Tag Archives: works

Wedding Dress

I was reading one of my favourite blogs this morning, experimental theology, the blog is the work of Dr. Richard Beck.

He posted this song by Derek Webb (someone I have not heard of, that went solo from a band I am equally ignorant of)

If you could love me as a wife
and for my wedding gift, your life
Should that be all I’d ever need
or is there more I’m looking for

and should I read between the lines
and look for blessings in disguise
To make me handsome, rich, and wise
Is that really what you want

I am a whore I do confess
But I put you on just like a wedding dress
and I run down the aisle
and I run down the aisle
I’m a prodigal with no way home
but I put you on just like a ring of gold
and I run down the aisle to you

So could you love this bastard child
Though I don’t trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side

I am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take a little cash
Over your very flesh and blood

Because money cannot buy
a husband’s jealous eye
When you have knowingly deceived his wife

It’s a striking song for me, and seems to comment quite well on what I’ve come think of as comfortable Christianity. The Christianity that so many seem trapped in and I would have to include myself in that statement. A Christianity that accepts actions and lifestyles that, if perpetrated against any one of us, would result in mouth froth inducing anger and self pity.

If I consider the disparity between my claim of a love for Jesus, and my actions much of the time, a sane rational observer could quite reasonably call me a liar.

Once again I can only feel absolute relief because I know that God is full of grace, and that in Christ there is no condemnation. It’s not my works that save me, or increase my stature in God’s eyes. I do think it is critical to consider the issues of faith and conviction that a song like this raises, as a measuring stick against just how I am doing in the arena of loving God with all my heart, mind and soul.

Most Christians have knowledge that exceeds their obedience, which is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it can be considered a normal state of affairs. We must just be careful not to end up chasing knowledge, while not seeking the discipline to increase our obedience in line with our knowledge. Many Christians leave a church because they feel they are not being fed, that the sermons are not challenging or deep enough. It would be interesting for me to hear of people moving churches because they were not being encouraged and discipled into obedience in line with their growing knowledge.

Watch Derek Webb perform “wedding dress” live at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvQRd7D9BDM&feature=player_embedded

(Richard Beck linked it, i’ll be a sheep. I hope it’s not a gross breach of copyright or something)

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Somebody elses problem (ist)

The only SEP's that have an excuse

The only SEP's that have an excuse

You’re quite excited about climate change, you’ve read all the articles and you know lots of url’s. If someone comes and refutes the claim that anthropogenic climate change is real you have your argument all set out and ready to go. You know it’s real, anyone who is not barking bat crazy knows it’s real. However, many people seem rather barking bat crazy. Things take rather a long time to filter into the common man’s head, usually it has to be forced in under pressure. That pressure might eventually end up being a stonking great wall of ice, inching its way slowly down the local high street. But obviously by then it’s all too late. It often has to be something rather large and imminently obvious to humans before we wake up and realise the actual impact on us.

Our brains seem rather poorly adapted to thinking for the future. Or if we do start to take notice, it’s usually a rather separated event. The thinking is that someone better clean up this mess soon, as it’s clearly someone’s rather large problem. It’s possibly our brain matters affinity for physics, except the human consciousness seems to be of rather larger mass than our physical size would hint at, therefore it takes things of epic proportions to get us out of rest and into motion, however we tend to go back to rest without any seeming effort whatsoever. Someone should discover the law governing human actions remaining at rest and work unless acted upon by a species killing event (to be clear, it has to be OUR species that is being killed, we will kill other species with the wild and reckless abandon of a toddler feeding itself ice cream).  That right there, is it, there are two categories described within which the majority of the population sits. The naysayers or denialists and the somebody-elses-problemists.

The denialists quite obviously don’t do anything about it, but the somebody-elses-problemists are generally the largest group and they don’t do anything about it either. The somebody-elses-problemists (let’s call them SEP’S from here on out, for the sake of my ctrl, c and v keys) read the articles, know all there is to know about the issue, so they know quite clearly what other people best get doing about it, while they continue to behave exactly the way they always have. Anthropogenic climate change is like voting, it takes lots of votes for someone to win, lots of votes are made up of individual votes. Without the individual votes you can’t make lots of votes. That’s like ‘mathematics’, or sex, something we seem to understand really well. It’s also something that is done by people, you’re a people… you do something about it. With enough you’s doing something about it that makes lots and like magic… you have the climate not trying to eliminate us, and you have someone that isn’t catastrophically horrible running the country.

These two categories don’t only exist for climate change, they are evident for many large issues. People will align themselves with a cause intellectually, be ridiculously verbose about it… often at the most awkward times, with a verbosity that would make aunty gossip silent. Indeed, some people seem to be spoiling for a fight and their greatest desire seems to be to offend someone with their passionate intellectual alignment to the cause. However when you examine things closely the belief as only intellectual, there is no evidence in activities and the persons decision-making at all. Christianity tends to be that for many people as well. An intellectual assent to some cleverly put argument. However, if someone comes and refutes that cleverly put argument then you sit with a crisis of faith. If the salvation is not of God, a supernatural event orchestrated by him then that’s what you end up with, people intellectually aligning themselves, sometimes passionately, with a belief. You end up with a focus group meeting however often, usually at least once a week on Sundays, with people taking little tidbits of information on how to live a better life. That often ties in with the arrogance I spoke of in another post. Because the person now has God behind him, his personal opinion has supernatural authority, and is therefore right. His morality is quite obviously superior to anyone else’s morality. After all, how can a Godless heathen deign to compete on any kind of moral ground with a believer in God?

Sadly, the one who intellectually agrees, that sits in n amount of church gatherings gaining knowledge like a window shopper, never making any item his own, generally does not have the immovable base for morality that they think they do. Their morality, that they claim to be getting from an unchangeable source, is coloured rather heavily by their culture. The window shopping Christian looks at many items they like, remembers their location and can describe them really well. However they do not take the responsibility of purchasing those items and living with all the consequences of that responsibility.

To go back to the earlier example of climate change. There is a difference between being a card-carrying fan club member and actually being someone who’s life shows the evidence of their convictions. In the same way, there is a vast difference between being someone who has faith in their intellectual agreement with an idea, and someone who’s life bares the evidence of the fruit of obedience.

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.

I am given to understand that in Hebrew, the method used for emphasis is repetition. If we were to emphasise this it would be to put it in italics, or bold or if we spoke it we would shout. This can be seen as saying Not everyone who emphatically declares me to be Lord. So be careful of being a SEP (you are not a polar bear, for them it really IS somebody elses problem to fix) or a card-carrying member of the Jesus fan club. Examine yourself, determine whether your life showing the obedience to the will of the Father.

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Comfortable Grace

Manflu, a powerful disease.

I have heard very many, if not most, women that moan about how their significant other is a giant ball of baby when he gets sick. It’s true, when I have flu I’m completely useless. There’s that advert for some flu remedy with the background voice going “paaaaiiin, heeeaaaadache” and then the ad reveals it is actually some male ball of sick death in the bedroom crying out his symptoms to his wife. It’s a very funny ad, I think. The men scoff and deny the picture, while the women all nod their heads knowingly. I believe they secretly think it’s worse than the advert depicts. Anyway, so I think men do behave as if they are on the verge of death if they even consider any work. It’s like something came to enforce the ‘keeping the Sabbath holy’ on pain of death. But, here’s the thing. We behave like we are about to die because we are about to die. Men are stronger than women, and our immune systems are just that much stronger again, so for a bug to defeat us, it must be one heck of a super bug. It’s so powerful it doesn’t bother with the weaker adversary that is women, it just goes for the worthy foe, man. So while women get lady flu, and it is by all means bad and what not. Men get MAN flu and that is just so much worse, we behave like we are sicker because we are. The tricky thing about this is that you have to be a man to experience it. It’s about experience, not about argument. It’s not a chauvinist thing either, even though it’s really well disguised as one. It’s a matter of fact, like the fact that men are just uglier than women. Below is the proof, 2 pictures: Normal Lady Flu.

Lady virus

Lady virus bug

 Man Flu death

Please note the tactical nukes

Please note the tactical nukes

Why mention all this deep truth and biological wisdom? Man (-kind, humans, people, us) encounters a tiny, tiny bug, and there are visible signs. Verbosity of discomfort increases exponentially, noses run, stumbling about due to dizziness and tiredness occurs, throats are sore, ears ache, and there’s the coughing up of all manner of unspeakable things.

Slimer (you remember the ghost busters?) is not actually a ghost, he is the product of manflu, just so you know

So, this most long and windiest of points is that you have visible symptoms of this encounter with something tiny. Influenza brings about symptoms, I cannot claim to have it and twinkle about as if all is well and I can actually smell the roses… or anything. If I did, you would call me a liar (or possibly accuse me of only having lady flu). In the same way, Christianity is not some kind of intellectual assent to a series of questions. I don’t believe that salvation is man looking ‘up’, seeing the creator, the God of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and all that, and going “yah, ok, I’ll believe in you” and then just going about his daily life as if nothing was different. Or even doing all of the above and behaving as if nothing was different except for the expectation that blessing should now fall abundantly on said persons head. “But, now I believe in Father Christmas, I should get stuff!”

The previous blog post was about our unwarranted, and ‘unworkable for’, salvation. That it is only by grace, there is nothing we did, or can do to merit Gods love, or somehow increase it. However, in a similar fashion I don’t think it’s possible to have any kind of revelation along these lines and to remain the same. There are going to be symptoms of this salvation. It only makes sense that there will be. Many will be intangible, or complicatedly quantifiable by third parties. In other words other people don’t have any right to point at you and proclaim salvation or no salvation because they don’t see the things they expect. No one has the power or the authority to proclaim a man saved except God. However, scripture blatantly says to us that we should examine ourselves, test to see whether we have any kind of assurance of the proclamation of salvation. In many places scripture then gives us a mirror with which to introspect. Are these things true in your life, can you say that these things are happening and growing? If the answer is yes, then your assurance is great, if the answer is no then I would say that you should be seeking the answer as to why it is not the case.

When many preachers talk about these ‘evidences of salvation’ many people start to cry legalism. But it isn’t about doing those things to get salvation, it is about seeing those things happening in greater and greater measure and getting greater and greater assurance of being under Grace. This implies that there is no effort required, but I don’t think that is the case either. Often, the greatest evidence for me is a change of desire, you desire your sinful act, after being given the revelation of Jesus your desire changes. You no longer love the sin, you hate it. You genuinely do not want to commit the sin that once you might have secretly wanted to commit, while outwardly claiming not to want it. Then as we grow, we are sanctified in greater and greater measure and more and more things are revealed to us. I dislike the rather common preaching which essentially says that it doesn’t matter what you do in your life, if you said that magic mantra at any point in your life, you have been saved. Scripture does not teach this, it teaches self-examination, it teaches that those who hold firm to the end will be saved. It teaches that Grace is a free unwarranted gift, but this Gift brings about a new nature. A new creation, God has begun a work. This work has tangible effects! You cannot be the recipient of this free gift and not experience a fundamental change. The person that claims he is saved but is comfortable in his sins, that is not driven, encouraged and disciplined by the Holy Spirit needs to start to wonder why this is the case. Scripture would not teach that the Lord disciplines the ones he loves if this were not the case. If there is no discipline in a child’s life when they do things wrong, then you can say that they have derelict parents. God is not a derelict parent, you will fall under his loving discipline.

You will note the lack of specific scriptural reference, in this post, that is intentional. You must go and do the work, find the things in scripture that I claimed were there.

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Comfortable work

Take 2 young men, this is a list of their most in your face assets.

Young Man 1 (referred to from here on as YM1)

  1. 2009 Nissan GT-R
  2. R1 700 000 apartment in the most affluent suburb in Johannesburg
  3. Hugo boss suits
  4. Tag Heuer watches

 Young Man 2 (referred to from here on as YM2)

  1. 2009 Audi RS-4
  2. R1 200 000 apartment in a trendy up and coming suburb in Johannesburg
  3. Hugo Boss suits
  4. Guess Watches 

On the face of it, YM1 is in the lead and first impressions of YM1 will be greater than of YM2, Fancier cars and apparel. YM2 is nothing to snort at as he seems to be doing well, he’s just not as impressive. Now imagine you find out that YM1 was the son of a rich man, and all that he possesses is as a result of his father’s generosity. While YM2 has worked his way from a standard to lower middle class lifestyle, study loans and all, to get where he is. Immediately the impressions switch. YM2 becomes far more impressive than YM1. YM2 will command more respect from many people because of the hard work that he had to put in to get where he is. Even if YM2 had a VW beetle and lived in a 1 bedroom flat in poorsville, but came up from nothing. Therefore it seems respect is directly proportional to effort. 

As a species we are impressed by work, the one that had to work to get where he is, is regarded far more highly than the one that got there by the generosity of others. This is proven and highlighted rather sharply by the fact that we will avoid asking for financial help from others without the agreement being that we will pay that money back. Picture the kid from the movie ‘the grudge’ or ‘the ring’ now add cold sores… and a wart, we avoid bringing nothing in our hands and asking for a handout as violently as one would avoid that terrifying creation. We tend to avoid it because we have the impression that this is deserving of some contempt. In quite a few conversations I have been in, this principle is evident in the phrases “yes but that was given to him by his daddy” or “yes but he is a giant mommy’s boy, where do you think he got the money for that house?” You might think I am building up to some great climax in which work is what is deserving of contempt and free gifts are where the secret lies. You are right, I am… more shall be revealed later.

Because the above tends to generally be the natural reaction of most people, we strive to earn anything that we have. Which is not a negative thing, I do not mean to imply that, in the material, work is bad, or that working to earn money is a bad thing. That would be a silly position to take. What I am working towards is that man tends to do the same thing with salvation, to a greater or lesser degree depending on personal preference I guess… This is evident in any religion you pick, pretty much every religion indicates that your entry into the afterlife depends on your performance here. Generally if your good outweighs your bad, then the scales tip in your favour and you’re in. “oh no! That’s where Christianity is different” I hear you cry! Well, yes and no. That is where Christianity is supposed to be different, but as it is practiced by a great majority, it isn’t. So many people point to an event in the past where there was a prayer that was repeated. The scriptural proof and evidence that this was sufficient and guaranteed salvation is that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

If a crisis of belief arises, a question is put forward to the poor individual going through said crises, of the magnitude of the sincerity of the prayer. If you really, really believed what you said, then it’s just doubt creeping in rebuke Satan, and get on with your life. The problem with the prayer of salvation methodology still gives the impression that because you did something that God owes you. You will get to heaven, present your salvation chit and now he owes you entrance. The idea that God did it all, that you could not even choose to follow him without his Grace allowing you to choose to follow him, is pretty uncomfortable to us. We want to have earned it in some way. Even if a person acknowledges that it was all Grace. Grace that called, Grace that allowed a response and Grace that saved, there develops a natural tendency to want to now earn that Grace. I don’t believe that is scriptural at all. We are told that it is Grace that calls us, that Grace allows us to respond positively and Grace that saves us. It also says that Grace calls us not because any redeemable quality is found in the called person, but only because of God’s good pleasure. The magnitude of your sincerity while praying your prayer is irrelevant. Or put another way, because you said a prayer with great sincerity does not give any assurance of salvation.

Ephesians 1: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (KJV)

This means that the reason God chose any of his children was for his own Glory. Not because you are somehow special. This should always ring in the heads of truly regenerate Christians so that there is no boasting and no arrogance. I have an atheist friend or two, and one of the principle irritants found in many Christians for them is smugness. A communication that somehow there is a superior morality or something in them now that they are Christians, or because they are Christians. The communication extends to “if you become a Christian, you will become special, like me”. This is not always a direct verbal thing, but often tends to be impression given. Where scripture says that God found no inherent worth in you at all, there wasn’t something special in you that warranted or earned his favour. The regenerate Christian is YM1, his salvation is a free, unwarranted gift from the Father. There is nothing he did to earn it in any way at all, and there is nothing he can continue to do to work back any debt he might perceive himself to have.

Romans 12: 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (KJV)

In light of everything Christ did for us (for a full run down read the rest of Romans) we are told that offering our bodies as living sacrifices is the only reasonable thing to do. And it is, if you truly believe the real gospel, and have been regenerated by God, then there is no other response that would make sense. It’s senseless for a man that ignores his children, and goes out with his friends every day, to claim to love his children. It is equally senseless for a man to claim to love God, and all that this then implies, and not offer his life as a living sacrifice.

Giant climax hinted at earlier

Works, with respect to earning salvation, are a thing worthy of contempt and the secret lies not in anything you can bring to the table; it is in a free gift that the secret lies. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling.

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