Spotting Idols

While I was thinking about the implications of discouragement and how it can be an indicator of idolatry, a very timely article*  came to my “Inbox”  regarding the hopeless spiral of pursuing things other than God, i.e. idolatry. [If you missed last week’s remarks on idolatry you may want to read: Why you are Discouraged]  Commenting on Romans 1:22,23, T.M. Moore demonstrates just how making anything but God our ultimate desire in life sets us on a track destined to lead us into foolishness and ultimately disappointment… He says it best:

When people hope in transient things, they’ll do whatever seems right in their own eyes – whatever they think makes sense or feel to be in their best interests. But these mostly leave them disappointed and looking for somewhere else to place their fading hopes.

The conscience holds and reads the maps of life. It guides the mind and heart through the many options facing us as we pursue our hopes and dreams. When people reject the knowledge of God they do not reject the need for values, priorities, and default choices. Instead, because they are not focused on God and His Word to guide them in tutoring their wills, they lean on created things: wealth, success, fun, fame, attention, power, and all the usual idols of our age in flight from God. Once a person establishes one or more of these as his ultimate objective in life, the tumblers in the conscience fall into lockstep with the demands of their chosen idol, and all their values and priorities line up accordingly.

From that point forward the conscience and will are trapped in a Chinese handcuffs of self-serving, foolish decisions and choices, and sooner or later, most people end up doing really dumb things. Strive and struggle though they may to make their wills bend in more wholesome directions, those who will not embrace the Gospel of Jesus will always fall for a lesser god, which is no god at all, and the whole, sad cycle of folly repeats itself anew. Hopes fade and must be reconstructed; changes disappoint, yet we insist on more; and the ability to do anything different eludes those who are trapped in the downward spiral of sin…

Granted, this writer refers to unbelievers, but clearly idolatry is a temptation for believers also especially when we lose sight of the hope of the Gospel. When we “make anything but God our ultimate desire in life” we are setting ourselves up as idolaters and in the process missing out on the righteousness, peace an joy that are earmarks of our inheritance as subjects of God’s Kingdom! (Rom.14:17)

Jonah had a reality check on this. After fleeing from God, choosing to make his own travel arrangements, he was brought to his knees inside a whale after a frightening near-drowning. Here he came to the incisive conclusion that “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8) Another rendering of ‘worthless idols’ is ‘lying vanities’. In other words, all things worthless, temporal and ‘not-as-they-seem’.

Though Jonah didn’t want this mission he was assigned, this dunking ‘reset’ his sense of appreciation for the one true God whom he was called to serve. It restored him to his senses and he declared: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” I imagine that as he shook the water out of his ears he resolved to be done with pretending to be his own god or any other such ‘lying vanities!’ He realized that any strategy for his own ‘salvation’ other than calling on God is worthless!

What vain hopes have I set my heart on instead of, or in addition to, God? What do I believe I need in order to be  truly happy? Have I gladly submitted myself to His rule and calling in my life or am I attempting to pull off an escape route? What strategies do I use to get what I want when my circumstances aren’t quite to my liking?

There is a better alternative than grasping at ‘lying vanities’.  David immortalized the right response when he wrote these words:

“Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.” (Ps.31:3-6)

This line would later be quoted by Jesus on the Cross. Psalm 31 is a precious trove of all things true of our God, that should keep us from ever being tempted to idolatry

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you.” (19)
 
It’s a beautiful model to follow when times are discouraging, seemingly hopeless, or just plain SCARY, and we’re tempted to scramble for relief elsewhere!

One thing I’ve realized this week is that it’s certainly easier to spot potential idols in someone else’s life than to recognize my own. I came across some helpful indicators in a sermon, “A Turn to God from Idols” taken from I Thess.1:7-10…**   After asserting that idolatry is a universal and perennial sin that everyone struggles with, Rev. Ligon Duncan went on to define an idol as “anything in which we think we can get ultimate security and satisfaction apart from God.” Then just in case that was a little too nebulous he suggested three questions that may help us to pinpoint potential idols in our own lives:

1–What do you think about? What are the things in those quiet moments when you’re away from the press of the immediate demand and the fight of the day, what is that thing that you think about that gives you hope and delight? When you begin to identify that thing or those things, you’re coming close to identifying your idols.

2- How do you spend your time, your resources, and your energy? Because when you look at those three things and you ask that question, you’re going to see the things that you really care about.

3-What disappoints me? What absolutely crushes me with disappointment? And chances are, if you answer that question honestly of yourself you’re going to find an idol. There’s going to be something that you think that you need to have, or something that you desperately want to have that you don’t have, and you’re disappointed by it. It may be a situation that you have in your life that you don’t want. It may be a situation that you do not have in your life that you do want. And you are crushingly disappointed by it. It may have to do with your family life. It may have to do with your vocation. It may have to do with your children or your parents, but you are disappointed by it. And if you’ll think about it for a while, you may well be able to identify your idols.

As I’ve mulled these over I’ve re-framed them for myself.

What preoccupies my thoughts when they’re not busy with life at hand?

–What unfulfilled wants hinder me from being fully satisfied with God and worshipping Him with a joyful heart? In other words: What excuses do I make for postponing joy? (Though the fig tree has not yet blossomed will I trust God? )

What prospect has the ability to fill me with sickening dread, esp. in the middle of the night? ( If the fig tree never blossoms will I still rejoice in my God)

These questions hit closer to home for me, helping to pinpoint those things that tug at my heart and keep it from whole-hearted worship of the only God worthy of my worship. When other things/people/goals capture my heart to the extent that I can’t live joyfully without them, I have entered dangerous territory. I now have cause to live in fear, anxiety, depression and discouragement…for what I need could be taken away or never granted! I’m not designed to live this way.

I’m reminded of the first question in the Westminster Confession:

What is the chief end of man?
The answer—”to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” as evidenced in such texts as these:

Psalm 144:15: Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

Isaiah 12:2. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation

No wonder the foremost command is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. There will be no room left for rivals and no need of any!

And this brings Jesus’ words about hating family into perspective. “If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Lk.14:26

My love for Him must be so much greater than my desires for my own flesh and blood, that I will never be swayed from devotion to God by my natural desires for my family’s well-being. It begins to make sense. Only in worshiping God with my whole-heart am I prepared to love my family rightly, rather than making their well-being my chief end.

But I am talking to myself now. I will leave you with these thoughts on idolatry. May God teach us to find our satisfaction in Him. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Then discouragements will not defeat us and joy will be our companion even in bitter disappointments. The things of earth grow strangely dim when we focus on Him…

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

–LS

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Eph.4:17,18

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation. Ps.42:5  

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. Ps.31:24

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods,
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols
but the LORD made the heavens! Ps.96:4,5

 

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*T.M.Moore, “Saved from Foolish Choices” Part 5 of Real Hope. Real Change series, available at ColsonCenter.org .

**Rev.J. Ligon Duncan III, “Living Life in Light of Jesus’ Return: A Turn to God from Idols”.  I Thess. 1:7-10.   May 20, 2012. Transcript available here.

*** Lyrics for Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus available here.

Why You are Discouraged

I ‘tuned in’ online to a short sound-bite on “Wretched TV” * which has kept me ruminating all week. It had the innocuous title: “Why You are Discouraged”. I don’t know what explanation I was expecting. But this wasn’t it. Have you ever considered the connection between discouragement and idolatry?! I hadn’t either. But consider this…

Cutting right to the point, Todd Friel posed the question: “Are you discouraged because your idol has not come to fruition.” Huh? My idol? I may be a little discouraged because I want to see certain things happen/or not, in my church, or in my family, or in my own life but…idolatry?! He explained it this way: When the things that we desire move beyond wants to needs, demands, “I gotta’ have it!”, our desires–legitimate though they may be, have become idols…

Then came this sermon clip by Rev. J.Ligon Duncan:

“In disappointment and discouragement we are tempted to succumb to idolatry”. Why? Because “we are tempted to think that there is a greater treasure that has been withheld or taken from us than what God has or can give to us.”

Oh. Wow. Sounds like the Garden–luscious fruit, strong desire, subtle temptation to doubt God’s intent and goodness, and Zammo! I think I wanna’ be in charge! Red Flag—who’s going to be god here? Is that what is happening when things don’t seem to be working out just as I’d like to see? But they’re good things, ‘right’ things, surely God wants them too… However, I reveal my heart’s loyalties when the deferment or denial of my longings plunges me into deep disappointment and discouragement. When what I want (and I think God wants) becomes what I must have to be happy. When I withhold whole-hearted joy-filled worship of God because I’m just not quite satisfied with what He’s doing/not doing for me…well something’s up. And that something may just be called idolatry!

Todd put it something like this: How is discouragement related to idolatry? If you are worshiping God with all your heart, soul and mind, it doesn’t matter if you get x,y, or z you already have the best thing that there is! But when we practically forget the Gospel, we will set up other things as idols and take Jesus off the throne…

Hmm… it’s worth thinking about.  You can view the whole 2 minute clip for yourself HERE.

Peter too reminds us that an effective and fruitful faith is contingent on remembering what we have been saved from, while not losing sight of the hope we are called to. (II Pet.1:8-11) We have after all, been brought into fellowship with the Creator of the universe who supplies our every need and lives His life through us…When we hang onto this LIVING God, by faith, idols lose their luster. They can’t deliver the comfort, the significance, the security, or the HELP!! we need. They weren’t designed to. When we forget this we will end up discouraged.

Have we succumbed to that original temptation to believe that God’s holding out on us? Not giving us what we most want and need? Withholding the best from us…and it’s up to us to ‘get a life’ as best we can? Billy Joel gives this impression of God in his catchy tune: “Only the Good Die Young” as if to do things God’s way were to miss out on life. Does that make sense?

If God is the author of life and the giver of every good gift (Ja.1:17), can we not trust that He will do for us all that is best and in the perfect timing? Can we not trust that the boundaries He sets, the ‘good things’ He denies, the race and its pace that He sets for each of us (Heb.12:1) is ALL for our greatest good and His highest glory? Billy Joel is wrong.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Ps.84:11) He is the one who “satisfies with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”(Ps.103:5)

To believe otherwise sets us up to fall for idols–to grasp at straws in search of a more effective strategy for getting our will done, (or His will done our way!?). These idols won’t be carved statues probably. Others may not recognize them. But when we go searching for ‘something more’ than what God has provided for life and godliness in the knowledge of Him, (II Pet.1) whether it be a more dynamic ‘spirituality’ or a magic key to success and favor, we are following in the error of the Israelites who could never rest content for long with their own God and were always looking to gain something by following the customs of the nations around them. They had the same problem we do. They wanted something they could see. They wanted worship that felt good. They exchanged the glory of their immortal, invisible, holy God for man-made images. (Rom.1:23) They worshiped in ways that were an abomination to their God. And they missed out on the worship they were created for.

God saw and ached for their return. I’ve been reading Jeremiah lately with its poignant passages on idolatry, from God’s point of view:

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jer.2:13

Thus says the LORD: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after (vanity) worthlessness, and became worthless?” Jer.2:5

Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” “Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their foreign idols?” Jer.8:19

“…they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein; but have walked after the imagination of their own heart and after Baalim” Jer.9:14

What a grief idolatry brings, to our hearts and God’s.

More next time, on spotting the culprit, and by God’s grace being done with it!

–LS

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. I Jn.5:20,21

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Have you met Todd Friel of Wretched TV?

This conservative Christian radio/TV talk show host always has something provocative/ witty/ insightful to say.  Defending the Word of God and the unadulterated Gospel is his passion. Short daily blurbs cover a range of issues—sample his sound bites at YouTube.

Indebted to Grace

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The older I get the more of a ‘Calvinist’ I become—the more grateful for the sovereign grace of God. As my energy and idealism mellow with age, I look back at the first fifty years and see a trail of grace I may have once mistaken for the product of my energies. All the really good things, the key decisions, the best choices, the surprising and rewarding trails I’ve traveled have been God’s doings. I only followed His lead. Where is there room for boasting, about anything?! This role I play in life, it’s all a gift, His calling, my privilege.

How did I get to be a Grandmom? A mother? A wife? A child of God? How did I get to be born?! I can look back and see the choices I’ve made but the stringing together of opportunities to make them, this I could not do. And where did the propensity come from to make them one way or another? I could not know that in saying ‘yes’ to one thing, I would be saying ‘no’ to a host of other things and getting myself into a whole ‘nother set of things… And God only knows how much I have to be grateful for. I’ve only scratched the surface of seeing things as I ought. And that too is grace…

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be…

What of the hidden hazards that could have tripped me up given my naivety and yes, my self-will? These are only visible in retrospect, some of them anyway. A hidden Hand graciously spared me the trauma they would have caused. I see these things when I look back. I am a Grandmom now, entrusted with carefree little people who blithely trundle down the road of life as though it were a safe place. They hold my hand and expect that all will be well. They have few fears, little knowledge of what could happen. They just trust and take first steps… and sometimes their sin-bent wills say ‘no’ and try to do things their own way. Here too they need a hand to guide them into the way of right-eousness… and as I’m learning they are too: It’s always best to say “Yes” to the one who knows what’s best and sees beyond my small horizons… and to trust Him to lead me in  paths of righteousness, for HIS name’s sake.

I am reminded of an old Sunday School song: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever”. The fitting response to grace is gratitude. The more of grace I recognize, the more grace-filled I will be—not just at meal-time when we ‘say grace’! All of life is by His grace. In all of life God is worthy of my effusive gratitude, whether I recognize His mercies at any given moment or not.

The alternative is to focus my will to strive for God’s favor, to beg for ‘blessings’ (like a child for lollipops at dinnertime), to pout when He says ‘no’, and to scheme of ways to ‘ambush’ Him into giving me my ‘due’ as though He owed me something for all my efforts. Children in grocery stores do it all the time. The ‘children of Israel’ in the desert did it too. They whined and fussed and demanded to be fed what they wanted when they wanted it. They were not grateful. They failed to trust in their Father’s care… they did not know His ways and so they missed His very best for them. Failing to learn the fear of God coupled with the love of God they were destined to die in the desert.

And as I shepherd my grandbabies along city streets, training them to walk on sidewalks and look both ways before they cross…reminding them not to demand but to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ and wait patiently…and most of all grinning and smiling and applauding their antics, loving and playing, pushing the swing and making play dough together…I give them a hint of the fear of God and the love of God. His discipline and His favor, hand in hand, which I pray will shepherd them all their lives long. And I rest in His Sovereign grace that has been lavish in my life and will be just as sufficient for theirs. Oh to grace how great a debtor daily we all are constrained to be!

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

{Listen here as Chris Rice sings it.}

–LS

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Rom.5:1,2

So Great a Salvation

I’m not much of a fiction reader, but I sampled the first in a series called Gods and Kings lately. The author tells the stories of Ahaz and then Hezekiah, kings of Judah at a really nasty time in history, basing her story on the Biblical account, weaving in the actual words of the contemporary prophets, Isaiah and Micah. I appreciate the job she’s done because it brought me a fresh sense of the ‘real-ness’ of these people and the times they lived in– and the urgency Hezekiah felt to see the people return to the  worship of God. Their enemies were at their doorstep. Child-sacrifice was being introduced. Altars to false gods had invaded even the temple of Jehovah! Well, this isn’t the place for a book review. I’ve posted that elsewhere. I mention this because it’s sent me back to the Old Testament to look at the law of God, our God, our holy God and to marvel at His mercy and patience in our times.

It doesn’t take much looking to realize that we live in a culture that has taken up the ways of other gods. The things God hates are commonplace, practiced even by people who have taken His name as their own. Stoning young people for having sexual relations before marriage seems like outrageous overkill. God obviously takes sex very seriously. It is more than we make of it. Abusing this sacred gift is in fact outrageous to God. (Deut.22:21) Or imagine marching your own son to the town hall with a report of his rebellious lifestyle, so that justice could be done. (Deut.21:18ff) Yes, he’d be stoned (and not in the way our culture defines it), but what effect might this have on his buddies? Might not honoring their parents take on a new value? I was particularly horrified at the idea of child sacrifice practiced by the Assyrians. Who would toss their own child in the fire, even to save their own skin? And yet, how different is that from what we do in North American culture? We even have innocuous sounding names for all these practices with new ones being invented all the time.

Would it be too harsh to say that we live in a pagan culture that has lost the fear of God and really doesn’t care what He thinks? And that just maybe that loss of the fear of God has crept into the church as well?

If God, who is perfectly just and good calls these things we live with ‘worthy of death’ but for us they are a normal part of life, something’s terribly wrong with our standard of ‘normal’. And yet our lives go on in relative peace and prosperity, feeling somehow immune to the wrath of God, as though it were an old-fashioned concept, no longer in effect. God’s holiness and justice and abhorrence of evil are… well, we just have no place for such realities. They are definitely out of vogue, both in and out of the church. Evil has been redefined according to what suits us. The law of God is an outdated document made much of by atheists decrying the ‘Christian God’, but made little of by the Church because after all, we are ‘under grace’, aren’t we? Never mind that Jesus taught that the Law was here to stay and would be fulfilled in those who believe, not done away with! “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom.8:3,4)

Could it be God’s moral laws are not arbitrary but actually our design specifications—the conditions under which we will have maximum life expectancy and operational success?  Do we believe this?  Do we display it to the watching world?  When I look at the severity of some of the consequences of breaking God’s commandments, I am in awe of the mercy and grace of God.  He hates these things.  He hates their effects on His creatures and His creation.  He is all powerful.  But He waits, not willing that any should perish… Do we comprehend how offensive to God the practices common to our culture, and sometimes our church cultures, are? Not just in the arena of sexual immorality, but in any of the areas governed by the Big Ten—honesty, integrity, contentment, God-honoring speech, respect, putting God above all else in importance… And yet He extends an offer of grace contingent on confession of guilt and need of that grace! The glory of God is revealed in the Cross—God extending lovingkindness and faithfulness to those unworthy of it, providing for Himself a sin offering in the form of His own Son. This Jesus, full of grace and truth, came to die to satisfy the holy requirements of the law. “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. This is serious business. Jesus wouldn’t have had to die if there were a simpler arrangement.

So it bothers me when the essence of the Gospel degenerates into teaching people that ‘God is in a good mood’ and wants to make you feel better too? The Gospel is good news, it’s true. But it’s only a half-truth to suggest that God is so crazy about you that He’s willing to overlook your sin. Yes, Jesus has ushered in an era of God’s unmerited favor, and as believers we stand uncondemned, accepted, loved, favored, blessed… But that’s not the starting point. First we were God’s enemies. Hopelessly enslaved to sin. Lost, condemned, worthy of death, deserving of judgment, without hope and without God in the world! There must be a starting point that acknowledges God is NOT pleased. He is NOT in a good mood about your sin. You are definitely NOT OK. The law is there to show us His holiness and justice. It’s not going away and God’s standards haven’t changed. We have. People on their own steam are actual enemies of God. Unless we start with the assumption that we are sinners, there is no gospel.

I like the way C.S. Lewis puts it in a chapter of Mere Christianity titled: “We Have Cause to be Uneasy” (which is available online in written and audio format here).

“The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is “good” in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, of dangerous, or difficult it is to do. If God is like the Moral Law, then He is not soft… You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behaviour, then He cannot be good. On the other hand, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do. That is the terrible fix we are in….God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger—according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.

“Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing. Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness…the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is not use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay….If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.” (Mere Christianity, p.38,39)

But does it really matter how we preach the gospel? What’s wrong with an easy ‘sell’ that invites people to come based on their felt needs, promising them that Jesus will fix everything? He’s there for their comfort and fulfillment. Just come, ask, ‘accept’ and believe He’s got what you want… The results speak for themselves and are not unlike the condition of Judah in the times of Hezekiah and then Manasseh… A God not known, not revered, not feared, is a God easily abandoned when the culture around offers something more enticing. My felt needs become my God.

Genuine love for God that is willing to lay down its own life for His service is not born out of a Gospel catering to self-interest and devoid of the frank reality of my sinfulness. It is the one who knows he has been forgiven much that will love much. To bypass the issues of my sin and his forgiveness may yield a certain ‘passion’ for ‘things of God’ but only for as long as those things serve my interests—my felt needs for significance and purpose. Even the power, position and authority in Jesus’ name available to a believer can be heady distractions from the main thing. When the seventy-two returned from their mission to announce the coming Kingdom they were stoked that demons listened to them. Jesus warned: “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” We are never meant to outgrow the wonder of our salvation.

It is this theme, the wonder of the Gospel, that I had intended to write about here today. My own testimony is not one of dramatic transformation from being a derelict law-breaker to being a lover of God. I have listened in awe to such stories, but they are not mine. I have had to be intentional about asking God to reveal to me my sinfulness. How much could a child of ten have had on her record? And yet I too have been forgiven much. I am continually forgiven much. Sin is not just an act but a condition we are born into. Self-centeredness is tell-tale. The command to love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself is enough to do me in. Yes, I too need the Gospel, not merely to make me feel whole and ‘worthy’ but to save me from the damnation that is inevitable to all who stand on their own righteousness.

I was blessed by an article I read earlier this week touching on some of the great mysteries of our faith—the things not yet revealed, not fully spelled out in Scripture. Midstream the writer stopped and reflected on what he called the greatest mystery of all—what we are now, the wonder that we should be called children of God. Quoting John he wrote:

‘”How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” Then, as if at a loss of saying anything more profound, John adds, “And that is what we are!” (I Jn.3:1) If you are not similarly dumbstruck, it is time to pause and let John’s words sink in for a moment.’

And that’s just what I did. The Gospel can become so familiar that we lose the significance and the wonder of it. Yet how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?! For a refresher on the old, old story listen in on Paul’s talk in Acts 13  and let the reality of what God has done for us sink in…such love, such holiness, such a salvation!

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Heb.2:1-3

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38,39

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Heb.9:28

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…. Rev.1:5b,6,7

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests… Rev.5:9,10

Amen and amen!

–LS