“You’re the best!”
“Keep it up, kid!”
My generation is built on hot air. We crave the tasty morsels of a compliment as a heroin addict sells his soul for a hit. We’ve been told we’re great from before we could even spell the word. Our homes were built with shrines honoring our early accomplishments. You got your yellow belt in karate? Let’s hang it up. As we grew up and went to school to be educated in the essentials of life, our only discipline was when we weren’t saying nice things to our classmates. Might as well have put a sign up in the classroom that read, “These are the forbidden F-words: Failure, Forfeit, & Freak.” No one failed, because we’re all winners. No one forfeits, because there was no competition. No one’s a freak, because we’re all unique. We were all great and even if it became painfully evident that not everyone was, we were encouraged to fake it. Now, there’s a useful F-word.
I wish someone was brave enough to tell me the truth. I think honesty is more strengthening than flattery. Character is built upon reality.
You see, our generation was doomed from the beginning. Our lives were built on the precariousness of our own own egos. It’s equivalent to building a skyscraper on top of a marble. We were so filled with lies that once our ego exploded in our face, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Up until that point, we had never experienced failure or heard the sweet sound of rejection. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we need to stop affirming one another, complimenting each other, or encouraging a friend. That’s all fine and well. But maybe what we do need in our generation is a healthy dose of “you suck” with a side of “no”. Maybe that’s what we need to remedy this epidemic that’s killing our generation. Maybe that will kill our pride. Maybe that will drown our sense of entitlement.
I think this is where the Gospel becomes fresh life-giving news for the heart that craves a dose of painful reality. We’ve been so adorned with our own “greatness” that it’s become nearly impossible to see our own depravity. But when met with it, most respond with a deep sigh of relief. Finally, something that makes sense. I am fallen. I am mistake prone. I am broken. I am not great.
Depravity is good news, not only because it kills our pride, but because it helps us to see things as they really are. Yet we never forget, in our sin, Jesus came to us so that He may purchase our redemption. He is the truly great one. He is the one deserving of all praise. He is the perfect one. And it’s in Him that we find our true identity: great sinners saved by a greater Grace.
You suck, but God is good.
Read the article from CNN.com. Was Jesus Wealthy?
Gold chains, diamond rings, Mercedes-Benz, & country club memberships. Reads like a Christmas wish list for a prominent Hip-Hop artist, doesn’t it? Actually, this is how the Prosperity Gospel portrays Jesus. If he were to have lived in our day, the Prosperity Gospel says this is what he would’ve had. That’s because they read their Bibles and all they can see is a Jesus that was given the finest of gifts at his birth. All they read is the narrative of how Jesus wants all his followers to be rich, so that they can help others. What’s so wrong with that? Money itself is not evil, right? It’s the love of money. Surely gifts aren’t evil, right? It’s the love of gifts over the Giver. But to the thousands that stand on the Prosperity Gospel, I beg you to listen to the testimony of Scripture. What does Scripture say about Jesus? Was Jesus rich? or was He poor?
His parents, Mary & Jospeh, were not rich – Luke 2:24, “and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the LORD, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Lev 12:8, “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons…”)
Jesus’ greatest sermon warns against wealth – Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
His Disciples were called to be poor – Matthew 16:23-26, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”)
His Disciples committed to a life of poverty – Luke 5:27-28, “After this he went out and saw a tax collector name Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”
Jesus blesses the poor – Luke 6:20-21, “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”
Worldly gain are worthless in itself – Luke 9:25, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
If Jesus was rich, why does he pray for daily bread? – Luke 11:3, “Give us each day our daily bread.”
Jesus tells the rich young ruler to give up his riches – Luke 18:22-23, “When Jesus heard this, he said to [the rich young ruler], ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”
Jesus commends the poor – Luke 21:3-4, “And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”
The wealthy aren’t mocked as ‘King’ – Luke 23:36-38, “The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.'”
The cross was a crude curse, not a form of reprimand for the rich – Deut 21:22-23, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD you God is giving you for an inheritance.”
Jesus was a humble servant – Mark 10:35, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Philippians 2:6-8, “[Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”)
The prophesies about the Messiah weren’t exactly glowing commendations – Isaiah 53:2-3, “He had not form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Reading the Bible as a whole narrative of Redemptive History, we are pointed to the fact that out of humble origins, God’s raises up a Kingdom of Priests. And not the other way around. In fact, any man-made attempt at glory (riches & reputation, i.e. Gen 11) is judged, for man is not god, God alone is God. It seems irresponsible and completely irrational to come to the conclusion that all God wants for us in this life is to become wealthy & healthy, so that we can give more and more to others. That’s certainly true to an extent, but if we read the testimony of the whole Scripture, then we can’t but help to see that it was Jesus, who came to us as a humble and lowly servant, “that God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11)
In that way, Christmas is a season not only to remember and celebrate the abundance we currently enjoy, but ultimately to remember and celebrate the gift we received in the city of Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, in joyful anticipation of the culminating joy and riches we will inherit with the second coming of Jesus in the age to come.
We are poor, yet we are rich in Him for God is our great and mighty reward. He alone is God, there is no other, not even money, not even my well-being. Grace through Jesus Christ is the gift of God to us in this life, for GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
December 7, 2009 Cover
Y2K. Botched Presidential Election. 9/11. War in Afghanistan & Iraq. Corporation Bankruptcy. Mad-cow & SARS. Tsunami killing 200,000 in Southeast Asia. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Radical Islamic Bombings. Bird Flu. Gas Prices Skyrocket. Steroids in Sports. Virginia Tech Shootings. Moral Failures by Politicians, Preachers, Celebrities, & Sports Figures. Stocks Plummet. Car Industry Fails. Ponzi Scheme. H1N1. Unemployment.
A daunting list by any standard, but only the “lowlights” of an otherwise forgettable decade. What are we going to call this one? “The Decade of Doom”? Whatever we call it, one can hardly argue that it was a decade full of heartache, shattered dreams, and uncertainty. I’m usually a glass half-full type of guy, but even I can appreciate a good buzz kill when it’s due. And if anything, this decade was a huge wake-up call. We can conjecture all we want about how and why we got here and how we’re going to pull ourselves out of this hole, but it’s pointless. Andy Serwer, the author of the The Decade from Hell in the issue of Time Magazine showed above, says, “So here’s the big question: Why? Why did so much bad stuff happen in this decade? Was it just rotten luck or something more? Sure, some of it was simply randomness, but I think a strong case can be made that it was more than just chance that got things so bollixed up.”
You’re right and you’re wrong, Andy. I’ll tell you this for sure. It wasn’t just randomness. Evil? Maybe. But random? Definitely, not. There’s much more too it. It’s the age-old story really: God creates man. God loves man. Man loves himself. Man chases after other gods. Man chases after false idols with false hopes. Man is left wanting. Man dies never finding true contentment.
And more than previous years, it was in this last decade that our Nation’s idols were tested. If America stands for anything we stand for the American Dream: Health, Wealth, & Happiness. But all three were found wanting this decade. Our health was tried by the frenzy of flu. Our wealth was waned by the spiraling stock market. And our happiness was interrupted by terror and tragedy. America’s idols proved to be lackluster. Yet, America seemed to find more and more hope in their false idols. They chased after their counterfeit gods all the more when they were stripped away. They held even tighter to their empty dreams.
So here’s the deal folks, we’re in Redemptive History. God promised deliverance for His people. Jesus came once and He will surely come again. Even the creation groans and eagerly awaits His coming. Meanwhile, we’re going to see the ugly head of sin rear itself over and over and over and over and over again. We’re going to witness the rise and fall of false idols. This decade was just a preview of things to come. But good news…there’s hope.
However gloomy the first ten years of the 21st century may have seemed, there was room enough for celebration. Not only did the Red Sox win a World Series, but the Nation voted in the first Black President. But what I find most encouraging is what seems to be an undercurrent toward orthodoxy in Jesus’ Church. Old and young are being beckoned back to the Cross. The Church is realizing its deep need for the Gospel. The Body of Christ is showing signs of unity and reconciliation. But even that shouldn’t complete our hope.
Our hope lies in the truth that God is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus is alive. And the Spirit lives in us. That’s why we have hope. A hope that tomorrow we’ll live by Grace through Faith. A hope that tomorrow God will be good to His people. And a hope that Jesus will be back…real soon.
What a great example and God honoring perspective. I was really inspired by this post from Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church and gifted preacher known world-wide. I don’t even know him personally, but I’ve been incredibly challenged by God through His preaching ministry. The short story is he fell unconscious on Thanksgiving morning and found out that there’s a mass on his frontal lobe a few days later. Now he goes into surgery with no assurance of full recovery or surgical success. But this is what he has to say…
The last seven days have been some of the most interesting of my life. I have felt anxiety, fear, sadness and a deep and unmovable joy simultaneously and in deeper ways than I have felt before. I am grateful for this heightened sense of things. Today at 10:45 a.m. CST I will have a good portion of my right frontal lobe removed. I head into that surgery with a heart that is filled with gratitude and hope.
Here are some of the things I am thankful for in no particular order:
- I am thankful for the thousands of you who have prayed and fasted for my health. It has brought far more tears to Lauren’s and my eyes to receive this kind of attention from the Church universal than this tumor has.
- I’m thankful for health insurance because I’m guessing they aren’t doing my five-hour surgery for free!
- I am thankful that I have deep, real friendships at The Village with Michael Bleecker, Josh Patterson, Brian Miller, Chris Chavez and Beau Hughes. They have been such a comfort to me and my family this past week. Pastors should have good friends on their staff. It’s risky but worth the risk.
- I am grateful for the men of God in my life, namely John Piper who taught me to hold my life cheap and to join with Paul in saying “I don’t count my life of any value or as precious to myself if only I might finish my course and complete the work that He gave me to do to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. I’m nothing, I just have a job. God keep me faithful on the job and then let me drop and go to the reward.” Without this strong view of God’s sovereign will, I’m not sure how you don’t despair in circumstances like mine.
- I am thankful for my wife Lauren. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’” “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
- I am thankful for my children. Audrey the Beautiful, Reid the Valiant and Norah the Joyous. Being a daddy to these three is one of the greatest joys of my life.
- The privilege of seeing and appreciating all of life through the grid of a heightened sense of my own mortality.
- I am thankful for brilliant doctors and surgeons who have been given a real gift by our great God and King to repair things as complex as the brain.
- I am thankful for The Village Church. If there is a place that loves Jesus more, takes sanctification as seriously and wants to see the lost love the great King deeply I am unaware of it. These last seven years have been a spectacular joy!
- More than anything else I am grateful to my King Eternal, my Lord Immortal, for my God invisible. He alone is God. All Glory and Honor, Forever to You O God. I am overwhelmed in these moments by God Himself and the assurance of a future inheritance of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and where all things are made new (Hebrews 12).
Christ is All,
Pray for our brother in Christ. God’s gifted the man. But ultimately pray God’s will be done. What a beautiful picture of the Church that we can pray for a dear brother we have never met personally. You can also find the post here.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit what Tiger did. Humanity has never had a good track record with marital fidelity. I mean, God had to use one of his 10 commandments to make sure we’d stay faithful.
What does surprise me though is the reaction that’s come as a result of his statement. On TV shows, news articles, and twitter responses, there’s a collective sense that, “Tiger’s human after all.” Really? Does it really validate your humanity when one cheats on his wife? Now, I know it brings a mega-personality down to size when celebrities act like, well, “normal people”. But do we really have to say things like, “I hope Tiger and his wife can move on from this tragic situation.” (First & Ten, ESPN) When did adultery become something “tragic” that happens to a married couple? I can’t imagine Tiger “fell” into unfaithfulness. But while a society muddied in moral relativism sees this as just another day at the park, Christians ought to realize that this is a far cry from our Edenic identity. Men and women weren’t created to cheat on each other. It was never a part of the design.
Tiger, you screwed up. But it’s not because you failed to stay “true to your values”. You can try for a million years to live up to your own standards. And let me tell you, from personal experience, you’ll fail once again. And the next time you fail, you’ll think, once again, you failed to stay “true to your values”, but I hope then you’ll realize it’s much bigger than that. There’s Good News, Tiger. Our constant falling short proves our depravity. But there has been One that lived it perfectly and obeyed God’s Law. The righteousness of God is ours through Him, namely Jesus Christ. So though we may fail more often than we’d like to admit, Christ is exalted all the more in our weaknesses. For if we trust in Him, we declare in our failures that Christ overcame our sin. And by His Spirit, we are empowered to fight our sin, for if left alone, we’d be hopeless. That’s the Gospel, Tiger. We are weak, but He is strong.
Romans 3:10-11, 21-26, “10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one….21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
If you’re in the mood for some masochism tonight, then I dare you to open God’s Word and begin reading. As unpopular as it may sound, the Scriptures call us to die to ourselves. A little different than what we’ve heard in Sunday School, eh?
Exodus 20:19, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die”
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”
Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”
God’s word is a double-edged sword. It cuts us to our deepest core and lays bare all that we work so hard to keep hidden. It’s a deadly word, but a living word. Deadly to our sin, but life-giving to our spirit.