Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Everything Matters

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

God made it all, therefore it all matters. If God made it all, then it all matters to God--do you think he would waste? Even your house, before the foundations of the earth, your house, with all its leaky faucets, all its broken screen-doors, your house was set apart for you by God, that you should glorify him with it. God made everything for his own glory.

Does it matter where we live? No, God can use us anywhere, do not worry about it.

Does it matter where we live? Yes, and God has already decided it, do not worry about it.

Now, taking a step back, given that we are responsible beings, does it matter? Yes. Whatever we do, it ought to not merely be morally neutral: there is no moral neutral. It ought to be done to the glory of God. God made everything, so everything should be--will one day be--to his glory.

People are idiots, but Christ died for people anyway, and he knows better than we do how idiotic we are. We are selfish, we think we are capable of decisions that only affect a limited and predictable few people, we think we know what will bring us the most pleasure. And God tells us that he made us for so much more, and Christ died to save us from our stupidity, and the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of a chosen few to see the pleasure that can be found in glorifying God. If this were not so, we would all be fools to our deaths.

Everything matters and it all exists to the glory of God. So we must say that God made the world well, that the world is good: not now, but in the end and in the beginning. God made the earth below and the skies above: this is good. God made humans embodied beings: this is good, though I have trouble accepting it. God made mosquitoes, and mosquitoes bite us: and we deserve much worse. They take so little blood compared to what Christ shed--think on that this summer when you're scratching yourself! God made human beings male and female, and this is good, but do we really act like we believe that "and" part?

Some comments in support of homosexual marriage actually triggered this post, but let's set that aside for now. Even so, I speak here about what I do not even claim to know. How many jokes about "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" have you heard? How many contradictory cultural pressures are there for girls to be exaggerated girls, and guys? How many contradictory cultural pressures are there for guys to be exaggerated guys, or girls? What has even traditional marriage become? Does it presuppose that God made male and female human beings? Or do we state there that God wasted when he made Adam and said "it is not good that the man should be alone; I shall make him a helper fit for him" and then made woman, not another Adam? Do we claim by our actions and attitudes that we should have been made hermaphrodites? If so, then we call God wasteful.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Weeping Worship

Romans 12:1 "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Thus, all of life ought to be worship; every act of life, an act of worship.

Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
1 Samuel 30:1-6 "Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."

A note: when I was working at the problem of evil, I began with two premises. First, any solution must let evil be evil, and second, any solution must not let evil remain evil. In other words, what is evil must be called evil in its time, but it must be redeemed.

It make no sense to cry if there is nothing wrong. If evil just happens, then there evil is not something wrong, it is merely something. Crying is, therefore, an intrinsically hopeful action because it states that there is a problem. To say a thing is a problem is to say that there is, at least hypothetically, a solution.

I am currently, in what spare time I have, working at developing an ethical theory. In that process the question was put to me whether one ought to cry whenever one is able, even in public. Well, what should the church look like? Or, in other words: why not? In the church, we ought to welcome honest expression of emotion. "In the church"--I do not mean in the morning worship service only, but among fellow believers, wherever we are. What then, about in public? Should we be willing to cry even in the grocery store? What is the worst that could happen? If someone asks why, you do not necessarily have to explain all that is causing it, simply "I am having a hard day/week/month/year/life." And then, if you can, to express the hope within you, "but I know that it is for the glory of God, and that he will make all things right." Why are you crying? Because God will make all things right. The most amazing example: I have sinned--but Christ died to redeem me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


February was a long month. It began with hospital visits, it ended with unrelated deaths and related depressions--and that was just what I saw--and it was full of the work of the Spirit of God revealing people's need for him to themselves. We will see if it continues, I pray that it will. Can I now say that revival means people being broken? Maybe not always, but perhaps usually? I do not want to say "this is what it would look like where you are," but I do want to say that, when you pray for revival at any cost, this is what "at any cost" may look like. Near the end of the month, I reached the point where I was just expecting--as if it were certain--something worse than what had just happened. Thus I came to the point where I needed God to make me willing to lose everything and everyone for the sake of his kingdom. I didn't lose everything, but I had to be willing to. I had to be willing to count everything else as loss for the sake of Christ. Even before this, I was made to know my weakness, that I did not know what to do in all that was happening.

And now, examining myself to see how I acted sinfully--selfishly, pridefully, by not speaking, by speaking too much, by speaking wrongly, by relying on humans rather than God, by neglecting to pray as much as I truly needed, by failing to truly immerse myself in scripture. Not that I have not grown through this, since in many of these places I was forced to see my sin, and therefore changed, and since I did pray and read the Bible more than before, for which I praise God, but it is not enough. Therefore I pray that the Spirit of God would work in me to seek God more and more, even when I would otherwise feel that it is unnecessary.

At the college I am at, there is a good deal of praying for revival. In the middle of March there will be another concentrated time of praying for revival. Do they know what they are asking for now? Do they know that was what February was? Would they keep praying for it if they did?

Do we trust God enough to let him break us, knowing that it is in order to renew us all the more in Christ?
Do we trust God enough to let him expose our sin, since it is there anyway, in order that we might see it and fight against it by the power of the Spirit?
Do we trust God enough that any pain will be worth the gain of knowing him?

Maybe not, in which case there is still no condemnation.
Do we trust God enough to ask him to break us, expose our sin, and put us through trials, knowing and even admitting that we will struggle against him, but trusting that he is good enough to remain with us through our struggling?

Maybe not, but there is still no condemnation.
Do we trust God enough that if he does break us, expose our sin, and put us through trials, and even if we do struggle against him, we will still trust him for our salvation? This is the promise of God, as it is written: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


It is sometimes more, sometimes less obvious that there are things that we cannot do ourselves. This, on its own, doesn't stop us from trying. "Let go and let God," people say, and I am reminded of Kierkegaard, who compared telling people how simple it is to believe to telling someone sentenced to die how simple the process is. It's all very easy to tell me to relax, to "let go and let God," to "depend on Him," it's quite another to actually do so. It means dying, after all. It isn't necessarily that we don't trust God will do the job well. It's sometimes that we know what "the job" and "well" mean, and we don't want that job done well in that sense. To let God, we have to trust that his way is better than ours. We have to trust that his foolishness is higher than our wisdom.

So what, then? My point is certainly not that we should all buckle up and try harder to let go. That would be ridiculous. "Try harder to stop trying" is inconsistent when applied to itself. No, rather, we should be who we are before God. "Be still"--don't be other than you are, but be your stubborn, frightened selves. The command is "be still" not "don't be afraid." Yes, fear has no basis. And fear will leave when we understand that it has no basis. But don't lie to God! Don't tell him you aren't afraid when you really are totally terrified of what he's doing in you. Be still, though you want to run. To do what he wants, rather than what we want, is an admission that we are weak and foolish, but he is strong and wise.

But we so often don't want to do what he wants. Fine, then pray. It is not as if we can change ourselves, or make ourselves trust him more. How should we pray? Asking him to change us, allowing him to use whatever means he deems necessary to change us into the image of his Son, knowing that it may hurt. If you want peace, that is only found in Christ. If you do not see this with your heart, but do see it with your mind, ask God to reveal it to you by his Spirit, who alone can join you to that peace. If you do not see it with your mind, even, then ask God, and he will reveal it to you. If you do not believe that God is wise to know where you may find peace, then pray that he would reveal his nature to you. If you do not believe that God exists, but want to, then ask God. If it is God who grants salvation, why do you try to achieve it by works? It is finished, through and through, it is all accomplished, even, if you will, your belief, your trust in him. It is not you who works faith or trust or belief, but all of that was accomplished by Christ's perfectly faithful, trusting, and believing life and death, even death on a cross, to which we are joined by faith--this faith being a gift of God--and therefore, being joined to him in his resurrection, we have life in Christ, and that is how we have any capacity to trust God, yet this is still a trust which is accomplished, not by ourselves, but by Christ. To try to relax is to try to add to the work of Christ. To add our own work of trying to let go and let God is to deny that we have Christ's perfect letting go of his own life and letting God take it, such that nothing more needs to be added. This is not to say "don't let go, don't let God," but to say "let your letting go be that of Christ, not your own."

It is not as if good works are bad, it is that they aren't good works if they are from ourselves. We are incapable, in and of ourselves, to do good. "Be still," but not by your own strength. The whole point is that you do not act, the work is not done by your strength, but by God's. Therefore, since it has all been accomplished by Christ, since it is his work and not ours, since he has accomplished salvation, now we ought to live in it, if we are truly in it, for who can resist the will of God? Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is an awesome and powerful God working in and through you, and if it is just you working, then you are working in death. How can you resist? What do you have to lose? Christ has accomplished it, now show that it has been accomplished. If Christ lives in you, your life (though it is no longer yours, but Christ's) ought to look like it is being lived by Christ, and more and more as you come to know him and what he has done for you more and more.

And this is why fear no longer has a basis. You are saved, no one can touch you. Do you fear what humans will do to you? They cannot cut you off from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Do you fear what God will do in your life? It is for your eternal good--it will be worth it. Do you fear that you will fail? You have Christ's perfect success. What is left to fear? God's wrath has been poured out on your sinful nature in the body of Christ, to whom you are joined. "Go, do God's will" is now both blessing and command. It is command in that we ought to do it, but it is blessing in that we are empowered to do it, impelled even, by the Spirit of God with in us. God commands what he wills, but, thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus--even in us--has willed what he commands.

We still fail in ourselves, but this is no longer our own failure, it has been taken by Christ. Yet even here, we are being made into the image of Christ more and more, by the scriptures, by prayer, by preaching, by singing, by suffering, we are built up into the body of Christ to his glory. We are his children, he will not let us remain in our sins, but, even if it takes great suffering, he will draw us into what is better. Do you wish to avoid suffering? Be perfect. But you will not be perfect until you are made so when Christ returns or calls you home. Therefore rejoice in your suffering, as it is for your instruction in holiness. Be thankful in suffering, therefore, in so far as it makes you seek God, and makes you search your heart. Even that righteous man, Job, grew in holiness through his suffering. I do not say that you are suffering because of sin, though that is true, in a sense, but that you are suffering because God wants you to be holy. Would you be pleased if God left you half-done? If not, then be glad, for God is perfecting patience in you, if nothing else, by your suffering. Even apart from what God does in you, there is what God is doing through you. Even if you were perfect (and only Christ is), in your suffering Christ ought to be revealed. Is this not the highest good? That Christ would be made visible in your life? That is why you are! To image God and thereby glorify God. And since that is why you are, to do so is to be fulfilled, in that is our joy. Therefore, rejoice in your sufferings, since in your sufferings those of Christ are revealed.

To not rejoice in our suffering--to not rejoice in all things--denies the goodness of God, and denies his redemptive power. I do not say that we should rejoice that bad things happen, but we ought to rejoice in that God has wrought them for our good and his glory.

Or is the suffering of Christ to no effect? Are we not joined in his body, that he might bear our suffering? Are we not, then, sharing his suffering when we suffer? And he shares in ours. And we suffer innocently, since it is the suffering of Christ on the cross which we suffer, and we have no guilt, since Christ payed for that guilt on the cross. So our sins are payed for, though, for our training, for our benefit, our Father may still chastise us as his children, that we might learn who he is better, and thus image him better, and thereby enjoy him more. It is for our pleasure that God chastises us, not our pain. Though we experience suffering for a time, it is in order that we might be made more like Jesus Christ who lives in us as our life. Therefore our suffering produces Christ-likeness, and our being Christ-like, since it is our purpose, produces pleasure in us, which is, again, to the glory of God. Indeed, in this is a picture of the redemption wrought on the cross: we are brought from death to life, by the suffering of Christ.

John Piper says that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him," and he is right, but also, we are most satisfied in God when he is most glorified in us. And he is glorified in us when we are Christ-like, and our suffering is intended to produce that, and thus is intended to produce our satisfaction in him.