Soap, Water, and Anxiousness
There are at least three levels of crisis in the world currently: physical crisis, cultural crisis, and eternal crisis.
The first two levels are hand in glove, or like soap and water. The physical sicknesses and deaths of COVID-19 are real, though they have been made worse by the lathering of cultural anxiousness. The coronavirus attacks blood and internal body parts, and coronapocrisy hoards toilet paper and tattles on non-social distancers in the name of neighbor-love. Thankfully, not every hospital bed has been filled so far like was predicted, but unfortunately most of the political seats are still full of greed.
We can pray that God’s providential shake-up is being used by God to wake-up sinners to the eternal crisis. Because of sin they are separated from God, and whether they die from a virus, or they die from hunger, or they die from violence, God’s vengeance is still on them for their own unbelief and ingratitude before Him.
In the COVID-19 world is sickness, selfishness, and separation. In Christ is healing, love, and fellowship.
By faith in Christ we overcome the world. “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:4-5). We are a communion of conquerors, and our communion is conquering.
October 20, 2020
You’re Already Wet
Perhaps one time you came home in your nice work clothes and your younger kids, who were enjoying a water fight, sprayed you with the garden hose, maybe accidentally, maybe not, but you got wet enough that you got annoyed. Then one of your older kids came around the corner and threw a bucket of water on you, believing that you needed it. There’s certainly now no way you’re just going to go inside and dry out. You’re soaked. You might as well have some fun.
Now, instead of picturing your kids pitching pails of water at you, imagine that all the pails are printed with “2020.”
How should you respond? It’s a short answer.
The shortest verse in the Bible is not John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Counting letters in the original language, there are 16 characters in three words. But the Greek text of 1 Thessalonians 5:16 includes only 14 characters in two words, typically translated, “Rejoice always” (ESV, NAS, NKJV, NIV, NRSV). The variations are not really that diverse: “Rejoice evermore” (KJV) and “Always rejoice ye” (YLT). Though it’s the shortest, it may be the second most difficult command to obey in Scripture after loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
This command comes in the final chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians and near the middle of 17 different exhortations. We ought not separate it from its context but we can focus on it. Rejoice. Always.
How have you done rejoicing in 2020? What percentage of proactive rejoicing have you done? Do you make rejoicing the agenda at your meal times and get-togethers? What percentage of reactive rejoicing have you done? When the next news cycle announces the newest outrage, the current fiasco, how do you process it? Do you mix rejoicing in with your burdens or reports of bad news? Paul said he was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Rejoicing does not eliminate heaviness (see 1 Peter 1:6), but it does flavor, lighten, and transpose that heaviness.
October 19, 2020
The Dead End of (God-honoring) Gradual Development
Last Sunday I taught about economics. That interrupted a series I’ve been teaching through Revelation. As a futurist, that is, one who thinks the majority of the apocalyptic judgment is yet to occur, why would I bother admonishing the saints about building wealth of all kinds in the present age?
This is the problem that Kuyperian Dispensationalism raises, and also resolves.
If you’re already convinced about this, you’re one of maybe about twenty people on the planet (ha!). If you’re not convinced, let the following long quote and bullet points bounce around in your mental hopper.
The quote is from Kuyper himself in his book, Pro Rege: Living under Christ’s Kingship, Volume 1: The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship. Kuyper was not a Dispensationalist, but I’ve been thinking about granting him that honorary status anyway. Here he explains how many things on earth will continue to get better and better and how that still won’t bring in Christ’s kingdom.
We must be certain and express clearly that the period of gradual development in which we now live will one day come to an end and pass over into the last period, which is that of a supernatural manifestation of power encompassing not only the whole world but the entire universe as well. The final victory cannot be brought about gradually, because [the path of gradual development] will end in failure. When it is clear and evident in the course of history that natural, gradual development does not and cannot lead to the final goal, then—and only then—will our King intervene in a completely supernatural manner so as to neutralize all resistance and to cause the full glory of his kingship to break through.
Before this happens, however, it must be determined and demonstrated that [this process of] gradual development was unable to lead to its triumph. One should not be able to say afterward: “If only it had pleased God to leave humanity to its own natural development, everything still would have worked out on its own.” No, the facts of history must show that humanity was incapable of this on its own. Humanity must therefore be given time. Time to absorb the blessing that Christianity brings. Time to test every method and manner of saving itself with the gospel’s help. Once it is clear after this generous passage of time that humanity failed—because its very life root has been poisoned and because the demonic power finds novel ways and means in every new development to enter humanity’s veins and spoil it from within—then and only then will Christ suddenly arrest this period of gradual development, fermentation, and influence, and intervene with his full kingly power. And [he will do] this no longer to save but to judge, and to bring about the consummation of his kingdom with supernatural power. (405-406)
Many things will get better because:
- God’s Spirit regenerates men to life, illuminates the Word for obedience, and energizes for fruitfulness, not just in eternity but on earth. This fruitfulness includes faithful dominion-taking as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:28) and includes loving one’s neighbor and seeking their interests (Matthew 22:39 and Philippians 2:4). We love them by not only sharing the good news but also new goods.
- God intends that our lives “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10), which is an aroma of life to those who are being saved (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Not everyone is attracted to the gospel by God’s blessing on those who believe it, but some (including a future generation of Israelites) will be made jealous into salvation (Romans 11:11, 13-14, 25-26).
But better things themselves won’t bring about Christ’s reign on earth because:
October 16, 2020
- God is exposing that the sinfulness of men is so sinful that many men will still resist giving glory to God for all the good He gave them (Psalm 112:10; Romans 1:18-23), and so He ordains for them to store up more wrath for themselves (Romans 2:4-5).
- And as the Kuyper quote above, time is not the savior, only the Savior is, and soli Deo gloria.
There are a variety of acceptable approaches to serving food. Think of the different host homes for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and think of not just the many seating arrangements, but the alternatives to passing out the vittles. It could be grab-what-you-want style, at least if the group and table is small enough, or the pass-it-around-item-by-item, or maybe buffet style where you take your plate up to the common holding area. Of course, those who aren’t signed up for GWCTD will make their own supper and eat it however they want, maybe right out of the pan; save yourself from washing an extra dish.
As a church we share the communion meal every Lord’s Day. Many things are being learned here, and only some of the lessons come in the words. We do it weekly, we do it gladly, we do it at a common table. We also don’t have men pass trays row by row, but rather invite everyone to come up to the table.
Until this past May, you walked up and got your own bread and wine. The morning minster served the musicians leading us in song, but otherwise you served yourself. Having been warned about a supposedly severely contagious virus, we took special precautions and individually packaged the elements so as to share the supper without sharing germs. Since we returned inside for worship, we’ve had men pass out the elements so as to put only a couple hands near the supplies; it wasn’t surgery-room-sterile, but it was something.
Though I wasn’t able to come, I asked the elders about the donuts table last Sunday, and it gave us a reason to make a new decision. Many of you happily used your hands to get your own donuts, and good job not passing around your infectious diseases.
So we are no longer going to have men pass out the elements for sake of an ostensibly higher level of cleanliness. But we are going to have men pass out elements for sake of serving the flock. We like the liturgical statement. We like the little extra interaction. We like singing another song. It is not the only way to serve the Supper, and it doesn’t save us time, but it’s a good exchange, reminding us of the Chief Shepherd who came to serve and gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
October 13, 2020
You Did Good
All three Synoptic Gospels include Jesus’ question of exchange. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25). It’s an economic question, though it requires a better economic understanding than many men have demonstrated. Good economics considers more than the immediate result and more than a single issue. Wealth and power, what it means to “gain the whole world,” do not equal life.
As obvious as this is to many disciples, it is only obvious by half. There are more economics in this transaction, and it’s not in the fine print, or a footnote, nor from a false teacher. Think about the verse immediately before Jesus’ question:
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25)
There are two risks, but only one results in permanent loss. Jesus says you can lose early or lose eternally, but if you lose early the result is gain.
And add to this the following verse.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
When Jesus settles accounts, is He focused on punishment or on profit? Of course He will judge those who denied Him. But where would He find those to reward? He would find them among those who denied themselves and found life working for the Son. Those who gained will gain even more.
Deny yourself for something better, not something more miserable. Take up your cross, kill your greed, and then do all kinds of good that Jesus may say, “You did good. I told you I would see your work and share my inheritance with you as a reward” (Matthew 25:21; Colossians 3:23).
October 12, 2020
Deaden or Gladden
It is not just a future hour when God will judge those who don’t obey Him. He threatens discipline any time people take His Table for granted.
I don’t bring it up each Lord’s Day, but the word of the Lord through Paul always applies. Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27). To profane means to treat with disrespect. If we do not examine, then we may be eating and drinking judgment on ourselves (verse 30).
In Revelation 14 the “wine” that the world drinks, wine which they thought would be delightful, turned out to be a cup of judgment. In a similar way, professing Christians drink their own discipline if they try to keep sin in their mouths at the same time.
What is also to be remembered, however, is the blessing promised when we eat and drink, honestly and humbly. The Lord’s Supper is serious, but it is not a gauntlet. Bread can choke you, or feed you. Wine will deaden your heart, or gladden it. It isn’t just what we’re trying to avoid, but what we get to receive.
This meal is a reminder of what we deserved: death. But it is also a reminder of what awaits those who die in the Lord: a feast. There is rejoicing in Him. There is rest in Him. Do this in remembrance of His first coming, and until He comes again.
September 28, 2020