Archive for August, 2012


With Fear and Trembling

When I was younger, like many families, my siblings and I had chores to do with at least some regularity. When we were directed to do those chores, whether by the white board in the kitchen or by our parents, there was this sense of diligence. Not all the time did we do the job up to snuff, but there was this sort of healthy nervousness that was there to make sure that it at least TRIED to pass muster.

This is similar to the “fear and trembling” that followers of Jesus are told to have when we are directed to “work out our salvation”. That healthy urgency is something often missed in this passage (Philippians 2:12-13 if you are following along) and replaced with a sort of cowardice or form of terror; there is a sense that God, the omnipresent bedroom inspector, is going to ground us if we don’t measure up. We need only see the entire counsel of Scripture to know that this does not aptly describe our God.

To work out your salvation, generally speaking, means to demonstrate it or engage it actively. Salvation is coincidentally an instantaneous event and an ongoing effort or task. From the moment one believes in the person and sacrifice of Jesus and confesses it, their name is written in the book of life, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Done deal. Salvation is theirs to lay claim to. However, there is still life to live, and a purpose to participate in.

That’s where the demonstration of your salvation takes place. In life. Were the book of James written today, the author might say “So you’re saved, right? Prove it”. Faith that has no action to demonstrate its reality is dead. Faith with works is alive and reproduces itself.

Further into Philippians 2, we read that it is in fact God working in us that causes such good outcomes as producing fruit (in this context being people coming to know Jesus in part because of your willingness to tell them all about it). This doesn’t mean we sit idle, but rather the result of your efforts don’t belong to you, nor do your motivations. It is God who is “effectually” showing Himself in you, causing you to succeed in your actions. Effectually really is the right word, because it implies influencing, guiding and directing to produce a certain result.

Throw yourself at this thing called salvation with diligence and that healthy nervousness you get before you take an exam or fly a plane. Know that while you do that, the result belongs not to you, but to God.

Part two is coming soon…

What a morning. I got to basically run the show this morning. Did the music, put together the presentations, arranged announcements, offering, corporate prayer…and preached!

“It’s the JUSTIN show!” (cue music)

But really, aside from it being a somewhat stressful morning, great things happened. Here was the set:

I Saw the Light (if only I could play the banjo…)
The Hope of All Hearts/How Great is Our God medley
The Wonderful Cross (it should be noted that buddy drives me bonkers with his hands in his pockets…but I’ll get over it)
The Doxology, which we sang a capella, but this is still really cool.

It kinda hit me by surprise that the first song had the most to do with what I preached on…but more on THAT in the next post 😉

Eirenicon

An eirenicon is an idea or proposition that tries to find harmony among discordant ideas. I have one of those.

I want to open an honest, no-pulled-punches discussion about emotionalism. I’ve seen a lot of talk about it pop up recently, especially in the context of the “worship experience”. It does apply elsewhere, though.

On the one hand, you’ve got people who basically don’t know how to worship God in their prayer closet by themselves. There needs to be a crowded room with a rockin’ band and a plethora of E minor chords. There needs to be “that” song or “that” singer or “that” speaker. They are what I will not-very-tactfully call hyper-emotionalists. They seek an experience that comes on quickly, satisfies in the moment, and leaves in a hurry. False worship, given what we know about experiences with God from His Word. A lot of hype, seriously lacking in substance.

On the other, you’ve got anti-emotionalists. They quell emotion within themselves the moment it is felt, laboring not to show or deeply feel…well…anything. After all, emotion can distract from or obscure the truth and lead you to false worship. To be overcome by emotion of any kind is to forsake truth in the moment, and to be carried off into la-la land where unicorns and flowers that taste like gumdrops abide. (That doesn’t sound half bad, actually.)

In the middle somewhere lies the eirenicon. That concept that points out that the opposing sides are both right, yet both wrong.

Here are some key points to understand:

1. Scripture describes on a number of occasions the emotions of God (all 3 parts of the Trinity, no less), many of which cannot be accused of “anthropomorphism”, or the attributing of strictly human traits to something not human. Some examples: Jesus wept in John 11:35. The anger, indignation and wrath of the Lord are mentioned in Deuteronomy 29:27-28. Sin is something that grieves the Holy Spirit, a la Ephesians 4:30. And don’t forget the many positive attributes of God that, if not outright emotions themselves, are closely linked to emotion. Think mercy, forgiveness, grace, compassion, etc.

2. The nature of God is such that these emotions do not arise on a whim, but rather are appropriate responses to various situations based on His character. In other words, emotion does not control or change God. His nature and character dictate His emotions. Anger at injustice, compassion for the poor, jealous for your affections.

3. The nature of us as humans is that these emotions CAN (but do not necessarily) control or change us. They can cloud our judgement and cause us to act differently than we otherwise might.

You can already see what the eirenicon looks like. This is a call to be reasonable. Understand that you were designed to feel emotions…POWERFUL emotions at that! They can be very good motivators, and they attract a lot of attention. If sin does not grieve you, injustice doesn’t anger you, testimony doesn’t cause joy and happiness, the thought of the crucifixion doesn’t give you pause…I would suggest that there is something very unhealthy in your view of emotions and their place in your life.

Concurrently, examine yourself. Why did you cry during that song? Why were you shaking uncontrollably during that last sermon? Why were you brimming with excitement? Nobody is saying that you can’t experience those things. Well, some are. But don’t listen to them. You can…but are they rooted in God’s truth? Is there a clear reason for your emotional response? Does it mimic Godly character, or earthly chaos? Answer these questions truthfully. Ignoring them means that at the end of your time on this earth, you might well hear Jesus say ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’. You might be too busy worshiping yourself and your feelings to see what God actually has in store for you…

…much like the anti-emotionlists.

Funny how that works.