Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 4.

Introspection. This is encouraged in many conservative congregations. Many will use a verse out of St Paul’s second epistle to show this is what we are to be about in our daily rounds. This is a Fairy Tale most grim.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! ESV

Unfortunately many think that being in the faith means a constant upswing in personal righteousness and downswing of sin. Indeed after one comes to faith the outward acts that once held an attraction to the new believer are forsake. Out of love for Jesus and what he did on the cross one cannot help but see outward acts of lust, debate, crude talk, reading books and magazines which hold explicit sexual material, movies and TV shows which are degrading to the human person etc. will over time be less and less appealing. These are outward acts of an inward condition of being a sinner. When a person is adopted by God and is a new creature still remains a sinner. This status of sinner does not change although outward acts have changed and we are also 100% saint in the sight of God. One is constantly falling short of living a life that Jesus lived. Jesus was sinless and God in human flesh. It is totally impossible to never have an idle thought, say an unkind word or always do everything right. That is part of the grimness of this Fairy Tale. This falling short of God’s glory is known by God of course which is why he came in human flesh to tabernacle among us and do the doing for us. And after all that doing died on the cross to pay the penalty we justly deserve for being full blown children of Adam and the actual sins we do.

So if St Paul is not teaching Christians to worry about not being in the faith because of falling short of the glory of God to what is he referring? It is a call to repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus. In the previous verse he refers to that work.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— 3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. ESV

We see here that he was not referring to individuals who are distraught about their failings. But rather he is referring to those who are proud of their sin. These are impenitent sinners who refuse to forsake the deeds of the flesh to whom he referred to earlier. In addition these have attacked St Paul for his efforts which is the normal fallen human reaction to one who is seeking to correct them and restore repentance and faith in Jesus. To continue on in impenitent sin flying it in God’s face is making a move toward forsaking Jesus’ finished work in favour of the deceitful pleasures of worldliness.

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. ESV

No we do not have to live lives of morbid introspection. Yes we sin. When sin is brought to our attention by the law of God preached into our ears or read in daily readings we lay claim on it. We confess this sin before God. And because he has forgiven our sins in the death of Jesus we can walk on in peace knowing we are reconciled to God and he holds nothing against us.

The other grimness lies in the fact as full blown sinners we are often blind to these sins and actually may be convinced we are pulling off living righteously under our own steam. In a conversation the other day with a couple of professing Christians I was told that they were no longer sinners. They are only concerned, of course, with blatant outward acts not the sins of the heart of course. People of this mindset need to be taken to the sermon on the mount to show Jesus unpacking the law and showing that even thoughts are sin. This can be carried so far in a person’s life they may be tempted to tell Jesus they can do it from now on. This is in addition taking one’s faith out for a real stabbing and is as equally alarming as a professing Christian living in open impenitent and public rebellion against God’s law.

Lord Jesus on every hand we are tempted to remove our eyes from you. I am yours my God. Save me! In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

Thank you, St. David for an excellent post.

I am afraid much of the church is living with this Grim Fairy Tale. And grim it is.

The law must be preached hard and must NOT be preached as betterment.

This inevitably waters the law down and makes it managable.

Then you get what you described, people who actually think they are doing a pretty fair job of THEIR Christian project.

The law must kill.

The gospel will take care of the rest.