“Reconciliation teaches us something remarkable about the character of God. He befriends His enemies. He loves those who hate Him. He offers peace to those who have waged war against Him. Although He is the one who has been wronged, He is the one who makes all things right. He does all this while the battle still rages. ‘When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.’”
Recently I was reading a book that quoted from CS Lewis’ book Letters to Malcolm quite a lot. This week I’ve been reading it and chapter 17 alone is worth the price of the book! Let me quote from Lewis on the subject of worship and adoration,
“You first taught me the great principle ‘Begin where you are.’ I had thought one had to start by summoning up what we believe about the goodness and greatness of God, by thinking about creation and redemption and ‘all the blessings of this life.’ You turned to the brook and once more splashed your burning face and hands in the little waterfall and said, ‘Why not begin with this?’
And it worked. Apparently you have never guessed how much. That cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessings compared with ‘the means of grace and the hope of glory.’ But they were manifest. So far as they were concerned, sight had replaced faith. They were not the hope of glory, they were an exposition of the glory itself.
Yet you were not—or so it seemed to me—telling me that ‘Nature,’ or the ‘beauties of Nature,’ manifest the glory. No such abstractions as ‘Nature’ comes into it. It was learning the far more secret doctrine that pleasures are shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility. As it impinges on our will of our understanding, we give it different names—goodness or truth or the like. But it flashes upon our senses and mood is pleasure…
…I have tried, since that moment, to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration…”
(CS Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, pages 88-89)
As I read that I couldn’t help but think of the enormity of that lesson, “to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration.” To find that in every pleasure that, in the words of Lewis, “We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore.” Of course there are pleasures that we snatch by acts of sin, but even in the sin the pleasure itself isn’t wrong…it is the means by which we come to the pleasure that can be wrong.
Lewis compares it to the stealing of an apple. He said, “It is the stealing of the apple that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory. That does not palliate the stealing. It makes it worse. There is sacrilege in the theft. We have abused a holy thing.” You can take out the stealing of the apple and replace it with anything. God has given us pleasure as a channel of adoration, but that pleasure is to be enjoyed within the confines of holiness. When we learn to do that we will find channels of adoration in everything from the sunset to butter on a biscuit right out of the oven!
“Be careful how you treat God, my friends. You may say to yourself, ‘I can sin against God and then, of course, I can repent and go back and find God whenever I want him.’ You try it. And you will sometimes find that not only can you not find God but that you do not even want to. You will be aware of a terrible hardness in your heart. And you can do nothing about it. And then you suddenly realize that it is God punishing you in order to reveal your sinfulness and your vileness to you. And there is only one thing to do. You turn back to him and you say, ‘O God, do not go on dealing with me judicially, though I deserve it. Soften my heart. Melt me. I cannot do it myself.’ You cast yourself utterly upon his mercy and upon his compassion.”
D Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“The triune God of Scripture lives! He is not static. He is not lifeless. He is not bored. He is not boring. He is the living God!
He is the Father of lights, found of divinity, origin of origins, begetting yet unbegotten, deity prime, the almighty makes of heaven and earth.
He is the beloved Son, Word of the Father, God’s sermon and song, His image and wisdom, very God of very God, begotten before all worlds.
He is the Holy Spirit, breath of the living God, the river of His delights, the oil of His beard, the glad bond of loving union, proceeding from Father and Son.
This is God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, knowing each other, loving each other, delighting in each other, from all eternity, with no needs, no wants, no lack. Complete and total and infinite happiness. This is who God is.
This is not abstract deity, no impersonal divinity. God is love—dynamic, alive, abundant, and overflowing. Relationship is at the heart of reality. The original Word of this God is God over again. His love for Himself is so potent that He’s a person.
Absentee landlord? Hardly. Generic watchmaker? Not a chance. He is a jealous husband, a consuming fire, a cloud of glory that outshines the sun. He is a thundering tornado of knowledge and love and joy and life.” (Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth, page 44)
OK, I’ll admit what you may already know…I’m not a Peyton Manning fan. I love his family, I love his commercials, and I recognize the fact that he is one of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game, but I just don’t like to watch him play. It’s personal preference, it is totally subjective, and it is purely my opinion.
I do appreciate the class with which he has always carried himself, and I appreciate the absolute dedication to the game, and there is something sentimental in me that is glad he can walk away a champion. (I’ll have to admit that sentimental part is really small and it pained me to even write it and I’m not sure it will make it to the final draft!)
I’m a defensive guy—not just a defensive guy—I’m an old Raider’s defensive guy. I like nasty football…the kind that hits hard, the kind that plays to the echo of the whistle, and I have never really liked any quarterback! They play with a sense of entitlement…they play like everyone else should get tackled and that they should be treated as if they were playing flag football. It grinds at me, but I’m digressing.
Here is why I’m writing this blog today. Peyton Manning has every right to be overjoyed, but did you notice one of his comments last night. He said it twice—he talked about saying a prayer and thanking the Man upstairs. I know he is a quarterback, I know he was overjoyed, and I know that I should give him some slack, but God isn’t Man upstairs—He is God. Let me close with a quote from Tozer because he said it better than I ever could,
“Worship… rises or falls with our concept of God; that is why I do not believe in these half-converted cowboys who call God the Man Upstairs. I do not think they worship at all because their concept of God is unworthy of God and unworthy of them. And if there is one terrible disease in the Church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as He is. We’re too familiar with God.”
On Tuesday mornings I’ve been reading RC Sproul’s book The Consequences of Ideas with a group of men. Today we read a chapter on the philosophical views of Friedrich Nietzsche. At the end of the chapter Sproul wrapped Nietzsche’s views with these profound words,
Perhaps the answer lies in this: If at the earliest states of intellectual reflection a person denies the existence of God, then the more brilliant he is, the farther his though will move away from God. Most secular philosophers end up somewhere between the two poles, living on borrowed capital from either theism or nihilism. Without God, nihilism, and nonsensical as it is, makes more sense than a hybrid humanism or any other immediate position.
Although I do not embrace presuppositional apologetics, I do recognize that the existence of God is the supreme proto-supposition for all theoretical thought. God’s existence is the chief element in constructing any worldview. To deny this chief premise is to set one’s sails for the island of nihilism. this is the darkest continent of the darkened mind–the ultimate paradise of the fool.”
JC Ryle spoke of the great faith of the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel. He said,
“We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a malefactor, and yet prayed to Him, and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshipped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are they that can believe in this fashion!” (Expository Thoughts on Matthew, page 10)
I’ve never placed the two acts of faith together–one after Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the other at the end on the cross, but it is fitting. The question for us is what kind of faith do we display on this side of the Incarnation, Cross, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ? If they worshiped with great faith what they did not know–how much more should we worship on this side of God’s revelation?!
“How can we live with the terrifying thought that the Hurricane has become human, the Fire has become flesh, that the Life itself has walked into our midst? Christianity either means that or it is nothing. It is the most devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world or it is a sham and nonsense. Most people unable to cope with saying either of these things are condemned to live in the shallow world in between.”
From time to time I go back and read some of my old sermons. I was doing that today in preparation for another sermon and I found an old Indian parable. I didn’t write down the source, but I loved the parable.
A guru had a disciple and was so pleased with the man’s spiritual progress that he left him on his own. The man lived in a little mud hut. He lived simply, begging for his food. Each morning, after his devotions, the disciple washed his loincloth and hung it out to dry. One day, he came back to discover the loincloth torn and eaten by rats. He begged the villagers for another, and they gave it to him. But the rats ate that one, too. So he got himself a cat. That took care of the rats, but now when he begged for his food he had to beg for milk for his cat as well. “This won’t do,” he thought. “I’ll get a cow.” So he got a cow and found he had to beg now for fodder. So he decided to till and plant the ground around his hut. But soon he found no time for contemplation, so he hired servants to tend his farm. But overseeing the labors became a chore, so he married to have a wife to help him. After time, the disciple became the wealthiest man in the village.
The guru was traveling by there and stopped in. He was shocked to see that where once stood a simple mud hut there now loomed a palace surrounded by a vast estate, worked by many servants. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked his disciple.
“You won’t believe this, sir,” the man replied. “But there was no other way I could keep my loincloth.”