The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory
July 7, 2013
Faith Baptist Church
The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory
Theology Informing Culture
The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory
July 7, 2013
Faith Baptist Church
Reading Genesis 32 this morning, I was bewildered, as I am every time I reach a passage which is not immediately nourishing to my soul. My convictions about the meaning of Scripture can be summed thusly: Everything written is about Christ and for the church. There’s more to it than that, of course. I don’t want to be found guilty of squeezing Scripture in a headlock until it blesses me the way I wish, regardless of its intent or original meaning. So, having established the grammatical-historical-literary whats-it of the text, I always ask myself how this text is about Christ, and how it is for me and the saints.
As far as I can tell, this is necessarily typological. Jonah is a type of Christ, the whale a type of the grave, the spitting out a type of resurrection, and Ninevah a type of those who hear and believe, right? Right.
Now Genesis 32. Jacob wrestles with a man long into the night, and when the man sees he can’t win, he touches Jacob’s hip and cripples him. Then he asks to be let go because day has broken, and as everyone knows, dawn is when all fighting with the supernatural must cease. Jacob refuses to let go unless the man blesses him, and so the man gives Jacob a new name: Israel, “he strives with God.” So Jacob lets him go, and now Jews don’t eat the sinew on the thigh. And pray with me. Every head bowed and every eye closed, if you’ve never accepted Jesus into your heart…
No really, what is going on? I still don’t know for sure, but I think that last part gives an insight into typology that I’d like to chase down. Genesis 32:32 says “Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socked of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.” Jacob’s thigh is present in some sense in every thigh, and every time butchering day comes around, the Jews are reminded again that their nation is founded on the faithfulness of their God not to destroy stubborn Jacob.
This is a function of all those stories told in the Old Testament, a function of the earthiness of Scripture. For those with eyes to see, every thigh is Jacob’s thigh, every meal a Paschal feast, every lamb the lamb of God, every tree a cross, every Lord’s Day the Day of the Lord. We know this principle which McClendon calls the “This is That” instinctively, which is why brides wear white, why some people never wear funeral clothes twice. What is it that Lewis says? “Every bush (could we but perceive it), a Burning Bush.” The holy things of God are earthy to make the things of earth holy.
I’m returned from my trip about a week and a half ago, and since I didn’t write down any of the ideas which came to me while I was away, I have forgotten all of them. Would Socrates be proud or ashamed? Probably he would feel vindicated.
That’s not the only reason I haven’t blogged since my return, however. It seems that, while I was away, I developed a case of what I have begun to call grid poisoning.
I have a laptop and a smartphone, and I think that they are both gifts from God for the work of the kingdom and for my enjoyment. However, I occasionally go through phases where I am checking my social media and favorite internet haunts more often, and this sometimes produces a bit of an internet addiction. When this happens, I become incredibly attached to my phone, checking Facebook and Twitter constantly, looking at different meme sites throughout the day, and salivating like Pavlov’s dog whenever I hear that little notification ding.
Now, that’s not exactly wrong, in itself. I don’t think of the above paragraph as a description of grid poisoning, necessarily. Grid poisoning takes a step further. It is characterized by two things in particular- a need for novelty, and an unhealthy dependance.
When I get this addicted to being plugged in, I develop a need to see, hear, or read new things constantly. They don’t have to be good, or funny, or profound in any way- they just have to be new. I will scroll Twitter endlessly, just looking for things I haven’t seen before. Old things, things I know well, don’t satisfy. This is a problem because “things I know well” is a list that includes such items as close friends, my Bible, and all my interests. These lose their appeal because they aren’t new enough. That’s what I mean when I say grid poisoning (for me) is characterized by this need for novelty.
Possibly worse than that is the unhealthy dependence on the grid that I develop. When struck by grid poisoning, my phone is the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night. It is my go-to when I am bored, or have a single moment of down-time. No thinking, no praying, no meditating- just the beautiful unearthly glow of the screen. It’s truly unhealthy.
Can you identify with me? I know I’m not the only believer who struggles with this.
Obviously (I hope it’s obvious) this is a problem, one I am prayerfully trying to deal with. So far, I have a few solutions that I have come up with. None of these gets at the heart issue; that’s a different post. These are just tiny logistical things, but ones which can helpful, if done in a spirit of prayer and reliance upon God. Here we go:
First, I have deleted my Facebook app from my phone along with that most pervasive of evils, Angry Birds. Twitter isn’t as much a problem, and I see a lot of good stuff on Twitter, but it knows that it is on probation, and will delete it if it becomes a time-sucker.
Second, I no longer sleep with my phone right next to my bed. I still use it as my alarm, but I place it on the other side of the room, and sometimes turn on airplane mode so I won’t receive any notifications at night.
Third, I have resolved that my Bible will be the first thing I read in the morning, and the last thing I read at night. This way, my addiction to the grid helps me, because when I wake up and the first thing I want to do is check my email, I know that I need to read my Bible first, and usually upon opening it I find it so much more satisfying than my phone, so the spell is broken.
Like I said up at the top, I think that the internet, social media, and these electronic devices are good, and are given my God for the promotion of his glory and the good of his people. But like all good things, they can be twisted. I don’t want that to happen, and I confess that it has happened too frequently.
If you’re with me on this, then I hope these suggestions have been helpful. And if you have any more logistical tips for breaking the addiction, leave them in the comments below- thanks.
I’ve been shamefully inactive the last two weeks- my apologies to you four regular readers. I hope I haven’t lost any of you.
This last Sunday I preached (if the past tense of teach is taught, shouldn’t the past tense of preach be praught?) from Isaiah 6 at Faith Baptist, and in preparation I ran into that age-old problem of too much material (probably better than too little), so I decided to put the overflow here. I’ll just post on Isaiah until I run out of things to say, and though you may fall asleep reading it the same as you would in church, I don’t think your Sunday roast will burn, so we just might finish ahead.
I love verse six of the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns, and its imagery is partly taken from Isaiah 6:
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above in beauty glorified,
No angel in the sky can full bear that sight,
But downward bend his burning eye at mysteries so bright.
In Isaiah 6 these seraphim (literally “burning ones”) are flying around the Lord on his throne, and Isaiah describes that each has six wings; with two he covers his eyes, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies around, shouting this refrain of God’s holiness and glory to the other seraphim.
Think of it- burning six-winged angels, the sort of beings which we would be tempted to worship if we saw now, cannot look at God. Why not? These are perfect beings. Isaiah’s terror at seeing God comes from the fact that he is a man of unclean lips, but the seraphim have no such problem. I think this helps us to understand what it means for God to be holy. God’s holiness is not simply an absence of sin- if this were the case, unfallen angels would be equal in holiness to God. God’s holiness is a positive quality, not the lack of a negative quality. God is totally other, totally unique, totally above- so much so that these terrifying fiery angels with all wings and who knows what else may not even look at him. This is amazing to me.
What is even more amazing is that when next we are in God’s presence, we won’t have to avert our eyes. We don’t have the same rules for etiquette that perfect angelic beings have when it comes to God. When I see Jesus, I will look him full in the face, right into those burning eyes, and I won’t be consumed.
I’ll see God, and I won’t be undone, I won’t be struck dead, I won’t even be ashamed- I’ll be complete. How about that.
Another segment on sovereignty from a letter I wrote to a friend a while back:
How is my belief in God’s sovereignty a motivation for holiness? Because only in the Lord are righteousness and strength (Isaiah 45:24). Because he shall accomplish all his purposes (Isaiah 46:10-11), and one of those is that I should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:4). Because even though “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God,” and “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever,” “I will thank you forever, because you have done it” (Psalm 52:8-9). Done what? Well, in New Testament language we might say “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).I can pursue holiness in the confidence that I toil with all his energy that he works within me (Colossians 1:29). I will strive and sweat and bleed and work, work harder than any, knowing that it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). I am motivated to holiness because I am confident that he will equip me with everything good that I may work his do his will as he works in me that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:21). In short, I can work out my own salvation with fear and with trembling, for it is God works in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). How can I not pursue holiness when my great God and Savior has ensured it?
Another fourfold, this one on sin and death.
“Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” Do you believe that? Someday God will tread iniquity underfoot- don’t get so attached that you cannot escape. Sin is sin. It is sinful. It is real. It is an enemy in the Christian soul. Like its master, it seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy. Sin may be an inescapable fact of the Christian experience, but it need not be so for the Christian life. “Count yourselves dead to sin,” said the apostle. How? By dying. What are crosses for if not to die upon?
Don’t be surprised that you must die. You aren’t the first one to pass through dark waters. It was fitting for the Captain of our salvation to be made perfect through suffering- will we not follow him, our victorious slain Lamb?
God is a showman; he knows it is more impressive to create a nation in the desert than in the land of milk and honey, and so he does it, with a pillar of fire for proper effect, lest his people begin to believe that manna is merely a new meteorological phenomenon in the Middle East.
I say God is a showman; he knows it is more impressive to keep someone alive in death than in trials. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Put to death, therefore, that which is earthly in you.” It does not matter how beautiful a butterfly’s wings are, if the body they are attached to is still that of a caterpillar.
One of the unavoidable features of death is that it requires dying, this is true. But the question that must be asked is, what are we dying to? Self. Sin. Death. It is only in death that we may live because the principle of entropy itself has been turned on its head. The river Styx stands between us and the call to “come, all who are thirsty,” but having gone beneath its waters to emerge on the other side, we realize that it was not Styx, but Jordan, that we have crossed. This may be frightening, but what is the alternative? Eternal animated death? There is no hope for the harvest if the seeds are not planted.
“Come to me, all who are heavy laden, and find rest for your souls. Take my yoke [read “cross”] upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Don’t be afraid to die. There is a friend closer than a brother waiting on the other side.
New job, new digs, new neighborhood- I feel like a brand new man. And I feel so convicted about that.
I just got an internship I had been pushing for, and with it the opportunity to move seven miles north of Downtown Minneapolis, where I’ve been for the last three years. It’s no secret that I’ve always disliked the city, so living on the edge is much nicer. My house is much bigger and better than anything I’ve had in the last few years, so I feel like I’m living in a palace. And to top it off, I get to spend much more of my time in ministry at a church I enjoy- put it all together and I feel like a whole new me.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s not wrong to enjoy any of those things, and it’s not wrong to want make the push to do things differently in new circumstances, but this feels like an identity shift- I can feel myself looking to this happy conflation to make me a newer, better person. It won’t.
There are any number of reasons why it won’t, but one of them is simply that I can’t get any newer than I am now, excepting the new body I get when Jesus comes back. I’m new- I’m absolutely new, and it’s because Jesus made me new, not because I got a chance to distance myself from the mistakes I made yesterday.
I don’t think this is abstract, and I don’t think it’s semantics. See, when I feel new because I’m operating in a new capacity at work, or because I bought a new pair of sweet sunglasses, I act differently- don’t you? But that difference in the way I act is shaped by the thing which made me feel that way, and it only lasts as long as the thing which made me that way is new. As soon as the shades get scratched, I’m no longer promenading around with my chin held high and my chest puffed out (this is just an example- I’m not the promenading type; more of an ambler). But when Christ makes me new, he makes me like him, and my new way of life lasts as long as he does. And the way I think about that matters. “Put on the new self,” Paul says, “created after the image of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
So if you see me sashaying around like I own the place, feel free to remind me who made me new- who really made me new.