Micah 7:8-10:
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.

Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.

Concerning the Micah 7:8-9, I believe that we can relate to Micah in the seriousness of our sin, the judgment it incurs from God, and faith in God’s character to vindicate the covenant people while judging the unrighteous.  Micah did not lose hope because he knew that God had indignation toward him but instead had faith that God would deal with it justly and also plead his case and vindicate him.  He took sin seriously before God and also reveled in his mercy that he would bring him from the darkness into the light.  God would raise him up and he would be victorious over his enemies.

John Piper explains it this way in relating it as a fight for joy,

In the battle for joy, the difference between Micah’s gusty guilt and “cheap grace” is that Micah takes sin so seriously.  There was a reprehensible fall.  There is real and terrible indignation from God.  There is a time of awful darkness.  There is brokenness, contrition, and remorse as we bear patiently the chastisement of our God.  But in the ashes of our regret, the flame of boldness never goes out.  It may flicker.  But when self or Satan taunts us that we are finished, we lay hold on Micah’s faith–indeed we lay hold on Christ and his righteousness–and say, ‘Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me…He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.  He will bring me out to the light.’ (When I Don’t Desire God p.91)

I guess what I wanted to emphasize is that our sins really grieve God and he is righteously indignant toward us because of them (in the sense that we connect ourselves to sin and Satan instead of sitting under his gracious rule).  We have real, experiential guilt toward him, and we in our sin/disobedience are cut off from experiencing life with him.  In fact, he opposes the proud (and we are proud in our sin). Yet like Micah, we lay hold of his righteous character instead of running from it, knowing that he is faithful to his people and his promises to save them (culminating for Micah and us in Christ; his death, burial, and resurrection).  He will bring us out of the darkness into his light. He gives grace to the humble.

There is no room in Micah’s theology for the thought that because we are justified by God’s free grace and not works that sin isn’t that serious.  Or even that because Christ bore the wrath of God for our sin (a wonderful truth) that our post-Christian sins are not serious before God (Yes, he still hates them).  This is taking God’s grace for granted, “cheap grace”.  Some Jews in Jesus’ time also presumed on God’s grace, believing that because they were related to Abraham they were in the covenant, therefore safe, instead of exercising faith, repentance, and obedience to their covenant God (Luke 3:8; John 8:31-46).  We can do the same when we say, “Oh, were in the New Covenant…don’t worry about it, Christ paid for that sin”, while we don’t take it seriously in our lives.  God’s promise never relinquishes us from obedience to his word.  Satan would have us believe that sin isn’t that serious though, as he says, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4).  But you will die…for God’s word is so (Gen. 2:17).  Sin is that serious.  For Micah it is deadly serious, which is why he dwells in darkness (death) but God will bring him out to the light (life).

Yes, we are justified before God by faith alone in Christ alone (thank God because we are sinners), but using this as a half-truth to promote a view that sin/disobedience is not that serious because we are justified by faith is demonic.  Yes, were sin abounds grace abounds all the more (thank God again) but shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?  MAY IT NEVER BE! (Rom. 6:2) As Martin Luther said, “We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”

Now, to be clear, I understand that objectively were are declared ‘not guilty’ before God based on Christ’s work, but we cannot believe that from that we do not experience guilt that affects our fellowship with God when we continually give ourselves over to sin.  Our sin affects our experience of God’s joy, grace, mercy, and peace.  I do not want to leave the impression that sin objectively condemns us at the same time (and in the same sense) God declares us right based on Christ’s obedience.  But I did want to draw the tension out…to feel it…so that we desire to kill sin because God hates it and to marvel and be encouraged by his grace when we sin.

Let us take sin seriously and make war on it.  Let us say agree with Micah that we will bear the indignation and chastisement of God toward us in our sin and place our faith in his righteousness (ultimately in Christ).  God will rescue and restore his people from the clutches of sin (as I bear witness to you today).  He will raise us up, vindicate us, make us victorious over our enemies (sin and Satan), and make us to see his righteousness.

The phrase “Don’t Waste Your Life”  has echoed in the reformed circles of the Christian world, mostly because of John Piper’s book by the same title.  In it Piper calls us to evaluate American individualistic values and compare them to the biblical values.  Language betrays us here because the very discussion of values is a very American concept.  The Bible speaks of moral virtues in connection to God such as righteousness, faithfulness, godliness, integrity, and honor.  The Bible also gives values to persons and not merely ideas or beliefs, the most valuable treasure being the Lord Jesus Christ.

Another prominent theologian and author, David Wells, makes the point (I think poignantly) in Losing Our Virtue that evangelicalism today has lost its voice in the world because it has accepted the cultural modern and postmodern views of identity and success, which in turn determine our values and how we read Scripture.  We can have, as we often do early in the Christian life, a set of assumption that are un-biblical (or sub-biblical) that color what believe about God, ourselves, and the world.  In Well’s view, parts of the church have accepted and not corrected modern and postmodern assumptions, reading into the Scriptures therapeutic and self-fulfilling ideas about value and self, and then seek to apply those ideas to individual selves in the congregation.  In short, we have accepted cultural norms about what it means to be human and what human need is, then we look to the Scriptures as the key that unlocks that happy human potential (to the distortion of the Scriptures I might add).

Of Course this slippery slope leads necessarily to the distortion of the most important person, Jesus Christ, who is the  apex of Scripture, and leads to idolatry.  In this view, God in Christ functions primarily to fulfill us.

Now what am I getting at?  What does Piper’s and Wells’ thought have to do with anything?  God wants us to be happy right?  Well, half-truths are the things that lies are made out of.  What Piper and Wells (among many others) have pointed out is that we need to recover a biblical anthropology (view of man and his need) for believer and unbeliever alike.  We have accepted modern and postmodern anthropologies (and necessarily their soteriologies) into the church and then sought to apply the Scriptures as the “fix”.  Sort of a “cosmic therapy”.  If fulfillment, in fact true satisfaction, is what people are searching for they will never find it in an idea or in anything created, or in themselves.  They will never be happy with themselves because they are not connected to the One in whom their identity lies–in God himself.  They are made in the Imago Dei (the image of God).  Because they are made in God’s image they are moral beings–moral actors in connection and relation to God.  Their morality is bound up with his morality.  Their character must be a reflection of his character, since they are his image bearers, in order for there to be peace and wholeness within them (Cornelius Plantinga calls this “Shalom”).

This is where the lie of the therapeutic and the commercial cultures find their foot-hold in the Church–in promises of peace and “shalom” in self-fulfillment or material wealth, which have no moral boundaries.  But Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).  But we must also understand that our own righteousness is not good enough, for next Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed the Scribes and the Pharisees (5:20), then to our detriment, that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (5:48).

Relying in our obedience to the law as the ground for our salvation, which is ultimately self-worship again, will not do.  Who can say I am as perfect as God?  Paul reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23).  This puts us in between a rock and a hard place to say it lightly.  But it also shows the different emphases between cultural (modern and postmodern) anthropology and a biblical anthropology; both of these consequently determining our aim and value in practical life.  The culture (and some Christendom) emphasizes the need for man to be fixed and fulfilled to be satisfied and the Bible emphasizes the need for man to be righteous (but also highlights his inability to do so because of sin) to be satisfied.

You see there is one “fix” and it happens to satisfy us and display the very righteousness, mercy, grace, and glory of God himself in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It turns the value system of the world on its head and it should necessarily do the same for us.  We are in need of righteousness; and not just any righteousness, but God’s righteousness.  The old, old story, the timeless truth, is that Christ became unrighteousness on our behalf, satisfying on the cross the righteous judgment of God by absorbing his wrath for sin and experiencing estrangement from God in his abandonment (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-26; Mark 15:34).  He died the death that sin leads to, even though he himself was not a sinner (Rom. 6:10).  He rose on the third day in power and glory (1 Cor. 15; Rom. 6; Col. 2).  He defeated death; he defeated sin.  Those who trust in him receive his life, having been baptized into his death and raised with him, in him, to eternal life (Rom. 6; Col.2).  We have now become new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1-10).  He has taken the guilt and shame of our sin away along with its power over our lives (Heb. 2:11).  We have become righteous in him (2 Cor. 5:21).  United to his righteousness.  This is the gospel.  This is the cure.

If we talk only of the gospel’s benefits in therapeutic or material terms are not talking about the gospel because the gospel includes real guilt brought about by real sin that needs to be really dealt with by God in a righteous way.  We need a real righteousness; a real hunger and thirst for it leading to a real satisfaction.  He has done that graciously in Christ.  He has changed the essence of who we are (we have a new Christian anthropology) and consequently what we value to satisfy our souls.

Lecrae pointed this out to me in his song “Don’t Waste Y0ur Life”, which is why I titled the post the same.  Piper’s influence (his being Johnathan Edward’s…Edward’s ultimately being the Bible) has caught the Church, and now the world of Christians Hip-hop–Lyrical theology.  Through this medium, the truth searched my heart and exposed it’s thought’s and intention’s–it’s values.  Sadly, I realized that I was defaulting to my American culture’s view of what would satisfy me with a small hunger for righteousness and a looming desire for self-(fill in the blank); a small desire for Christ and large desire to appear fulfilled in the eyes of others; all others, except the One, in whom I am complete, lacking in nothing.  In all my searching nothing has ever satisfied but Christ.  Paul rightly warns us in Colossians 2:8-10:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

As Lecrae points out, the ultimate aim of life is found in Christ Alone:

Verse 3:

Suffer, yeah do it for Christ
If you trying to figure what to do with your life
If you making money hope you doing it right
Because the money is God’s you better steward it right
Stay focused, if you ain’t got no ride
Your life ain’t wrapped up in what you drive
The clothes you wear, the job you work
the color your skin, naw we Christian first
People living life for a job
Make a lil’ money start living for a car
Get ‘em a house a wife kids and a dog
When they retire they living high on the hog
But guess what, they didn’t ever really live at all
To live is Christ, yeah that’s Paul I recall
To die is gain so for Christ we give it all
He’s the treasure you’ll never find in the mall

Your money, your singleness, marriage, talent, and time
They were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is divine
That’s why it’s Christ in my rhymes
That’s why it’s Christ all the time
My whole world is built around him He’s the life in my lines
I refuse to waste my life
He’s too true to chase that ice
Here’s my gifts and time cause I’m constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ
If he’s truly raised to life
Then this news should change your life
And by his grace you can put your faith in place that rules your days and nights

Soli Deo Gloria

Reflections on Leading at Together for the Gospel 2010.

Great insights concerning worship from Bob Kauflin’s reflections and circumstances at t4g 2010.  Great insights that we should take into account concerning congregational singing and praise to our God centered around Christ’s person and work applied to us.

The Lord has been counseling me through many means this past dark night.  I have been struggling with indwelling sin: frustration, condemnation, and the fear of man.  He has used many a means of grace…brotherly accountability, fellowship, circumstances, but mainly the ministry of his word and the ministry of my wife.  In this night I have been wallowing in my self-absorption, my pride, and my pretense.  In this time my wife has been selflessly ministering to my needs and counseling me with her love.  She has been doing this in the midst of caring our child full term (her 9th month) and I am sure while suffering with much pressure and physical ailments.  I say this to my shame because I have not nurtured her and cared for her lately like I should be…yet she serves me.  My Pastors have shown much love to me in the preaching of the word and personal attention to my frustration.  In the darkness of my mind the word of God has pierced my hardened conscience with the light of Christ.  He has revealed that I have forsaken my identity and inheritance in the gospel.  I have forsaken Christ and what he has done at great cost to himself.  He has given me his fullness, beauty, power, and strength.  I have not looked at him because my idol has been myself: my reputation, my academics, my needs, my life.  I have so been focused on what others think (or what they should think) about me that I have lost sight of who I am, in Christ.  While working on schoolwork late this night I was listening to messages that proclaims the glorious gospel and affected the preachers to model it. Jeff Vanderstelt reminded me that if I am saturated with the gospel, with who I am in Christ, then I no longer need to live for man’s approval, it is ridiculous to think so.  CJ Mahaney reminded me that when I am concerned with impressing others I have no desire to serve them but only to take from them.  He reminded me of this while confessing his own sin before he preached.  The Lord has used his wonderful means to break into my soul and show me my pretentiousness and my pride.  What a merciful God he is to show us such things.  I have been losing sleep because I am proud.  I have been lacking joy because I am proud.  I have been struggling with sin because I am proud.  I don’t want to live in pretense; I don’t want to live in darkness separated from the life of God.  I want to live in light, in mercy, in grace, in joy, in love.  I want to rest in peace.  I don’t want to be something that I am not.  I do not want to be a good, well thought of person.  I want to be in Christ.  Only the poor sinners can be in Christ.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

Here we go

How do I start?  In an effort to track my growth in Christ in a time that I am being trained for the ministry I thought I might do it through blogging.  I hope this blog benefits any who cross, believer or not.  P.S.  My wife isn’t too crazy about me starting a blog since I have thousands of pages to read this semester!  If this blog gets in the way of my biblical responsibilities then I will have to take a long break!