Thursday, December 3, 2009

Joy-Based Repentance

I love this quote from Tim Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods:

“In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us from sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

- Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 172.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Idols of the Heart

How is it that Paul boasts in his weaknesses? This is not the normal way of things in the world. We boast in power! In greatness! In success and achievement! The way of our hearts is to tell others of what we have done. Have you ever had a conversation where your friend is telling you of something that they had succeeded in, only to find yourself also telling of how well you had done in a similar success? How quickly we like to steal their glory and build our own reputations of power, success, wealth, and strength. In this boasting, you will notice, is no room for Jesus. There is no place for God’s gracious work in the Christ. It is performance-based religion again that has snuck its way into our hearts and out of our mouths. In fact, every worldview apart from Jesus has a system of which to boast of success and accomplishments. What is it about Jesus that calls Christians to radically boast of our inabilities?

My friends, it is the gospel of grace that calls us to weakness. Jesus won our salvation through losing his reputation and life on the cross, he achieved power through weakness and brokenness, he gained glory by giving it away. This is the way of the Kingdom of Jesus: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” It is the ones who know that they are broken, messed up, hopeless in their own power that find salvation in Jesus Christ. This does not change after our conversion, but is amplified and swells into a Holy Spirit empowerment of humble praise to Jesus.

Humility and brokenness, powerlessness and weakness, are the ways of the Christian, so that Jesus might be proclaimed as the all in all. Let us not pretend that we no longer struggle with sin, that sin is deep within our hearts to this day. The flesh remains to do battle with the Holy Spirit and the apostle John says in his first letter that “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” So, why don’t most of us boast in our weakness? Why do we find ourselves building our own reputations and seeking our own glory through demanding power, respect, and service from others? Why do we get angry when someone points out our weaknesses? Why do we fret in depression and anxiety when we see our weakness? We do these things because we are not, at that moment, seeing Jesus and His gospel, His complete substitution for us. Instead, we find ourselves again setting up idols within our hearts, things in which we seek to find fulfillment, significance, and salvation through our performance.

The root of every sin on the surface is idolatry in the heart. We think that we need something in addition to Jesus to give us satisfaction or acceptance, and we depend on them to deliver it. This is simply idolatry.

These idols rule our thoughts and our emotions, and lead us to outwardly sin. We must go to the root of the sin in order to deal with it. So, let’s look a little closer at the idolatry of our hearts, so that we can apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our hearts and see the freedom of weakness that the grace of God can bring in Jesus Christ as we turn to him in repentance of our idols and in the joy of our freedom.

Take a few moments of silence to search your heart and identify any idols that may be present. This will be a lifelong struggle, so please don’t see this as a one-time thing. We are more weak than we know and we will find that we have set up idols again and they must be torn down again for the sake of the gospel. But, right now think of your own heart: Where do I find myself anxious and fearful time and time again? What am I thinking that I must have to be happy, significant, fulfilled, to have meaning in my life? Where do I find myself getting angry a lot? What am I believing that I must have that somebody is keeping me from? What is that thing I am blocked from that I feel will give me meaning? Now, let’s apply the gospel.

Jesus says: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness.”

To the Glory of God Alone

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pierced to the Heart

A friend stabbed me yesterday. Pierced my heart...with the hard truth. The brutal truth. In loving strength he laid me bare. I love him for it. It is no kindness to hide the cold reality of sin within a brother's heart. Evidence of self-centeredness and the heart that stacks the stones of "me" upon the stones of "right" built up into a castle of self-righteous anger needs to be revealed for what it is. It is that which separates me from the peace of God and places me under the discipline of self-kindled complacency and joyless tossing of vanity. It is horrible for me when I sin for I am disglorifying God and work and wail outside of the purpose for which I was made. A friend will move me away from the edge of insane idolatry and push me back toward the joy of Jesus...the Savior of sinners.

The Proverb says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (27:6)

It is the act of an enemy NOT to call to account the sin which is seen in my life. It is the act of a true friend that reveals my sin as sin, not merely a psychologized response to some wound or victimization in my mottled past, but as SIN. I do not fear my sin's revealing, for in repentance and trust in Jesus I find my freedom and my hope. In repentance I find the ability and the strength to love others, to forget myself and reach out for the good of my enemy. It takes a real friend to stab me in the heart with the double-edged sword of God's Word and reveal, in biblical words, that I have sinned. Not merely that I have sinned, but that there is hope for transformation through the Holy Spirit of God applying the blood of Jesus Christ on my behalf. So, I do not fear the blade of truth, nor do I distrust my friend. He is a true friend, a righteous friend who can wound me when I have built my own kingdom and have become so self-myopic that I do not love.

So, keep crying aloud, Isaiah! Do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet, declaring to my people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins. May the clear tone of truth penetrate our hardened hearts and self-deceived minds until all that remains is the glory and praise of the One Righteous. Jesus alone is the righteous man, who did not seize the right of equality that He had with God, but took the form of a servant for me and for you. That is self-forgetfulness. That is love. That is humility, always speaking the truth, but always seeking the good of those around Him, even when it means aiming the blade for the heart.

Soli Dei Gloria