2 Symptoms of the Same Pride


This came up tonight.  

I’ve seen it with eschatology, I’ve seen it with KJV Onlyism, I’ve seen it with the no vaccination movement.  I’ve seen it with beliefs or practices I share, such as the Doctrines of Grace (you might’ve heard of “Cage Calvinists,” so-called because you want to put them in a cage and let them mature) and with home education.  I’ve read and worked with and loved Christians who have a wedge issue, a hobby horse they (a) can’t stop bringing up and (b) must convert others to.  It excites them more than the Gospel.  They are more ready to talk and post and write about it than the Cross or the goodness of Christ or the character of God.  

Not everyone who reads the King James Bible exclusively is what I’m describing here.  Not everyone who is wary of vaccinations, either.  But many are, and here’s what I’ve noticed:  When you dig a little their lives are often on fire.  Marriages are often on the rocks, kids often don’t want to have anything to do with them, many times there’s a history of church hopping and/or inability to maintain long friendships or a history of being difficult to work a job with.  

I remember one co-worker who I really, seriously loved in Christ who would constantly come back to one single issue within his Christian faith.  We gave each other grace and were close and we honestly cared about each other, but that issue, though I would argue is incredibly tangential (not to mention misguided), was paramount to him.  And I’m fairly certain that I was pitiable in his eyes for not seeing the light.  I later found out that his marriage was unimaginably problematic, that he had broken relationships with multiple children, and that he was deeply (and vocally) unhappy and bitter about his church and her leadership.  And then he abruptly and angrily quit the job we worked together.  It’s a pattern I’ve seen, and my conviction is that the two things, the small pet project you absolutely must argue about and the personal life that is deeply fractured, are symptoms of the same virus.  The hobby horse issue that you will not let go and the regularity of broken, unhappy relationships in your life are manifestations of the same bug.  

I think the same virulent strain was in Gnosticism, the early heresy that attacked the Gospel by claiming (among other false things) that there were truer, inner Christians who had secret knowledge that the lesser ones didn’t.  It’s often (though not always, of course) in conspiracy theorists and died-in-the-wool political partyists who view their fellow humans in categories of the enlightened “in” and the foolish or sinister “other.”  It’s a kind of pride that wants to rest in its own perceptive abilities, its own intelligence, its own research and cognition and wisdom.  It enjoys the fact that it is in the minority, because it wants to be one of the few enlightened and superior or, if I can use 2018-speak, “woke” (I hope I used that right; overlook it if I didn’t) It wants to be right even more than it wants to be righteous.  It wants to be vindicated even more than it wants to be justified.  It wants to win even more than it wants to listen.  

I’ve wrestled with pride all my life.  I’m guessing I always will.  But the more I’ve read or listened on podcasts to or interacted with what I’m describing, the more I’ve wanted to protect myself (and the people I love) against this particular kind.  Paul wrote against divisiveness as a man of conviction.  It is good to have rock-ribbed convictions in Christ.  But to be more enthralled by an issue than by God Himself, to love theory more than God or people, to be willing to argue but not have the slightest interest in reconciliation (or even persuasion) but simply in being upheld and proven right and victorious, is a sign of a toxin, a poison down deep in the spiritual bloodstream.  

Something is very wrong with this one who thinks he is very right.  

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

1 Corinthians 1:20-29

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60 Seconds On Evil and God’s Judgment


One of the things the reality of the day of final judgment can do is give you comfort when you are confronted with violent, vicious evil.  God is a Judge, and He is returning.  So every finally unrepentant rapist or murderer or child abuser (or liar or gossip) will give an account and receive God’s fair, just wrath.  

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

The Christian can know that His God, His Father and Friend and King, will account for every wrong and every wrongdoer.  None will slip by him.  Each and every sin will be dealt with in one of two places:  The Cross of Christ or Hell.  He can be comforted by the knowledge that every wicked evildoer who refuses to mourn his sin and believe in Christ will have his sin reckoned to him on the last day.  And for every day after that.  All of them.  Unto eternity.  

There are times when you’re confronted with pure, undistilled evil.  Toxic, nasty, virulent wickedness.  The Bible gives us many such cases, and the children of God often (in Psalms, Lamentations, and the Prophets, for instance) call out to God for justice in the face of them.  “Lord, they have ripped open pregnant women and murdered mother and child.  The have burned the homes of families for sport and spite.  They have maimed and scarred and slaughtered our people.  Please account for this.  Please judge them!”  These are adult feelings for an adult world.  In this groaning creation there are many times where humans do unspeakably evil things and then laugh at the pain they’ve caused and move on, with no true remorse and no second thoughts about doing more of the same evil as long as they can get away with it.  When the Christian sees these evils and is stunned by them, he can apply the truth of God’s final judgment to the grief and confusion in his heart.  

God is returning.  And all will give an account to Him.  

They do not escape His notice, these scoffers.  They do not escape His offer of pardon and re-creation, either.  

“Come, and be made new.  I saved a rotten thief who was right next to me on the day of my innocent execution.  I can save you.  But your sin must be dealt with.  It must be paid for.  Either here or in Hell.”

We can rest in the God of Judgment, Christian.  We worship a wise, loving, and just Judge.  All sins will be accounted for.  

Thankfully, even our own.  

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:12

A Tick On the Clock

If none of the things you want most out of life could be resolved by Jesus coming back, your heart is not calibrated correctly.  

Your heart was designed to commune with God.  It’s in God that you can have the peace and hope and joy that you thirst for.  And when the Son of God returns to make all things right, to judge the still-living and the dead, and to remake all things for His people, those who love Him will get to know Him and be with Him fully, in bodies that will not perish or wear out.  Nothing can be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ face to face and forever.  Nothing.  Not retirement.  Not romance.  Not a career.  The greatest prize a human being can have is still to come.  

Much of 21st century American life seems designed to make you forget that there is an eternity, a neverending series of tomorrows that you will either enjoy or endure.  Netflix and soccer practices and Chipotle and heated car seats and Friday nights and Facebook and ESPN all seem to insulate us against the reality that this American life of creature comforts is not the last chapter of anyone’s life.  It is not the way things will always be.  Every human being will either meet Jesus to enjoy Him forever or meet Jesus as judge to face what they deserve for their sins.  The great finish line you should be keeping in your mind is not the date you can withdraw from your 401k but the day you are raised to find Jesus looking back at you.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

Revelation 20:11-21:4

What do you want most out of life?  Creature comforts?  Entertainment?  Peace and quiet?  Financial security?  Sex?  Respect?

Or do you want people to know God?  To see Him glorified?  To enjoy Him?  To see pain and death banished?

We weren’t born into a day and place that make it easy to remember we’ll each die, much less that the world will be destroyed and remade some day.  Ours is a country and culture filled with distractions and amusements.  But despite how satisfying we may find Netflix comedy specials and shopping on Amazon, there is something greater to live for.  The King is coming to fix what is broken and to fill every soul who is His to the brim with joy and peace.  Every moment is a tick on the clock towards the Day when Jesus splits the skies and puts an end to evil and a start to a peace on which the lights will never go out.

Which is why the Bible ends this way.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:20-21

Amen indeed.

Politics Is Too Small A Story


So this past weekend the New York Times published an editorial that I think was pretty revealing about a pulse I sense in the current American bloodstream.  If I can put a name to that pulse:  A lot of Americans currently see themselves primarily as actors in a political play.  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, one of the most interesting parts of life to them is this political narrative.  They are willing to make major life choices (like, ahem, who they will be friends with) based on political storylines.  

Now, I think some of this is due to the fact that the secular west that America is a part of has largely removed at least three major components from the center of human life:  Worship of a deity (whether a false one or the one true God of Jesus Christ), marriage, and bearing and raising children.  But it has to put something at the center of its people’s lives, because human beings inherently live for things.  So since deity, marriage, and raising children are pushed to the cultural side, the secular West places a cosmic political battle at the heart of life.  It says that this is what we live for.  By contrast, I don’t think the political landscape is central to the average Nigerian, who is plugged into a church and has six children.

But more than talking about the cause, I wanted to take a second and simply highlight a better story (and, thankfully, a truer story) than the one that cradles mindsets like this editorialist’s.  

Human beings need to see themselves in story.  We are made this way by the Author of the grand Autobiography around us.  This editorialist’s posture makes sense if you see yourself in a story where every human being is either an oppressor or oppressed (or an instrument of oppression).   But that is not the story the Bible tells.  And hence it is not the story we are in.  

The Bible places us in a much grander story, a cosmic narrative in which a spiritual rebel against the good Creating King has seduced humanity to follow him.  And this rebellion has scarred the universe by bringing upon it the curse of death and suffering.  But in this shadowed and groaning world, that good King has entered the drama as chief groaner, and all to take into His own heart and flesh the pain and agony and judgment and death that our sin makes us deserve.  

Through that sacrifice that He willingly and passionately made, and because of the victory He won by coming back from the other side of death, this King is ransoming for Himsef a people out of this wicked rebellion.  He is winning them back.  And He will one day plant them on a remade world, a new creation that is everything that should have been and everything that once was.  

That is the story we are in.  Not one of merely political schema or of America versus North Korea.  Not one of Good People Group A against Malevolent People Group B.  Not one of one humanly constructed ideaology triumphing over another.  (Not even one of how far I can rise at the office or how many people I can get to admire me on Facebook.)  This current American narrative of one political group heroically fighting against a villainous counterpart is too small to live for and too fragile to hope in.  

And that is the heartbeat, an all too common one, that I see revealed in this editorial.  And it’s a sad one.  A person who believes the greatest struggle is politics has no greater demon to fight than the other party.  He has no greater worship song to sing than the voices of his favorite pundits.  He has no stronger altar to kneel at than the one engraved with his favorite political issue.  

We have a greater story to live for than Barack Obama versus Donald Trump.  We have a better hope than either house of Congress can provide.  There is a King on the throne, and He has done something remarkable.  

And it’s not done yet.  

He is returning to finish what He started.  

Let This War Kill Him


One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., Hebrews 5:14) as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.  

60 Seconds On Death and Easter


Death will not get the last word.

It spoke what it had, every last syllable of its harshest lie, and couldn’t keep Him behind the rock.

Him.  The Christ.  The God-man come for sinners.

In a world with dead bodies, there is no hope unless there is resurrection.  God made a world of trees and turtles, of starlight and fireflies and men, and sin unleashed death upon all of it, upon everything that breathes.  It all groans under the weight of the spoil of our sin.

But God took death into Himself, Jesus our Redeemer, and rose again with the skin and bones and heart of a man who cannot be killed.  The lie was undone.

Every carcass since Abel’s was a horrifying, stinking reminder of what sin did and does to us (“It’ll smell,” Lazarus’ sister said), but the risen body of Jesus is a reminder of what God did and is doing for us.

We will be raised.  All who have believed in Jesus will be raised to an unbreakably eternal life.  An eternal embodied life.  One in a new creation free of sin and death and decay.  All will be well.  And death’s shadow will be swallowed by the fire of God’s anger, His good wrath towards all the murders sin once wrought.

Death does not get the last word.  That’s reserved for the King.  It is His to speak.  He created by His Word, He will recreate by His Word, and, unlike the serpent, everything He speaks is true.  And, of course, final.

And so Easter is a reminder that He gets the last word.

And it’s one that will never end.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 5:12, 6:5

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…  But each in his own order:  Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 23-26

60 Seconds On Heresy Hunting

  
They’re far less frequent than the encounters I’ll have with Christians who don’t seem to care enough about truth, but from time to time I’ll end up observing (or embroiled in) a conversation with a Christian who seems to enjoy pointing out the errors of others.  Who seems to love the fight.  Truth be told, I’ve probably been that Christian at certain moments.  

And, since it was fresh on my mind as I wait on Sarah and the kids at the mall, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts on the professional heresy-hunter, the guy (or girl) who thoroughly enjoys the hunt:

  • A mature Christian won’t run from conflict if the moment calls for it. An immature Christian seeks it out.  
  • Heaven will be boring to you if you like fights more than reconciliation.
  • It’s not discernment to call every doctrinal disagreement “heresy.”  It’s actually a lack of discernment.  You’re not a discerning person if you’re unable to tell a rainstorm from a hurricane.  Someone with good discernment is able to distinguish true doctrine from false doctrine, but he is also able to distinguish deadly errors from non-deadly ones, and is able to react to those different types of errors proportionately.  He is also able to tell the difference between what he has good Biblical grounds to be certain on and what he has simply drawn out from the Bible as the most likely conclusion.  I am certain on my Gospel.  I am not certain on my eschatology.  
  • Conviction about doctrine should have as its primary aims love for God and love for man, not love for doctrine.  I want to be deeply invested in justification by grace through faith alone, credobaptism, and the second coming of Christ because I love the triune God and the people He’s made.  I don’t want to be firm in my doctrines because I love my doctrines, and then have to have somebody remind me to leave the study so I can go talk to people or take Lord’s Supper. 

I love truth because I love the One who is truth.  

Happy weekend, all!