The Certainty of Mysteries

I was deeply moved by today’s reading from J. Sidlow Baxter’s devotional, Awake My Heart. He speaks of the mysteries of life, what W. A. Criswell used to call “the imponderables of God.” Baxter mentioned birth, life, personality, human experience, Satan, eternity, etc. All of these are unexplainable. We can begin, but we can never conclude any definition of them.

Baxter goes on, however, to quote an unnamed old Puritan as saying, “Never let what you don’t know disturb your faith in what you do know.” Further, Baxter proclaims that “breaking into all this mystery comes a glorious, transfiguring fact which not all of these problems can discount: it is THE FACT OF CHRIST. He is a certified historical fact; a supremely significant fact; an experientially realized fact….”

We live in a highly skeptical age. To deny this is to prove that one has his proverbial head in the sand. We live in the age of the offensive atheist, exemplified by authors such as Richard Dawkins, who espouses a near hatred of conservative Christianity and writes it off as idiotic nonsense that should be put to an end. In the mix, Christians find themselves wavering and doubting.

So, what do we do with our big questions? I don’t know about you, but I believe God can handle our biggest questions. He has answers. Whether He will provide them or not is within the divine prerogative of God. But in the midst of all of the mysterious, imponderable concepts of spiritual, eternal things lie the rock solid, unbreakable truths of Christianity. In the words of Paul, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

The Tragedy of Religious Racism

“And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.”—Acts 22:22

Exactly what “word” did the Jewish leaders hear that incited such hatred in their voices toward the apostle Paul? Well, they listened to his discourse on the history of Israel with patience. They endured his preaching of the deity of Christ and even his proclamation of Jesus as Messiah. But when he said, “God has sent me to the Gentiles,” he had gone too far. They were saying, “You can mock our religion but don’t you dare care about Gentiles.” Who exactly are the “Gentiles?” Any non-Jew is a Gentile. Hey, that’s me!

I once dealt with a man who didn’t want his church to reach out to people of other races. His excuse? “They have their churches and we have ours.” What a mockery of Christianity! Paul preached in Acts 17:26-27, “(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,… that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” God’s love is bigger than a race. His arms are wrapped around the entire globe!

Is there any hint of racism in your heart? A feeling of supremacy, that your particular race is somehow better than another? We must work to crucify those attitudes at the foot of the cross, where Jesus died for all.

Marvelous Grace

“But where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.” -Romans 5:20b

Sin is always extreme. When a person comes to a place of repentance and faith in Christ, their perspective of sin changes. They begin to see that Adam and Eve were not merely guilty of tasting some forbidden fruit, they were actually guilty of rejecting all of God’s good provision in paradise in exchange for the possibility of being sufficient without their Creator. If you’re a believer in Christ, sin is extreme. It is rebellion and the punishment of eternity in hell makes sense in light of God’s holiness.

But where sin is extreme, grace is far more extreme. Grace is radical. Grace goes beyond merely forgiving sin, it restores us, renews us, regenerates us. Grace is God’s means of giving gifts beyond measure. What the heniousness of sin destroys, the miraculous nature of grace restores manifold.

How do you see your sin? Is sin a harmless prank against God? Or is it an offense to the nature and law of the Almighty Creator? We ought to view sin with extreme hatred, but we ought to view grace with extreme pleasure. In fact, we should be so turned away by the nature of sin that we run with haste to feast ourselves on the goodness of God’s grace. Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound!

Learning to Hate (the Right Things)

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”—Proverbs 8:13

Sin is a bitter enemy. Until we learn to spot it, name it, and hate it, we’ll never overcome it. Learning to hate sin is a matter of agreeing with God about sin – sharing His perspective on it. Sin has done nothing but wreck and plunder God’s wonderful creation, so He detests it. Sin is the very opposite of all that is divine in nature, so God loathes it. Repentance demands that we turn from our sin and begin to agree with God about it – to hate it as He does.

Our problem is often that we minimize sin in our lives. Why? Because the world does so. When we laugh along with the world at inappropriate humor, at the triviality of injustice, or at the grossness of sin, we’re sort of participating in it, and we’re desensitizing ourselves to it as well. If you want to overcome sin, you must look at it the way God does – with hatred.

Never hate others. Never hate yourself. But learn to hate that which hurts you and others around you – sin.