Week Eleven – Book Notes Avoiding the Lies of Pragmatism

Introduction:

All of the lesser views of God can be grouped together because they all attempt to convince us that they offer the same thing as God at a fraction of the cost.  Pragmatism promises the benefits without the sacrifice.  It does not however deliver what it offers.  It is a very subtle and deceptive advisory.   This week we will look at some biblical examples of those who attempted to find a shortcut to their service for the Most High.  When we feel we are being held back in our walk with God by a fear of the cost of commitment, then we are suddenly and uncomfortably living in the world of the pragmatic believer.

Pragmatism is a life philosophy.  It values things based upon their apparent effectiveness.  The saying, “If it works, it must be right.”  Personally, I was raised with the term, “If it works, don’t fix it.”  This is the world view of he person who has very little time for thinking through the implications of what he is doing, preferring to just get out there and accomplish something.  No doubt about it, this person is often one of the most valued people around any group because they get things done.  As much as that is effective in our personal and professional work, it is poison to our spiritual life.  There is a tendency to pursue more about what God can do than who God is.  A useful God is the pragmatist greatest desire.  The focus of the pragmatist is not bringing God glory but bringing God’s good blessings home.  And one of the dangers of this pursuit of God’s blessings is that those blessing might even appear to be godly.  That was the discussion of leader in the DVD from last week – Finney was a man who wanted to see many brought to Christ and so he chose a method because it produced what he was seeking.  In the end, he found the success that he thought had been reached in fact was not success at all.

The roots of pragmatism are unbelief (not believing what God said about Himself) and pride (not believing what God has said about our neediness).  Pragmatism doesn’t really work; it just has the appearance of something that works.  It is the proverbial building of a house upon a foundation of sand.  When we build on an incorrect view of God, we are practicing idolatry and we are attempting to make our walk with God primarily useful.   It is adjusting God to fit our desires. When we say it like that, we know it’s wrong.

Day One:  The All-Sufficiency of God must be our Foundation

Pragmatism is a denial of the sufficiency of God.   We do our ‘Christian’ work with an under current of belief that God is no longer sufficient.  It is God plus something that we trust in if the work is to be done.  The way to battle Pragmatism is to look to God as the Bible presents Him and to ask ourselves everyday:  “Is He not enough for this day?”

A.W. Pink “Our labors are not intended to bring about what has not decreed.”

 

 

On page 221, there are three questions asked:

  1. Could I ever possibly need more than this God?
  2. Could there ever be a situation in which it would be reasonable to doubt Him and to choose to turn to more practical schemes?
  3. Could there ever be a more practical choice than trusting this God and following His commands?

We need to keep in focus that which is true and that is the challenge for our day.  Keep bringing these realities and looking at them throughout the week. And then live them.

Day One: The Wonderful Absurdity and the Impracticality of the True Religion

Richard Cecil: “Duties are our – events are God’s.”  The question that begs to be asked is what are those duties?  In this chapter there is a list of Old Testament saints that rested their survival on one hope:  That God was who He said He was.  The section on history reviews some of those lives.  What is the purpose of studying the OT?  We can learn from the examples of people who walked by faith and we can learn from their example.

Ps 20:7closePsalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (ESV)
closePsalm 20:7closePsalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (ESV)
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (ESV)
is a great verse and worthy of memorization.  Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.  “Pragmatism is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that it’s work may go up in smoke on the day of Christ”.  A.W. Tozer.

Day Four

I want to jump to Day Four since we only have one short class to deal with this topic.  What is the cure for Pragmatism?  The answer is not a better version of the same error. We don’t want to choose to obey the biblical commands just because we believe we can expect a better return on our effort.  Should we attempt to do this, we would be treating God as if He is our own supply closet.

  • Trust – We have to learn to live the truth that we know God to be sufficient.  When we do that, we will no longer look to something else to help us through the difficult situations that we confront.   It is the character of God that is our hope.  His commands are our path but He is our Hope.
  • Love – Love refuses to permit Pragmatism and choses trust and obedience precisely because it is our Lord’s good pleasure that we do so.

 

One of the mistakes that seem to creep into our minds is that we believe when we are following the biblical commands and living a pure life that everything will be just great.  That promise is impossible to find in the Bible.  In fact, you find so many examples of the opposite that a person would just have to refuse to see that in the Bible.  Look at the examples that are provided in the Bible.

As I was looking at this, I believe there is also a warning to sound here.  Don’t chose the impractical just because it doesn’t make sense.  We have become too busy to listen for God’s strong but gentle pulling of our hearts towards those things He has planned for us to do.

Day Five: Men who refused Pragmatism

Moses – read Hebrews 11:24-29closeHebrews 11:24-29 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. (ESV) closeHebrews 11:24-29closeHebrews 11:24-29 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. (ESV) 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. 29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. (ESV)

See what Pharaoh offered Moses Exodus 8:25, 10:8-11, 10closeExodus 8:25 25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” Exodus 10:8-11 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. Exodus 10:10 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. (ESV) closeExodus 8:25closeExodus 8:25 25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” (ESV) 25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” Exodus 10:8-11closeExodus 10:8-11 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. (ESV) So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. Exodus 10:10closeExodus 10:10 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. (ESV) 10 But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. (ESV) :24

 

Daniel: The Problem (1:8), Daniel’s Response (3:16-18), The Honoring of God through Obedience (3:28-30), Honor given to God by Daniel’s Choices (6:25-27).

The Story of William Burns – Gave up a successful ministry to go the China, where he met Hudson Taylor and mentored Hudson.  It was written of Burn’s influence:  William Burns was better to [Taylor] than a college course with all its advantages, because he lived out before him right there in China the reality of all he most needed to be and know.

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