Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Confession and Repentance

It is hard to confess sin. It is harder to repent of sin.

It is relatively easy to admit that one struggles with a sin, but it is monumentally difficult to attack sin with the viciousness it deserves.

It is far harder to hate sin than to admit sin. It is so much easier to make light of our foibles than to feel the weightiness of sin.

You can know that you sin without repenting. You can even hate your sin, in one sense, without repenting.

To weep over sin is not intended to be a mere metaphor, but a real occurrence.

Yet to weep over sin requires that we be uncomfortable with ourselves.

We must die to our old selves, and the weight of this metaphor has been lost when we kill only our old fingernails and our old hair and our old earlobes. We must kill our old selves to the core. Our deaths must be so deep that we feel the pain of death. We are so sinful that we think our sins are required for our self-hood, and it is that self which must be killed.

We will not kill our sins until we recognize that there is a life after the death. We will not fight sin until we see that the fight can be won. We must be comfortable with our sins in the same way that we are comfortable with the fact that grass grows. We know that we can deal with the grass, but we do not permit it to grow too tall. It is not the comfort of a bed, but the comfort of knowing what to do with it. We kill it, even if it kills us. And so we will live all the more, because the death of sin is expunged.

We need not fear sin anymore than we fear a dead grizzly. It is ugly, and we should remove it, but it cannot harm us.

To merely admit sin, and then go on sinning, is to let sin live. To admit a struggle is not, actually, to struggle. To say "I struggle with..." but to continue in it without a fight is to lie. Too often, I suspect, saying "I struggle with this" is merely saying "I do this, and I know I shouldn't, but don't be surprised if I do it more." That is not struggling. Struggling against sin is deeper and harder and far more exhausting, but in the end it is far more refreshing. It is struggling for a breath of air. It is struggling for more of the God who gives life because he has already given us life.

To struggle against sin is to depend on the Spirit of God, and to hate sin as God hates sin, whether we recognize its weighty oppressiveness or not, and be moved to kill the old self because we love the life of Christ which lives in us, because we love the Lord who died that we might live.

We confess our acceptable sins, and then joke about them. Are we too afraid that we will fail in the fight against sin to begin? Yet our Lord has already defeated sin, and he is with us to conquer sin. Are we too attached to our old selves? O, come, lop off that gangrenous arm you call yourself! Live in the light, the life which God provides, which has been made manifest in Christ. It is so much better to live than to die. You are not that gangrenous arm, you are in Christ, a new creation, there is a far better self to be, one so far beyond your imaginings. If you kill the old self, you get a far better one.

You will not kill that old self all at once, but you must be killing it all. We must not be content with our present state of sanctification. We are but small saplings, and we must grow into Christ's likeness--that great tree from whom we have life.

I do not write this that you may have guilt, but that you may have be truly free of guilt in the eyes of God. Repent and believe in the gospel: that Christ died for such ugly, dead, wretched beasts as we were, that we might have life and the beauty of God in us. Is the promise so little? Press on, for the joy set before you, to the high calling of the Lord!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris & Hospitality

Permission to be cynical? Caveated by the fact that I spend much less time paying attention to the news than I probably should.

Why is it that I see so much more about the terrorist attacks elsewhere now that the news is covering a terrorist attack in Paris?

Granted that the other terrorist attacks matter, and supposing the gap in news coverage is unjustified, the problem is not in the coverage of Paris, but in the lack of coverage of others. Supposing that problem, then, repentance will look like more coverage of the other terrorist attacks from now on, whether or not such news will sell, whether or not people care, and whether or not it makes us feel good to care about it.

Repentance will look like more caring, not hiding behind pseudo-care to avoid having to care about yet another evidence of the utterly fallen state of this world. Let us mourn for what is before us rather than diverting attention far and wide. Focus on the brokenness of this world, and call on the God who is just and will bring justice. Hope in him, and know our need for his great and perfect justice. He knows more than we do how broken this world is, and he cares more than we do. So much so, in fact, that he sent his Son to die--so great is our injustice and his justice--that we might live--so great is his love.

We were hostile toward God, yet he welcomed us into his kingdom, making peace with us by the death of his son. We crucified Jesus Christ, as we killed the prophets before him. He came to live among us, and we rejected him. He gave us the land, and we profaned it, worshiping idols in his house.

How then, since God has welcomed us in this way, shall we seek to exclude people from the kingdom? And if not from the kingdom, then how much more must we welcome them into our earthly dwellings?

There are things to be considered regarding how we keep terrorists from entering our land, of course, just as there are considerations regarding who is permitted to approach the Lord's Table. Yet the Israelites were called to welcome the sojourner among them, yet command them to keep their laws, and to exclude them if they would not. Therefore, I say, let strangers come in, yet hold them to the same standard as others.

I do not know how we strike this balance. This is a broken world. I do not know how the balance was struck in Israel. I do know that we must welcome the poor, the stranger, the widow, and that we rarely do. This is our guilt. We who are strangers on earth, shall we turn our backs on those who flee from their homes? We who are not yet at home, shall we, who know the yearning for our heavenly home, refuse to shelter others in our lands?

I do know that our home will come, and on that day justice will be served by the King. He comes to make things right. Therefore we seek to bear witness to his justice and mercy by showing the hospitality we do not deserve to the least, though they do not deserve it, and though they will not earn it.

Explanation/P.S. I have a paper due at the end of the month on the theme of Hospitality and how it is developed in the Bible.

Christian Authenticity

Authenticity is contrasted with going along with the crowd. It is often regarded as lazy, thoughtless, and a being imprisoned by what others think. It is what Disney calls us to, saying "be yourself".

There is something very dangerous about this. It leads, in the form it is in today, to an individualistic rejection of authority, of doing things one's own way without much thought to how it will affect others, which is contrary to what the Bible teaches. It is, then, solipsistic in the end.

But we desire something in this. What is right and true and good in this which is now perverted?


The end of the above article sparked the thoughts to follow. In brief: it is when we recognize that we are under the good authority of God that we may ignore what others may think and truly find ourselves. It is only then that we may truly pursue what is truly mot valuable to us, to love the sweetness of God.

As Christians we are authentic in that we recognize who we truly are, as in the image of God, yet sinners, and are freed from sin, so that we are now justified sinners. We need not be concerned with what others think of us, for it is the judgment of God with which we are concerned.

We are enabled to do as we desire, and to desire what is truly good for us. Do what you want! But only once the Spirit has changed your hearts so that you want what is good. This is freedom: to love what is good.

Certainly, freedom is not to be found in mere legalistic obedience. The obedience to what others--not ourselves--desire is legalism. "Affirm this" "belittle that" this is the law of our age: to affirm all those who let anyone be, lest you be shamed and hated. The obedience to what God commands is an obedience born out of love for God and is therefore a free obedience, and because we know that our lives are hid with Christ, we are not afraid of the merely human punishments. Thus we are freed to do what we desire, when we desire the holiness of God.

This is not a freedom from right and wrong, but a freedom to do the right and avoid the wrong, as the Holy Spirit empowers us. And it is a freedom to admit when we do wrong, for our Father who is in heaven forgives us--even cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

This is not a freedom from authority, but a freedom found in the right authority. We will regard someone as the authority. If we regard others as our authority, then we will be enslaved to them. If we see ourselves as the authority, then we can never be wrong, and we deny our experience of life as finite and fallible. If you are the authority, then why do you feel guilt or shame? Why is there any need to apologize? Why do you submit to teachers who grade what you write, or to courts which say "do this"? If you are the authority, then what about me? If you are the authority, then truly "no rights, no wrongs, no rules for me"--or anyone else. Then why are you bothered by famine and war and terrorists?

Then to whom shall we submit as the rightful authority? Some say we must muddle along, doing as best we can. Then there is no one to adjudicate right from wrong, no court to which we may appeal for justice on the earth. In the end, we must appeal to some authority, and we must hope that someone will bring justice.

Do you appeal to the right side of history? How do you know that it will not turn out bad for you? Come, we expect justice. We all yearn for justice. If there is no one who will finally bring justice, then we yearn in vain. If it is up to us to bring justice, then we make ourselves the authorities.

Is there no way out? Is there no authority? Is there no one who will bring justice?

We proclaim that there is one to whom all authority has been given, who died to save us from our sins and brings justice, who will come again to judge the living and the dead. We are not the authorities, but we submit to the one who is. In this we find freedom from oppression, freedom from striving, and freedom from guilt and shame. Yes, even freedom from sin.

Therefore we proclaim the one who is greater then us. We proclaim because we are under compulsion, for so great is our love for him who saved us that we cannot resist but are burdened for those who have not heard that there is a king in heaven who will bring justice.

And because the one who saved us was regarded as a sinner, as accursed, so if we are counted sinners and accursed for his sake we will rejoice in that we are counted worthy to share in his suffering. I say "for his sake" for we do not desire to be counted sinners and accursed as those who are truly sinners and accursed are, those who reject our Lord and refuse his mercy. But if the world calls us evil for obeying the Father who made us at the first and who remade us in the image of Christ, then we have no reason to repent for we know that the God of justice calls us good and righteous and perfect in his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

So we do what our God commands, and we can do nothing else without being inauthentic to the new nature which has been placed within us by the Holy Spirit. For we see that we have been made a new creation, and are now called to live like it, to live in the truth in which we have been called. Indeed every command which we have from God is this: to be who we now are, his people, holy and blameless. To do otherwise would be the true being false to ourselves. And so we call out with the Gospel to those lost in darkness, to those who do not know themselves, that they are lost and in need of a savior, and in that savior they will find themselves.

The world is desperate to find themselves, but we have found ourselves in Christ. The world thinks it is free because it is a slave to its passions, but we have been freed from worldly passions, having been given the desires fit for us, the true love which is from God, and which has been evidenced in Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sins, not being willing to lose his handiwork, but being merciful towards us. The world does not know this love, and yet calls out "love, love" where there is no love.

Surely, their hatred devours them. For we hear how depression is on the rise, and though we know that we remain troubled by such things even as Christians, yet we also know what the world also knows, that depression is often an anger turned in toward oneself. But who are we to judge ourselves in this way? The Lord judges and he has justified us. But the world knows nothing of this justification, and so they  hate themselves for their imperfections and even for their finitude, for they think they are right to judge themselves, being their own authority. Behold, if we they have no grace toward themselves, how will they show grace to others? For this is why many commit suicide: because they have no hope. Yet we do have hope, and so let us cling to that hope and share that hope that some might be saved, and not only from this death but from the one to come. For it is by this hope that we hold on to the truth, not submitting to the falsehood which surrounds us, but keeping ourselves holy in the Lord.

We ourselves are not yet wholly purified, though we are pure before God, and God holds out mercy to us when we fall. So, then, if we find that we judge ourselves as if we were the authority in such matters, we must reach out to receive the grace which we received at first, to receive forgiveness from sins and remember that God has loved us with an unfailing love, not because we were good but because Christ is good and paid the debt we owed. Indeed, see how unlovable we find ourselves in such times, and know that we are more unrighteous in ourselves than we know, and then behold the grace of God, that he should love us so much that he would save us by sending his son, Jesus Christ our Lord, that whoever trusts this Jesus for forgiveness of sins is forgiven.

So it is that we are free, because when we sin we have forgiveness through Christ, and because we are being made perfect like Christ. So that when we find ourselves perfect in heaven--what we cannot imagine now--we shall say "this is who I truly am and was, and now I will be" yet now we must die to ourselves according to the flesh that we might become more like we will be, as we eagerly anticipate that perfection which is now so alien to us that we grasp for our old selves, though they are not who we were made to be. We find ourselves in this age so inauthentic that we do not know what true authenticity would look like, but in the day to come we will be fully, as we were meant to be, and as we are growing into, remade in the perfect image of Christ.