Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

March 6, 2007

Ash Wednesday + 11

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 9:25 pm

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

Look at that closely and you will realize that you just got a breather on the crushing theses that I have been relating in this series.

What the above actually says is this: The works of the righteous are not deadly sins only when they fear that they are deadly sins. That still sounds pretty damaging to our pride though, doesn’t it?

Consider this quote:"To trust in works, (works that one ought to do in fear) is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. To please oneself, to enjoy one’s own works is completely wrong and is to adore onself as an idol. He who is self-confident and without fear of God acts entirely in this manner. For if he had fear, he would not be self-confident and would not be pleased with himself but would be pleased with God."

Our day is living through a drought as regards the fear of God. "It’s just not cool to keep on talking about our God-buddy in terms of this stifling fear. That’s just so old testament". When we reluctantly do finally allow this concept to seep in to our psyche, we get very creative with the word fear. We somehow give ourselves permission to take great liberties with the language.

Oddly, when God himself tells us to fear him, he talks baby talk to us. Since we don’t have the mind of God, since we don’t have a one-to-one copy of God’s knowledge on any point, we have to understand the admonition to fear him as information accomodated to our creatureliness. For us to take that revelation and further accomodate it to our own dispositions (by means of our creativity with the word fear) we are moving away from truth not toward it.

Examples in scripture (showcasing  this thought) are not hard to find. Ex 3:1-6 is certainly understated but the point is clear. Is. 6:1-5 is the chair passage for why it’s a bad idea to saunter into God’s presence (Isaiah was a prophet of God and a believer in Christ).

So, I think the point is that fear is the appropriate posture to take as insurance against the possibility that we might be enamoured of our own good works just a little.

As a parting thought, and in this context an absolutely spectacular proclamation of the gospel, check out  Rev. 1:17.

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  1. I have a relative who is a very rich homosexual man. He’s old now, in his 80’s I think. I visited him recently for the first time in 15 years or so. It was a bizarre encounter.

    At first I was totally appalled at the man. Here was a guy who was sort of like the Emperor in the original Star Wars movies. He was like walking death. By that, I don’t mean that he didn’t have any life in him. No, he was alert and quick witted, though his body was clearly quite near the grave, seemingly. No, but the life in him was death, if that makes any sense. He was alive by bitterness. Hatred is his life force. Rage is what wakes him up in the morning. All of it rage toward God.

    I am a seminary student, and that did not go over well. He was sometimes overt, sometimes covert in his rage against God. But the best way that I can describe it is this. Here was a man who wanted everyone around him to worship him. He wanted to cover the image of God reflected in those around him. He wanted to splash mud on us, if we were mirrors of God’s glory, that he might not see that glory.

    As I reflected on these things during the thankfully short visit, I realized that I was just like him.

    Prior to my reformed days, I too wanted everyone around me to worship me. I had a very carefully crafted personae that was designed to elicit that worship. Everything I did was designed around that. I could have very easily ended up just like him, but for the grace of God in Christ.

    So in a trip that started out appalling, disturbing, and profoundly sad, I ended up feeling profoundly humble, as if I had just seen my alternate future in the flesh, realizing that God had given me a vision of sorts of what I could have been. Indeed, what I should have been.

    Imagine that you are running late to get to the airport on time, but when you get halfway there, you realize that you’ve forgotten something essential, and you have to go back for it. Cursing fate, you go back home, retrieve the item, and speed as fast as you can to the airport. But you get stuck in traffic. Cursing fate yet again, convinced that God himself is working against you, you plunge on and get to the airport, only to find it very difficult to park, because apparently everyone is flying today. But you finally park the car, and you think you might still make your flight, because you had planned on being early. So you go in, only to find abnormally long lines to check your bags and to go through security, which was particularly meticulous due to a bomb threat. Running to the gate, you arrive 5 minutes after your plane had pulled away and begun its trip to the runway.

    Exhausted, frustrated, mad at the world, cursing God and the world which conspires against you, you bitterly lean your head against the window to watch the plane you should have been on take off.

    Only to see it burst into flame, killing everyone on board instantly.

    In that moment, you realize that it should have been you on that plane. You should have been dead right now.

    That’s what it was like seeing this relative for me.

    May you learn too that this is how we should view people like Michael Jackson, and any other monster who walks the face of the earth.

    That should have been me.

    But it wasn’t, because it pleased God to redeem me.

    Let us be humble when we consider these things, and be ever more grateful for the grace that God has given us, and let us not harden our hearts. Because this is why these people do the things they do, that God might show you what should have been you.

    Rom 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

    Rom 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    Rom 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–

    Be humble, and tremble before your God, and remember that we too were slaves in the land of Egypt, and that despite this, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, so let us worship him acceptably with reverance and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

    Repent, or you too shall perish.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 7, 2007 @ 1:35 am

  2. I still don’t fully grasp what it really means to FEAR God.

    Comment by 5najeras — March 12, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  3. 5,

    Imagine a man comes up to you and puts a gun to your head and says that he’s going to kill you because of something you did to him. He’s sreaming and red faced and sweat is covering his brow. You have never seen anyone so full of rage, and the barrel is right against your temple.

    In your terror, you can barely speak. You’re thinking of your children, your husband – what will happen to them if this man kills you? And with a bullet to the head, they’ll have to have a closed casket.

    But you manage to eek out the words, “Please…don’t…”

    He leans in and stares at you, eye to eye, then slowly lowers the gun, and begins to calm down a little. “Alright,” he says, “I won’t kill you.”

    How would you feel about that person? Would you say, “Hey, great! Well, I’m hungry, you wanna come to McDonald’s with me and get a Big Mac?”

    How you would feel about that person is a little bit like how you should feel about God.

    Here’s the differences. The death God threatens us with is ETERNAL. Much, much more serious of a threat than having a gun to your head.

    It is worse than death, in fact. Consider simply the Bible’s saying that hell is like being cast out into the outer darkness. Have you ever been in the pitch black, in darkness so thick you could almost feel it? I hate the dark. I still sleep with a nightlight. I have to. Pitch black and me don’t get along. Now imagine that darkness lasting FOREVER. There’s never going to be any light ever again. You will never see colors again, or see another human being. You will never see the sun or feel the warmth of its rays ever again. You will never see your spouse, your children, your parents, anyone. Forever. You won’t even see a shade of gray. You will never know what your environment looks like. Will you be on solid ground, or just floating in nothingness forever? Even if there is ground beneath your feet, you’d be too afraid to walk anywhere, because you wouldn’t be able to see where you were going. Maybe you’d just walk over a cliff – which ordinarily wouldn’t sound so bad, because then at least you’d die, but you’re in hell forever, dying forever. There is no escape. If you fell over a cliff, you’d just be in a lot of pain – you wouldn’t die.

    But the darkness isn’t all, there’s also the wrath of God, the mental torment of being totally given over to the sinful nature. Total and complete hatred toward God. Insanity like no one has ever conceived of. And the darkness.

    Serial murderers are pretty bad, and child molestors are possibly worse, right? They aren’t given over completely to the sinful nature. They could always be worse. But for those who go to hell, they will be completely given over to rage against God. Jeffrey Dahmer? Kids’ stuff. Jack the Ripper? Nothing. The torment of someone who desperately wants to commit suicide but can’t? Not even close to the agony in store in hell.

    The gun in God’s hand pointed at our heads makes guns look like toys.

    That’s a big difference.

    But there is another difference.

    The man in the story who holds a gun to your head, red faced and sweaty? Well, when he lowers the gun, you continue to fear him because you don’t trust him. You are still afraid of him. Sure, he lowered the gun and said Ok, but how could I trust this madman who just put a gun to my head?

    Obviously, God is quite different. God is faithful. Utterly trustworthy. He cannot lie. If he lowers the gun and says that he won’t kill you, he won’t.

    And what has God said?

    There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

    The gun has been laid aside, and he will not pick it up again. God satisfied his wrath: he took it out on his Son rather than on you. Believe me, God didn’t just lay aside his justice. Justice had to be served. Jesus paid for you. He satisfied justice for you. He stepped in between you and the gun, and God pulled the trigger, and he died. But then he rose from the dead, and you were vindicated, even as he was vindicated.

    But there’s more.

    In the story, you could barely mouth the words, “Please…don’t…” But when it comes to God, you are completely unable to mouth any words begging for mercy at all, until and unless he breathes his life into you, which is his Holy Spirit, who brings life and faith and sunshine and warmth into your heart, stirring it, quickening it, making it alive, moving you to say, “Father have mercy on me, a sinner!”

    What does it mean to fear God? It means you have perceived reality clearly. It means you understand a little bit about who God is and how he operates toward us. It means understanding what your salvation really means, because you understand what you have been saved from.

    And what have you been saved from, hell?

    No. You have been saved from God.

    If you doubt it, look at the book of Hosea, e.g., chapter 13, where God says that he will judge his people, and he will be to them like a wild animal, tearing them to pieces, tearing their hearts out of their chest, ripping open the mothers who are with child and even the infants will not survive. It’s quite BRUTAL imagery. And this is the judgment God pronounced on his people.

    But in the midst of all that judgment and terror, God says something strange.

    Where, O Death is your sting,
    Where, O Grave is your victory?

    Paul quotes this in 1 Cor 15, talking about how this will be fulfilled when Christ returns and we are raised from the dead.

    The meaning in Hosea is, yes, death will come to Israel, but there is a redemption to be had on the other side of death, for death will be deprived of its captives, and we shall be changed.

    On one hand, we have nothing to fear from God, because he will not and in fact cannot judge us if we are in Christ Jesus.

    On the other hand, we have EVERYTHING to fear from God, because, well, he’s God.


    Comment by Echo_ohcE — March 12, 2007 @ 11:28 pm

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