Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving For a Future With a Forgiven Past

Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
  Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 
- Psalm 2:11-12

(Warning: The following blog takes a slightly confessional tone wherein I admit to an old guilty pleasure yet claim the truth that "what man meant for evil, God uses for good" (Gen. 50:20 paraphrased))

"Ch - ch - ch - ch - hahh - hahh - hahh - hahh".  If you can say this in soft whisper and not be reminded of shakin' in your jellys/parachute pants back in the mid-80's, you probably never watched Friday The 13th 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc...

From probably 10-13 years of age, I was fascinated with Friday The 13th films.  Sure they were campy, poorly acted and completely predictable (for instance, why is the girl wearing high heels as she runs from the killer and why does she stop to retrieve a dropped necklace?).  They were, however, also terrifying and totally exciting to me.  I'm only now beginning to understand why.

With plenty of uncertainty ahead of me I was subconsciously terrified of my future and unable to make sense of my encroaching pubescent desires. Something about the fear of the impending doom that Jason (the crazed killer in said movies) represented resonated with my experience.   (In other words: I wasn't a scared kid because I watched Friday the 13th, I watched Friday the 13th because I was a scared kid! (HT David Zahl and High Fidelity)) 

For the most part the characters in these b-movies were all what I would become: wildly out of control, passion-inflamed, hedonistic teenagers.   It was always instantly obvious which of the paper-thin characters possessed some semblance of moral character.  He or she would be the one that would survive the massacre.  The others would not be so lucky when the hockey mask appeared.  

But it's also interesting to note what Jason seemed to exemplify.  Jason exacted an unmitigated, all-together gruesome wrath.  Wrath that could not be stopped.  Terrifying right?  Who wants to face any kind of wrath? Especially when we read the prophet Ezekiel write....

The word of the LORD came to me: "And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land.  Now the end is upon you, and I will send my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations. And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst.  Then you will know that I am the LORD.  Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways.  - Ezekiel 7:1-4, 8

The predicament of unregenerate men is not so unlike the helpless teenagers running from their inevitable murder.  There is indeed a comeuppance, a judgment day coming.   Somehow things must be set right.  But why? And How?

Scripture's meta-narrative is ethical.  It concerns itself with our human conflict with divine requirement.  Yes, Scripture is almost uniformly religious -- that is, it's main character is God.  This Character is locked in an ethical battle with antagonistic and resentful men and women.   Will human beings submit to God's law, the Mosaic Decalogue?  Or will they run in the opposite direction? - Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice.

Intellectual honesty demands we confess that humanity at large and individuals in particular continually run in the opposite direction from God's call to holiness.   But Thank God that this does not deter God from running towards man - even when when running towards man meant the death of Himself.

 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Rom. 5:8

Though it would mean absorbing God's wrath against man, Jesus ran towards humanity.  It is THE act of grace.   God's righteous anger against man poured out on one man, The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

 Let's be very clear. God's anger is the anger of grace. It is not the violent anger of unbridled and unrighteous fury. God's anger always works to right what is wrong. That is what grace does. This gracious anger has two sides to it: justice and mercy. In the gracious anger of justice, God works to punish wrong, but he does even more. God is not satisfied merely with punishing wrong. His hunger for right is so strong that he will not relent until wrong has been completely destroyed. He will not rest until evil is no more and justice and righteousness reign forever and ever! - Paul David Tripp

It's a common thing to hear these days: "You can't do anything about your past, the only thing you can control is your future".    But a closer look reveals the fallacy of this statement.    Countless variables in my life are beyond my control.  My health, my circumstances, the stock market, the weather, the drivers ahead, behind and beside me are all beyond my control.  I can't control the beat of my own heart!

I cannot see the future.   I can only react to it.   But even my reactions, unfortunately and all too often, are beyond my control.   I ask myself, "why did I say that?" or "if only I had reacted this way or that way".  Jesus saw man's future as inescapable but not irredeemable.

For Christ, the only thing you can do anything about is your past.   God alone can deal with your future.  If you have repented of your past, if you have taken an inventory of the full extent of hurt, victim-hood, malice and self-service that describe your achieved life, if you have said the one single word, "sorry," then that is all.  There is nothing more.  The future, which Paul would later call the "fruit of the Spirit," flows totally from the "sorry".   The past resolved give the present its only chance.  The future is the Spirit's job. - Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice

Can there be anything but eternal thanksgiving for a love this liberating?  God's love is a love that frees us from the fear of the impending judgement (i.e. massacre of wrath) ahead by removing the threat of it all together.  

By calling us forgiven (1 John 1:19), redeemed (Gal. 3:13), and heirs to the Kingdom of God (James 2:5) because of Christ's perfect love for us, He has eternally saved us from God's righteous wrath (i.e. removed the red dot from our forehead, the x on our backs, the S on our clothing etc...).

Christians can give thanks and look forward to a future in which our past (even yesterday and 5 minutes ago!) has been washed clean and consequently, our present has been empowered by the same love He first showed us!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Grace and Peace,

P.S. ...and who doesn't want a love like this?

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me. 
- Led Zeppelin, Thank You

I am really thankful for the way The Gospel According to Alpha Males Luncheon and The Gospel According to Pixar Mini-Conference turned out this past weekend.   We're also thankful to be able to provide the talks for those of you who missed.   Three talks by David Zahl and one by Chris Legg.   Enjoy!

The Gospel According to Alpha Males - David Zahl

The Gospel According to Pixar #1 - David Zahl

The Gospel According to Pixar #2 - David Zahl

Engaging the New Media: Freedom and Responsibility - Chris Legg

This Week

* Wednesday Men's Group - Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Chapter 3 @ 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!  One of my favorite Thanksgiving Day Articles!

Next Week...

* Monday Men's Lunch - Dakota's 12pm - Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Chapter 2

* Saturday December 3rd - The Forge in Ben Wheeler, TX, 7pm-10pm - The debut of some new original material from The Magills.  See you there!

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