A Rebuke Worse than God’s?

wrathWhen I mess up at work, and my boss calls me on the carpet about it, I’ll feel awful for a week and redouble my efforts to improve my work processes.

When my mistakes affect a coworker or increase their burden, I’ll feel even worse and seek to do them favors.

When my pastor point out an error in ministry, or even just provide advice upon my own prompting on how I could refine a certain area, (by the way, people, do not start walking on eggshells around me because of this post – I need and value correction), I’ll be quite humbled for a while.

And when a friend or family member expresses disappoint in me for whatever reason, an entire fortnight goes in the tank.

But when I sin and only God sees?

Well, something’s different. And not in a way that should be.

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Goodies and Godliness

goodiesThere is a rhythm to our repentance and God’s grace.

Part 1: Be Careful What You Ask For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 3: All The Wrong Reasons?

Part 4: He Runs to Us 

Isaiah sees God and laments his unworthiness, only to be cleansed with a coal on the lips (Isaiah 6:5-7).

Daniel is put on the ground by just an angel; he is invited to stand and called “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:5-12).

In grief over Israel’s defeat at Ai, Joshua falls to his face, which you’d think appropriate, but God says, “Stand up! What are you doing up on the floor?”

The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27) and the centurion (Matthew 8:8-9) plead Jesus’ mercy, not their own merit; he grants their requests.

Peter sees a miraculous catch of fish and tries to push Jesus away out of unworthiness; Jesus merely ups his role in the kingdom (Luke 5:8-10).

Later, he says he can’t accept a foot-washing from his Savior; Jesus responds that he’d better find a way to accept (John 13:8)!

Finally, after Peter is faceplanted by the transfigured Christ’s glory (Peter gets a lot of time in the “faceplanted” category, does he not?), Jesus touches him and tells him not to be afraid (Matt. 17:6-7).

Do you see the beauty of it? The more God’s glory is revealed, the more our sin is illuminated. We are driven to our knees by a sense of our unworthiness. Yet God reaches for us. He places us on our feet.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:21-24)

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All the Wrong Reasons?

homeI have a confession to make: there have been times I’ve doubted the Prodigal’s motives when reading this piece.

Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 4: He Runs to Us

Part 5: Goodies and Godliness

“When he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17a)

Biblical commentators make much of the phrase “came to his senses”. Jesus seems to be describing a soul gone mad from sin, detached from reason, and only just now waking up.

Most skeptics think that Christians are the ones detached from reality. Hearing voices, imaginary friends, etc. They say reason leads away from faith.

They’re using the wrong wisdom. When 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised”, commentators identify the natural man as unregenerated, governed by carnal motives – labeling even earthly wisdom as carnal and prideful. It can’t reveal God.

Sure, that’s a convenient thing to say to a skeptic. It sounds to them like circular reasoning.

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The Prodigal Son and That “I Had to Sin in Order to Grow” Thing

prodigal.jpgI’ve heard it quite a few times from young believers.

“I had to go through that tough stage of my life in order to find God.”

They’re coming out of a sinful time in their lives and acknowledging its darkness for the first time. What kind of darkness? Who knows. Our minds jump to the usual suspects – sexual promiscuity, drugs, partying – and it might have been that. It might be petty crime, or embracing of the occult. Or it might just a “crowd” that endowed them with a crass, hurtful personality.

Eventually, all things are exposed to light, and the emerging young wanderer starts getting honest. I celebrate with them in their light bulb moment.

But then you’ll hear some of them tack this on, in some form or another:

“I needed to sin so I’d learn my lessons”.

“I went through the wilderness because it was God’s way to grow me.”

“I wouldn’t have understood sin unless I went through it.”

Record scratch.

Wait, what? Where did that come from?

I can take a stab. In our age, popular culture has glamorized the wilderness. The hardened “guy from the wrong side of the tracks” is the hero from our stories; dirt under the fingernails is more impressive than white cuffs. He seems more real, certainly more relatable. His mistakes drown him and inflict their toll, only for him to somehow rise from the ashes and find an inner heart of gold, while the goody two shoes and the irritable authority figures turn out to be the real villain (how many movies have boasted this plot?).

We let this sneak into the church, too. The more debauched the old man, the more impressive the new. So much that young disciples actually feel diminished for having lived well from the start, because their testimonies are boring.

It’s a crock.

No. 

You did not “have” to sin in order to arrive where you are today. That is a lie. It is the wrong response to your wilderness.

And I plead with you to shake it, for it will also prove fatal to your recovery.

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