Archive for February, 2011

Perseverance

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Life
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(In honor of the dawning of the Aaron Rogers era…)

By the grace of God, perseverance is something I’m learning about right now. My less than earth shattering take away: perseverance is much more do-able in humility.

I hate pride. I mean, hate it. It’s ugly, disgusting, debilitating, imprisoning, etc. It’s the mother that is pregnant with all other sins (Augustine). It separates me from God, from other people, and has had devastating effects on the body of Christ as a whole. 

And with that said, as much as I know I hate pride, I also know that a lot of fruit in my life indicates I still have way too much of it. Count me among the prideful. Among those on a journey of pursuing humility by the grace of God, but will never reach a destination until I go to be with Jesus. In other words, humility seems to be a paradox in that I desire to grow in humility but could never say that I’ve actually achieved it…because that would be a proud thing to say.

And in the midst of trial, hardship, or when I just don’t feel like I’m getting any traction in a particular area of life, humility seems all that much more important. During times when perseverance is difficult, it’s very tempting for me to turn inward and languish in pride and self-pity. And then to eventually become aware of that and say “I need to focus on humility”…which I’ve come to realize recently is still prideful. Because it’s still about me. As my Pastor recently said “Humility is not thinking low of yourself. It’s not thinking of yourself.”

Fail.

I guess the fundamental question is “Who (or what) do I worship?” The Gospel itself is a message rooted in humility. With the Gospel at my center, I realize I don’t “deserve better” than my circumstances. That frankly, all I deserve is hell…everything else is grace. It’s a shift from individualistic entitlement regarding anything and everything to focusing on one thing: Jesus.

That’s amazing. That’s freedom. Freedom from the self-imposed prison of pride and self-will.

“24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  – Acts 20:24

Perseverance looks a lot different in light of the Gospel. And so does everything else.  

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Disturbing Theology

Posted: February 2, 2011 in Theology
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Dave Draiman

Recently I heard a song I hadn’t heard in a while by metal giants “Disturbed”. In addition to various social and political themes, Disturbed’s music often contains spiritual overtones which seem to stem largely from lead singer Dave Draiman’s upbringing as an orthodox Jew. Draiman has since essentially walked away from Judaism and embraced what appears to be some sort of universalistic worldview (Disturbed’s 2002 album entitled “Believe” featured a cover with every major religious symbol rolled into one…) Listening to the laments offered up in Disturbed’s 2005 track “Overburdened”, I’m reminded how Draiman, like all of us, have wrestled with questions surrounding eternal security and what it is that ultimately sets us right with God.

The first few verses of “Overburdened” read as such:

 Hell is still overburdened
I must stand and wait in line
I may never know for certain
When will be my time
How was I considered evil?
Pleasures taken in this life
Someone granted me reprieval
Decades spent in strife

Led to nothing
Repeated in my mind
Led to nothing
If only I was born another time

Hell is still overburdened
I must stand and wait in line
Hell is still overburdened
How have I been so determined malign?

Draiman goes on to say:

Seems I have committed treason
All I’ve sacrificed

Led to nothing

All I hear in listening to this track is summed up in one word: justification. John Calvin once said that justification is the “foundation of all religion”. Every world religion or philosophy seems to have its own take on justification; that is, what puts us into right relationship with God. The doctrine that ultimately split Christianity and served as the catalyst for the Protestant reformation is still as central an issue today as its ever been (truth is timeless isn’t it?). As Martin Luther rightly said, the issue of justification is the issue on which the church “stands or falls.”

Essentially, every man-made religion seems to have designed justification the same way…it’s all about me and what I do. So if I live the right way, make the right sacrifices, do the right things, then God will be pleased with me. I will be set right with God. I will have earned my salvation by my performance.

It’s all about what I do. The Gospel on the other hand, the good news, is the brilliant diamond in the rough of works based theology. It’s the news that changes everything.

The Gospel says it’s not about me. The Gospel says it’s not about what I do. The Gospel says it’s not about my life, my obedience, my sacrifice, or my performance (thank God…). The Gospel says it’s about Jesus’ life, Jesus’ obedience, and Jesus’ sacrifice. The Gospel says I haven’t earned anything but hell; that everything else is by God’s grace. That all who come to trust in the finished work of Christ will be made clean, reconciled to God, and will inherit eternal life.

Christianity is a complete inversion of man-made religion. Every man-made religion involves, not coincidentally, man at its center trying to manipulate himself back to God through white knuckle effort, feats of morality, a spiritual experience, etc. All are a self-salvation project marked by pride and good works.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Eph 2:8-9

Grace really levels the playing field. There isn’t a human being alive that is going to stand before God and be justified by his or her resume (Rom 3:20).

And praise God that we don’t have to. That the triune, Holy God came into human history and did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

Decades spent in strife

Led to nothing

All I’ve sacrificed

Led to nothing

I have good news for Dave Draiman. There’s an answer for all who are overburdened by religion…

 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

 Freedom awaits…