the world has taken you into its mouth

the world has taken you into its mouth
and I can see the marks of its teeth on you
so far it has only been playing
letting the sugar that coats you melt
enjoying the candy that is your youth
but soon, very soon
it will want to suck your marrow
and it will break your bones to get it
it will break all of them

you see I’ve been further down the throat than you
where the hooks are in so deep and hold so tight
and I can barely stand to see what’s coming
it would be wrong,
no, it has been wrong for me not to speak to you.

so even though I know you’ve heard this all before,
this is me, telling you to run to Christ,
begging you to put away your foolishness,
telling you i love you the kindest way I know.

Gossip and the Supper

Several Sunday’s ago our church heard the annual gossip sermon.

This is the sermon where the preacher outlined in detail the sins of each particular family as they had been related to the elders during the course of the year, and each family was called to public repentance. OK, so it was nothing so juicy as that. Instead it was a sermon that outlined, in juicy detail, the magnitude of the evil of gossip and the destructiveness of this seemingly innocuous sin. The following was the accompanying meditation on the Lord’s Supper.

One of the slogans of our church is that weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper is the first step in church discipline—this meditation is a practical application of that principle. The text was Matthew 26:57-68 (Jesus’ trial).

In the grand scheme of things, Jesus died because the world is full of sinners and thus full of sin, but if we look at the order of specific events that let up to His death (how He came to be crucified at a specific time in a specific place by specific people), we see that Christ Himself was crucified because the Jews conspired to lie about Him, and the Romans were willing to let the lie pass.

Can you see how serious the crimes of the tongue? Liars and slanderers lied and slandered to kill the most innocent of all men—to kill the God-man. Sins of the tongue are no mere trifles. Consider that when you hear that Paul tells us that we take this meal to commemorate the Lord’s death until He comes. We commemorate this most tragic of all deaths as one brought about by false witness, by gossips.

[T]he Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

If you have unconfessed sin, confess it. If you have been convicted by the sermon today, confess those sins, repent, turn away, and guard your tongue.

But, how do you guard your tongue? Look at it this way: practicing the Lord’s Supper is not just an excuse for somebody to get up and give an extra little inspirational sermon—the fact that real food and real drink is involved here is because they have real meaning. As you partake of these elements meditate on them. Taste them, I mean that, taste them and remember what they feel like on your tongue.

Then, later this week when you are tempted to sin with your tongue you can remember that your tongue had a meeting with God this morning. This particular meal is a sign of ownership. Remember that all of your body, even its smallest part, belongs to Him.

Have you been convicted today? Then remember that as we proclaim the Lord’s death we also proclaim the kind of death that He experienced: a temporary death. Jesus died, but he also rose and ascended into heaven, leaving His Spirit to sanctify you as He intercedes on your behalf before the Almighty Father.

“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’”

Christ’s Death: A Solution to an Unexpected Problem?

 This will be a short post, but here’s a question for you:

Was Adam born to die?

Personally, I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t. If Jesus Christ’s earthly existence could be so determined, if we can say of Him that He was sent as a man, born to die, why is it any less insulting to think that Adam’s life could be described in this way?

Looking at Christ’s death as if it was a thought-up solution to the problem of Adam’s sin is like suggesting that a man who designs a battery-operated toy might have done so without understanding before the fact it’s need for a battery.

What do you think?

The Disconnect

Subtitled: Moral Immorality, the Music and Movie Industry, Disney’s Double Standard, and the Duke Lacrosse Team and Honest Strippers

I’ve been meaning to post something along these lines for some time, but for a million insignificant reasons, I haven’t. It’s the sort of thing I think about every time I hear about the RIAA or the MPAA suing someone for illegal music or movie downloads, or when I occasionally read that Disney if firing some teen star because of the teens behavior. Most recently, it was brought to mind when I read a recap of the Duke lacrosse team case.

What always surprises me about the Duke lacrosse case is the statements I hear “Christians” make regarding how the team members were mistreated by the press, the justice system, and the perjuring stripper. I hear people defending the players and making statements that I swear, to my ears sound something like this:

It’s a sad day when men can’t hire a stripper without the fear of getting indicted for rape. I remember back in the “good ‘ol days” when strippers wanted nothing more than to do an honest Saturday evening’s work and get a good night’s sleep before going to church the next morning. It makes me sad to see the country falling apart like this. What’s next: doctor’s helping women kill their babies? I certainly hope not…

It’s sad really that people living in a society that allows men to legally hire a stripper are shocked to learn that someone who is ok with breaking God’s commandments about nudity, doesn’t have a problem with breaking his commandments about lying. These same people then follow that bit of illogic up with being shocked that the media and a district attorney drawn from that same society might not be quite so moral either.

And this sort of thinking is popping up everywhere:

The music and movie industry have spent the last 40+ years promoting immoral and illegal behavior and then they are “shocked” and “dismayed” to discover that a generation raised on the values they have sold have no problem with stealing music and movies.

Disney wants to make movies about kids who buck the system and who live their lives their own way, but they want young actresses and actors who follow Disney’s rules unquestioningly.

The church wants parents to take a greater role in their children’s lives, but it also takes every opportunity it can to separate the children from the parents and to suggest to the parents that teaching children is something best left to professionals.

Parents want their children to respect them and take what they say seriously, but parents flippantly choose to ignore Scripture and the spiritual authority of the church when it inconveniences them.

Short version: Wake up, you can’t have moral immorality… if you deny God’s word in one area, it affects all the other areas as well.

Any comments?

[Updated!] Could Christ Have Sinned?: The two Adams

This will be a relatively brief post, but as we’re talking about temptation and Christ and whether or not he could have sinned, I thought I would ask a question that I’ve been thinking about:

If we believe that we (or any other man or woman) would have sinned had we been in Adam’s place, then what is the difference between the first and second Adam? What is the difference between Adam and Christ?

One of issues that I had in answering this question was that I had some wrong ideas about what a perfect man would look like. You see, in my mind, before Adam sinned he was Super Adam (with capital letters, and a cape, and everything), able to leap Antediluvian trees in a single bound, with skin that could stop bullets, completely impervious to disease, unable to be killed, etc. But this just doesn’t work. Reading through Scripture, I get the impression that even a perfect man is a fairly frail thing.

And this helped unseat another false idea that I had. You see, I’ve heard pastors talk about what the end-result of glorification is going to be like, and while there is definitely some uncertainty on their part, I often get the idea that what we end up being is much like Adam was in the beginning. “Salvation begins the restoration of our relationship with God,” they say, “glorification gets things back to the way they were in the beginning.” I no longer believe this (at least not in the sense that things are just restored to where they were)

As proof, read what Paul has to say to the Corinthians about the resurrection and the nature of our glorified bodies:

But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1Co 15:35-58)

Or in other words, the difference between the two Adams is that the first was just a man, the second Adam was both God and man. The first Adam was a thing that could not stand on its own, the second Adam could not only stand, but could save all the rest of us as well.

Anyway, criticisms, comments? A special thanks to Randall for his thoughtful comments which helped me in thinking through this issue. If any of you are up to it, feel free to add something in the comments below or on your own blog (if you do post on your own blog and it doesn’t show up here automatically, leave me a comment with a link and I’ll put it in the body of the post)

Could Christ Have Sinned?: Understanding Temptation as “trying” or “proving”

In the New Testament, the Greek word peirasmos, is the word that is typically used when we read the words “temptation”, “trial”, or “test”, and it is the idea of trying or testing that I think sums up the nature of temptation (the other aspect of being tempted, which is being drawn away by our lusts or desires, I still want to talk about, but that needs a whole post to itself). At this point you might be saying, “what’s the big deal, I’ve always thought about temptation this way. It’s a trial that we have to face, a time of difficulty, a test.” And you’re right in a way. But sometimes, the concepts that we hold about a word or an idea don’t translate as neatly as we think they do. Sometimes, they actually introduce contrary concepts into the mix.

Let me try to explain how it happened to me. You see, I always used to think of a trial in the courtroom sense, and while that works on a certain level, I would let the other aspects of a courtroom drama invade the way I thought about the word. The essence of a trial is that something is tried against a standard, in the same way something that looks like gold is tried to determine if it is, in fact, actual gold, or in the case of a courtroom, the way a defendant is tried against the law to determine how they stand in relationship to it.

To my mind, temptation functions much the same way. When we are tempted by our desire for something, we are tested against the law based on whether we attempt to achieve our desire in accordance with the law.

As an example, let’s take a look at the three clearly documented temptations of Christ: He was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, he was tempted to take his rightful place as ruler of the world, and he was tempted to use his position as the Son of God to bring glory to himself. (If these descriptions sound odd to you, go back and re-read the text.)

With the stones to bread, I think there is little controversy. Christ was hungry from his fasting, but his time of fasting was not yet complete and/or it was not His Father’s will that he do miracles yet.

When Satan offered him the kingdoms of the world, Christ’s temptation was not to worship Satan, but rather the thing that he rightfully desired was to take his place as King of King and Lord of Lords. Worshipping Satan was the unlawful means that he was offered to bring it about.

When he was taken up onto the pinnacle of the temple, he was tempted to extricate himself from a physical location in a way that would bring glory to himself (think angles streaming down from heaven to catch him). The unlawful means that Satan offers Christ was to tempt (test – same Greek root word) God by putting God in a position where He would have to act to save Christ.

One last note that I’ll make in this post is that the things that Christ was tempted by were not evil, but were good things (feeding his hungry body, taking his rightful place as the King of the earth, and bringing himself glory.) It was only the unlawful means that Satan offered that would have been sin. For me, this ties right into Galatians 4:4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law

What do you think?

Spurgeon on Repentance

Spurgeon “If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready.”Psalm 7:12.

How many of us are like men who see their faces in a mirror, and then walk away and forget what we look like! Yes! My friends, it is not your promise of repentance that can save you; it is not your vow, it is not your solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the momentary emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning to righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life. Would you say you are sorry, and repent, and yet go on from day to day, just as you always have before? Will you now bow your heads, and say, “Lord, I repent,” and in a little while commit the same acts of sin again? If you do, your repentance is worse than nothing, and will make your punishment yet more sure; for he that makes a promise to his Maker, and does not keep his promise, has committed another sin, in that he has attempted to deceive the Almighty, and lie to the God that made him. Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward behavior.

Repentance to be true must be total. How many will say, “Lord, I will give up this sin and this other one; but there are certain favorite lusts which I must hang on to.” O friends, in God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the serious giving up of every sin. If you conceal one of these accursed vipers in your heart, then your repentance is nothing but a fake. If you indulge in only one lust, and give up every other, then that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink your soul. It is not sufficient just to give up your outward sins; it is not enough just to give up the most wicked sin of your daily life; it is all or nothing which God demands. “Repent.” And when he commands you to repent, he means repent of all your sins, otherwise he never can accept your repentance as being real and genuine. The truly repentant person hates all of their sins, not just certain ones. He says, “Cover yourself with the finest gold, O sin, I will still hate you! Yes, cover yourself with pleasure, make yourself flashy, like the snake with its turquoise scales—I still hate you, for I know your venom, and I run from you, even when you come to me in the most illusive clothing.” All sin must be given up, or else you will never have Christ: all evil must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be locked to keep you out forever. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be total repentance.

REV. C.H. SPURGEON – Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 7, 1856, by the at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens. [Courtesy of GalatiansC4V16]

Respecting our Depravity

Perhaps you’ve experienced the following:

You are watching television, a crime-drama or a thriller, something like CriminalMindsBonesNumbers or CSI:MiamiNewYorkIdaho. You know exactly the sort of show I’m speaking of. On the screen there is a woman. She is at home and she is alone. There is a very good chance that she is attractive or even beautiful. If so, there is an even better chance that she is dressing for bed. Slowly, the music assumes a suspenseful tone and the camera pans back letting you in on the secret that she is not as alone as she might think. If you have watched these types of shows more than once, then at this point you know that something horrible is going to happen to this woman. The question is, what will it be? You lean forward in your seat. The camera moves closer and perhaps you are allowed to see the attacker or perhaps the woman hears a sound from another room and goes to investigate. Either way, the suspense builds further and further until it is at a breaking point. It is at this moment that someone calls you from the other room. Your wife, your husband, your mother, your child, it does not matter who. “Can you come here for a minute?” they ask. “Just a second you reply”, and to yourself you think, I want to see what they do to her.

Do you understand the significance of that thought? Someone has imagined an evil, and you would like to see it executed. Someone has sat and contemplated the horror that they could inflict upon someone else, and while it is not real, in fact, because it is not real, it will delight you to see what they have devised. You may shudder at what you see, but it will not compel you to turn the television off or to not return to it again.

Don’t think that I’m just making this scenario up, or that I’m just guessing at human behavior, because I’ve done this very thing. I’ve thought those very thoughts. I’ve done it so many times that it makes me sick.

Perhaps there is some part of you that resonates with the above examples. Perhaps you too know what it means to see evil and to be intrigued by it. Perhaps is too soft a word.

You have come face to face with evil. And if you are honest with yourself, you know that it’s occurred every time that you’ve beheld your own face in a mirror.

The shocking thing though, is not that we are so depraved, but that we pretend to be surprised when someone acts on that depravity. We listen to the nightly news and we hear about the murders and the beatings, we hear about the woman who abandoned her children in a locked car in a parking lot, and we can scarce believe it happened. “How could they do such a thing?” we ask, and in our black and filthy hearts a sharp-toothed little monster shakes its head in mock surprise and grins, “How indeed?”

 

I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
(Psalms 101:1-8)

 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?