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Is it really so hard?

August 17, 2013

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I continue to wrestle with the fact that so many seem to find it so hard to accept the truth of scripture.  One argument often put forward tends to go something like this.

“I just find it hard to see a loving God in such destruction, especially in the Old Testament.” 

My answer is that the destruction is in fact an act of love.  If God does it, it is therefore an act of love because God is love.  If indeed somethings are worthy of love isn’t the corollary that somethings are worthy of hate.  The problem is with our perverse understanding of love that seems so wishy-washy, so patronizingly weak, and so enabling.  We refuse to speak the truth in love that there is a judgement, that not all will be saved, that sin is sin and that unless or until we understand the fact that we deserve nothing but eternal condemnation, we will never appropriate or appreciate the amazing gift of salvation.

It really is humbling to think that NO-THING we have ever done has any value.  It’s all skubala (“crap”).  That we are horrible people, worthless worms, the scum of the earth, reprobates, in active rebellion against God. And unless or until we come to that place, God cannot, God will not, give us the understanding of grace and mercy that reveals the very nature of salvation.

Honestly, I grow weary of the kind of conditional acceptance of the Scripture that I see in so many congregations, preached from so many pulpits, taught in so many seminary classrooms today.  It is usually born out of a cultural arrogance that spouts

“Well, I just try to follow the teachings of Jesus.  It seems to me if we would just love one another…”

or a contextual arrogance that spouts

“well they didn’t have the understanding of the situation then that we do today, God is doing a new thing…”

or it’s a rejection of the concept of verbal plenary inspiration/inerrancy all together.

There are times when I just want to shout:

“Get a grip.  You are not God. You don’t get to determine what is true or right by what you believe.  It’s THE WORD OF GOD, not a word from God” 

To be sure, some of this is born out of my own experience of needing to surrender all my confusion and doubt (stemming from my public four year college education in cultural anthropology and evolutionary studies).  And there is, admittedly, a bit of pride in that that dares to say,

“boy if I, the great doubter Glen, could let go of all of that anyone ought to be able to.”

But the strongest feeling is the passion that truly pities people that are unable to experience the amazing grace of complete surrender.  If only people could know that peace.  To be sure, it is a peace which exists amidst a war zone.  It is an assurance amidst a world of doubt in a culture of arrogance, entitlement and exceptionalism.  Even our congregations and pastors too often continue to argue against the deep truths of scripture by staying right near the surface and putting forth the argument that all one has to do is to be “born again” as if a one time, emotionally charged experience gets one’s ticket punched and there is no need to work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling.  And so we get a child to “receive Christ in their heart” or someone to “accept Jesus as their Savior” and notch our belts without any responsibility to help them understand that there are expectations when one comes to faith.  The world WILL hate them.  Their families WILL be divided.  They WILL suffer if they choose this road.   And so our pews are too often filled with retarded Christians, retarded in their growth – perhaps “saved”, perhaps “baptized”, perhaps “confirmed” but utterly and completely retarded (delayed or limited) in their growth as believers.  And they feed their faith on Fox news or MSNBC or PBS or NPR rather than the deeper truths of the Word of God.

I would suggest that the biggest piece of so many peoples lives which is delayed or limited or retarded is in the area of holiness.  We continue to pervert and retard our spiritual development in our pursuit of significance – wealth accumulation, social recognition, professional accomplishment, etc.  We watch and laugh at movies and television shows that grieve the very heart of God.  We listen to music which glorifies lust and self absorption.  We look for the latest in styles and language, spending our money on the latest technology and learning the latest jargon so that we can be seen as someone significant.  We look to enjoy a quality of life and end up lead lives of quiet desperation, because the call of God is there.  Deep down inside it is there aching to be released in faith.  And all the while the world’s great need of the Savior gets buried deeper and deeper in our souls.  Until we begin looking for medical, psychological or social platitudes or even scripture passages that will justify the emptiness we feel or perhaps have denied.  We read books that affirm us as we are, where we are, who we are without a call to change or at least not to sacrifice and certainly not to suffer.

So what are we to do?  Surrender.  I’ll say it again, surrender.  Not just to some higher mystical power because we are unable to do it ourselves, but to faith in the Word of God; to take it at face value; to accept the simple, plain truth of the Word of God.  And then to set our faces toward eternity, casting off every and anything that would inhibit our growth in righteousness, our family, our homes, our jobs, our friendships, our IRA’s our social capital, and running the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We need to be able to affirm with sincerity:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

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