Sunday, December 28, 2008

Getting serious about sin

God spoke to me rather profoundly last night. About sin. Again.

There has been a great deal of this of late. Perhaps He is trying to make a point... Here, of course, when I say "perhaps" I actually mean "most definitely."

There are a number of areas in my life in which I perennially struggle with sin. One of them cropped up again this week. I've been attempting to deal with it. Attempting. Not really dealing with it as seriously as I ought. Making half-hearted attempts to prevent its rearing its ugly head in my days again, but not really seeking its active destruction. John Owen, a Puritan writing hundreds of years ago, rather accurately observed that if we're not killing sin, it's killing us. A rather chilling thought, and one that we all would do well to grapple with.

I wasn't grappling enough. God decided to make the point a bit more clearly. (I'm grateful. My heart really is deceitful and wicked, and I can and do deceive myself on a regular basis.) I had a conversation with Jaimie, and she spoke of how a person had hurt her. My anger flared, and rightly. The person had done her ill, had caused her grief and pain because of sin and unredemption, had flung that sin even in the face of God. The anger aroused in me was righteous. It was born not merely of emotion or of empathy, but of the deep sense that wrong had been done here. We've all experienced that. I experienced it powerfully in that moment.

Then God spoke.

Sometimes He speaks clearly; sometimes He speaks in a whisper so quiet we must be truly listening to hear Him.

This time was the former. Clear as could be, I knew the Spirit was saying: "That anger you feel at this sin? All well and good. But my anger at your sin is infinitely more than this. And you should hate your own sin so violently as this, and more." I simply sat there quietly. Jaimie wondered if something was wrong. There was indeed something wrong — with me.

I can grow so callous to sin, and here I had. God is glorified in our pursuit of Him. This was something less than pursuit of Him. It was perhaps a lolligagging wander in His direction, haphazard and caring little about the many extra weights I was bearing. He in His grace called me out of it.

We are not allowed to tolerate sin. The moment we begin to tolerate sin, we begin to become inured to its presence. We build up an immunity to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. We start to slowly embrace the sin. And in time, it gives birth — to death. The only ultimate fruit of sin is death; it can never produce anything else. So the fact that I was playing with this sin put me in a far worse position than playing with fire. It put me in the position of a man burning off his nerve endings so he is unable to feel the pain any longer, unable to recognize the clear signs that this is bad.

But God is faithful! So many times, Scripture cries out that magnificent "but God!" and speaks life where only death could reign — as here in my own life. But God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation, will provide a way of escape, so that you may bear under it! We have this hope in us: that it is not we who sanctify ourselves but Christ Jesus who is our sanctification as well as our propitiation and justification. We are not saved once by grace, at the moment of conversion: we are saved daily by His grace as He transforms us from death to life.

And so we, like Paul, can learn to say, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave me himself for me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas, thinking...

It's strange, sitting down to type and wondering what to say.

I've alternated between periods of prolific writing and posting and periods of posting hardly at all. I'm not really sure what the difference is.

Some of it is simply circumstances, of course. The difference it makes to be dating and engaged is... immense. There is a time commitment that is simply absent when one is single. I recognize in this the seeds of Paul's comment that he wished all were single, "as he was". There's a great deal more time that must be devoted to the one we spend our life with. And, to be clear, this is a good thing. A married couple can reflect the gospel in ways that a single person alone simply cannot. That is, after all, the very reason marriage exists, as Paul reflects elsewhere.

So many things I have pondered of late. A sampling:

The greatest miracles in history:
  • The Incarnation of Jesus Christ - God takes on human flesh... permanently.
  • The death and resurrection of Christ - God the Son bears the wrath of God the Father, separated from the presence of God the Spirit, bearing the punishment of the sins of mankind.
  • The salvation of any one soul to the kingdom of God. (We miss this one more than we ought. It's big. Really. Stop and think about it.)

The purpose of marriage: to be a living reflection of the way that Christ wins the Church to Himself, and of the loving response of the Bride to her husband and Savior. I will never be Jaimie's savior, and she will never worship me as the Bride does Christ. Nonetheless, herein lies a glorious reflection of the way that Christ and His beautiful, redeemed Bride will relate for all eternity. And this I am honored to be a part of? Incredible. Undeserved, to be certain, this gift.

Family: a treasure of incredible value. I haven't words to express beyond that, and so I will leave it there.

The profundity of the goodness of God. I hadn't realized how deeply God had impressed this on me until conversing with my family the other day. We act in our own will - we disobey - we sin - because we don't truly believe that God is who He says that He is, and because we therefore do not trust His word. We do not believe that He really is sufficient for all our needs, and that His ways truly are higher than ours. We (I!) thus embrace lust and pride and selfishness because we (I!) do not believe that God's plan for sexuality and His call for our humility and His instruction of utter devotion to Him are really better. That ultimately amounts to a horrifying sin far deeper than those: we don't believe He is who He says He is. We don't believe He loves us - though He says it - and we don't believe that He is good - though He says it - and we don't believe that the reward of obedience is better than the immediate pleasures of sin - though He says it. In short, we don't believe Him God at all.

The glory of His grace: that for His glory and our good, He saves us from sin, from death - which we have ourselves [i]chosen[/i]! It is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and this not of our own doing... it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast! He has done this to the praise of His glory, not because we deserved it. Not by our works are we saved.

Yet His salvation is efficacious! It accomplishes something real. He freely gives us grace and faith that we might believe. And when that faith is given, it births rebirth and new life... it births works, as a clear and apparent sign of what God has done. The fruits of the Spirit are present in ever-increasing measure in the life of the believer, that God's glory might be shown in His mighty transformation of persons following Him. What was dead is now alive, and that by the selfsame faith given so freely. Praise be to God who has saved us with a mighty salvation indeed!

May the glories of God consume us! May we be daily more devoted to Him. May we deepen in our love for the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our passion for together honoring our God and King. May we hunger for all the world to know Him as He is!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Meditation in Brief

I wish I had the words to express this, or music deep enough. I don't. I haven't the intelligence, the wisdom, the ability, to communicate truth as it ought to be communicated. It's simply beyond me.

Yet by the grace of God, I will spend my life speaking truth and living utterly and completely dedicated to the glory and the fame of Jesus Christ. I cannot know what the outcome of my speech will be. I cannot know, for that matter, what exactly will be the fruit of my life. It doesn't matter. My reward is not the praise of man, nor his approbation, expressed or otherwise. It is the knowledge of Jesus, my Savior, my God, my King. More than that: Savior, God, and King (no my necessary).

I will spend every day of my life dedicated to making clear in word and in deed the proposition that we were made for God. We were not made for the pitiful, puny things on which we base our existence, and we were not made for the little boxes into which we fit ourselves to keep from seeing the grand and terrifying reality of the world. We pretend that we can shut away the horrors of sin and the terrifying grandeur of God by hiding in our little patterns and ruts, and in reality we simply break our already broken hearts that much more deeply.

We were not meant for boxes and ruts. We were meant for God. We were not meant for brokenness. We were meant for God. We were not meant for shallow relationships with pitiable exchanges of trivialities for conversation. We were meant for God. We were not meant for mediocrity. We were meant for God.