The message of Scripture is a message of gravity. It is weighty, sober, serious. There is nothing lighthearted about Jesus Christ, the focal point of Scripture. The message of Scripture is this: God died for you. I can’t find a single thing more serious than this. God died for YOU. And all of Scripture is the perspective of God on the workings of a history He laid out and why He chose to come and die to save His own creation who want nothing more than to see Him dead. People who stand under His wrath without realizing it, who will be subject to punishment greater than any punishment ever seen before for ALL ETERNITY. And how people who God has lovingly chosen to forgive will be saved from this punishment and how they will experience greater joy than the human mind can ever imagine for all eternity. And though these people will suffer here on this earth for their stand to be different, the rewards awaiting them will be well worth suffering through any persecution, abuse, or torture the human mind could conceive.
Just stop and think about that for a moment. God created knowingwhat pain, agony, and absolute shame He would endure. He created knowing that He would be provoked to greatest wrath from the abominations of His creation. And when he created, He knew the mocking voices which would be hurled at Him by His creation, people who would use His divine, holy name to express their disgust. That He would be derided by men, cast in plays and movies as a pervert, as an effeminate man, as a liar. His miracles among men would lead them to declare Him to filled with the power Satan himself (Matt 12:35)
And He knew that those who He saved would continue to provoke Him to wrath. They would mar His name on the earth through their failures to live according to what they preach. And this would bring even further scorn upon His name as those who hate Him are only given more reason to deride His saving power. And His creation would call Him a fool for lovingly pursuing them. This pursuit would cause an incomprehensible tremor in the very person of God Himself, as one member of the Trinity calls out in anguish to another, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:35)
With this in mind, read Luke 15:11-32. As told by Christ, this is the story of a Father who forgave everything. And this father is God Almighty. Is there any question why there is such joy in Romans 8:1, “Therefore this is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” All our sins: past, present, and future are forgiven by the God who endures our reproaches, borne by the God who came to die at the hands of men.
The gospel is weighty because of all it entails. Behind the message of “Jesus Saves” is the deep, deep love of God. Having a God who chooses to endure everything in the previous three paragraphs and more because he loves me and will use me for His purposes is the source of all the joy of the gospel. Without having a God who is willing to endure my mockery and continued provocation, there can be no gratitude in the gospel, for I would have nothing to be thankful for.
It is amazing to ponder the greatness and sovereignty of God in all the small details of life. This last Friday and Saturday, the SLS staff in Oak Manor/Cornerstone went on a semi-spontaneous camping trip to Malibu. It lasted a grand total of 23 hours. 23 hours of pure barbarianism! We ate manly stew composed of meat and potatoes, told stories, threw a football around, and shared what God has been doing in our lives. Since SLS retreat we haven’t spent time together as a group like this, and it was wonderful to catch up with friends who aren’t necessarily deeply involved in my life on a day-by-day basis. Not that they don’t matter, I just don’t see them everyday.
Friday night we ran out of firewood and went to the beach to collect driftwood. The wood was massive but, not to be deterred, we threw big rocks at the logs until they split into manageable pieces. We would make one great Survivor team. It really is impossible to put a camping trip with friends into words for others to truly understand what happened on the trip. Suffice it to say, it was a time of God-honoring fellowship, where guys who trust one another sat around and shared their deepest concerns, regrets, joys, and triumphs.
We spent Saturday together at the beach. We all climbed rocks out to a little jetty which served as the breaker for the entire beach. There a whale treated us to a spectacular show by jumping and surfacing several times. It was a reminder of the awesome power of God. Go to the beach and see the expanse of water and the beauty of nature and read the latter part of the book of Job. One cannot help but feel awed at the greatness of salvation in the God who created the earth and all that is in it.
While we were rock climbing, we reached a point where the rocks fell away we were left with a choice–quit or jump from a height of 10 feet onto the wet sand below. As I was falling through the air, my glasses wobbled on my face, destroying all semblances of depth perception. This is no problem in as short jump, but 10 feet is a good distance down. I didn’t know when to brace for impact, and I landed hard on my toes, only to pitch forward and hit my forehead on the sand. No knees, no hands, just toes and forehead. Embarrassing? Yes, but no big deal. However, when I woke up the next morning and all the muscles in my neck were frozen in place, I was forced to think back to that jump. I didn’t realize at the time how hard I fell on my face or how hard my neck was whipped back as my forehead broke the fall. I don’t mean to blow this out of proportion, but I very easily could have broken my neck. Had the sand where my head hit been piled up a little higher, or I landed a little bit less on my toes anything could have happened. So, instead of a case of whiplash, I could be in a hospital right now with metal plates screwed in throughout my body.
I am so thankful for the protection of God in my life. I wonder how often He protects me from serious harm or death and I do not even realize it. If I truly understood the scope of the goodness and love of God I think I would be much more awestruck by Him and much less demanding of Him to provide me with happiness and comfort. Regardless of the outcome of any situation, God is in control. But I must remember to be all the more thankful when His plan includes my comfort or physical protection. My physical protection is the one thing absolutely not guaranteed by placing my trust in Christ as Lord. Realizing this makes me all the more thankful and take nothing for granted. Health, physical protection, an orderly life, and everything else are blessings from God which can be taken away at any moment by Him who gave them. We sing it often on Sundays, “You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will chose to say, Lord blessed be Your name.” Can we live it?
February 14, 2007: Valentines Day. (Or Singles Awareness Day (SAD) if it suits you more…)
Love is the topic of the day, the one day America stops all its bustle to be intentionally romantic. Watching all the hustle and bustle around me brought to mind one passage out of the Bible, Revelation 2:4. John is writing a vision received from an angel regarding seven churches. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” God is a jealous God. May all human relationships have Him at the center. And may all relationships reflect the love of Christ for us. God bless Valentines Day!
This afternoon, I attended a Mormon sacrament service in preparation for a week long missions trip to Salt Lake City. Fourteen others from The Master’s College and I will be spending our Spring Break sharing the Gospel with Mormon students in Temple Square and the surrounding grounds. I had never before been to a Mormon service, and it was much different than I anticipated.
There are no sermons in Mormon services. Instead, four church members prepare talks to give to the entire congregation about a certain topic. Today the topic was Testimony. Mormon Testimony is different than what we would think of as protestant Christians. My Testimony is the story of God’s working in my life to make me the person I am today. This includes who I was before believing, my actual conversion, and the following sanctification process. Mormon Testimony is their personal experience in recieving the confirmation of their faith by the Holy Ghost. In essence, it is emotion.
There were four individuals who gave talks on Testimony today. All of them shared the same theme: Emotion. There were at least ten references to “I felt” in the last talk alone. That man started crying on stage, and this is seen as a mark of genuine faith. But one of the other speakers admitted she has never had a great emotional experience. It was obvious this troubled her. How unsettling for an adherent to a church which stresses experience to be unable to share in that. It made me thankful that I worship a God who does not judge based upon how great an emotional frenzy I can whip myself into.
The singing portion of the Mormon service was absolutely dead. People mumbled the words. It was obvious their heart wasn’t in it. Afterwards, I was talking to a friend who was saved out of the Mormon church. She said worship was something which made her wonder about this God professed by these people called “Christians.” We, as Christians, sing out of a love for God. We LOVE God. Mormons do not have a personal relationship with their god. He is the one who makes them happy, but he is not intimately involved in their lives. How empty to worship a diety who cares nothing for you, who offers no comfort, who demands adherence to a set of commands for fear of punnishment.
For sake of brevity, here is a brief list of the things which attending the ward made me personally thankful for. Realizing the spiritual deadness of these people made me realize wonder of my healthy relationship with my Lord.
1. I obey God because I love Him. The Mormons obey in order to get to heaven. When I sin, it is a betrayal of Christ, but it does not endanger my status before Him. He created the world knowing fully of the shame I would cause Him, and He offers grace freely to cover my every sin.
2. My eternal future is secure. There is no wondering where I am going upon my death. John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
3. My faith does not die when I am feeling poorly. If I were Mormon, my spiritual life could be very seriously damaged by an undercooked hamburger. If the feelings aren’t there, the Spirit is not present. God is described as a “warm blanket” which covers us. My God is soverign over every feeling. He is with me just as much when I feel like He is not there as when I feel happy. My God is not a God of emotion, but a God of truth.
4. Family is not the fulfillment of life, but is rather a portrait of my relationship with Christ. Unmarried Mormons are bad people. How awful to be condemned because you are not married by age 30! I have the peace being single until the Lord brings someone into my life. When I am married, my marriage reflects the love of Christ.
5. Finally, I have a relationship with God. This is highly in line with number one, but it stands to be repeated. The Living God is involved in a two-way relationship with me. I love Him and He loves me. He created me knowing the cost, and He died with me on his mind. How can I not worship a God such as this?
I imagine some people will probably misunderstand what I’m trying to say in this post. It is not my intent to ream anybody or even the entire emo movement. Rather I see potential danger of spiritual stagnation within this growing segment of culture. With that disclaimer in mind, please read on.
Recently I have been becoming aware of a very troubling facet of American culture: Being conflicted and distraught of soul is cool. This attitude is not present only outside of the church, but very much so within as well. And I believe the blogging community is heavily tied to this phenomenon, as it gives people a place to express emotions and words they would never confess face-to-face with another human being.
Life is full of difficulties. We have brought this upon ourselves as a human race, though the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). In the curses by God placed upon the earth, total judgment is laid out before man. Conflict is placed between the serpent and the woman (3:15), the man and the woman (3:16), and the man and the earth (3:17). Guilt and shame and indecision would plague his mind, relationships would no longer be built solely upon a selfless love for one another, and nature itself would work against the peace and happiness of man. Every baby is born into a world tailored to make him fundamentally unhappy.
Genesis 3 is woven deep within our current culture. America’s “Age of Reason” has passed, and we are sailing through the Romanticism once again. Emotions and creativity are readily embraced, New Age sentimentality abounds, and anything dealing with the truth is second-rate at best. When the truth is de-emphasized, man has nothing to live for. Jesus said, “If you continue in my Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:30-32) The only solution to Genesis 3 and all the pain and conflict it brings is truth.
Man’s natural soul hates the truth, and consequently cannot deal with the consequences of Genesis 3. Satan, working with their hearts desires to keep them in a state of anguish. I believe Job offers a picture of what Satan would have with every man (outside of death), should the Spirit not withstrain him. Job 2:7 finds Job sitting in an ash heap, scraping himself with shards of pottery in a desperate attempt to escape the agony of the open sores covering his body. Job’s wife urges him to “curse God and die.” Job calls her out for her lack of trust in the God who gave them so much. The Proverbs say, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Job’s wife acted as a fool, and he tells her so. He refuses to bow to the gods of comfort and pleasure. He realizes that evil abounds.
America today lives as Job’s wife, not as Job. Our circumstances are not nearly as bad as Job’s, yet you would think them to be infinitely worse. Look up the word “emo” on Wikipedia. I found this description:
An “emo person” is candid about their emotions, sensitive, shy, introverted, broken-hearted, glum, and often quiet…likely to inflict self injury, most often by means of cutting, burning, or otherwise mutilating themselves.
We find this attitude in the church, in youth groups, and in colleges. And it stems from a lack of the truth of the greatness of Jesus, the Savior of the World. The Savior of the Bible is called the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. He is bigger than all problems, all evils. Genesis 3 is not the end of the Bible. Even within such a gloomy passage stands the promise of this Savior who would one day crush the power of the devil over the hearts of people like Job’s wife. Too often the Christian culture fails to see the power of Christ over their emotions and rather chose the gloomings of their own mind than the glories of thier Redeemer!
It is not my intent to bash the emo culture. I know many people who are act or dress in an “emo” way and are passionate about loving the Lord. But a pervasive, melonchoic emo culture will stagnate spiritual growth under the guise of natural emotional torment. Christ came so that people could break free of Bunyan’s “slough of despond.” Let us embrace the joy of Christ rather than burying ourselves in our own trials.