So Let’s Do Something About That

A few months ago a friend of mine recommended to me Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World. I’m about to finish it, and will give a Goodreads review soon. But since there’s a group of us working to start a college in the near future, I really appreciated the following quote from chapter 8, “The Christian Academe: Underachievers.”

Christian college graduates typically have commitment, but not confidence. They have ideals, but not vision. Except for those going into the professional ministry, no one has laid out for most of them either the possibilities or the responsibilities of penetrating every area of our society with the message of Christ.” (157, emphasis mine)

Men and Marriage

4 of 5 stars to Men and Marriage by George Gilder

Men and Marriage is both perfectly obvious and eerily prophetic, especially since it was published in 1986. Because Gilder doesn’t work from the Bible’s revelation, he can’t celebrate fatherhood as a reflection of the Father, and he misses the purposeful and powerful call to men to be fruitful. Gilder sees marriage as a good thing for men (and women), but mostly as women tame the barbarians. Nevertheless he painstakingly shows how ugly and dangerous and sick societies get when they don’t promote and protect the bond of one man with one woman in marriage with kids to come and care for.

Taunts of the Assembly

I tell you this, brothers, it is not a mystery: we are all going to die. Actually, we shall not all sleep, as Paul put it (1 Corinthians 15:51). He considered the return of the Lord to be imminent, and, since time on earth is linear, we have to be closer to His return now than Paul.

If the Lord tarries, as they used to say, then we will all die. But, and this is the good news for Christians, we shall all be changed. We will be raised in Christ.

The questions, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” are taunts against death. “What can you do to us now, death? You’ve lost all your teeth.” These taunts are individual, and they are also the taunts of the assembly.

Our bodies will be raised, and we as the body of Christ will be raised. In the resurrection we will have identity as Christians and as the church.

We have that identity in seed form even now. If you are a believer, you have the promise of full fellowship. If you are a believer, you have the present experience of fellowship, both with God through Christ and through the Spirit with one another.

So we share communion in celebration of victory, by faith in both the firstfruits of victory and the final victory. Together we remember Christ’s death and His triumph over death. We are mere mortals, but we will be mere immortals not long from now. We shall all be changed, thanks be to God!

A Small Snail Named Apollyon

In an initial draft of The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan wrote about Christian’s encounter with a small snail named Apollyon. It was an epic battle, and Christian won, but some of Bunyan’s friends thought it didn’t really work. One of them named Mr. Plot-be-bold said, “The battle part fits in the story of struggle, but fighting a snail doesn’t seem like anything special.” So Bunyan changed Apollyon into the large dragon-bear-human-fish monster we know about.

The previous paragraph was typed with my tongue in my cheek; there’s no edition where Christian fights a snail. My point is to say, you are not a better Christian because your battles are small. Of course, you are not a better Christian when you lose to a bigger enemy either.

We are in a spiritual battle, with actual enemies, within and without. If it’s not an ad on a web page, or your neighbor, it’s your own heart that tempts you so disobey. The more spiritually mature you are, the more sensitive you become to the danger of the temptations, and the more spiritually mature you are, the bigger the temptations are likely to be. Resist the devil and he will flee, but he’s going to come at you hard before that.

What is tempting you? How severely are you being tempted? Is it not just irritation but a seething anger? Is it not just wishful thinking but consuming envy? Is it not just a passing glance, but slavery to lustful thoughts?

The point is not to beat yourself up when the temptation is big, the point is to beat big temptations when they come at you. You can really lose, but you also have a high priest who Himself “suffered when tempted” so that “He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). He did more than defeat a dust bunny.

So Hard Its Undoing

On the night He was betrayed, “Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body'” (Matthew 26:26). This part is familiar to us who celebrate communion.

But don’t those words sound familiar for another reason? In fact, the reason for the Second Adam saying “Take, eat” is because of what the first Adam took and ate. The serpent deceived Eve about God’s word, and when she saw that the tree was good for food and delighted the eyes and desired to make one wise, “she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6).

The “took” and the “ate” are the same vocabulary words in the Greek translation of the OT as the Greek words in Matthew 26 (from λαμβάνω and ἐσθίω respectively). Of course then Eve gave Adam the food, he ate, and he failed. And so, “By a man came death,” “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22)

In his commentary on Genesis Derek Kidner wrote:

“She took… and ate: so simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.”

The Second Adam not only obeyed, He gave Himself as the bread of life. So, “by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead,” “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22).

The serpent lied and said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” Now God says in truth, “Take, eat, for you will surely live, and you will be made like the image of My Son.”

Not As I Will

Jesus is risen from the dead just as He said. His resurrection is the first of its kind and all of us who believe in Him will be raised when He returns. While we sing in thanks and praise and hope, how else can we celebrate the significance of this great news? In other words, how can we make Easter great again?

We can, and should, give up our sins for which Christ died. We can, and should, give up trying to make our self-righteousness look acceptable to Him. We can, and should, give up our grudges toward those for whom Christ bore condemnation already. And, following Christ’s example, if we want to make Easter great again, we should give up our own wills.

In Gethsemane, sorrowful and troubled, falling on His face and praying, Jesus said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). After returning to His sleeping disciples Jesus went away a second time and prayed, “Your will be done” (verse 42). And after that, “he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again” (verse 44).

It’s not a surprise for Him to pray this way. He told others, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). What is surprising is how we think we’re going to get fruit by saving our seed (John 12:24). But Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

Give up your self-sufficiency. Give up your schedule to glory. Give up your arrogant plans (James 4:13-17). Give up looking to your own interests (Philippians 2:4). “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Have the mind of Christ, and give up your will for Easter.

Not Another Humanistic Empathy Theater

I sent an email yesterday that represented a lot of thoughts and prayers. I actually began the email on that note, while clarifying that the prayers have been made in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth, not in the name of humanistic empathy theater.

Anyway, the email was an invite for sake of forming a committee to consider starting a Christian liberal arts college in Marysville in the fall of 2020.

It’s exciting. And exhausting. And even more exciting than I said just a moment ago.

The first order of business for said committee is to decide if we have enough good reasons to even try to do this. Of course, if I didn’t already have some reasons of some sort then nobody needs another meeting. If we agree that such an institution of higher ed is called for, and I think we will, and if we agree that the call includes an opening day somewhere around fifteen months from now, then we have even more thoughts and prayers to go.

There aren’t as many written records from those who first came to America because they were busy accomplishing the things that needed to be done. Yet sometimes the writing about things is part of what needs to be done, and hopefully there will be progress to share along the way. Also, we’re not trying to form a(nother) more perfect union, but we are thinking about an alternative to those humanistic empathy theaters called college campuses.

In the meantime, there are a number of articles that lament the current state of college/university education, especially in the government schools, such as this one about poo emoji, I mean, educational BS. The pony in the poop, as my father-in-law might frame it, is that the time is ripe for some “visionary traditionalism and organizational radicalism,” you know, like a new college.

After the Fact

On the Sunday before Jesus was raised from the dead He came into Jerusalem with His disciples. The day is usually called Palm Sunday due to the palm branches that the crowd laid on the road before Jesus.

We also refer to Jesus coming into Jerusalem as the “triumphal entry.” This is really curious for a couple reasons.

First, a Triumph parade was an event familiar throughout the Roman Empire. The Israelites weren’t geographically close to Rome, but at that time they were under Roman governance. Roman Generals had to win a significant victory on foreign soil in order to have a Triumph thrown for their honor. The procession followed a special order through the streets of Rome, including captives and spoils, the soldiers, the sacrifices, and the General himself riding in a four-horse chariot.

But while Jesus entered Jerusalem to acclaim and praise, He rode a humble donkey. His disciples were no impressive army, and there were no captives, no spoils of war. It wasn’t a capital T Triumph.

In fact, that’s the second thing that makes the triumphal entry unique: Jesus had not triumphed; it wasn’t even a lower case t triumph. He had won no war. Many called for blessing on Him who comes in the name of the Lord, but there was no actual accomplishment for a parade to celebrate.

Like we call Good Friday “good” after the fact, so we call the Triumphal Entry “triumphal” after the fact. We know by God’s Word and we receive by faith that Christ entered Jerusalem as King in order to pay the price for the sin of His subjects. Within that week He did triumph over sin and guilt and death, and leads all of us now in His train. Today we remember His triumph in body and blood spent for us.

The Dungeon of Chronic Grievances

We’ve been considering how to Make Easter Great Again. There are certainly things we can add into our preparation for and celebration of Christ’s resurrection, but there are also things we can give up. The most important things to give up, however, are things that Christ died for. He didn’t die so that we wouldn’t eat meat, He did die so that we wouldn’t self-righteously judge a brother who does (or doesn’t) eat meat. Give up sin, whether like gluttons, or like Pharisees.

Let me also urge you to give up grudges. We are in the spring season and all kinds of seeds are taking root and starting to grow. Don’t let bitterness be one of the seeds.

[See] that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:15)

Jesus didn’t die so that you can hold on to wrongs done against you, or, for that matter, wrongs you have done against others (though we typically don’t focus on how we’ve caused trouble). Jesus rose again for our freedom from the dungeons of perpetual guilt and of chronic grievances.

This isn’t to say that you have not been sinned against. You most certainly have. But the gospel declares that in three days Jesus took care of the condemnation that was due to every believer who has sinned against us. Eagerly holding on to feelings of ill-will, resentment, envy, or suspicion is like saying that Christ needs to be punished more for that brother’s offense. If the one who sinned against you is not a believer, then Christ says He will deal with them later.

Grudges spelled backward is self-pity. But Christ has condemned sin in the flesh so that we cannot be condemned and so that we will not have regrets from condemning others.

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:17–18)

The Screwtape Letters

5 of 5 stars to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This is some next level temptation insight. I don’t like demons, but I do like snark, so there is a lot to enjoy, even to learn from snarky Uncle Screwtape. Lewis is really good at nailing slippery sinful inner inclinations to the wall, and in this book he does so while also making our spiritual enemies look silly.