She Must Not Be Silent


It seems to me that 21st century Western culture says that the church may be fine, but should stay in its own sphere and not really effect public life.  By contrast, God says that the church is His instrument of salvation and reconciliation in the world, and that, however much Hell would like to triumph over her, she will stand forever.  

Two very different views.  

Our day and place seem to view the Christian church with ambivalence mixed with a smidgen of scorn.  I argue that the Bible paints her as a blemished but divine sword, being forged (and slowly refined) in a fire to cut through Hell and sin and death and damnation.  She is an imperfect instrument being used perfectly.  She is a flawed body whose Head (Jesus Christ) knows exactly what He is doing.  The church is not a joke.  She is not irrelevant.  She should not stay in her Sunday school room and leave the world to do what it thinks best.  

She has the only message of freedom to an enslaved world, and she should not stay silent, no matter what the world says.  

“But we don’t want you speaking about that sin.”

You mean that thing over there, the one that will kill you and those around you?  That evil that promises God’s wrath on you and will afflict our fellow human beings and will bring judgment on our nation?  That’s the one you want us to pipe down about?  Well then I dare say our finger is actually on a very important nerve there, I’m afraid.  For I venture to say there is a reason you want us to stay quiet about that sin, as opposed to others.  

“But you must not carry that into work or public life.”

You mean I should check my Savior at the door, then?  I’m sorry, but that’s the very thing I must not do.  Both for your good and for mine.

“But you churches don’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

In some ways and in some things we don’t, it’s true.  But if we believe and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are a part of His massive body, His Church.  And He is faithful to help us speak His Word, albeit imperfectly, for the salvation of souls and the blessing of the world, even though each of our individual churches or denominations is almost certainly honestly wrong about some things.  The beautiful thing is that His Word is clearest where it is most crucial, and so Gospel-preaching churches will always be able to agree where it matters most:  The sinfulness of man, the perfectness of Christ, His death and resurrection as God and God’s Son to save those who will believe in Him, and His future return to make all things right.  

The church of Jesus Christ should not seek to be as harmless and quiet as our present culture would like her to be.  True, she is not a belligerent Bride, but she absolutely shares the convictions and the mission of her Husband:  The rescue and repentance of sinners to the glory of God.  

Christian churches, we are not to stay in a corner and do our best to not to bother anybody.  Read the book of Acts.  We have a grand mission.  And though it will frustrate many who are hardhearted (like our Savior frustrated many who were hardhearted), it will transform the lives of many others forever.   

We have a calling that only we can perform.  

And we cannot perform it by being silent. 

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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.  

To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

Please Stop Gossiping, Christian

  
Gossip is verbal homicide.  

It slays people, relationships, and reputations.  

Its destructiveness, like a nuclear disaster, can’t really be measured for years. 

 It tears down individuals, marriages, churches, and families. 

The Apostle James tells believers in James 3, “Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”

We who have believed in Jesus are called to suffer with a smile, to be silent before our persecutors as our Savior was, and to pray for even the wicked as He did.  Not to maim and destroy with our words.  

I used to love gossip. I ate it up. It made me feel good and big and “in” and better. In other words, it was a deceitful little drug that impersonated the love of Christ.  Like all idols, gossip was a stand-in for what my soul really thirsted for:  fellowship with my Creator.  So I would only gossip to the degree that I was not treasuring and enjoying the love of my Christ.

And Christians, to gossip about an unbeliever is horrible, crushing, and mean. But to gossip about a Christian?   A blood-bought believer who is part of Jesus’spotless bride?   Satan applauds!   Because at that point we are doing his job for him. “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies” (Romans 8:33).  Unless we’re talking about church discipline or counseling or some other rare instance, it is helping Satan’s cause to say negative things about someone to anyone other than that person.

In all my past gossiping, I was absolutely sinful.  And so I exhort anyone who is doing this now, in the Name (and for the cause) of Jesus Christ, to stop.

All of us who have been saved by the blood of Christ must preach and speak the grace and patience Jesus Christ showed us, and let Satan, quite literally, be damned.

45 Seconds On Satan

  
Satan seeks to devour souls.  He is an enemy of God, and so he is an enemy of salvation.  

Implications?

Certainly.  

Satan would have you lean on your own understanding, rely on your own intelligence and thinking for stability.  He hates belief in the wisdom of God, which men call folly but which the faithful know is life and true light. 

He would have you hope in possessions and money and riches.  He despises those who sell everything and buy garments and treasure that last forever. 

He would have you drown in despair over your sins and be paralyzed by fears.  He loathes the ones who cast their anxieties on Jesus, and look to Him to cleanse and restore them. 

He would have you clothe yourself in self-righteousness and smug religious (or irreligious) pride.  He has no use for the people of humility and heart-level repentance and personal graciousness.   

In short, Satan would have your eyes and your heart be dominated by anything other than the person of Jesus Christ, God and God’s Son.  

He hates God, he hates you, and so he hates the Gospel.  

So be watchful.  

And let your eyes rest on the God of the Good News.  

And looking upon Evangelist very carefully, [he] said, ‘Whither must I fly?’ Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, ‘Do you see yonder wicket gate?’ [Christian] said, ‘No.’ Then said the other, ‘Do you see yonder shining light?’ He said, ‘I think I do.’

Then said Evangelist, ‘Keep that light in your eye.’

From Pilgrim’s Progress

The Filthy We Were (Zechariah 3)

  

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.’

Zechariah 3

I preached Zechariah 3 last week.  I thought I’d share some points from within this fourth vision God gave to the prophet Zechariah and from the wider scope of the Bible story.  

  • There isn’t a single person on Earth for whom the question is, “Am I morally filthy?”  The question always is, “Will I confess my filthiness and trust in the only One who can cleanse me?”
  • Man-centered answers to Satan’s accusations, to the problem of our guilt before God, always say either, “You’re not that bad,” or “You are that bad and so there’s no hope.”  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “You are that bad, and so I’ll clothe you in my righteousness.”
  • If you think the most important piece of your salvation was something you did, thought, felt, or decided, you’re misunderstanding the Gospel.  We don’t hear a word from Joshua in this vision.  The hero in this salvation story is the hero in every salvation story:  God.
  • Those of who have trusted in Jesus worship a God who was willing to crush His Son rather than lose His rebels.  
  • No worldly philosophy can rebuke Satan, because the curse he invokes is real.  The best liars are usually telling a little of the truth.  Our sins are real and the curse of death sin brought is real.  And Satan knows it. 
  • If the best answer you have before God is that you are a good person, you won’t be able to stand before Him any more than Satan can.  
  • If your answer before God is that you are a filthy sinner and that you trust only in the mercy of Jesus, you’ll find that God is the most forgiving personal being in existence. 
  • God’s answer to your worst fears about yourself might not be that you’re exaggerating them.  The Gospel’s answer to our flaws and treacheries is that God is willing to snatch us from the fire that we deserve to be cast into.  And that, by the way, is written by a former drunk. 
  • Satan has no answer to God’s rebuke in this vision; the Gospel shuts up Satan and sinners, because the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus became a curse for His people and clothed them with His perfect righteousness. 
  • It took Jesus 24 hours to unspin a curse Satan spent eons invoking. 
  • People always follow what they trust.  God’s command to walk in His ways is a command to trust Him more than whatever or whoever you could follow instead.  

This vision God gave Zechariah breathed a lot of joy and confidence into my soul over the past few weeks.  I know I can stand right along with Joshua the high priest, knowing I deserved the fire, and say to Satan and the world:

Keep your self-help and political saviors and pyramid schemes.  I need to be rescued!  And you can’t do it.  We’re calling to the only One with hands strong enough to snatch us.  And we’ll shout over all your sales pitches.

God has rebuked Satan on my behalf because of the perfection and holiness of Jesus of Nazareth.  And now I can trust Him and follow Him forever.  It calms the heart.   

We worship an unspeakably wonderful God.