Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thomas Jefferson famously created a bible that was unlike any other created. He went through the scriptures and carefully removed all teachings he did not agree with. He created the "Jefferson Bible". A book that complimented and accorded with his personal worldview. Thus he removed any supernatural interventions, anything pertaining to God's wrath against sin, hell, and any other teaching that contradicted his views. Such an action brings a wincing response from most Christians. But in all truth we all to some degree are guilty of the same mistake that Jefferson made. Making the bible out to say what we would like it to say rather than what it truly proclaims.
After all our generation (named generation Y) more than any other is influenced by this notion of individual truth. And although within Christendom many would stand poingnantly on the fact that truth is Christ and we are his. The daily manner in which we live does little to indicate that we are a people who have been liberated from the bondage of the world. We are quick to justify and acculturate many of the teachings of the bible as pertinent only to the 1st century or simply to not investigate our actions closely to examine if we have fallen prey to worldliness.
I can't help but think that in our desire to be relevant we have lost sight of much of the cross and our call to live in such a manner that our example draws others to proclaim that there must be something so much greater that explains such behavior. A simple look at your own life will likely draw out that for many of us this this is not the case. Like when was the last time you abstained from a movie because you felt it was not honoring to God, a TV show, ejected a CD whose language profaned God or his creation, gave up something or downsized for something that worked just as well, simply so that you would be able to bless something or someone other than yourself. Abstained from reading fashion magazines simply to refrain from the trashiness that many bring?
I can't help but think that in our efforts to right the wrongs of our parents and not be fundamentalist we have loosed our moral compasses and have become innoculated to a world that beckons to make us impotent and destroy us. I don't think that worldliness is something that suddenly rips us from the bosom of Christ. Rather it is subtle and insiduious. It creeps in and over a period of slow drifting. Drifting that doesn't take place in a way that is always easy to identify. Drifters may still be there on sunday, still sing the worship songs, and still seem ok. But inside are drifting, drifting away from the cross and further towards the world. Sin no longer convicts them as it once did, no longer seems as big of a deal, and slowly their affection for Jesus grows dim and passion for his kingdom begans to placate.
Charles Spurgeon put well 150 years ago he stated " The more the Church in her acts and her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ." Spurgeon emboldens his congregation to live in a manner that displayed the awesomeness of Christ and his desire for holiness. But this thinking has been removed. We seem to desire just enough of the world to tolerate it without become intoxicated from its power. The world has permeated almost every facet of our culture. Love for this world looks radically different than the love for God that the bible commands. Joel Bleeke define the goal of worldly people this way. He said their goal "is to move forward rather than upward, to live horizontally rather than vertically. They seek after outward prosperity rather than holiness. They burst with selfish desires rather than heartfelt supplications. If they do not deny God, they ignore Him, or else they use him only for their selfish ends..." How often is this the case, how many have fallen in love with the creation of the world and its inhabitants rather than truly fallen in love with the creator of the universe. Like what are our goals? What drives us? Financil security? More friends? Successful children? Spouse? or are our goals more upward? To obey and glorify God above all other aspects of life. Is this the pinnacle of our existence?
Make no mistake it is neither the person who abstains from the world entirely, nor the person who engages it who has mastered the art of being in the world and not of it. It is a matter of the heart. External indicators are not always as accurate as we like to think and can be incredibly misleading. Worldliness is internal. It is the inner cravings of a man that lead him into worldliness, aqquiring what John Owen said was " living affections for dying things".
But praise Christ that through the cross we have imputed righteousness through the cross to cleanse us of sin and imparted righteousness to allow us to walk in freedom from the lusts of this world. May we do well to listen to Spurgeons plea that as Christians we "Dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard" and in doing this the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. May we press to eradicate our lives of love for this world, but realize and meditate on the cross, its power, the ramifications of the cross and our Lord.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
"We are treated as poor...yet making many rich" 2 Cor 6:10
The teachings of Christ heavily include the topic of wealth, money, and spending. This man who did not own a home, have a savings account, and was socially speaking a 1st century Jewish peasant, he would however defy all previously held notions towards finances. Christ would speak almost 25% of the time on the topic of money. The teachings all centered on the fact that "you cannot serve two masters" and if you treasure the things of this world your heart will be here and fixed on more filling your life wiuth things rather than filling the kingdom with souls.
It seems that perhaps we have missed it. In a country where everything is accesible and right at our fingertips it seems as though most of us have fallen for the lie. That it is simply not our calling to deny ourselves, perhaps downsize our house, trade in our luxury SUV or sedan for something more affordable in light of the fact that over a billion people do not have water, over thirty thousand children will starve to death today, and a majority of the world lives off of what we spend in a week.
The bible recognizes that we have an innate sinful ability to withhold our lives from God, as though portions of it were ours, but the epistles constantly command us to aknowledge that Gods heart breaks for the hungry, the tired, the lonely, the widow, the abandoned. I see camper after camper up here. So many of which come from homes that operate in a manner of wealth that I do not even think one could quantify. But they are either spoiled, distasteful, or lazy, or lonely, angry, and just not led. I don't know where the fathers of so many began to justify and move in the direction that we need more, I need to work more and the mothers agreed... That it would be better if there was less Dad around but more things in the house...
But the problem continues not only in our greed for more but in our self consumption. We are an adulterous people who desire far too often God's creation rather than him. Its as though all of us have become heavily addicted to material possesions and justify these addictions by looking at the person above us and saying well its not like I have "..." and thus its ok. It is confusing. Our comforts tend to far outweigh our pursuit of God. Most of us would probably admit that what we want is a comfortable life in a beautiful suburban home, with a beatiful spouse and children, a good job that allows us to give 10% (a number well below the givings of God's people in the OT) a long life, die in our sleep, and no hell.
I am not sure how I would explain so much to so many of the saints at the feast in heaven, or how I would explain my life to God if my life fell in this pattern...
Christ give us the passion and understanding of your incredible sacrifice, how you who created everything became a man possesing nothing and that your actions further allow us to worship you by giving up some things and through you possessing everything...
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I am sitting on a bus on the corner of 33rd and seventh avenue in New York city. Leaving the epicenter of world culture, capitalism, and cultural diversity is something of bittersweet this evening. On the one hand I am beginning my journey back towards my home, family, and life, but I am leaving behind a friend whose loyalty, love, commitment, patience, and wisdom have punctured into my heart and soul. The past days have brought into my life moments of intense joy in the fellowship of my closest of friends along with those of whom these friends live most intimately. But they also have enlightened my heart to a world I had previously only been able to imagine. This educational experience has left me deeply challenged on a number of levels.
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
When The Times invited several eminent authors to write essays on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" Chesterton's contribution took the form of a letter:
G. K. Chesterton
It doesn't take long to recognize that something has gone terribly wrong in the world. Famine, disease, rape, death, destruction, and on and on and on. But from a macro level and a micro level the infiltration of sin has tainted every aspect of our world. Everything has fallen under the control (all under God's ultimate control) of Satan (1 John 5). Since the fall in Genesis 3 man has lived under the powerful grip of sin. Being born continuously into sin. This took place in the Garden of Eden when Eve listened to Satan's manipulative lies and was deceived, while her husband sat in sinful silence. These two sins of omission and commission embark our race into a world that has since been clearly under the power of the evil one.
But truth shines through in a timeless way amidst an everchanging world. Since Satan's lies to our first parents we have all fallen prey to deceit and deception. Satan's lie to Eve in the garden was not one of rediculous proportions but a subtle and slight manipulation of God's words and command."Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" He then goes on to assure that she will not die, but rather will be like God being able to distinguish good from evil. She falls for this lie and in her efforts to make herself more like God. (Clearly from scripture we find an interesting teaching because on the one hand a desire to be like God in virtue, humility, purity, holiness, all are good things, but to desire to be like God in power, authority, and dominion is clearly satanic.) But the lie, Jesus calls Satan the Father of lies John 8:44. And this is the problem we face. Christ will say that when Satan speaks he speaks only lies, which are his native tongue. So sin which is a quality of Satan not God, is always a distortion and a deception of true and abundant life.
The sins of Lust, Doubt, despair, materialism, etc... All revolve highly around lies.
The sins of self deprecation (eating disorders, unhealthy thinking habits, self hate) all of these are highly centered around the notion that you are not enough. Heavily influenced by the culture around you men and women began to feel inadequate amidst what they believe to be the standards of beauty. This is a direct violation of the Imago Dei and you belittle the image of God, listening to a lie of our world (a world under the control of the devil).
The sins of physical lust and sexual desire outside of a marriage bed, all sacrifice what was meant to be a gift that was a component of true intimacy (simply a small component not the fullness of it)and trade them for immediate gratification. Often these desires for intimacy trace back to a number of issues and complexes but in the end what we find is men and women falling for the lie that this false intimacy will fill the vacant and hollow cavity inside their chest and it only further empties it out.
Materialism, again we fall victim to the lie that things, positions, wealth, jobs, prestige, homes, cars, etc... that all of these will in some way improve our quality of life and Jesus taught openly against this, saying that there is no connection between life and wealth (Luke 12, Matt 5). We are in danger of falling for the lie that something new will entreat us, that we need this, that we deserve this, that life is too short and we have worked hard. Oh God help us, let us not fall to Satan's lies, and end up worshipping the temporal with our lives rather than the eternal.
But again it is the lie... Satan constantly toils to deceive and destroy us, his every desire is your demise. He longs to destruct your life, steal, kill, and remove all hopes of life, true abundant life from your soul.
But we have acres of hopes in the midst of such deceit. His name is Jesus he is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. He is our remedy for such lies, he is our rock in times of trial, he is our anthem of praise when the storms of life, lies, and sin come upon us. Praise God that he is beyond deception, he breathes truth into the most unlikely of places for the glory of his name and he is our Truth. He has provided a way out (1 cor 10) and he will be faithful to show us the way that leads to life, not death. Our King of Glory and truth
Lead us in the way everlasting Lord...