Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Opinions Are Like . . .

I have often thought about the centerpiece of Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistene Chapel, this picture of God reaching out to man. Notice that man is shown essentially lounging with his arm propped on his knee and that his finger is only partially reaching out to God. I don't know what Michelangelo's theology was regarding this, but the picture paints an accurate picture of man. Before God quickened our spirits, we wanted salvation, but we wanted God only half-heartedly.

I hear the same half-hearted desire for God today. It sounds like this, "Well, I think..." Opinions are like necks. Everyone has one, and like our necks turn our heads so our opinions turn our hearts. It is understandable that an unbeliever has an opinion that he follows. He, after all, is an unspiritual person, and the unspiritual man does not have the ability to understand God.

It is frightening, though, how often professing Christians value their opinions over that of God. How often do we hear (in our small groups, Sunday Schools, and other conversations with Christians)... how often do we hear, "Well, I think..." or "Well, my opinion is..." And, how often do we hear, "Well, the Word of God says..."?

We conservative Christians have blasted politicians, entertainers, the media, and higher education for its overwhelming moral relativity. Yet, is it not exactly the same when our Bible studies are filled with more personal opinion than they are with a whole-hearted search for God's opinion? We are spiritually lazy, unwilling to dig and do the hard work of Biblical study, much like Michelangelo's depiction of the lazy Adam, while God has moved the scope of human history to give us His inspired Word.

John the Baptist knew that he must decrease in order for Christ to increase. May his confession become ours and may our opinions decrease so that Christ may increase in us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Brutal Assault

"But, if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:15)

A father stands in a courtroom and says, "I forgive you.," to the man who murdered his wife and children. The assault upon his family was merciless and brutal. They were totally innocent victims of this depravity. Others, thousands, have stood in courtrooms and demanded justice, flinging their anger and spitting their vengeance at those who victimized their family members. "We demand justice," we often say, when we really want vengeance.

There is another brutal assault. It is an assault on a not so innocent victim. It is the assault of a Holy God upon our sinful flesh. When we are wronged and God demands that we forgive, His demand assaults our flesh, our egos, and our sense of personal justice. His demand that we forgive will either destroy us as we hold onto our right to be right, or it will destroy the flesh that keeps us from being right with Him.

We are assaulted and God says, "forgive." We are wronged and God says, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Mt.5:12) People hate us, do all they can to destroy us, and our flesh cries out for justice and vengeance, and the Spirit of God pierces our flesh and says, "love your enemies, bless those who cures you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;" (Mt.5:44)

Whenever, not just when the wrong is great, but even when it is small . . . whenever we are tempted not to forgive those who have sinned against us, we only need to say, "Since Jesus forgave me, and my sins put Him on the cross, do I have any right not to forgive them? Even if I were crucified, I would not be innocent." And, beyond that, we must trust that God is enough, more than enough than vengeance will ever be.

This demand to forgive is assaulting and insulting to our egos and our flesh, but in light of our own assault on the Son of Man, and His forgiveness of us in spite of that assault, we can never claim to be faithful followers of our Savior if we will not forgive any and all sins against us. This does not mean that we are unsaved. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. It does, however, mean that we will never have a right relationship with God as long as any unforgiveness remains in our hearts. And that will always be an assault upon our old, fleshly nature. But, when we forgive, as Christ commands and enables us to do, we will experience freedom from our flesh and from the burden of vengeance, which belongs to God alone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Make Them Beg

I was thinking about a new big screen TV that has sound (the sound on our TV sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't). I was thinking about the cost, and I was thinking about the fact that I really don't have time to spend watching an additional several hours of TV a week. Then I was thinking about this verse, "But whoever sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17) and I was thinking about how comfortable I am physically and financially, and I was thinking about the word, specifically the word, "sees."

The impetus for Christian charitable giving is the love of God. If I don't give to brothers in need, I don't have the love of God abiding in me. Now, sometimes, God's love is in me, but I try to guard it in order to feed my flesh. I practice a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I mean, there is need all around, so just don't ask and you won't have to feel guilty that you aren't giving. But, the verse didn't say, "if anyone hears about a brother in need." No, it said, "whoever sees his brother in need." So, the only way to keep the love of God selfishly hemmed up in my heart is to literally walk blindfolded through life. Why do you think that it is so hard to walk past a beggar on the street? Why do you think we tell our children, "don't look at them."?

It is not the responsibility of my brother in need to come begging. It is my responsibility to keep my eyes open to my brother's needs. If I have anything at all, it is given to me, not to waste on materialism, but to invest in others.

Don't make them beg.

Don't make your brothers and sisters in need beg.