Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seriousness of Sin --- Quote from William Willimon

"In the Christian faith, an act or inclination, a passion or an emotion is sinful to the degree that it alienates us from God by offending God.  Sin is about God. . . . Thus we are not to seek the seriousness and significance of [sins] by uncovering their deleterious effects upon human life, but rather the way in which each, in its own way, and in concert, violates the nature of God.  Because it is of the nature of God in Christ to offer selfless, self-emptying love, lust is a sin.  Because the Son of God is the one who stoops and serves, pride is a sin.  Because God is the source of all that we have and all that we are, to envy someone else is to make envy more than an unattractive personality characteristic; envy is sin.  Because Jesus taught us to pray for no more than 'our daily bread,' lust for more bread, gluttony, is a sin."  --William Willimon. "Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins"

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sex and the Supper and the Abuse of Holy Sacraments

I had an insight today.  Not sure I can explain it, but here goes:  Man and woman were made in the image of God, thus we were made to reflect the character of God (Genesis 1:27).  One of the implications of this truth is that humanity as male and female is sacramental.  A sacrament is a visible sign that points to an invisible mystery.  The mystery, which our bodies as male and female points to, is the communion of persons in the trinity and the self-giving love we were created for.  This self-giving love found its culmination when the Son of God became man and gave his body for his bride the church.

Here is the insight:  If the sexual union is sacramental and points to the purpose/mystery of our creation, namely, fellowship with God and living in self-giving love, then the sexual union is sacred, just as the Lord's Supper which points to the self-giving love of the Bridegroom for his church and the fellowship that is ours with the Father and the Son is sacred.  Just as the abuse of the Supper, eating and drinking unworthily of the holy bread and wine brings about God's judgment, so abusing the holy sexual union which is the holy sacrament of marriage, also brings God's judgment.

Thus, there is a parallel between these two sacraments (I am using sacrament in the broad sense of the word as a sign that makes a higher reality visible).  The sacrament of creation is the marital union between husband and wife, and the sacrament of redemption is the body and blood of Jesus given for the life of his church.  Therefore, probably the two most holy things we partake of in this world are sex and the Supper!

Thus, the question, Why does God judge and punish the abuse of these two holy sacraments, sex and the Supper, above other sins? is answered.  Sex and the Lord's Supper are holy, pointing to deep mysteries.  Thus, the abuse of them is serious, as the New Testament tells us in many places:

"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:3-6).

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming" (Colossians 3:5-6).

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).

O how we need to repent of our misuse of sex (and the church of its misuse of the Lord's Supper including its infrequency).  These words should bring us fear, but let that fear lead us to embrace the Husband who gave his life in love for us through repentance and faith.  He died so that we might be forgiven, justified, and live in the newness of life he will give to all who live in repentance and faith in him.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeing Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 15:31

Proverbs 15:31
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.

We live in a society where many people equate reproof with lack of love.  And, while it is true that reproof can be given in an unloving manner or given through the wrong medium, one gets the feeling that with some people, no matter how winsome or wise the reproof, it will always be rejected, because they have come to falsely believe that reproof by its very nature is negative and unloving.

Certainly, we should reject false reproof that is not in line with God's Word, but there is a true and life-giving reproof that should be received.  In fact, one cannot be a child of the heavenly Father, and not receive and accept reproof.  Our heavenly Father instructs us through the Word, and his words necessarily teach us to turn from sin (reproof) and turn to his Son who is the way, the truth and the life.

The beneficial result of listening to reproof from our heavenly Father, or reproof from men that coincides with the reproof of our Father, is that we find a home with the Father and the Son through the working of the Spirit.  We dwell by faith in the heavenly home of incarnate Wisdom and with those who have also listened to the life-giving, love-giving, and joy-giving reproof that comes from listening to the voice of our Shepherd, who gave his life in love for us, and whose wisdom/reproof is utterly trustworthy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Johann Starck on Keeping the Spiritual Sabbath Daily

"The Sabbath of the Jews was a shadow, a type, of the true spiritual Sabbath that Christians keep every day.  It does not consist in ceasing from work and giving one's self over to idleness, but it is rather a person's ceasing from sin.  This means that, as the Jews by God's commandment rested from their manual labor, so a Christian by God's command ceases every day from impiety and malice.  A Christian is careful not to speak evil against God or neighbor, not to do evil either alone or in other's company, not to be misled by others, but to keep the soul unspotted from the world.

"While, on the one hand, Christians avoid these things, Christians are also zealous, on the other hand, to remember God frequently as they go about their vocations.  They earnestly beg God to grant them His Holy Spirit to govern and comfort them.  That is the spiritual and daily Sabbath the children of God keep all the time.

"Those who are eager to keep this daily Sabbath can rest assured that they will keep the eternal Sabbath in the life everlasting, which consist in this: that the believers and the chosen children of God are delivered from all bodily labor, from all crosses, tribulations, and from all sins; that they behold God face-to-face, are occupied with Him and praise and worship Him without end.  Oh, what a holy and glorious Sabbath!  This Sabbath will never be disturbed.  However, it will only be obtained by those who continue in faith and in the love of Jesus unto death."

--Johann Starck (1680-1756)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Theology of the Body and the Lost Condition of Bruce Jenner and the Human Race

I have found a lot of insight into the meaning of human sexuality from reading Christopher West's book, entitled, "The Theology of the BodyExplained." This book explains John Paul II's teaching on sexuality and its deep meaning. He shows how our creation as male and female points to the meaning of life, for our bodies are sacramental, making visible invisible realities. Thus, the very bodies the triune God has given us reflect the communion of persons that exists between the Father, Son and Spirit. This communion is made visible in our bodies.

Before sin, the man and woman were naked, but not ashamed. They were not ashamed because they did not look at each other in lust, but rather in self-giving love. This self-giving love is how we were meant to live, but when sin entered the world, so too did lust and this caused the first couple to hide from God and one another. Through the redemption that comes in Christ, we begin to learn again to live in self-giving love rather than selfish lust.

While it is hard to summarize the deep teaching of the theology of the body, suffice it to say that God has inscribed in our bodies our purpose in life, which is to live in the triune love and reflect that loving communion in the world. We were created to image the triune God, and this mystery of our purpose is stamped on our physical bodies as male and female---bodies which make what is invisible visible. The human body is sacramental and points to something amazing. Not accepting the beauty of God's design is part of our fallenness, which Christ came to heal.

Thus, when we see someone like Bruce Jenner trying to change his gender, what we are seeing is something hideous, because instead of accepting God's design and its beauty and mystery, the human race rebels against that design. Scientifically, it is impossible to change the DNA of the cells, so Jenner is still a man. Theologically, Jenner is lost, not knowing the meaning of life, refusing the Lord's instruction, and caught in a rebellion as bound to fail as his transformation to a woman. We should mourn our sinfulness that brings our race to this sad condition.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Love Versus Lust

"Original sin is the mystery of man turning his back on the Father. 'Original sin attempts, then, to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world, placing in doubt the truth about God who is love.' Through original sin, man casts God out of his heart, detaching himself from what is 'of the Father' so that all that remains in him is what is 'of the world.' In this way, we witness the birth of human lust. As the apostle John tells us, lust 'is not of the Father but is of the world' (1 John 2:16). However . . . marriage, including the sexual love proper to spouses, is not 'of the world' but 'of the Father.' Deep in the human heart a battle rages for dominance between the two---between that which is 'of the Father' and that which is 'of the world.' A battle rages between love and lust, between hope and despondency, between life and all that opposes life." --Christopher West

The Ultimate Evil and Ultimate Good

The ultimate evil is sin, because it drags one away from the ultimate Good.  As much as you approach God, that much you draw away from sin.  As much as you approach sin, that much you draw away from God.  How beneficial then is repentance, which draws one away from sin and returns him to God.
  --Johann Gerhard

Seeing Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 15:29

The Lord is far from the wicked,
    but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29

The parallelism of Hebrew poetry produces many fruitful insights.  In the antithetical proverb above there is a contrast.  One of the contrasts is easy and straight forward: the wicked and the righteous. But the other contrast is imprecise: far from and hears the prayer.  It is this comparison that yields insight as we meditate on this verse.

One thing we see is that the righteous (those who belong to Christ Jesus) are in an intimate relationship with the triune God.  Believers are those who have drawn near to the Father through the Son.  Just as a father hears his children, so the heavenly Father hears the words of his children who have come to him through his Son.

Prayer is a privilege that only the children of God have.  This intimacy is unknown to those who are outside of Christ.  Just as children are always asking their parents for this and that, so we too should be asking our heavenly Father for the things we need and want.  But the wicked are far from the true God, the triune God.

Can the wicked become the righteous?  Yes, but they must confess and turn from their sins and accept Jesus Christ, God's Son.  Then, they too can live in the intimacy we as image bearers were made for, but lost through the sin of our first parents.  The very purpose of the cross was to bring us who were "far from" the Lord into a oneness with him.  At the cross, our Lord was far from the Father so that we might be near to him forever.  O the sweet intimacy we enjoy with the triune God!  We are children of the Father, through the Son, who pours his faith and love into our hearts through the Spirit he gives us generously.

Share This