Another Sort of Sight
I recently heard someone say that there are two types of people in the world: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who get tired of the other group. I’m going to do it right now, but I’m also going to give a third option, so that will be different.
There are two types of people in the world: those who know that they sin and those who argue that they don’t. There are people who refuse to use the word sin or wannabe atheists who disagree in principle that sin is possible. Their blindness is more sad than ironic. Churchgoers, on the other hand, usually either confess their sin in humility or they confess the systematic truth that men are sinners, though that doesn’t apply to them at the moment. Religious blindness isn’t another sort of sight.
We should always keep in mind that Christ came to save men who sin. Whether you are considering resolutions for the New Year, whether you are in a spat with your spouse, or whether you’re waiting for a broken relationship to mend itself, the only savior is Jesus and He saves men who confess their sin. He doesn’t save those who confess the correct theology of sin. He doesn’t save those who make promises to do better. He doesn’t save those who shift the blame for their sin. He doesn’t save those who depend on time to pass. He saves those who depend on Him.
It is dangerous to argue that we do not sin. That argument is usually found in the mouths of blind men, deceived men, religious men. When we see the sin of those around us much clearer than our own, that may not be because their sin is so much more obvious, it may be because sin trains our eyes to look away. Christ came to do something about the log in our eyes first.
January 6, 2013
Say Who He Is
Every Lord’s day we are called to say who we think Jesus is. We are given opportunity to confess our need for Him or to distance ourselves from Him. We are being watched and our story is being written.
Has Jesus opened your eyes as He did the man in John 9? Then what do you say about Him? How you answer will make a difference in what other people say about you, now and for generations. If you side with the One who saved you, if you identify with His bodily death, then you are admitting that you were blind and deserved death. This will get you called a fool and it will get you eternal fellowship with God. If you drink His cup, then you are saying that you could not save yourself. This will get you called weak and it will keep you from being put to shame. If you eat this meal out here in public, then you are proclaiming that life comes from death, a statement of stumbling to some and of foolishness to others, but the power of God to salvation for you who believe.
You will be called names but you will have the name of Christ. You will be rejected by men, but so was your Master. You will be questioned, and it will not be your undoing, it will be your opening to testify. Jesus promises that those who lose their lives for His sake and for the gospel save their lives.
January 4, 2013
We Don’t Have It
In the middle of many exhortations, Paul told the Romans to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
The beginning of the chapter swings on quite a hinge. The letter moves from the glorious gospel of righteousness by faith alone through the invincible love that won’t let us be separated from God in Christ Jesusto the powerful work of righteousness by grace. The orthodoxy–straight doctrine, leads to orthopraxy–straight practice. Generally, we are sacrifices that live worshipfully rather than those who are conformed to the world’s mold (Romans 12:1-2).
Part of that transformed life includes sympathy according to verse 15. We weep with those who weep. We do not blow off or mock the pain and hurt of others. We do not push away to protect our hearts from feeling the same sorrow in their suffering. Transformed Christians share a common cry.
In some ways, weeping with weepers may be easier because we do not have to go home with their problems. We can keep their troubles in an off-site compassion compartment. We can go home to our better situation and breath easier that we don’t have it like them.
But a good test of our transformation comes when we don’t have it like them and they have it better than us. Can we rejoice with those who rejoice? Can we share the joy of their win or their promotion or their profit? Can we enjoy the blessings that they’ve received, especially if they are the blessings we’ve been hoping or working for? Can we do it without being jealous or bitter?
It’s interesting that the next door neighbor exhortation in Romans 12:16 is to live in harmony with one another. We won’t if we are always being tightfisted with compassion and grabby for blessing.
January 2, 2013
Into This World
Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world and Pilate didn’t get it. He asked Jesus if this meant that He was a king. Jesus answered:
“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, ESV)
Pilate’s famous question, “What is truth?” proved that he wasn’t listening. But for those who do have ears to hear, let us consider why Jesus said He was born. He left His Father in heaven and took on flesh in Bethlehem in order “to bear witness to the truth.” What truth? If Pilate had asked “What truth?” instead of “What is truth?” he would have been in a much better position.
The answer is, Jesus was born to bear witness to all truth. That’s a lot, but at least we can say that it includes the truth of His identity. Jesus is the Savior King. We know it from the earliest chapters in the Christmas story. Gabriel told Mary,
you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31–33, ESV)
Gabriel told Joseph that Mary would “bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The angel announced to the shepherds, “Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). When the wise men arrived sometime later, they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)
Jesus was born to bear witness to the truth, the truth of who He is and the truth of what we need. When we come to the Lord’s table in faith, we also bear witness to the truth that we were born in sin needing a Savior, born as enemies rebelling against the King, and that we trust His death to bring us life.
December 25, 2012
The Hardest Part
The hardest part about Christmas is not shaking off the lingering effects of tryptophan at 2 AM while shopping on Black Friday. The hardest part is not squeezing SUVs into compact parking spaces at the mall or outjoying cranky checkout clerks. The hardest part is not choosing the perfect (and budget fitting) gift for the picky person in your life. The hardest part is not securing the tree straight in the stand. The hardest part is not troubleshooting strands of dead lights or even dealing with deadbeats around the dinner table. The hardest part is not paying off all the credit card bills by May. The hardest part about Christmas is caring.
No sentiment from a Hallmark holiday movie or lick from a thick peppermint stick can guarantee to get your heart in the mood. No matter how much the thirsty needles on your tree smell like they might burst into flame, no decorated indoor fir can catch your heart on fire. Celebrating the first coming of Christ and letting that party push us to wait even more eagerly for His next coming is hard heart work.
The liturgy of the season is an advantage to us if we repent and believe. As is true of our worship every Lord’s day, confessing and communing, offering and singing, praying and receiving the Word challenge us to be renewed in love for Christ. So setting up trees and giving gifts, baking ham and greeting family, all provide cover for cold hearts or provide discipline to melt them.
Is your preparation for the 25th increasing your anticipation of the great day? Are you pursuing holiness more these days, not only so that you’ll be ready for righteous rejoicing on Christmas, but also so that you’ll be ready for Christ’s return? If not, now is a great time to confess the sin that strangles sanctification and hope so that we can enjoy more of both on Tuesday.
December 24, 2012
Rabbits with Greek Names
We finish our Omnibus class discussion on The Histories: The Landmark Herodotus in the morning. The long intestines of Herodotus measure more than 700 pages followed by 21 appendices and a hundred more pages of indeces. The rabbit trails in this book get more attention than the timeline, but I don’t want to split hares. At least most of the rabbits had Greek names.
I did not read the whole thing. I listened to Books 4-7 in this audio version which is neither the same translation as the hard copy I have nor did it shake the typical ennui that chaperones dates between audio books and me. It was free. Also, the audio edition has no maps. I will admit that somewhere around Book 9 I actually started paying attention to the maps which also meant that they no longer helped me skip forward in my reading. Such is learning. By now I even have an opinion on whether the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Thermopylae was more important. Who’da thunk it?
There are many things that could be said about this book; I’m sure of it, whatever they are. That said, here’s one threatening riddle from Book 6 that has kept me thinking for a couple weeks.
Now Miltiades was highly respected by Croesus the Lydian, and when Croesus learned what had happened to him, he sent a declaration to the Lampsacenes commanding them to release Miltiades, threatening that if they did not do so, he would wipe them out as if they were a pine tree. The Lampsacenes who tried to interpret this message were at first belwildered as to why Croeses would use the phrase “wipe them out like a pine tree” in his threat, but then, after much hard thinking, one of the elders came to the realization of its true significance: the pine alone of all trees does not produce any new shoot once it has been chopped down, but is utterly destroyed and gone forever. (442)
Part of the reason that we started a school, and part of the reason that we’re paddling the river of Western Civilation with Omnibus oars, including the one supplied by Herodotus, is that we want our students to come back even when we’re “cut down,” whenever and however that might happen. If Christians reproduce true disciples, then our disciples will live and grow and bear much fruit even when we die. By God’s grace we won’t be wiped out like pine trees, instead we’ll keep popping up like irrepressible bamboo shoots.1
December 18, 2012
- Credit for the bamboo analogy goes to our school Headmaster. I texted him this question: “What kind of tree/plant is virtually impossible to kill, even if you chop it down?” He immediately replied that it was a good question and gave four answers, a few from personal experience. He also thinks Herodotus is fantastic. That’s why he’s the right person for the job, and the teacher of our Omnibus class. ↩