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What Defines Me?

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Another sports star falls, then a public apology follows. It is a sad, repeated story.  Only time will tell if the apology is genuine or forced. Today’s apology from an IU basketball star caught my attention, not because it was different, but because of the common error it conveyed. “I’ve made a bad decision but my bad decisions do not define who I am.” My concern is how many, whether athletes or non-athletes have bought into this positivistic view of oneself. Think about it, if our decisions/actions do not define us, what does?

First, scriptures tell us our decisions do define us, good or bad. Proverbs 20:11 “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” Our decisions/actions/conduct make it known who we are. Notice the language in Proverbs 20 dig deeper than decisions defining us, but that they are really giving everyone else a glimpse into what is inside of us. Not only this but we must give an account for our decisions, thoughts, and words to God (Romans 14:12, Matthew 12:36).

Second, scriptures tell a different side of what this athlete may be trying to convey. Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” We light to think too highly of ourselves. We want to believe that things we say, actions we do, are not the real me. Well in all honesty, they aren’t, but it is not because we are better than the things we do, but because we are worse. Matthew 15 “16“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” It is our of the core of who we are that all these things flow.

Third, too many today leave the definition of oneself to oneself. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Being true to ourself is biblically impossible unless we want to own up to our deep capacity to sin. Unfortunately we even fall short in being able to be honest and truthful about this.

Our problem seems to be we would rather define who we are because we don’t like our own actions and we don’t like God’s description of us. It leaves us in a big mess, falling short. This is why the gospel is good news. Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is why true repentance always goes through the cross and Christ. True repentance does not want to convince others we are better than our actions, but that our actions need a Savior, need forgiveness. We need transformation. We need to be forgiven of sin and turned from sin, because lets face it, even we don’t like who we are. This is why we try to convince others that our decisions and actions don’t define us. We would like to give them a better definition. Our actions do define us, but are we listening to the definition they are giving? We are sinners, we need a savior.

#prayforboston

“We need to pray for Boston” #prayforboston.  I have seen these comments many times in the past few days, and I could not agree more.  I am even grateful that many are openly saying this.   The tragedy at the Boston Marathon should move each of us.  However, a question still remains, what should we be praying?

  1. Pray that Boston will turn to God.  Prayer is no greater than the one to whom we pray.  ‘”O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.’  (1 Kings 18:26)  This is not our desire for Boston, that they should limp around, but that they shall be held, healed, and brought to hope.  Only the one true God has power to truly do this.
  2. Pray that Boston will find God great.  In the news I have heard how Boston will recover because the people of Boston are great, even how their lobster is great.   This will only bring about partial hope and healing.  Only God is truly great.  True healing and hope will only come about when it is to Him we turn.  “Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”” (2 Samuel 24:14)  In moments like these we should be brought to a place of acknowledging our weakness and need, not our might and greatness.  “6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. 8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. 9 O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call. (Psalm 20:6-9, ESV)
  3. Pray that Boston will find Christ great comfort.  The true greatness of God is found in Christ and Christ alone.  True hope is found in Christ and Christ alone.  “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV)”
  4. Pray that Boston will have a heightened sense of the value human life.  The tragedy of the death of the ‘innocent’ has struck many of us this week.  It seems senseless.  Those who were defenseless where torn apart and killed.  It is good to see humanity crying out against such an act.  May we see more of it.  As we heard of body parts being blown off and grieved and were outraged, may we be grieved and outraged in the same way by comments like these from the Gosnell trial “Toilets Backed Up With Body Parts From Abortions http://bit.ly/14uaug3  ”   “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  (Proverbs 139:13)
  5. Pray for Boston to find living hope.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  (1 Peter 1:3-5)  In times of tragedy everyone wants prayers and needs prayers.  However, it is still difficult to speak of lasting living hope to many.  Our human nature would rather hear how we will rally together, rather than draw near to God together.  We would rather hear of inner strength, rather than need of a Savior.  Pray for the churches of Boston that they will have opportunities to share a living hope to those hurting.  Pray for one another that we will have the same opportunities outside of Boston.

 

 

The Greed of Socialism has Cost Me My Twinkies

We hear so much about the greed of Capitalism, but greed does not exist because of a system, it exists because of the sinfulness of the hearts of men.  Therefore greed exists in every system and every culture, and every social class.  This week we read that Hostess is declaring bankruptcy because of a failure to reach an agreement with it’s union workers over wages and pension.  It had told it’s employees if they could not agree on a restructuring of the contract, then they would be forced to close. Yet no agreement could be met.  Now 18,000 jobs are lost, and maybe Twinkies.  The workers believed they had rights to a greater portion of the wealth of the company.  The company was declaring they could not make a profit as a business if things continued the way they were going.  The problem was not sales, they are about $1.5 billion, which seems like a lot, except the cost of making the Twinkies exceeded that.  The rights of the workers had taken away the rights of the business to operate in a profitable way.  Now, because the rights of the powerful business were taken away, everyone loses, again.  Who is the greedy one now?  Probably both the workers and the business, but in the end the greed of the workers may have cost us an American icon, and them their jobs.   Whenever one declares the absoluteness of their rights, someone else is forced to give up their rights.  When you take away the rights of the one who provides for you by declaring your own rights, you may also be destroying yourself.

This leads me to where this all stems from.  Man has been trying to declare his free will/choice, over God’s sovereignty, God’s will/choice, since the fall.  The sinfulness of men’s hearts and our pursuit of our rights often go hand in hand.  Therefore, our independence and rights are often self-destructive.   Be careful next time you claim your rights.  (Job 38, Romans 9)  It might cost you more than Twinkies.

I Am a Christian, but I renounce Nothing

I was reading today about a new college president who grew up Catholic but is married to an Evangelical. In the course of trying to describe his religion he said,

I would comfortably describe myself as a born-again Christian, but I don’t feel it is necessary to renounce anything.

I found the statement very telling of our times. Understanding context, he is saying I can be a Christian but do not have to renounce Catholicism. Is he not saying, I can be a Christian, but don’t have to renounce my sin, my past, my theological errors, the sins of my works? I can be a Christian, but do not have to die to myself, my past, my former way of life? I can be a Christian, but am not truly born again, changed from death to life, but have simply evolve and progress in my religion?

According to Scripture this is an idea entirely opposed to being born again. Paul certainly did not have this view about his former religion of Judaism. Galatians 2

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified [1] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [2] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

How do Christians point out foolish thinking in other Christians?

This line by Carl Henry to a young Al Mohler about his view that “God was an equal opportunity employer” is a classic one-liner.

“One day, this will be a matter of great embarrassment to you.” That’s actually all he said.

Proposition 8 Resources

I have found these articles to be thought provoking and helpful in seeing what is really at stake and how we ought to handle recent law changes regarding homosexuality.

Carl Trumen writes:

We can no longer assume our children will just agree with us on this issue; they are going to want arguments for holding that homosexual practice is wrong. We need to go back to scripture and sharpen our swords, so to speak, as we can no longer assume that the cultural bias will play our tune anyway.

Shepherd Press put out this article saying

It is true that the institution of marriage has been savagely attacked. But as long as the Lord Jesus Christ is King of Kings, it is not marriage that hangs in the balance. That institution will go forward because God has ordained it. What hangs in the balance is a nation that will openly flaunt the laws of the King of Heaven and Earth.

Kevin DeYoung gives his insight as well and concludes with some helpful instruction:

We must accept that no matter how hard we try, some people will conclude we are bigots, homophobes, and neanderthals for thinking homosexuality is wrong. Our goal must not be to stop people from viewing us in this way. We can’t control perceptions. Our goal is that those ugly perceptions do not match reality.
No gay jokes. None. It doesn’t help our witness and they’re not funny. Plus, the more we laugh at sin the more it gets normalized.
We must put away “hate the sin, love the sinner” and put homosexuality in the context of the Bible’s metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, re-creation. This is one issue just screaming for the bigger picture.
We must be people of hope not despair. We know the Lord and he knows us. This is not the worst crisis in the history of mankind. Homosexuality is sinful, but God specializes in sin. Look at what he’s done with us.

Still Men Die for the Cause of Christ

I know nothing of these men, besides what is in the article, but I hope to meet them someday. They reminded me of words I preached months ago “If you don’t live for Christ, you should not expect to die for Christ.” But what a privilege to die for the cause of Christ, carrying for others and sharing the good news.

Romans 8
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Ten members of the Christian medical team — six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton — were gunned down in a gruesome slaughter that the Taliban said they carried out, alleging the volunteers were spying and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The gunmen spared an Afghan driver, who recited verses from the Islamic holy book Quran as he begged for his life.

Team members — doctors, nurses and logistics personnel — were attacked as they were returning to Kabul after their two-week mission in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan province about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Kabul. They had decided to veer northward into Badakhshan province because they thought that would be the safest route back to Kabul, said Dirk Frans, director of the InternationalAssistance Mission, which organized the team.

Brit Hume’s Concern for Tiger Woods

Brit Hume has gotten quite a reaction for stating on a Fox News Broadcast that Tiger Woods needs to turn to Christ in this difficult time in his life.  In this age of tolerance this has been viewed as insensitive and intolerant.  I found this quote from the Washington Post found on Justin Taylor’s blog very helpful.

From Michael Gerson’s article on the Brit Hume kerfuffle:

True tolerance consists in engaging deep disagreements respectfully — through persuasion — not in banning certain categories of argument and belief from public debate.

In this controversy, we are presented with two models of discourse. Hume, in an angry sea of loss and tragedy — his son’s death in 1998 — found a life preserver in faith. He offered that life preserver to another drowning man. Whatever your view of Hume’s beliefs, he could have no motive other than concern for Woods himself.

The other model has come from critics such as Shales, in a spittle-flinging rage at the mention of religion in public, comparing Hume to “Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler.” Shales, of course, is engaged in proselytism of his own — for a secular fundamentalism that trivializes and banishes all other faiths. He distributes the sacrament of the sneer.

Who in this picture is more intolerant?

Shocking News

AP:  Chicago The vote in Copenhagen was carried on huge television screens set up in the Daley Center to carry what many had hoped would be approval of Chicago as host. It had seemed so likely to many in a city still basking in the glow of hometown Sen. Barack Obama‘s election as president.

Instead, Chicago was bounced in the first round, bringing an audible gasp from the crowd. The elimination came so quickly that some would-be revelers weren’t sure what had happened and they asked bystanders if they had heard what they thought they heard.

Many stood for a few minutes, staring at the screens, and at least one flung his hands into the air in a crude gesture toward the TVs. Within seconds, people began filing out of the plaza.

“I’ve never really had a disappointment like this,” said Ken Rudd, a 33-year-old salesman from Evergreen Park. “This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”

As I read this I could not help but think of the passage from the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 7

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Losing an Olympics when you thought you had it is nothing to losing one’s soul when you thought you had secured it.  It appears to be there will be similarities in the reasoning.  Those on that day will want to prove their worth, what they had done and think that they deserve to be rewarded for the greatness of their reputation.

Merry Christmas to All!

I hope you all enjoy celebrating the birth of the Christ child with your own traditions!  One such tradition that some steer clear of and others partake in is good ole saint Nick!  Mark Driscoll had an interesting historical post on him today that we read with our children tonight.

Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.

While much of what we think of when it comes to Saint Nicholas is myth, it was interesting to read his true legacy.  The myth part has taken on a whole lure of its own, and John Piper reminds us why the true Christ child is the only hope in contrast with Santa Claus.

Again, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!