Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stealing Glory and The God of Grace....

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. - Eph. 4:28

You can call me "less than manly" but I enjoy the Super Bowl for all the hoopla, the commercials and the half-time show more than for the game itself... historically at least.    Over all, this year was a let down.   The high-light was The Darth Vader Volkswagen Commercial but the Black Eyed Peas' half-time show was all smoke and mirrors....zero substance.

But most telling was Christina Aguilera's singing of The National Anthem which was a debacle at best and a travesty at worst.  She's a talent to be sure but she is also a product of a culture obsessed with self-glorification and idol worship.

This began with, "To honor America with the singing of...."

After getting the words mixed up Aguilera muscled through the song by shouting louder and adding seemingly endless vocal runs to compensate for what was an obvious emotional disconnect from the lyrics.  A consummate performer, she was intent on giving the people what they wanted: style over substance.   It was hard not to feel compassion for her.  

Just another example of the way the song itself has become a means to an end in ballparks and stadiums across our country.   It seems that the once stirring retelling of America's fight for independence are no longer relevant enough for our overwhelmingly individualistic and increasingly progressive culture. 

In our pervasively judicious "American Idol" culture the question is no longer "does the truth of a song move me?".   The question has become "has the singer wowed me with his/her performance of the song?".  At The Super Bowl we saw a talented singer crumble under the weight of such lofty expectations.

What was once a reverent remembrance of the high cost of the gift of freedom, a time for collective thanks (In this case 111 Million, the largest viewing ever of a televised event), has now become a stepping stone for self-glorification in our culture.   There was a palpable sense of the thievery that had gone down.  It had been cheapened.   God alone deserves thanks for all good things and He alone deserves the glory.   In this instance it had become about something else altogether.

What have you done for me lately? - Janet Jackson

How often do we bring our selfish agenda to the Christian faith making it a means to reaching our own ends?  In their book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton coined the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe the way American youth twist the Christian faith to meet their needs.

Christian growth does not happen first by behaving better, but believing better–believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners.
- Tullian Tchividjian (more here...)

So many believe that the Christian faith is primarily about behavior modification when in reality, as Ravi Zacharias has said, "Jesus did not die to make bad people good but to make dead people live".  The grace of God in Jesus Christ exists not so that we'll be more loving, compassionate, peaceful people but that we might be reconciled to God.   All those good things are blessed by-products of that reconciliation.  White-knuckle behavior modification is simply another yoke of slavery under which many a Christian is suffering in loneliness and fear mistakenly believing God's love is dependent on their deeds.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." - Rom. 8:15

American magazines have gone from Life to Time to People to Us to Self - what's next Me magazine?  In such a self-obsessed culture it's naive to think that this mentality has not infected our understanding of Christianity.  Many believe that God's primary desire is to lift our self-esteem, to make us feel better about ourselves.   Yet it is only in understanding our individual depravity that the healing love of Jesus is truly made real for us.   We're not just saved from hell, we're saved from ourselves.  Preaching should not make us feel better about ourselves but instead convict us of our sickness and immediately lead us to The Healer's throne of mercy and grace.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners
- Mark 2:17

Wishful thinking continues to dominate the majority of young believers in America.  According to Smith's and Denton's findings most believe that God is not particularly involved in our lives unless we need Him to resolve a problem.   Yet one of the most basic tenants of the Christian life is our unity with God through Jesus who said, "I will be with you, even until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

They also found that most believe that God is a benevolent God who in the end allows all well-meaning, basically good people into Heaven when they die.  How contrary this is to The Gospel wherein Jesus Christ proclaims with his life and death just how seriously God takes sin.  Only a God who created both Love and Justice could so perfectly personify the two in Himself that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you;there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. - 1 Samuel 2:2-3

In The Cost of Discipleship Deitrich Bonhoffer writes that self-reliant (read moralistic compliance) Christians cheapen the grace of God by making Christ's sacrifice less than sufficient for our salvation, justification and continuing sanctification.   He calls true grace costly because it cost God his very Son.  Similarly we deceive ourselves and cheapen God's grace by making the Christian life all about us and our self-esteem (therapeutic).  And by assuming that Jesus didn't have to die because God really wasn't that involved in our life and always intended to bring all "good people" to Heaven anyway we again cheapen what is of an infinitely incalculable cost.

Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? - Rom. 2:4

May we by His grace consider more often and more deeply just how much we've been loved by Him and turn once again to Jesus. 


This Week 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   The Screwtape Letters wrap-up - Chaps. 29-31 & Screwtape Proposes a Toast
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 

*  Saturday - The Magills in Concert from 12-2:30pm
    Sunday - The Magills in Concert from 1-3:30pm 
    at Harvey Hall in Tyler, TX to benefit The East Texas Crisis Center

* Please pray as we meet with several hurting couples this week and weekend whose marriages are under attack.

To support B3 Ministries click www.b3ministries.net

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