No Woman, No Cry?

When it comes to chilling out at the beach, nothing beats listening to Bob Marley. He is the epitome of beach life. I’ll even listen to him in the dead of winter as a way to think warm thoughts. Despite my admiration for Marley’s talent, I have to ask myself if he speaks truth. I was recently listening to his song “No Woman, No Cry.” I used to love this song. I thought, “How true is this song?!” Most of the memories in my life that involved pain involved women. I thought Bob Marley was a genius. For many years, this was my anthem, No woman, no cry. Don’t let them get close enough and you can’t get hurt. Well a funny thing happened to me. I met a really awesome young lady and now we’re getting married. I couldn’t be happier. God has truly blessed me. I’ve begun to prepare for marriage by reading all the books I can on marriage. Everyone tells me marriage is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do. I want to be as prepared as possible.

I stumbled across this book that I have learned immensely from. It’s called When Sinners Say “I Do”. One of the more provocative insights I found was this: Marriage is a revealer of sin, not creator of sin. Even though I’m not married, I’m still finding that having another person around who is intimately involved in your life really reveals another side of you. For most people, including myself, it is shocking to learn that there is this dark other side of you that you’ve never struggled with before. For example, I’ve come to realize that I can get really angry over very insignificant things. I’ve just come to this realization. Mostly, because my fiance asked me one time after a little tantrum why I get upset over small things. I had no idea. The temptation is to blame her for my anger. I could use the powers of deduction and come to a conclusion that is wholly wrong. I could say, “I never got angry over little things before I met her. I get angry over little things now. Therefore, she is the reason I get angry. It’s all her fault.” From my reading and from my limited experience, I am finding this to be the case in a lot of relationships. I see a lot of blame going on and not a lot of responsibility being accepted. The truth of the matter is, that sin was always there. My anger has always been there. My mini fits of rage have always been there. I’ve just never had anyone close enough to notice and call me out on it. Dave Harvey, who authored the book I mentioned above, likened marriage to a big oven and we are like unrefined gold. The fire of marriage brings to the surface our impurities…impurities that have long existed within us. Harvey’s point is this, one of marriage’s purposes, as designed by God, is to reveal to us our sinfulness. It is a tool for sanctification. We should expect that sin will exist within our relationship. It is not meant to be tolerated, but dealt with. That is God’s purpose. He wants to bring the sin to the surface so that he can properly deal with it. We must not ever blame the problems we face in our marriages on our marriage or our spouse. You are the biggest problem in your relationship. I wonder what your conflicts might like look if you and your spouse both approached it thinking that the other was the innocent party. What if we took to heart Jesus’ parable of the log and the speck. If both parties think the log is in their own eye, there will be a lot more grace, mercy and forgiveness offered and offered quickly. I hope so much to approach my marriage conflicts that way!

So, if that’s the right way, why are we so prone to want to think the other way about sin within the marriage. Why do we find the need to blame? Why do we blame our marriage or our spouse? I believe it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of man’s condition, his moral state. The Bible is very clear about man’s moral state. Man is corrupt. His nature is sinful. His bent is rebellion (while this is all true, we must not lose sight of the truth that man is also created in God’s image). Our world preaches the opposite. Man is basically good, perfectible (and not created…in anyone’s image). If we believe as the world does, we will easily fall into the trap of blaming our marriages and spouses for the sin in our lives and relationships. If we hold to the truth of Scripture, we will understand that although I am created in God’s image and a Saint because of what Jesus has accomplished for me, sin still dwells within my flesh. My sin becomes mine and the fault of no one else. I begin to own my sin, which is the first step to freedom from it. Once I own it, I can take it to Jesus and exchange it for liberty. We need the Gospel every day! Our marriages should be gospel-saturated marriages. Ones that turn to Jesus every day, laying those new impurities we’ve discovered at His feet and trading them for a life of freedom from the bondage of shame, dishonor and disillusionment.

I pray you begin to approach the sin revealed in your marriage as opportunities for greater growth, not reasons to blame your relationship or spouse. May God give you a heart to see and know the truth about yourself and that your greatest need is Him.

~sdg 

Just Desserts

Typically, each Sunday evening, you’ll find me watching “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”. I really enjoy this show. Families with difficulties are chosen to receive a brand new home. While not very manly to admit, the show often reduces me tears as you hear about the struggles and tragedies that have befallen these families. While I appreciate the show and rarely miss an episode, there is a theme running through it that I believe to be a horrible lie. This lie is perpetrated not only in this show, but also through out all of culture. Without fail, the “designers” will say something to this effect, “this family deserves this…” That is what I believe to be the lie. This is the lie that haunts America. This is the lie that has made the American church weak and pedantic in it’s thinking and theology. 
Perhaps I’m coming across to harsh. Or am I? When we look at our lives through the lens of Scripture, does that statement pass the litmus test of Biblical truth? It is my assertion that no, it passes no test of truth and is therefore a lie. Today at church, I met a guy in my Sunday school class I had not met yet. He and I and Nick engaged in a great conversation about the church not truly understanding what forgiveness really means in regards to christian leaders who’s sin causes their fall from leadership. My new friend made the statement that we don’t understand the depths of our own sinfulness. Because, if we did, we would live differently. I couldn’t agree with him more. It is the great truth that can set us free. When we believe we deserve certain things because of this or that, we become prisoners of our own expectations. If what we think we deserve is not granted, we believe we’ve been jilted. Our arrogance in assuming we deserve good has brought us to a place of resentment and bitterness directed at whoever we find responsible for our lack of fulfillment. Perhaps it’s God. Perhaps it’s Republicans. Perhaps it’s white people. Perhaps it’s your parents. Perhaps it’s your boss. Whoever it’s culturally acceptable to blame, we blame and eventually the blame turns into hate and hate imprisons us. 
The truth is that we deserve nothing good. We deserve destruction. Our sin is grotesque before the Lord and His anger burns hot against it. His justice and wrath are soothed only through the slaughter of the guilty. Friends, this is our just desserts. This is what we deserve. Yet God is gracious, slow to anger. His mercies are new every morning. He has not dealt with us according to our sins. He laid them on Jesus. He made Jesus cursed. He made Jesus sin. He made us righteous…not  through works, but bestowed through grace. When we properly understand what we truly deserve as sinfully wretched people, we can properly understand exactly what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us and that understanding should bring us low and humble as we approach the throne of grace. To often, we presume upon God’s kindness and make demands we ought not make. We try to bargain with God. If he does this or that, we’ll do this or that. That’s not how it works. God does not negotiate. God tells us how it’s going to go down. We can either rejoice or rebel.
I pray that each one of us come to a greater understanding of our sinfulness, not so that we become tortured souls, loathing the very day of our birth. Instead, I seek for us to be humble and appreciative of even the small good things that God sees fit to give us. Despite all the hard times and sins committed against us, we deserve a lot worse. I pray the Spirit uses these thoughts to spur you on to truly cherishing your election to God’s family. He is so good. We are so undeserving. Praise be to God, our Father! May He complete the good work started in you!
~sdg

Sinfully Unconscious

At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness
of sin.” – J. Gresham Machen

I was listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll and he was talking about one thing he struggled with before he became a Christian was that he really didn’t think he was that bad. Compared to everyone else, his life wasn’t that awful. He didn’t grasp or understand the depth of his wickedness. After hearing that segment and reading Machen’s chapter on God and Man (from Christianity & Liberalism), I realized that the first great obstacle to accepting Christ is pride, manifested in the belief that man is inherently good. Man is naturally unconscious to his sin. His every day life goes on, yet he is oblivious to the grievous sins mounting up against him. That unconsciousness leads to a great ignorance. Romans 10:3 states:
For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Man thinks he is righteous. He seeks to establish his own standard of righteousness and earn it. Man is so convinced of his inherent goodness that he rejects the only means by which he can be truly righteous; faith in Jesus, the Messiah. That is our world in a nutshell. Everyone thinks they are good people. If they are good, they have no need which cannot be fulfilled within themselves. Man is self-sufficient. God is irrelevant. Having a broken view of man leads to all sorts of intellectual leaps. Since it is believed that man is inherently good, man cannot sin. He is only acting out his nature and his nature is good; especially, since there is no objective truth. If there is no sin, then there is no need of a savior to redeem us from our sin. Machen spells out the logical result. He states:

Without the consciousness of sin, the whole of the gospel will seem to be an
idle tale. 

 

Why would man need Jesus if sin is not an issue? He has no need of Him. In the mind of man, religion is nothing more than a crutch for the perceived weak.

I think Jesus was keenly aware of this mindset. In Matthew 9:11-13, an interesting scene takes place.

11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why
does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when
[Jesus] heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but
those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means,’I desire mercy, and
not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Did you catch that? Jesus came for the sick and dying. Those tax collectors and sinners knew they were such. They were social outcasts. There lives were not secrets. They understood their need. That is who Jesus came to save. The Pharisees had no need for Jesus. They were “Abraham’s children.” They had a righteousness all their own, not realizing it was nothing more than menstrual rags. In order for the gospel to have any hope of taking root in a person’s life, that person must grasp, at least in part, the depth of their own wickedness. Machen goes on to say that first step in becoming a Christian is becoming aware of one’s own sin. Without that awareness, we have no need of Jesus.

So what are the implications of this truth? First, I think the church has to be careful about being “seeker sensitive.” Too many churches are afraid to reveal to people their sinfulness. They talk in meaningless platitudes and do not preach in a way that convicts of sin. Machen writes:

 

The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an
impossible task – she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. 

He goes on to say:

 

Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance and probably we
shall be no more successful than He. 

I love that! We waste our time telling people they are good. Perhaps we’d see far greater number come to faith in Jesus if we preached in a way that made them understand their need of it.

Second, I believe we ought to daily wrestle with our sinful nature. We should remind ourselves that we have a need. It is only by the daily allowance of God’s grace do we make it. We have a sin sickness and we need the Great Physician each and every day. Only then can we truly maintain the righteousness bestowed upon us. We get it daily from Jesus.

Finally, I think this should alter the way we approach sharing the gospel. I don’t think this means picking up the bullhorn and heading downtown. I think it means greater patience with our unbelieving friends as we spend time sharing Jesus with them. They will initially reject Him. They think they’re fine just the way they are. It is at this point I suggest praying like a Calvinist…that God in His great mercy might grant your friend a consciousness of their sin and thus turn to the only one who can solve their problem…Jesus. Only God the Holy Spirit can bring that awaking in a person’s life and it is our duty to pray for the light to switch on.

~sdg

The Whoredom of Idolatry

“My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.” – Hosea 4:12

The thing that struck me, besides the graphic language, is that idolatry is a fruit sin, not root sin. God is telling me that my idolatry is the result of something. I have the spirit of whore. I have belief that what I have in God is not enough to fulfill me. Since I believe that I can fulfill myself outside of God, I seek out other things. I commit two sins. I turn my back on God an attempt to fulfill myself on other lovers.

Another thing that struck me was the irrationality of sin and idolatry. It makes no sense. Can a block of wood or a walking staff really provide us with the meaning we so desire? How stupid! The same is true of any idol, whether it be sex or money or pride or power. To seek after it will only leave you empty and dry. May you cast down your idols down and fall in repentance. He is there to pick you up and make you whole again.

~sdg

Pitch Black

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclam to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” – I John 1:5-7

This past Monday, I went to Mammoth Cave National Park with my boys. At one point in the tour, they turn out all the lights to show you how dark it is in the cave. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. I started to wave my hand in front of my face to see if that made any difference. It didn’t, but my mind started playing ticks on me. I had the sensation that I could see my hand waving. In reality, I couldn’t, but my mind was creating a false reality in the absence of any light. My mind then turned to this thought after this lights were turned back on; sin functions in the exact same way. Sin is darkness and there is no light there because God cannot exist where sin is present. Those who live in sin and darkness actually have no idea how blind and how dark it really is. Their mind has created a false reality in which they see. Their hand moving in front of their face is “seen”. They continue in their sin because their nature has tricked in them into believing that their reality is true. Sin causes such sensory deprivation that we are unable to differentiate between myth and truth. It is only when the light of Christ is shone into our hearts that reality sets in and truth is finally seen and known. Finally, with seeing eyes we are able to walk out of the caves of sin and return to the surface, basking in the warmth and light of God.

~sdg