement of spirit within the cavity of a vaporous soul (a dying to self-life—soul death—in order to make room for Christ in our spirits to grow and make us magnanimous).    

Today, living large and in charge, but from a self-absorbed and selfish place—from a cult of personality—is all the rage.  But being large spirited, being magnanimous, is nothing like that.  Habakkuk had both decay in his bones and fire in his belly—and this is the key to what magnanimity looks like.  The scroll is sweet in the mouth, bitter in the belly, and altogether powerful and obvious in the conversation of life of those who have fully digested His flesh and blood.    This is the magnanimous man and the one whose soul is right within him (as opposed to the soul that is not right within him—as defined by the prophet): “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 NASB).  Magnanimity is therefore the soul humbled, and the spirit walking on “the high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!”  It is expressed as living above pettiness, of walking in love at all times (“A friend loves at all times”—Proverbs 17:17).

And to love at all times is the key to walking as magnanimous man; it is beyond the scope of feelings, and it is therefore beyond the scope of the soul and her powers.  Magnanimous man is further personified as one who “covers a multitude of sins”; indeed, “A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11 NASB).  But this is in relationship to others; he is also rightly related to himself.

Though I believe C. S. Lewis confuses spirit and soul (as most do) his expression of the proper organization of the government of our being is noteworthy.  He said, “Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism...As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the spirited element.  The head rules through the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments.  The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.” 

In the “Life of God in the Soul of Man,” the title to a letter written by Henry Scougal (1650-1678)—and a work which deeply impacted the leaders of the Great Awakening—Scougal said, “The image of the Almighty shining in the soul of a real participation of his nature, it is a beam of the eternal light, a drop of that infinite ocean of goodness; and they who are endowed with it may be said to have ‘God dwelling in their souls, and Christ formed within them.’”  A magnanimous man is one who operates from the Christ nature within, not his base native nature that is also still within him (until God redeems his body); he regularly exercises a personal and an internal magnanimity.  His baser instincts and soul powers are still there inside him, but he chooses to bridle their expression; he is a disciple of Jesus Christ and therefore disciplines himself to obey the higher expression of God within his spirit rather than expressing his human nature (as a first cause).  Magnanimous man is therefore the matured-in-Christ man.  We need more of them!