When the laws regulating human society are so formed as to come into collision with the nature of things, and in particular with the fundamental realities of human nature, they will end by producing an impossible situation which, unless the laws are altered, will issue in such catastrophes as war, pestilence and famine. Catastrophes thus caused are the execution of universal law upon arbitrary enactments which contravene the facts; they are thus properly called by theologians, judgments of God.
—Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, Kindle Locations 303-306
Though a short exhortation always precedes the act of confession in our Lord’s Day worship, why not place confession after the sermon? Imagine the large variety of sins that could be harvested by spending more time in the Bible field. More Spirit-inspired truth gives the Spirit more tools to dig for deep rooted sins.
There’s nothing wrong with liturgy in a different order. Revelation provides reasons to repent so presumably more revelation leads to more reasons leads to more repentance. But just as often God describes the reverse: repentance leads to accepting the truth.
Peter and James both assume that a Christian must deal with sin before consuming the Word. “Putting away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” crave the spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:1-2). Likewise, “putting away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, receive the implanted word” (James 1:21). Sin spoils our appetite for Scripture. Sin stiff-arms the truth.
Paul presented the order even more plainly to Timothy as he explained the process for persuading opponents. Correct opponents with gentleness and “God may perhaps grant repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). He isn’t describing the proper order of a Sunday worship service, but the principle applies. Repentance enables knowledge.
Which comes first: the understanding of truth or repentance from sin? Sometimes we don’t need more information or another sermon before we change. Sometimes we can’t see the truth because we’re clutching sin patches over our eyes. What sights we’ll see from the place of repentance.
Glory is sacrifice, glory is exhaustion, glory is having nothing left to give. Almost. It is death by living.
—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 180-181
By His grace, we are the water made wine. We are the dust made flesh made dust made flesh again. We are the whores made brides and the thieves made saints and the killers made apostles. We are the dead made living.
—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 167
We eat to know that we’re not alone.
I adapted that statement from a line in the movie “Shadowlands.” In it, C. S. Lewis is talking to a troubled student whose father had a saying, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Certain books do speak for us, we realize that the author thinks as we do and scratched it onto paper. We recognize kindred spirits in characters or at least in the mind of their creator.
Better than books and reading, when the Body assembles and eats together we know that we are not alone. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful passions “along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart” (1 Timothy 2:22). He wasn’t the only one facing the temptation, nor the only one facing the temptation to moan like nobody understood his problems. Timothy was to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace like and among his fellow worshippers.
In a “great house” there is more than one vessel (1 Timothy 2:20) and when we come to the Lord’s Table in His house we are not alone. Look around and see fellow saints who are fighting sin and following Christ. You might not see them doing it during the week. Some may not be doing it as well as others. But struggling is not sitting it out. You are not on the field by yourself.
Jesus is saving individuals into a body, a people for His own possession. He is not waiting to do that in heaven. He is doing that as we worship Him together. Eat and know that you are not alone.
Living means writing your every word and action and thought and drool spot down in forever. It means writing your story within the Story. It means being terrible at it. It means failing and knowing that, somehow, all of our messes will still contribute, that the creative God has merely given Himself a greater challenge–drawing glory from our clumsy botching of the past. We are like factory workers in a slapstick comedy, standing at our positions beside the too-fast conveyor belt that flings the future and all of our possible actions at us. Corn syrup and food coloring everywhere (along with cheese and ceramic figurines).
—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 166
Fight or flight are two typical reactions for a person who encounters a stressful or threatening situation. Let’s say you are walking down a dark alley late at night when three large men in masks step out from behind a dumpster. Or let’s say that your mother-in-law chooses her granddaughter’s birthday party to make a point about the lost etiquette of thank you notes and how she never gets them from this generation. You want to cry and run out of the room, or you want to slap her head in front of all the guests, verbally, of course. Escape or battle.
In the Christian’s war on sin there are times when the appropriate tactic is to run. Standing strong is good in its place, but sprinting away is sometimes the better course. It is similar to the difference between abstaining and avoiding. I can abstain from smoking in a room full of lit cigarettes, no problem. I will avoid a pit of rattle snakes.
God commands believers to flee a number of times in His Word. We must flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). We must flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). We must flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:11). And we must flee youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22) which may have some overlap with sexual immorality. We aren’t to keep watching the movie to prove how pure our thoughts are.
Joseph provides an example of running par expeditious. When Potiphar’s wife kept enticing him, he initially resisted with principles. When she cleared the house and made her last advance, Joseph didn’t sit her down and exhort her about the dangers of her sin. He fled her presence. Fast. He still got in trouble because she lied. But he didn’t get in trouble with God.
We ought to be awake in the war on sin. The devil prowls like a lion seeking prey to devour. Hanging around to tell him why another target is more tasty is not a shrewd move. As Kenny Rogers once put it, you’ve got to know when to get out of there.
Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 117
Some people spend their days in pain with bodies that keep the yearning front and center, that keep loss always in the mind’s eye. Widows. Orphans. The sick. The damaged (by birth or by man). Know this: God has special promises for you, and He loves bringing triumphant resolutions to those who have tasted the deepest sorrows.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 109-110
Our futile struggle in time is courtesy of God’s excessive giving. Sunset after sunset make it hard to remember and hold just one. Smell after smell. Laugh after laugh. A mind still thinking, a heart still beating. Imagine sticking your fingers on your pulse and thanking God every time He gave you another blood-driving, brain-powering thump. We should. And we shouldn’t, because if we did, we would never do anything else with our living; we wouldn’t have the time to look at or savor any of the other of our impossibillions of gifts.
—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 107-108